Safe alternatives to Chicago summertime fun from a nervous dad

This week’s blog post is by WDP co-host Matt Rocco, who lives in the Edgewater Glen neighborhood  of Chicago with Professor Foster (his “Brown Mom” wife), and their daughter Viva, who now has a set of roller skates Daddy is never going to let her wear.

Before I had a kid I’m sure I was one of those smug non-kid-having tough guys who said things like, “Look at all the kids these days with their bicycle helmets, they’re soft! In my day head trauma was a badge of honor! Childproof caps? In my day we swallowed entire bottles of expired antibiotics and it helped us build character! Automatic shutoff on my chainsaw?! Helicopter parents! Thanks, Obama!!!!”

Now that I have a little girl, nothing is too safe … and I mean nothing. Not the outlets covers, not the kiddie scissors. I don’t want to leave a dangling participle in this essay for fear it’ll fall on her head.

Last week my mother bought Viva some roller skates. Evidently my mother hates me. She did ask what safety equipment I wanted her to buy with it, and I told her I wanted elbow and knee pads, shin guards, a ninja turtle shell, parachute breaks, a full face mask and helmet, attack dog training gauntlets, and one of those bubbles around her like in that John Travolta movie.

As soon as she’s wearing enough armor to survive a bear attack, she can go skating.

Now that the weather is finally warm, and snow isn’t expected for several days, all the dangerous games and activities of summer are all around us, and I want nothing to do with any of it. What do you do when your kid gets hurt? I don’t even know! Do you call an ambulance? That sounds really disruptive. And expensive. Do you throw the kid in your car and go sit on Lake Shore Drive for an hour on your way to Northwestern Hospital? Do you tell them to suck it up and walk it off because that’s how Grandpa beat Hitler?

I say avoid situations that will lead to a 911 call. Below are a list of terrifying summer activities and my safe alternatives:

Dangerous Summer Activity: Visiting Lake Michigan Beaches

Beaches are near water. Here’s the thing with water – you can’t breathe it, unless you are Don Knotts in that movie where he turns into a fish. And, yet, people are constantly playing in water and letting their child play near water. You can’t breathe in space – would you let your child play in space? YOU WOULD NOT LET YOUR CHILD PLAY IN SPACE!!! So knock it off with the water.

Also, beaches are somehow closer to the sun, which means sunburns, which means suspicious moles. To paraphrase Elvis, “We can’t go on together, with suspicious moles.” The sun is not your friend – it is an enormous gaseous explosion that won’t stop. Do not let your child play under the giant explosion.

Beaches also have stands that serve hot dogs. My triglyceride numbers are through the roof. My doctor doesn’t want me anywhere near the beach.

Safe Alternative: Drinking Lemonade

Lemonade is delicious. Everyone loves lemonade. It has Vitamin C. (Does it have Vitamin C? Let’s go with it.) Lemonade is not filled with sunken ships. You can let your kid help you stir the lemonade. Lemonade does not contain carp with polychlorinated biphenyls in their belly fat. You can sell lemonade at an adorable stand.

Oh, and lemonade does not have regular e. coli outbreaks that cause skin rashes and diarrhea. Not regularly, anyhow.

Dangerous Summer Activity: Playing at Parks and on Play Equipment

Chicago is full of excellent parks, parks with slides, swings, and monkey bars. Twisted metal good times beckon. But if you ask me, if it has a ladder attached to it, you shouldn’t let a kid play on it. If it has a chute attached to it, you shouldn’t let a kid play on it. If it involves CHAINS, you shouldn’t let your kid play on it. Let’s face it, play equipment is just a construction site without a fence around it. The ground is usually made of shredded up old tires! It’s a junkyard with no Doberman. (Except when someone actually brings a Doberman.)  It’s a skinned knee manufacturing plant. It’s Thunderdome.

Safe Alternative: Reclining on Chaise Lounges

If it’s good enough for Sarah Bernhardt, it’s good enough for your toddler. Lay out on a nice safe cushion. Drink some lemonade.

Dangerous Summer Activity: Skateboards, Rollerblades, Scooters, and Bikes

Look at all those fools along LSD. If the good lord had meant for us to roll around on wheels he would have made us all look like Olivia Newton John. Or something. Bikes and scooters and the like are a great way to allow your child to move at dangerous speeds while protected by … nothing. No air bags, no seat belt, just momentum and asphalt. I don’t look forward to telling my daughter in her teen years that she needs to wear leggings and tights with all her skirts because her knees look like two knobby Freddy Krueger faces after a childhood spent hitting the pavement.

Safe Alternative: Well Fitted Athletic Shoes with Excellent Arch Support

Kids love sneakers. Remember Michael Jordan high tops? How happy were you when you got some totally rad Michael Jordan high tops. Take your kid to DSW (careful on the escalator) or someplace and buy them some pumped up kicks that will cradle their ankles and help them stand tall. Remember: wheels on shoes are a crime against fashion and safety.

Dangerous Summer Activity: Grilling

Fire. Gas. Hot metal. Glowing coals. Blowing cinders. Charred brats covered in carcinogenic free radicals. How are those things family friendly? I know, I know, the stupid Father’s Day card your wife ran out and got you at CVS while you were in the shower said how proud she was of your love of grilling or some damn thing, but the fact is, grilling around children at a picnic makes about as much sense as welding at a birthday party.

Safe Alternative: Thai Takeout

They bring it right to your house and it tastes great. It helps you use up all that Sriracha everyone keeps buying you. It comes with limes. Kids love noodles. It does not burst into a propane fueled inferno.

Dangerous Summer Activity: Blowing Bubbles

Yeah, it’s super cute until you get soap in your kid’s eye, they slip on a roller skate, fall into your grill, tumble down a slide and right into Lake Michigan.

Safe Alternative: Reading Quietly.

You can even do it on your tablet or e-reader, some of which are non-glare. It makes you smarter. It doesn’t scrape your kid’s knees or raise your triglycerides. It’s like an adventure in your mind.

I hope you’ve enjoyed these tips for a happy and safe summer. Now if you’ll excuse me I have to go hide the Pogo Ball my mother just brought over.

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