As the summer heats up, ToddlerRush and I are having to get creative with our outings.
Last week we decided to try out Altadena Park in North Central Phoenix since the park’s “splash pad” was finally operational.
We’d actually been to this park a couple times before, but the pad was under repairs so we just played on the slides and swings. It was always fun and low key – just us, our friends and maybe one or two other moms and kids. Pure paradise.
It was all too good to be true.
When we arrived last week, there was a fleet of minivans parked around the perimeter and the park was swarming with Lululemon moms each with seventeen kids. Give or take. Had we entered an alternate universe? Apparently the word was out that the kids’ “splash pad” was up and functioning and everyone had the same idea, time to beat the heat.
Can’t we keep some of this stuff on the down-low for once? I guess not.
Despite the swarms of yoga pants and snotty kids, we two fearless and determined boys decided to take on the crowd. We unloaded ourselves from the car and walked happily up the path to where the commotion was focused and began prepping for splash time.
It was 9:57 am when we arrived. I know this not because of my incredible powers of memory but because of the girl who was shouting, “Grandma! How many minutes until the water turns on?” To which grandma replied without enthusiasm, “It’s 9:57 so that’s three more minutes.” The little girl then went running and screaming at literally everyone “THREE MORE MINUTES GUYS!!!”
After not even thirty seconds, she came running back to grandma, “Grandma, how many more minutes NOWWW?!?!”
This back-and-forth spectacle repeated every thirty seconds until 10 AM when the groaning of the water pipes could be felt beneath the concrete slab and all of the various spouts and spigots began to spring to life.
ToddlerRush LOVES the water. We have been swimming in our pool any chance we can get and now he gets outraged if I don’t take him.
This also wasn’t our first trip to a splash pad. The one we usually go to makes him SO happy that he can’t get enough of it, but this experience was different. This was no normal splash pad.
There are spouts that shoot 20 feet in the air and criss cross! Just think about that for a minute. The amount of force and pressure it takes to propel a stream of water that high is a little bit much for a kids’ play area if you ask this papa.
On top of that, the kids here were acting like complete a**holes. Not that they were any different from most parks we go to. But I noticed it more here because this time ToddlerRush was brought to tears on not one but two occasions. We usually manage to avoid the crazies (or their parents are nearby) and are therefore unaffected.
ToddlerRush had just gotten up the courage to go to an area that had smaller, less life-threatening spouts, where other kids his age were splashing and having a good time. He was diligently filling his bucket with water and dumping it at his feet. Then, just as he accidentally (or possibly purposefully) dropped it at my feet, a little girl who was playing with her own larger bucket, dropped hers, grabbed his and ran off.
This wasn’t the first time another child had taken something from ToddlerRush, and typically I use these moments to remind him that there are more important things in life to cry about than when someone steals your bucket of water. This time was no different.
Nevertheless, now my kid’s crying and I can’t very well go chase a 2-year-old and grab the bucket she just took to fix it. Not with all the parents around at least. What would they think? That monster just took a toy from that little girl! I don’t want to be a monster. I’d never want to stoop to her level.
But seriously, the issue here is not the child. It is the lack of parent intervention and instruction.
Eventually (10 minutes later) the mom did intervene and said, “Honey, put that bucket down. No, go get your bucket. It’s over there. No, over there. Put that one down.” Oh, but where were you ten minutes ago lady? I know there’s not a swim up bar here or anything. So please tell me, what were you doing that you missed this!
OK, I know it wasn’t inflicting bodily harm or anything. It was just a bucket. And the kid needs to learn how to let people take things from him, er, share. I mean if he doesn’t learn this valuable skill early on, how is he ever going to reconcile paying his taxes one day?
After we retrieved the bucket, ToddlerRush spotted a giant sea horse sprinkler that he wanted to play with – this would be better illustrated with a picture. Maybe I’ll take a picture if I ever go back, but right now I’m telling a story so shu’up. The water was trickling from the seahorse’s nose so he was able to easily fill his bucket. Hours of fun! Or at least a few minutes.
Then, just as we were starting to get the second or third bucket-full, the water pressure returned and literally out of nowhere, a boy of about 8 or 9 came up, grabbed the seahorse by the gills and turned it straight at him.
ToddlerRush took it on the nose and it startled him to tears.
Technically we were inside the “splash zone” or whatever, so you could say we had it coming, but come on, who’s THAT much of an a**hole? This kid was. I can only imagine what he was doing moments before this incident. Probably eyeing us from afar waiting to strike at just the right moment.
Or maybe he just finished chugging his sugar-loaded juice.
All I know is that sometimes sh*t happens and this was yet another teachable moment.
I didn’t immediately pick my kid up or even react. I instead reasoned with him, “it’s only a bit of water son.” I wiped the water and tears away from his face, pointed him in a new direction and gave him a pat. He seemed to get it and recovered quickly with a renewed determination to conquer the water park. And the a**holes running the place.
Ultimately though we had to save the conquering for another day. It’s cool. MamaRush packed us some juicy watermelon slices for moments like this.
As a result of this experience, I’ve found myself asking the question we hear so often: “Where were the parents?” A question that implies it is the parents that are to blame.
Whether they were checking an email or a text, tending to another crying infant or dozing off under a tree, I’ll never know.
The truth is, if I blame the parents, I also have to blame myself. I know even I, super dad, can’t be at my son’s side every second. I’m going to miss things. Some of those things might be hurtful to others. Be it intentional or not intentional.
All I can do is teach him that you should only treat others as you want to be treated, try your best not to be an a**hole, and when someone does something shitty to you, wipe yourself off and rise above it.
What do you think?
Would love to hear your thoughts in the comments. I’m listening.