Jude is, on the average day, a delight at the park. When we walk up to the gate he yells, "BYE MOM. BYE DAD." and we don't see him again for 42 zillion hours when he finally trudges back, hungry tired and filthy at which point we shuttle his aging corpse back to our home.
He has, since his very birth, been convinced that he's 20 years old and has no need of those pesky "parent" people, except the one with the boobs there, that one can stay but only if you sit quietly facing the corner and open your shirt when he's hungry. In fact if I get too close while he's "playing with his best friend" (that's anyone, or a stick) he will instruct me very specifically to, "Go over there. Sit down and use your phone." You don't have to tell me twice, snap snap snap.
Little boys are crazier than a pack of florescent wolves so the park is a beloved retreat, he can practice making some friends and run himself to death like a greyhound chasing a stuffed rabbit. This is good; this is wise. He's semi-reliably delightful, but even when his behavior is somewhat less than exemplary the park is the perfect training ground for working this shit out and also preparing for the Hunger Games.
Except, except except except except except.
Our neighborhood is chock full of similarly hippy-dippy little families for us to potentially make friends with, one of the many things I love about it, but it initiates the inevitably awkward creating playground friendships. It's a carefully orchestrated mating ritual where you whisper to your partner, "Who's that one? Steve? Sven? Steve's Dad? WHAT'S SVEN'S DAD'S NAME? OH GAHHHH NOW THEY HATE US."
We've made a few friends here and there but I'm terrible at it because I dislike people outside my Circle of Trust™ and I dislike when people make jokes that aren't funny. Most of my life problems could probably be explained by my refusal to laugh politely at terrible jokes. Be funnier.
There is one family in particular who we seem to run in to all. the. time. At the park. At the bank. At the grocery story. At the neighborhood Halloween pizza party. (Our 'hood is weird.) They have a son nearish Jude's age, though a titch older, whom I will refer to as "SteveSven." SteveSven is a regular if not particularly exciting little boy, but he is of proper age that he and Jude could potentially be good playmates. SteveSven has two parents who are also unobjectionable, and they have some kind of baby with them all the time that they probably found on the road.
For some mysterious reason (pheromones?) I've taken a shine to them despite their relative blandness as viewed from the other side of the swings out of the side of my eye, which means Jude has taken that desire as a challenge, hand to god, to only act like the hugest asshole in the entire world every time these people get within a 20 foot radius of us. I'm pretty sure they think I am a moron.
Wednesday evening, in full denial that it was market day and the place would likely be packed with parents who allllll know each other from the Gleep Glorp Proto-Sancto-Montessori school drinking their organic local Kombucha, Jude and I bebopped over to the playground to get the wiggles out. No jokes would be told. These are the sacrifices you make to keep your child happy.
Except he was uncharacteristically clingy from the get-go, screaming from on high, "MOM. MOM. MOM. MOM. Look! Mom!" while I hunched next to a tree trying to avoid being drawn in to a conversation about self-sustaining satchels. It was so out of character for him that I just stared at him for a long time and my eyeballs made a nonresponsive blink blink sound.
Into the swing! I hate the swing! Into the swing! Swing! No! Run! Stop!
In an impressive tour de force he then removed his shoes and threw them off the slide, refusing to put them back on even when confronted with the fact that everyone else is wearing their stupid Keens, See? PutYourShoesOnRightNowClenchedTeeth. Then he laid face down in the center of the crowded park and screamed bloody murder.
It was at this moment that I noticed, not three feet away, dear SteveSven toddling around nearby, and suddenly I knew that the only way to end this misery would be to haul my screaming, kicking, sweaty, miserable child up over my shoulder and fully commit myself to an extremely noisy public walk of shame while being throttled 'round the neck, embracing that fate had placed this path before me the very second SteveSven's parents looked over and noticed me, makeupless and wearing one of Jon's shirts, futily attempting to control my hellspawn who is repeatedly punching me in the goddamn mouth.
I don't think we're going to be friends after all.