As a recovering alcoholic, I pretty much avoid bars at all costs, but once my son transitioned into toddlerdom and the park became part of our daily routine, it was like I was back in a really bad Cancun nightclub during spring break. Here’s why …
There’s always the same cast of characters.
Putting people into categories is totally evil, but we all do it anyway. Archetypes can be identified as early as the toddler years; here are a few of my favorites and how they are like club-going counterparts.
The Pretty Girl
This little girl is always impeccably dressed and well-groomed, usually standing off to the side brushing her American Girl doll’s hair, while the other, less-refined children run around like banshees with their heads cut off.
At the club, she is always at a bottle service table with her Chanel bag, giving the “as if” stink-eye to any dude who attempts to make eye contact.
“How can a child that young climb up those rocks so quickly?” you wonder as you watch this 99th percentile creature dominate the playground like a pro. This big-little person has trouble assimilating themselves with all the other average height and weighters out there, who are clearly intimidated.
At the club this individual, who rarely drinks because it isn’t part of their diet plan, flexes their muscles and the whole establishment swoons.
They’re the bully whose MO in life is making all the other kids in the sandbox cry. If there’s an adult companion in the vicinity, their main role is to repeatedly tell the little punk to apologize to anyone and everyone they come into contact with.
At the bar, same dealio. Mean. Nasty. Drunk.
The Class Clown
This tyke’s job is to get everyone riled up and having a good ol’ time. They can be easily identified running around the playground screaming at the top of their lungs, with a gaggle of followers trailing closely behind.
At the bar, they’re typically pretty drunk, with people congregated around them throwing back their heads in laughter.
This kid is usually off playing alone on the outskirts of the playground. Eventually, they may find another one of their kind, and those two will stick together like Bobby and Whitney in the best of times.
At the bar, you can find them lurking near a wall, or in a dark corner, rarely making eye contact with others.
The Hot Mess
This kid is the emotional equivalent of an active volcano, with each eruption treated by coddling by a helicopter parent.
They will inevitably turn into that person at the bar who can’t help but have an emotional breakdown whenever alcohol is consumed.
There are a bunch of incoherent people stumbling around, falling, and slurring their words.
A toddler in his or her element is just as terrifying as a totally wasted frat boy who has spent the entire day and night doing shots, tripping over his or her own feet, mumbling total nonsense and suffering random emotional outbreaks.
Two of these children can have a five-minute conversation about absolutely nothing, and it is like, the most exciting conversation they’ve ever had in their little lives. (I once eavesdropped on one of my son’s, and he and his friend were literally saying “duck” every other word.)
Things get really messy around last call.
(AKA 1 PM naptime and 5 PM dinnertime.) I don’t even have to look at my watch to know when it’s “closing time” at the playground because things suddenly get cray cray. All of a sudden, every overtired child is crying and screaming, “NO MAMA,” as they get pulled off of monkey bars and thrust into minivans.
“Just one more slide, puhleeasse?” they beg their frustrated parents. “Just one more.” Sound familiar?
The kid with the bag of cookies is like the bro with a bottle service table.
When junk food arrives at the playground, expect a congregation of salivating toddlers to form in about 0.2 seconds. My son would never let a free goldfish pass him by, and will even eat one off the ground like a broke chick drinking an abandoned cocktail at the bar.
It’s a meat market.
“Do you come here often?” is one of the most overused pickup lines at the bar, and after getting married and moving to the suburbs, I assumed that phrase was no longer part of my vocabulary, but boy was I wrong. It’s ridiculous how much meeting other moms is like dating was in the old days, and how the playground has become the land of promise.
This is how I court other moms at the playground:
- I spot someone who seems pretty cool, and I check out her kid to make sure they’re not a terrorist.
- If they seem normal and within a year or two in age of my own, I’ll wait until my kid starts playing with hers, make eye contact, and crack some stupid joke to initiate conversation.
- We chat for a bit and either we click or we don’t, but regardless, things get sort of awkward when it’s time to leave.
- “I should get your number,” one of us will uncomfortably say.
- “Maybe we can get the kids together for a playdate.”
When I get home that night, I can’t wait to tell my husband, “I met someone. She’s really cool, has kids Jackson and Barrett’s age, and just moved here.”
A few minutes later he asks me what I’m doing. “Facebook stalking her.” Duh.
It’s a fashion show.
Want to see all the latest looks from Gap Kids, Carter’s, Hannah Anderson, and Gymboree? The playground is a runway for kid’s fashions: the good, the bad and the very, very interesting.
Just like the gals and guys at the bar, the children at the playground each have their unique style, and like their very drunk counterparts, their clothes are covered with spilled food and drinks, and sometimes, even vomit.
It’s a hot zone.
A true partier will never bail on a night at the bar just because they’re feeling a little under the weather, nor will a sick toddler pass up an afternoon on the jungle gym just because their nose is oozing and they have a cough that can be heard in the next town over.
Whenever I spot one of these bio-terrorists spreading their germs all over the monkey bars, I am consumed with both terror and rage, because it is inevitable that I will be wiping snot off my own darling’s schnoz by the end of the week.
You always return home with one less thing than you venture out with.
Cell phones, jewelry, and credit cards are common casualties during a debaucherous night out on the town, while bows, socks, shovels, and toys often mysteriously disappear after a wild afternoon at the park.More On