Sunday, July 24, 2011

Parenthood is a slippery slide

Staring into the void before us, fear overtook my son.

“No, no, NOOOOO!” Evan shrieked, clutching my arms.

“Okay, okay, we’ll go back down the stairs,” I said, pulling him out of the maw of giant tubular sliding board.

“NOOOOO!” he screamed louder, pulling me back toward the void. Nobody ever got into parenthood because they wanted more rationality in their lives.

When I was a kid, sliding boards were sheets of tin that cooked in the summer sun until they got so hot that when they weren’t blistering your rear end, they could be used for smelting iron ore. They also launched you into the ground at about 40mph, so that you could pass the time waiting for your next turn by picking the mulch out of your various orifices.

These days, though, most sliding boards have turned into giant plastic tubes, because we’ve collectively decided that hamsters shouldn’t be having all the fun. The tubular design no longer bakes the backsides of America’s youth, but at least for Evan, the new slides seem to have added an element of sheer terror, a development that I wasn’t aware of until Evan tricked me into bringing him to the entrance of the slide at a nearby playground.

“Slide! Slide! Slide!” he said, and I obliged like the rube that I am, bringing him up the stairs to the little platform.

Before having a baby, I always thought that being a parent would provide the perfect socially acceptable excuse to play with Legos and Transformers again (Megatron and Bumblebee still have some unfinished business from my ninth birthday). I didn’t realize that it also meant I’d have to master using playground equipment as an adult, which would make me feel a little bit like Gulliver stomping around Lilliput, if I understood that reference. On the plus side, monkey bars are much less taxing to navigate when your feet touch the ground.

As Evan sat in my lap, staring into the great tube whose twists and turns made it impossible to see beyond the first few feet, he had a change of heart. That’s when the screaming began; a toddler’s changes of heart are rarely quiet.

“Nooooo!” he screamed as he scanned the area for a non-terrifying route down. When he understood my intention to bring him back down the way we came, the screams intensified as he scanned the area for a non-boring route down.

In the end, I decided to follow the advice of the scream-o-meter, which functions like an applause-o-meter, except that the quieter side wins.

“Here we go, buddy,” I said, putting him back in my lap.

If I’d been trying to stuff my child down a laundry chute, it would have sounded exactly the same. His little fingers reached out for the edges of the tube to keep us from moving forward, but he was too late. We were already on our way.

Halfway around the first corner, his screams turned to laughter. By the time we popped out of the tube to see my wife Kara standing there, shaking her head, Evan was squealing with delight.

“That went well,” I said.

Evan agreed. “Slide! Slide! Slide!” he yelled as he ran back to the stairs.

“It sounded like you were torturing him up there,” Kara said.

“Only psychologically. Your turn now,” I said.

Kara brought Evan back up the stairs to the platform as he whispered, “Slide, slide, slide,” to himself.

When they got to the platform and he looked into the abyss, the screaming started again. It says good things about Kara’s maternal instincts that she didn’t enjoy stuffing her screaming child down a giant pipe, but I think Evan probably won’t see that playground again until he can drive there himself.

You can stuff Mike Todd down your laundry chute at

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