The first time Dylan and I shared the day alone, we biked around our new neighborhood looking for a park Becky and I had passed some months before. Dylan and I looked for it using the time-tested directions of "somewhere around here." Just when we were about to give up and head back home, Dylan looked up and said, "What's that sign?" Turned out to be a playground sign.
Not much of a park, though. Huge banyans, benches, and much-trodden grass. A park for romance, not play. Still, we spent a few hours making up games and had a blast.
Sunday, on our second day alone together, I discover it wasn't so much of a blast. Biking toward Salvatore Park, Dylan calls over his shoulder, "That last park wasn't any fun, right?"
I politely disagree.
"But it was just a field."
"I thought we had a good time making our own fun," I say.
"I like playgrounds with lots of stuff to do."
Salvatore Park makes his jaw drop to his chest. Tennis courts filled with couples and families to watch, monkey bars, swing sets, running paths, hopscotch, fake animals to climb, and a field thrown in for good measure. Families play everywhere. I get to make awkward small talk with the parents; "Look, our children are talking. Let's you and I talk. Actuary? That's what you do, really? I like your Polo shirt. Excuse me while I elbow myself in the chin."
Dylan meets neighborhood children. We snack. We pretend he's a dog and we drive around the park searching for his lost puppies. I hold him while he flips over the parallel bars, does a handstand, and crosses the monkey bars. We race laps around the park. We see a couple of high school boys doing backflips off the wall. The one named Andres is trying to teach the other student how to do acrobatic stunts out doors, but children keep pestering Andres to do tricks for them instead.
"Can you jump over those bars without touching them?" "Can you jump from that railing to the top of the swingset?" "Can you do a back flip off of the monkey bars?"
Andres teaches Dylan to do a somersault without bumping his head.
I also learn a valuable lesson: don't tell the child his father is on the way. Until you actually see his father pull up, there's always the chance he'll bail at the last minute.
Never having kids in my life, I had a vague notion of what makes them so great. They look at the world with (childlike) wonder, they're not jaded, they're always ready to have fun and try new things. Guess what? Not so much. Dylan still believes in Santa Claus, but when I tell him that Indians are cleaners, booksellers, and dentists, he doesn't believe me. Even at six years old, Dylan can wake up on the wrong side of the bed, his first words of the day being, "I want you to leave me alone." Getting Dylan to try a new food is like getting the Pope to okay birth control. He'll whine about anything and everything for sympathy, to shirk responsibility, and to stay up one second longer.
It's not what I expected at all. I love him because when we pass surveyors X's on the sidewalk, he jumps off his bike so we can dig for treasure. I love him because he wakes up at midnight and thinks his giant, stuffed Very Hungry Caterpillar is a pit pull and he needs me to show him everything is okay and tuck him back in. I love him because he forgives easily. I love him because he loves hugs. I love him because he believes in the Sleep Fairy, dances to Michael Jackson, and his favorite color is pink.
"Aaron, you watch me when my Mom doesn't watch me and when my Dad doesn't watch me. Are you my family?"
I'm not sure how to respond, because technically...no. I ask him what he thinks.
"Your last name is Curtis. You're not my family. You have to be a King, or Quiroga."
"Except from now on, there are three names in my family. You have to be Curtis, King, or Quiroga."
I can definitely live with that.