Teenagers are idiots. There. I am officially old enough that I said it. Language warning, by the way. I’m still rather pissed off about this one.
I took Noah to the park yesterday to practice playing catch with our brand new nearly-broken-in baseball mitts. About a month ago, I saw a dad and his kid out throwing the ball to each other, and I realized… holy smokes. My kid is almost ten years old and we don’t even own baseball gloves. One spontaneous splurge and a two-day-shipping-wait later, and we had our new gloves. We wrapped ’em with rubber bands and shoved ’em under a giant stack of heavy crap in his bedroom.
Yesterday was the second time we took the gloves out so that Noah could learn. The first time didn’t go too well as Noah got walloped smack dab in the bridge of his nose early on and went down for the tear-filled count.
Yesterday was attempt number two, and it went much better because I remembered something important. He’s supposed to always keep his glove up in the air. Oops, sorry kiddo. It’s been a few decades since I put on a glove or received any instruction of my own.
Anyway… Yesterday was going awesomely. I invented a little game where I would toss him the ball very close, then every time he caught it I would take a step back. The goal was always to set a new record, always getting further apart from each other. He was laughing. I was having a blast. Life was good. And then the idiot teenagers showed up.
Four teens, probably 13 or 14 years-old, all came rushing into the park.
A couple of young girls were playing over on the playground, probably six or seven-years old. Noah and I were over in the grassy flat area. The entire park was smaller than a square acre, very small as parks tend to go.
The teenagers were all wearing big protective black masks, and carrying big ass paintball rifles, which looked like automatic assault weapons.
Without any care for who they were putting in danger, they started sprinting, dodging, jumping, and ducking around the park, leaping in and out of the playground itself, and opening fire on each other with wild abandon. The two girls froze in terror, paintballs exploding against the slide and against the climbing wall just feet from their unprotected faces.
As I tried to absorb what was suddenly happening, and what the hell I was going to do about it, one of the teens ran by, a few feet from Noah, holding his gun in the air. He fired a shot at his little pal across the park. Noah burst into terrified tears, not knowing what the hell was going on, except that a bunch of masked guys were suddenly in the park with big guns, opening fire.
Beware the wrath of this dad. You don’t terrorize my kid and put his safety at risk, and you don’t do it to anyone else’s kids either.
Now, I realized in the moment that had these punk kids decided to all unleash on me at once, I could have been hurt pretty badly, having no face – or groin – protection. But when your kid, and other people’s kids, are at risk… You just don’t give a shit about that. You really don’t. It’s not noble or anything. It’s just parental instinct to give zero shakes to the wind what happens to you when those in your care are in danger.
I angrily approached two of the teenagers and demanded they stop shooting. They stopped dead in their tracks and looked at me like deer in the headlights. The other two caught sight of me and stopped as well. “All of you get the fuck over here,” I barked. They knew I wasn’t messing around, and amazingly they obeyed.
Now, I tend to be a very calm and peaceful man, but I am also a big ass 6’4″ muscularly framed and bearded man. If you’re a scrawny little teenager, I bet the version of me who is ready to rip your head off is more than just a little scary.
Within seconds the teens were all standing within a five-foot radius of me, their guns lowered. I pointed at Noah, who was just far enough away that I knew if I lowered my voice just enough, he wouldn’t hear any more of the slew of curse words I was undoubtedly about to unleash in order to make myself heard.
I pointed at Noah. “You think it’s fun to terrorize children?” I demanded. They all looked at me like they had no idea what I was talking about or why their actions would be scary at all. “Do you not see that my son is crying and in hysterics right now?”
They took a look at him, and the leader of their pack said, “uhhh… We didn’t even hit him did we?”
I pointed to his gun. “Put yourself into a nine-year-old’s shoes,” “If you’re at the park, having a fun time with your dad, and suddenly a bunch of older guys run in, wearing masks and carrying huge guns which they then start shooting… Do you think that maybe that might be a little bit fucking scary?!”
They all just stared at me with the blankest of expressions. I pointed to the little girls who were now watching all this, also out of earshot. “Do you see those girls?” They looked. “You were shooting your paintballs right next to them. Do you not realize what could have happened to them if you had hit them? You could have blinded them, or damaged their hearing, or caused them to fall off the equipment, or hurt them pretty badly.”
“We were being careful,” the same teenager piped in.
I told you. Teenagers are idiots.
I instinctively took a little step toward him and he instinctively took a big step back. “You all get your little punk asses and your stupid fucking paint ball guns out of this park, and if I see you here with those guns again, you will know what a really pissed off dad is willing to do to protect his kid.”
Hey, I didn’t say I was decorous in all this, or that I handled it in the best way possible. Being kind and calm about it just didn’t seem like the way to go to stop the problem right then and in the future. I really felt they had to feel the fear of what would happen if they did it again, and the weight of having done it in the first place.
I sent them away, and they skedaddled off in a hurry, content to be out of my crosshairs. No pun intended.
The girls went back to playing, and Noah and I went back to our baseball mitts, but I could tell he was still quite shaken. “That was pretty scary, huh?” I said to him and gave him a big comforting dad hug.
“Your dad is one tough dude. You better bet I’m always gonna make sure you’re okay,” I said. I held out a hand for a fist bump and assured him they weren’t the kind of guns that shot bullets.
He smiled a little and fist bumped me back. “Yeah. What’d you say to those guys?” he asked.
“I told ’em, ‘you scare my kid again and you’re gonna be wearing your butts for hats.'”
This was all he needed to feel a lot better, and he let out a sincere laugh. We started our little game again, and wouldn’t you know it? He set a brand new record of catches just before it was time to go home, and those teenagers were at least smart enough not to come back while this crazy dad was still there.
Dan Pearce, Single Dad Laughing