Open Letter To The Child I Hit At The Park

Dear Child I Hit At The Park,

Even now from the dark void of time out, where I was firmly plopped upon the bottom step of my family's staircase to "think about what I did," I can't say with any sincerity that I'm sorry.

I know you'll agree with me when I say that life as a toddler in a world clearly built for people four to five times our size can feel like a series of never-ending, sized induced frustrations. Desks that are too high. Ledges, just out of reach. Chairs that when you attempt to push them toward a counter snag on a rug leaving you condemned to amusement purgatory, inches that may as well be miles away from the treasure trove that is the junk drawer. Structural prejudices are everywhere.

I don't know about you but as I've grown, UP has become less and less frequent. They insist that I walk. Forget sunsets, my horizon is a forest of thighs and kneecaps.

Although we are now sworn enemies for all eternity, we have much in common. You know the struggle that is being constantly dependent while a rising star of free will shines bright inside you, directing you to press forward despite the rein and bridle of toddlerhood.

I have two sanctuaries: vivid dreams in which I take flight and experience life not at adult level but above it, looking down, untethered by arbitrary commands ("Walk!" "Stop!" "Go!" "Wait!"), and the park.

The glorious park. In this existence designed for giants the park is my retreat. Natural habitat. Everything is built to scale: each corner a unique trove of childhood delight unto itself. Swings. Sandbox. Jungle gym.

Although the backdrop ebbs and flows with the seasons- frosty winters coat the steel bars with snow which melt into hopeful, rainy springs that usher in blistering summers only to temper into a pale autumn- the structure remain the same.

The park is a world within a world. A sacred place consecrated for the young in body but mighty in spirit. It is our holy land.

Months ago, I was going through a particularly difficult time. My central incisors rode in on painful stallions and I could not escape the parade. Mother, being perpetually awake anyway, would sit up with me throughout the night and sing the same campfire song over and over until I was lulled to sleep. 

I know a place
Where no one ever goes
There's peace and quiet
Beauty and repose
It's hidden in a valley
Beside a mountain stream
And lying there beside it
I find that I can dream

I tell you all of this so that you understand that what happened today was not personal. Crimes of passion are complicated. All of us got hurt in one way or another. I did not seek to harm you, but restore order. You trampled on principle and felt the weight of your choice. 

This afternoon as I ran toward the park gate, in the direction of the buzzing laughter of my peers I was drunk with the knowledge of unlimited potential for FUN TIMES. My heart felt about ready to burst with joy. In my exuberance, I tripped. My forward trajectory resulted in gravely scratched palms. My right hand even had red prick. Blood? I could have cried and would have been justified to ask for a Band Aid, but no, not a solitary tear sprang from my eye as I brushed off the embedded gravel. Nothing and no one could ruin this day. No one except you. 

Noting an empty swing, we left my sand toys on a bench. It's amazing how the simplest of decisions can alter your destiny.

The swing was fun as always. Despite the thick leather bucket seat gathering the fabric of my pants up with each push, creating a pinch around my legs, I couldn't have been happier. Will this be the moment I go over the bar and do a full 360? Air whooshed past my ears and through the thin fabric of my cotton Circo shirt. She pushed me again. I traveled through time and space, scream laughing until my diaphragm ached.

Giving up the swing for another child was easy today. Sand time. As we walked over to the sand box I imagined a detailed blueprint for the cityscape I would call forth with my plastic dollar store tools.

And then I saw you. Blue and white pinstripe overalls. Like a convict. Your ensemble was fittingly poetic. Foreshadowing, brought to you by Carters. You sat, legs splayed in the sandbox holding my shovel.

Holding my shovel.

He's holding my shovel.

While my visual cortex easily processed the scene, my frontal lobe rejected it like a burnt piece of toast "No. Try again." And so it did, rearranging the information like a young child wrestling with a shape sorter presses a square block against a circular opening.

He's holding my shovel.

My shovel he's holding.

He's holding my shovel. 

That is my shovel. He's holding it.

Our eyes met as you picked up my telepathic communication. You answered silently. 

My mom said I could.

Your face was blank. Emotionless.

That's my shovel, I messaged back.

My mom said I could.

I broke into an immediate sprint in your direction. Maybe I let out a battle cry or said something aloud, I can't remember, but my mother was alerted and before I could reach you, my feet began to lift like an aircraft slowly taking flight.

"Stop," she said.

I couldn't hear them speaking, my mom to your mom. My eyes remained fixed on you digging into the pliable sand. It was dry enough to sit on without leaving a dark spot on the the seat of one's pants but slightly damp from the morning's rain and held form easily, just how I like it.

She chuckled at something your mother said. I looked up, still being held like a newspaper under her arm.

"We're still learning about sharing."

Sharing? Surely she's joking.

It's utterly confounding how possessive adults are about their own belongings whether it be a remote control or wallet, but preach about communal property without even a twinge of guilt over their blatant hypocrisy.

Sharing? This coming from a woman whose road antics only minutes prior would imply that the right lane is emblazoned with her initials.

My feet touched ground and she crouched close to my face. The second I heard her tone I tuned out. It was the pitch I hated most: calm but decidedly loud, reminiscent of a librarian at story time. She was speaking to all of the parent's within earshot, not me. A self-serving speech plucked from the pages of parenting websites and peppered with hallow assurances.

"Ok? We're going to let our friend...." Friend? I don't see any friends anywhere, "We're going to let our friend play with the shovel for a few minutes and then we'll trade. Everybody will have fun together."

She smiled and waited. For what? Applause? A tip? 

I stared into her eyes and could see that she was lost in her own folly so I said nothing.

Knowing all eyes were on me, I forced myself to walk calmly over to you, a degenerate of a child, and sat a toddler's length away. If parallel play is what they want, parallel play is what I shall give them.

I fixed my gaze on you and you shifted, uncomfortable with my laser beam focus.

Play. Go on, play. I messaged you over and over.




Go on. Play. Stupidhead.

You responded: I will.

You continued: This is fun.

You relaxed and began to mock me with overly enthusiastic digs: raising the shovel high and letting the sand rain down. You let out a happy shriek and your mother clapped. Mine even smiled. Brutus in a dress. I may have growled because she shot me a warning glare.

I know you could sense my growing anger because your eyes flashed with excitement.

You went on: I like your shovel.

Your shovel is fun.

Your shovel is fun.

Your shovel is fun.

Your shovel is so fun. 

And then you said it. The words that cracked my psyche and landed me in the gulf of punishment that now I type from.


I lunged.

You weren't expecting me. Perhaps you thought my mother's presence would keep you safe from my building rage.

Your face froze in abject terror as I tackled you. Sand flew up as our limbs and feet scurried. The last thing I remember is how the subcutaneous fat of your cheeks rippled as my hand made contact. Your skin danced as if it was cheering for me. Your own body knowing that you deserved it. 

"NO! NO! WE DON'T HIT!" her voice was urgent and high pitched, but she didn't shout. She doesn't do that in public. It was obvious that she was mad but the slight tremble in her voice coupled with the sideways glances of other parents trying to watch without watching told me she was also ashamed which I knew was worse. While she's usually quick to forgive my transgressions against humanity, the ones against her ego tend to, how do you say...linger. There would be no dessert tonight.

The crowd parted. 

"Say you're sorry right now,"she hissed into my ear. 

Absolutely not. 

You howled like a wolf at the moon and clung to your mother like the baboon-faced marsupial that you are. Large tears fell liberally and within moments your face was a snot swamp.

"Say. You're. Sorry." She held on to arm with a firm grip.

Looking down I muttered: "Applesaucy."

We were both whisked away. All that remained at the crime scene was a small indentation in the sand where your head had fallen after my blow and a solitary toddler sock that had been left behind in the rush.

Meters away I could still hear your whimpers accented with dramatic gasps, as your mother held you close, a firm hand pressing your freshly-slapped face to her chest. 

Our moms were both speaking to us as they walked briskly. Yours sang gentle coos and apologies: promises of a warm chocolate milk and cookies. Mine, tight lipped, clenched teeth reprimands: promises of reporting to family and Santa. 

Child I Hit At The Park, I learned something today. Life is not fair. Life is not just. But if we have courage, even time outs can feel like victory.  I have not moved from the naughty spot since I landed here eleventy thousand hours ago. I will serve my time with dignity, knowing that I prevailed over your tyranny, you rapscallion baby. 

Years from now I'll think back to the shock in your eyes as I rained justice on your face and maybe one day I'll be sorry but today is not that day. Today, I regret nothing. Applesaucy, my friend. Apple. Saucy. 


I'm the ambassador for this book. 

Nobody Likes a Cockblock: The Children's Book For Adults is
Out Now! 

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