Baby Skid Marks

Pity the second child, again. She’s been to the playground maybe a dozen times in her whole life, when at her age her sister was there at least three times a week.

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On the blacktop

One thing I don’t miss, though, is rubber-tire laundry.

San Francisco has been renovating its playgrounds for a decade or so, and all the new ones get the recycled tire surface. It’s durable, it’s probably not carcinogenic (what, what did you say? I couldn’t quite hear you), and it’s low-maintenance.

It’s also dirty as hell.

Today, Claudia got an independent run at the playground for longer than ever: she’s agile enough that I just put her down and let her book around for a while.

Within ten minutes, she was gigglishly happy and dirty beyond words. Right, I recalled. Playgrounds mean laundry.

* * *

The other thing I got to experience again after my long absence from the playground was being lauded as a modern hero by all and sundry.

There’s something about seeing a moderately interested dad taking his kids to the playground on a weekday that drives women wild.

No, not wild like that, but it’s still pleasant.

One grandmother who was toting a sleepy baby around like luggage would not stop chattering at me about how beautiful my girls were and how wonderful it is to see a dad involved with his kids and on and on and on… It would have been ever so more wonderful if I’d actually been doing anything “parent-y” at the time, but in fact I was just sitting there texting a friend to come join us. But I’m a dad, and that was enough.

Another mom was ridiculously grateful that I played a game with her toddler son for ten minutes while she rocked the baby to sleep. The game involved little more than holding out my hand to accept the leaves, sticks, and sand that the boy fetched from afar, so it was hardly taxing: but nonetheless, I got a hero’s laurels for it.

Now I remember why I got into this stay-at-home dad gig to begin with: the unabashed adulation of the crowd. (Undeserved adulation, but I’ll take what I can get.)