"Can I climb on the monkey bars? You kids don't know who you're talkn' to." I smiled back at the all the pairs of watchfull eyes. Time to show them my amazing monkey bar agility. Sure, it has been a while since circumstances demanded that I hurl my body into a volley of acrobatics but it's just like riding a bike right? All those hours of playing spiderman as a kid are about to count for something.
"Are you Ok?" Im barely able to see with the sun glaring down at me. Several munchkin silouettes tower over me. They share giggles. I envy them. What happened to me? Im only 23. I thought it was 40 before things went down hill. I get up and brush the sand off of me. Not only have I embarassed myself in front of all these kids, but now I have to face the fact that I am much more out of shape than i thought. Amber smiles up at me from under a Dora the explorer cap. "Kyle your silly."
"Amber. I want you to promise me that you will enjoy the monkey bars while you can. Your 9 years old and you still have a long time before life sucks. So play everyday. "
Since starting this job, its been one painful realization after another. From 9 until 5 these kids are under our supervision . We keep them busy all day with dodgeball and duck duck goose. They never stop going. Where are they getting this energy from? Everynow and then they decide to gang up on me. IF anyone reading this is considering having children then let me give fair warning, they may be cute, but they are darn painful. They attack from all sides with pokes and pinches. The jump on me for piggy back rides and pull my shirt until it stretches. I usually manage to keep them away for a minute or two. It doesn't take long though, until my throat starts to burn, and my chest starts to throb. After that, I get overwhelmed in a tsunami of little devils tearing at me like a hoard of pirrahnas. If you have ever seen the Simpsons where Homer is getting pummeled with deviled eggs after all the kids chase him down, and he is to winded to fight back, that is kinda how I feel everyday I work at the playground.
At least I have fun. Nobody my age is ever interested in playing hide and go seek anymore. They just want to drink. What a long and strange process that the idea of fun gradually turns from games when we are kids to drinking when we are adults. Let me give an example of a conversation I have had at least a dozen times with at least a dozen different friends over the last year.
"Hey we should do something this weekend!"Says I.
"Yeah, we should all get together and drink at my place," says friend.
"Ok. yeah. Sure, but what do you want to do?" I reply.
"What do you mean? Were gonna Drink!"
No wonder these kids are running circles around me. They have a lot more practice at it. I remember being a kid and building snowforts to have snowball fights in. I remember riding bikes in search of adventure. I remember building spaceships out of cardboard boxes or playing in my friends treehouse. Those were amazing times. Strangely, I seem to remember those images more clearly then all my weekends during high school and onward. Somewhere in between childhood and adulthood we lose sight of what having fun really means. When I work with these kids I get reminded each day that fun means playing and laughing. Fun means games and friends. At some point , my friends and I stopped having fun and just started drinking. Actually, let me use another word; 'Partying.' From early puberty onward, it is ingrained into our heads that Partying is the greatest thing a person can hope to achieve. If a person wants to be a somebody they have to attend Parties. Well, since partying is such an important right of passage among our people then perhaps someone can please tell me what partying means? So far from what I have experienced, all it seems to mean is "everyone get obnoxiously intoxicated and dance badly!" If I have a pet peeve it is when someone shouts the word "Party!" Please, please do us all a favour and shut the hell up!
I miss having fun, REAL fun, not that imitation fun that needs to be chemically induced. I make the last loop and pull my laces tight. A few quick stretches first. It's October now, still a long way untill the summer playground. Plenty of time. This isn't so bad. The cold autumn air quickly enters and quits my lungs. Sweat starts to trickle and tickle my temple. One leg in front of the other, one two, one two. Its only a few more i pod songs and then shower time. hmmm...A thought just occured to me. Where is the nearest park with a jungle gym, i still got a few months until summer.