Rookie Dad: Super-Sized Summer

Splash 315

Maybe the heat is getting to me. Or maybe I’ve watched one too many “60 Minutes” commentaries by famous curmudgeon, Andy Rooney. Or maybe it’s the fact that some kid at the playground just called me an “old dude.” (Thirty-seven is not old, kid! You may not believe that now, but you’ll see!) Whatever it is, I have a burr under my saddle this summer.

 

So, what’s my beef? Well, I’m just wondering who went and super-sized summer for today’s kids. Just about every great thing I remember from the summers of my childhood still exists, but everything has been super-sized, mega-hyped and full-throttled. It’s like summer on steroids.

 

Here are some examples. The taste of summer from your childhood — quick, what was it? If you said Kool-Aid, you would be correct. Pitchers of Kool-Aid were everywhere. In the fridge at home, in the fridge at your friends’ houses, on the picnic table, on the blanket at the beach, on your new white T-shirt … everywhere! Other than taking a swig from the garden hose, Kool-Aid was the only option.

 

And what flavor was Kool-Aid? It was red. There was only one flavor of Kool-Aid I knew of: red Kool-Aid. Maybe Kool-Aid did offer mixes in other flavors back then, but we were never aware of it.

 

Do you know how many flavors of juice and juice-like beverages are on the market today? About 150,000. So, when someone at a picnic asks me if I would like a strawberry orange pomegranate or a Pacific mango sunsplash, I usually ask, “Do you have any red?”

 

Let’s move on to the Slip N Slide. It was a true backyard necessity on a hot summer day, especially once the 3-foot-round plastic pool just wouldn’t comfortably accommodate my three gangly brothers and I anymore. The original Slip N Slide featured some pretty basic engineering: a long, plastic sheet with an opening for the garden hose. Turn the spigot on and away you went, slipping the hot summer day away under the soft drizzle of cold water. You just had to make sure no large sticks, giant rocks or neighborhood dogs were underneath the plastic, lest you impale yourself, break a shin or get bitten by an angry mutt.

 

Today’s Slip N Slides and Slip N Slide-competitor products? Whoa, fancy! There are gushing waterfalls, cushy inflatable parts, hydroplaners, boogie boarders, triple racers, wave riders, whitewater blasters … the whole nine yards. Now it’s apparently less about slippin’ and slidin’ and more about looking good while slippin’ and slidin.’

 

And speaking of fancy, what is with all these kids tooling up and down their streets in motorized vehicles? Is it really necessary for a 4-year-old to be hogging the sidewalk in his mini-Hummer? Even though his vehicle doesn’t guzzle gas, he still should need a license to drive that thing. I’ve seen more than a few innocent flowers buried under the wheels of those wildly navigated bad-boy machines.

 

Back when we were kids, we tooled up and down the streets all summer long on our Big Wheels and banana-seat bicycles. Pedal power, baby. If you wanted to visit a friend who lived down the block, you either pedaled or hoofed it on your own two feet.

 

OK, I’m almost done. Here’s one more favorite summer activity: going to the neighborhood playground. This is my two sons’ favorite thing to do. They call it going to “swings and slides.” Back in my childhood, that’s exactly what it was. We went to a playground that had swings and one slide. All the equipment was fashioned out of industrial-grade steel. You sat on a flat steel seat on the swing, and you climbed up steel steps to get to the top of the tall steel slide. That steel was a molten 220-degrees in the hot sun.

 

Today’s playgrounds? Unbelievable! Instead of simple swings and slides, these are monstrous “play structures.” Spiral slides, rock-climbing walls, ziplines, fireman’s poles and on and on. All made of cool-to-the-touch molded plastic.

 

It’s madness, I tell you! But, I must admit, it’s all so much darn FUN!

 

So, go ahead, kids, enjoy your super-sized summer. Have a grand time. Just know that in another 30 years, your stuff will seem pretty old school, too.

 

 

 

Brian Kantz nearly broke his collarbone diving on a Slip N Slide the other day. Totally worth it. Visit Brian online at www.briankantz.com or drop him a note at thenewbiedad@yahoo.com.