I realized something today while the little guy and I were at the park. No, it wasn’t the usual realization that I was the only daddy there. I realized that I must have missed a memo or something declaring today the official take your sibling to the park day. To be fair, the older children might have been the parents of the younger ones, but I am going to hope and believe that they were siblings for my own benefit.
At first I thought the problem was that we tried a new park that happened to be not as as cool as our regular park for the little man. Well, it was cooler for older kids to play in because there were a lot more big kid slides and what not, but for my little 14 month old there wasn’t a lot of appeal. The real problem was that there weren’t any of those little kid swings that he loves so much, and he isn’t big enough for the regular swings yet. Besides that, it was a wicked park.
Anyway, we didn’t stay too long at that park. We didn’t leave because I was the only parent there. We left because the other kids didn’t want anything to do with the little man. One of the littlest ones even told him that they didn’t want to play with him and weren’t going to. They were just mean. My son ran up to them and tried to run and play, but they all just ran away from him. When he followed they basically told him to get lost. It made me mad, but since they weren’t my kids I couldn’t really say anything to them, so I ended up taking my crying baby boy to our regular park where the kids seem to be a little nice. It was a heart wrenching experience for me because as a parent I want everyone to love my boy as much as I do, and it really hurts when I see little kids being mean to him and refusing to play with him. But, that is just how it goes. You can't make everyone like you.
Well, by the time we arrived at our regular park the little man was happier and so was I, but I immediately realized that I was the only parent there too. “Oh no!” I thought. I was worried that these youngsters would be mean too, but that was nothing I had to worry about. As soon as we left the parking lot we were pretty much mobbed. I don’t know how many little kids came at us but it was fun. Honestly I can’t remember a time when I had more fun. It was me playing with 10-15 little kids and my baby boy while a few teenagers watched thinking that they were way too cool to play too.
It was at this time that I realized that my theory that as long as my little man was around I could do just about anything was correct. I was running and jumping and rolling in the grass. It was awesome! I felt like a super dad! Then one of the teenage boys said something to me that totally bummed me out. I felt so bad after wards I didn’t really know what to do or say. It is funny how just a few words can change your day or even your life sometimes.
Anyway, while I was playing with my baby boy and his new friends a young man that might have been between 13-15 years old came over to me and started talking to me. He sat down on the grass and told me that his dad would never act so childish and foolish. He told me that he couldn’t remember a time when his dad ever played with him or his brothers and sister. Then he said that my little man was so lucky and that he would do anything to have a dad like me.
I didn’t know what to say. I wanted to cry because I felt so bad for this young man who was obviously hurting in some way, but I couldn’t because I am a grown man. We aren't supposed to cry, but in reality we all do at some point. Most of us will just never admit it.
Then it struck me. What this young man said to me was possibly the greatest compliment that anyone could ever give me. I’ll never forget it as long as I live. I ended up responding to his great compliment by doing the only thing that felt right. I gave the kid a man hug. You know what I am talking about. I put my arm around his shoulders and squeezed him like my dad used to do to me when I was a youngster. You'll never guess what happened next. The little punk eyed my cane and challenged me to a stroller race!
What the hell!
I was so startled by this that I didn’t say anything. Then I looked at him and I saw that he thought that he had made a mistake.
Eventually, I said, “Hell Yeah I’ll race your punk ass!”
Apparently, that wasn’t what he expected me to say at all be cause he immediately started laughing almost uncontrollably, but I was serious. Dead serious. Soon I found myself strapping the little man in and making sure he was in there nice and securely because I wasn’t going to hold back. I was in it to win it!
As we waited for this young stranger and his little sister to strap into their stroller we were busily discussing what the race track perimeter would be. Eventually, we decided that we would simply run along the perimeter of the playground, which might have been 200 meters or so. Well, before we knew it we were off, and I couldn’t believe that I was beating this kid. We rounded the first turn and he was nowhere in sight. At the second turn he had caught up and my boy and his sister were laughing so hard that I could hardly hear anything but their maniacal giggling. By the third turn we were neck and neck with him on the inside. There was only one corner left. That’s when I broke out and I actually won this silly little race. I won't lie. I felt pretty good about myself. “Not bad for a fat man who walks with a cane” I thought. Then my stupid left leg and arm decided to say enough was enough. I fell down and sat next to my little one in his stroller trying desperately to pretend that I did it on purpose and could get up at any time. Sometimes having a genetic disease is just so damned inconvenient!
Well, anyway, apparently I wasn’t fooling anyone, and I could tell by the way he looked that the kid I raced felt really bad about it, but I told him not to worry I would be alright in a moment or 2 and that it was nothing that he did. Then he said, “I really wasn’t expecting you to be so fast!” quickly followed by, “If I hadn’t tripped on my own feet at the end I would have beaten you though.”
I don’t think he tripped at all. I am pretty sure that he let me win. He might not realize it, but he gave me a chance to feel like “Super Dad” for a few moments after that impromptu race, and I doubt he will ever know how much I appreciated it. Everyone needs to feel like a super hero now and then. Today was my day I guess. I can really think of a way to thank him for that, but I hope that one day he realizes how awesome it was for me, and I hope that if he has children he will get the chance to feel like "Super Dad" himself.
I hope I get a chance to see that young man again. It isn’t often that you get a chance to meet such a good kid who isn’t really a kid. I am not sure how to say it, but in a lot of ways I believe that that young man is just as mature as I am maybe even more so. I am so glad to have had the chance to meet him. He not only gave me the best compliment I could ever receive, but he also gave me my “Super Dad” status for the day.