THE PLAYGROUND LADY

THE PLAYGROUND LADY

From Chicken Soup for the Working Mom's Soul

The Playground Lady

You think it can’t happen to you. You are too suave. Too sophisticated. Too cool. But then it hits you like a well-aimed dodgeball, and before you know it, you’ve become your worst nightmare.

It always happens at fast food restaurant playgrounds. You are sitting there enjoying some random free time while your child scales the large plastic tubes that are remarkably similar to the hamster habitat you had as a kid. As you’re imagining the addition of an exercise wheel, the first infraction takes place.

Someone is climbing up the slide.

You bite your lip. It’s not your child. And didn’t you climb up a few slides in your day? Sure did. At this point, you chuckle a little and decide just to lighten up.

Then the second infraction—blocking the ladder— begins to cause a domino effect of problems. Children can’t get up the playscape. A cry goes up among the smaller children. Larger children prepare to take the ladder by force. You look around for the parent of the blockade leader, but everyone else is talking on his or her cell phone, pointedly looking away from the scene of the crime.

Then comes the final straw. A group of kids are climb- ing on the outside of the playground equipment in clear violation of posted rules! They are, as your mother always told you, about to break their necks!

Suddenly the Arnold Schwarzenegger of playground rule enforcement shows up, strides over, and peels children off the equipment. Then with horror you realize that it’s you. You’ve become—the Playground Lady.

Of course, once it starts, there is no stopping it, no going back. Now you are deputized, immunized, and Mirandized. You are a woman on a mission. You stop the slide climbing. The blockade is removed, and normal flow returns to the bright red ladder. A rambunctious and persistent child begins to climb the equipment again and you toss that four-year-old a withering glance that sends him scrambling back into an orange tube tunnel.

You glance over at the tables, and everyone is still on their cell phones, oblivious to the fact that at least four broken necks have been narrowly averted.

Right about that point, you realize you have become the very authority figure you swore you’d never become. And it’s a role you seem frighteningly good at.

So this is how it happens. This is how people go from being normal to crazed rule enforcers on the playground. Something deep inside snaps.

Maybe there’s something in the french fries.

Finally your kid is worn out and you leave. By the time you hit the parking lot, you see a few kids climbing the slide again. Just as you are considering going back to lay down the law, you see a woman put down her cell phone and get up.

You smile as you put your car in gear. The torch has been passed.

Winter D. Prosapio

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