This being my last full week of summer and all, I’m not sure how many more opportunities Mad and I will have to tack dates onto the Playground Tour 2013. If today winds up being the last leg of summer, then we’ll have gone down swinging or kicking and screaming, whichever method of violence you prefer.
My original intention for today was simply to visit that park on Pi’ikoi (which, as I learned today, is named Sheridan) because Madison and I saw it on the way home from Ala Moana Beach yesterday. I took the Kinau exit and came upon this playground at Queen Ka’ahumanu Elementary. We were stopped at a red light. “Should we just go here first?” I asked Mad. “Um, sure,” she said, casually. The playground itself was similar to the most prevalent playground on Oahu, but juuuuuuuust different enough for me to tolerate it. Madison isn’t nearly the playground snob that I am, so she took the task of exploring this playground seriously. She took the underside of the playset because it featured metal grates which resembled the sides of cages. In Madison’s mind, this bore enough of a resemblance to the prison in which Bowser holds Princess Peach hostage. “You have to save Princess Peach!” she shouted at me. “What do I do?” I shouted back, trying to outdo her histrionics. “You have to find a big golden key!” she answered. “A big golden key? Where the f- I have a small silver key!” I said, remembering not to break character. “Try it!” she shouted from her cage. It should be mentioned that she had both hands to her cheeks, her signature Princess Peach pose. Anyway, I was informed that I saved Princess Peach and was rewarded with a kiss. Good deal.
Since Mad and I were the only ones on site, I taught her something new today. She came down the spiral slide and began to run back to the stairs on the other side. “Take the short way,” I said. She stopped dead in her tracks. She looked at me with a furrowed brow, but also a slight smile. I don’t know if she knew where I was going, but I suppose it’s possible. “Walk up the slide,” I said. “What?” she said. “Yeah, just carefully walk up.” She did. “That was fast!” she said. “Now you can go down the big slide again. And she did – backwards. She did that for the first time, too.
Okay, for real, we left the school and I totally meant to hit up Sheridan, but when we hit the stop light at Ke’eaumoku Madison and I saw another playground across the intersection at the same time. “Let’s go there, dad!” she said. We couldn’t see them from the street because the playground was blocking it, but we would soon discover a swing set. Alexander Cartwright Neighborhood Park: Playground Tour Bonus Level! The play set itself was dilapidated and boarded up in places. I will never understand people who write obscenities on playground structures. Why would you do that? So a 5-year old knows how tough you are? So a 5-year old knows “U w/hea?” Ugh.
Anyway, Madison wisely spent most of her time on the swing set. “Let’s go swing because we don’t have that by our house,” she said. I felt like there was a teaching moment in there about opportunity cost, but I let it pass. We have time. Unlike the swings at the Waipahu YMCA, Madison could not reach the ground while sitting in the swing. She had no choice but to ask for my assistance. I gave her a gentle push. I know Mad well enough to know that if I pushed to hard, she’d quickly decided she didn’t want to swing anymore. I let her dictate the movement. But honestly, all I could think about were those days at Waiau Summer Fun. I wanted to do that thing (“Underdog?”) where you hold the person in the swing, then run forward, under the swing, letting them go as you pass through. I also wanted to do that other thing where you jump up as the person comes through on the back swing, then you grab their hips at the height of your jump, then rip them down to add to the force exerted by gravity. But then Madison would have ended up flying out of the swing, likely with an injury or two. I would have had to tell Lynnette. She would have been furious. For all of you unmarried men reading this, when married people try to give you relationship advice by saying “You have to pick your battles,” what they’re really saying is “98% of the decisions you make as a married man come down to a simple question: Is doing this worth having to deal with my wife?”
We finally got to Sheridan Park and it was actually pretty expansive. There were several sections to it, most connected by stairs or monkey bars or walkways. We had to park a ways down the road from the park. As we walked to the playground, Madison let it be known that I parked far away from the playground. I asked her if she wanted to go back to the car and she replied with a “no,” but in that growling voice that means “I am not happy about this, but I also know that I am at a disadvantage here.” I love that growling voice. It is music to my soul. It provides me sustenance.
Mad took a while exploring all the of the play areas. In my opinion, the best part of the playground was “The Sidewinder,” a tall, curved slide uncommon to most play sets. Madison, of course, delighted in the fireman’s pole. I was under the impression that just about every playground had one, but I’ve found that to be untrue. Many sets have poles that start out that way, but eventually feature climbing apparatus near the base. They’re for ascending more than quickly descending. Madison hates those.
Madison broke some ground earlier this week at Mililani Ike Elementary by making it to the second monkey bar. She tried for three today at Sheridan with disastrous consequences. She got to the second, went for the third with her right hand, but her left hand slipped. She fell about four feet to the rubber-ish surface below. She landed on her right side. I was shocked. For a second I didn’t move. It happened too fast. She just couldn’t right herself. She said “Ow,” but did not cry or even tear up. Instead, she seemed more concerned with the debris on her skin and clothing. “Are you okay?” I said. I was actually pretty worried. I know she’s a kid and the surface was built for cushion, but it still looked like a hell of a bump. Dolph Ziggler and HBK would have been proud. She said her hand was sore, but in a few minutes, she was on her feet again, running around. Phew. Because that phone call to Lynnette from Queens would have been all-time, Hall of Fame shitty.
“McDonald’s for lunch, Goo?” I said. “No,” she said. I was partially stunned. She never turns down the Red and Yellow. “So what then?” I said, in a horrible exaggeration of my friend Cruza’s voice. My friends and I started doing that in high school. I still do this. Regularly.
“Burger King!” she shouted. I knew. “You can’t eat ice cream until you finish your lunch,” I said. “I KNOW, DAD,” she said in that growling voice. I WIN. We found our way to the Burger King at the Town Center. Madison found her way into a crown. It was probably a 50/50 split between ice cream and playground activity that allowed her to plow through her four nuggets. When we finally got the cone, I suggested that she try dipping a french fry in the ice cream. She gave me the same face as she did when I told her to walk up the slide! She tried it. “Mmmm,” she said, chewing through a bite of ice cream-covered french fry. Another first! But that wasn’t the highlight of lunch.
Halfway through our meal, Madison recognized one of her classmates from Cornerstone. I waved at her mother who in turn told her daughter to say hello Madison. Mad’s classmate came by and said “Hi, Madison!” Madison returned the greeting. Mad’s classmate then lifted a stuffed animal she was carrying. “Look what I brought,” she said to Madison. Then she turned to her stuffed animal. She raised it to her face, then shouted “HEY, WHAT ARE YOU DOING HERE?!” at the stuffed animal before walking away. I was shocked.
“She’s like you!” I said, turning to Madison. She did the cutest thing. She fell back into her chair and smiled sheepishly; it’s an expression I rarely see on her face. She usually lashes out at me if I embarrass her. Not this time. “Yeah,” she said. “We play together in the mornings.” I couldn’t stop laughing.
Fine, you’re all probably sick of pictures and updates from the pool. I get it. But honestly, the pool is the best part of our day. I thought Lynnette and I might never have leverage over Madison after Disney Land, but damn it, Mililani Rec Center 6 is the new carrot. I can mitigate just about any of Madison’s requests by asking her to choose between whatever she wants in the moment and going to the pool. “Dad, I want to go to Target to look at the toys,” Mad might hypothetically say. “Okay, but if we do that, we can’t go to the pool. Do you want to go Target or the pool?” I would hypothetically respond. Sometimes she growls before theoretically saying “Pool!” in the growling voice.
Today, she added to her bag of water tricks and our day of firsts by floating on her back unassisted. It took a few tries for her to trust herself, but once she did, she was all good. It’s at the point where Madison assumes we’re going to the pool if there are no larger plans. She loves it. I realized today that our mutual affinity for the pool has had an incredible side effect: we might shatter our personal record for least times we’ve visited Pearlridge in a summer. Wow.