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6:02 a.m. - 2003-07-28

FRIDAY NIGHT FUN

Okay.

So Friday night, I'm driving to pick up Andrew after work and decide to myself "I'm taking Andrew to that brand new Chick-Fil-A near the house so he can play in their new playground!"

Seems like a bright idea, right?

I mean...it's Daddy and Andrew alone on a Friday night ... Andrew needs some exercise so that he'll go to sleep at a decent hour ... plus...the only meat the kid will eat is chicken nuggets.

You know...if you can consider chicken nuggets "meat".

I seriously doubt the FDA does.

Anyway, we get there and I walk up to the counter to get my boy some nuggets.

But he has seen the colorful fiberglass playground and is wriggling out of my arms, threatening to squirm away from my death grip and go plummeting to the floor head first.

So I'm standing there going "Combo number ... hold on Andrew ... combo number ... Andrew ... HOLD ON ... Combo number five with ... Andrew... STOP IT... Combo number five with a Diet ... GODDAMMIT ANDREW ... I'M GOING TO BEAT YOU LIKE A RABID DOG IF YOU DON'T STOP SQUIRMING ... Coke."

The guy gets my order, I put Andrew on the floor and he scampers off to the playground area.

I'm one of those parents who lets his kid out of his sight on a regular basis. I can understand the 20 year-old parents who are really concerned with keeping an eye on their kids all the time.

Me?

Hey...if you're dumb enough to try and kidnap my kid, you get what you deserve.

Who in their right mind would kidnap a hyperactive two year-old?

Most parents would receive the ransom note, chuckle, toss it in the garbage and go back to enjoying the peace and quiet.

So he's at the door of the Playground which is too heavy for him to open.

I know this because suddenly the tranquility of Chick-Fil-A was punctuated with the sounds of my son screaming "OPEN! OPEN! OPEN! OPENNNNNNNN!!!!"

I get the food, put the tray down on a nearby table and open the playground door for Andrew.

He scurries in there like a rat avoiding my lawn mower blade and takes in the colorful wonder of this playground.

Naturally, he heads straight for the bright yellow slide's exit.

I don't know what it is with this kid and his insane desire to go up slides backwards.

I've taken him on playgrounds, shown him how to climb ladders and go DOWN slides.

But Andrew is insistant on trying to go UP slides.

He can get about halfway up a slide in these restaurant playgrounds. But then he gets in the middle and he's tired of climbing through this vast yellow tube, he has no idea how much farther it is to the top, and he comes back down the slide, scooting slowly on his toddler ass.

Enough is enough.

It was time I taught the kid how to climb up in this deathtrap of a playground, get to the top of the thing and THEN SLIDE DOWN the slide.

We approach the big blue silo with platforms inside.

"Okay Andrew," I said, briefing him like Mickey briefed Rocky before his bout with Apollo Creed. "You gotta go to the left. Then to the right. Then to the left. Then again to the right. Then you'll be at the top and you can slide down the slide. Got it?"

Andrew went to pick his nose as he stared at me.

"Don't do that," I said, batting his finger away from his nose. "That's nasty. Now, do you understand what to do?"

He looked inside the silo silently.

Silently looked in the silo.

Silent silo looking.

Si si.

CSI.

Sorry....lost my train of thought there for a moment.

Anyway, he made the first two platforms fairly easily.

But that third platform was a bitch.

Being a chip off the old block, when Andrew is presented with a task that requires a certain level of exertion on his part, he does what his Daddy has always done.

...He starts whining and throwing a fit.

"You do!" he's yelling at me and pointing to the next platform. "Daddy do!"

He wanted me to put him on the platform.

"I can't come in there," I'm saying through the fiberglass window on the side of the silo.

"DADDY DOOOOOOO!!" he yells, loud enough to wake Buddy Ebsen.

Jeepers Crimony.

I get on my ass and squeeze into the bottom of the silo.

I contort my body slightly so that I can make it up to the second level with Andrew.

I'm now twisted like a pretzel, trying to boost him up to the third level.

With absolutely no help from Andrew, who had suddenly turned into a bag of slightly misshapen hammers, I got him to the third platform out of four.

Naturally, he needs help getting to the fourth platform. I mean...shit. Why work when Daddy's twisted up inside here with him, doing all the work for him?

Outside the silo, I manage to get on my tippy toes as my body is now twisted onto three platforms, pushing him like crazy to the fourth.

A snake wouldn't have the kind of dexterity that I was currently exhibiting.

I guess the kid decided to give his old man a hand and actually pulled himself up to the fourth level with my help.

As soon as he reached that platform, I inhaled sharply and slithered out of this thing, waiting to be reprimanded by a pimply faced Chick Fil-A assistant manager who was ready to read me the riot act that the children's playground is specifically meant for children and that I was too big to be playing in there.

Christ.

If I'm "playing", why am I covered in sweat and the valves to my heart have stopped pumping, jerk weed?

No pimply faced kid was waiting on me. Thank God. I needed a few moments to twist my back back into place anyway.

So Andrew's at the top of the silo, staring out the window.

"Now go down the slide!" I weakly encourage him.

He stares at me.

And then he begins to cry.

"Andrew, don't cry," I chastise him. "Just go down the slide! It's right behind you!"

He looks at the slide and turns back to me with real actual tears going down his face.

Great.

Now my kid is stuck at the top of this silo that I pushed him up into.

I put my head inside the bottom of this twisted piece of crap and said quietly "Andrew, do not cry. It's okay. Go down the slide. It's fun! It's FUNNY!!"

He understands the words "fun" and "funny" and knows that they're positive words.

Still ... the kid was terrified being by himself this high off the ground.

I had a choice.

I could inhale and try once again to contort my body around and around these platforms to extend my arms far enough that he will come to them.

....Or....I could do like he always does and climb up the slide backwards.

The latter! The latter!

I get to the bottom of the slide and am saying "Come here Andrew! Andrew, slide down!"

All I hear is gentle crying and the word "No" repeated over and over.

I look around to see if there's any hot single mothers staring at me as I'm about to do the unthinkable.

I'm about to play on the playground, even though I'm taller than 48".

I start to climb up the slide and it ain't easy folks. It's not that slippery.

But I'm about the most claustrophobic man you'll ever meet.

In fact, I've decided to be cremated when I die because just on the slim chance that I'm not really dead when the coroner thinks I am and I wake up in a coffin buried six feet under, it will scare me so bad that I will die.

So claustrophobia kinda kicked in halfway up the slide.

Just like it must do to Andrew.

"Andrew," I called weakly. "This is as far as Daddy can go. Now, the last thing we want right now is for Daddy to freak out and start screaming and a pimply faced assistant manager has to come and pull Daddy out of the slide by his ankles and then berate him for several minutes on why adults should not try to climb up the slide backwards. So son...it's time you became a man and slid down the slide by yourself, okay? Daddy will catch you, I promise."

"Daddy?" Andrew softly called down.

"Daddy's right here," I said, eyes closed tightly, trying to forget that I was wedged inside a plastic slide of doom. "Now slide down."

I heard scurrying at the top of the chute and after about a minute, I saw Andrew's butt, carefully sliding down feet first on his belly.

I grabbed his feet and we slowly inched back out of the slide as a bunch of rambunctious kids entered the play area.

Finally, we got out of the slide, I got to my feet holding Andrew and he hugged me tightly, glad to be alive.

"You're not supposed to be in there!" a little girl said to me. "You're too big to play in the playground."

"I had to get my little boy," I said gently as Andrew continued his grip on me. "He was stuck in the slide."

"Still, you shouldn't be in there," she said.

Whatever, you cocky little bitch.

She'll make a fine imaginary Chick Fil-A assistant manager someday.

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