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A Walk in the Park.

2010 October 6
by distracted daddy

Baby in park splash pad

I’ve never given public spaces like parks much thought in the past decade or so. They’re just treed areas between houses. Places to let the dog walk around and poop in, where hobos sleep and teenagers make out. I never saw playgrounds for what they truly are. Places to take your child where you don’t have to clean up the toys.

There are numerous parks in our neighbourhood. We’ve explored them all. Each has its own set of pros and cons. Some we visit for the playground amenities. Some for the shade provided by mature trees. Some for the swings. And some for the splash pad.

I never knew what a splash pad was 13 months ago. I’d seen them. I’d walked by them empty. They’re large concrete, well, pads that the city fills with water and pays awkward teenagers to oversee on certain days in the summer. When they’re filled with water, babies, toddlers, and small children flock to them like a metaphor about something flocking to something else.

My daughter loves splash pads. There’s something about wading through knee-deep water that she enjoys. Her first temper tantrum happened as we left a splash pad. There was crying and screaming and the flailing of limbs. It was in public. It was the first I tried that “walk five feet behind your wife and daughter to disassociate yourself from your crying child” trick. It didn’t work.

Baby in the swings

"Wheeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee!"

The splash pad is a special summer-only attraction of parks. The main attraction when the splash pad is just a concrete pad is the swings. She gets the grin of a Cheshire cat when she’s on the swings. She laughs as she goes back and forth. She’s been swinging for months, ever since she could hold her head up. She sits in the baby swings, the ones that look like hard plastic underwear. I wouldn’t recommend trying to sit in those baby swings. It can be quite painful.

The swings are always popular. Sometimes there are line-ups. Queuing up for swings is annoying. You’re waiting for the other baby to leave but then you realize how much babies enjoy swings and you don’t want to force their time. Of course it’s not your baby. Your baby wants to swing.

But parks aren’t all good times. Parks attract certain negative elements like brooding teenagers. For teenagers public parks are places for them to do private activities that are normally contained in parents’ basements. As a parent of a toddler, we had a run-in with some surly teenagers during a daytime park visit.

There are a lot of ways to tell if you’re an adult; buying a house, getting married, having children. But the true sign that you’ve become an adult is telling pot-smoking teenagers to relocate their wafting daytime pot session. Yes, I’m aware that teenagers partaking in illicit activities is part of what makes public parks public. I was always under the impression that this was an after dark occasion and not a downwind from toddling toddlers activity. We go to the park for the swings, and the splash, and the fresh air, not to give our baby a contact high and a serious craving for baby num nums. She’s way too young to be high in the park.

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