This is a rewritten article for Kidlander.SG. Original blog post can be found here.
My wife and I were invited to a parent blogger gathering at Fusionopolis, where a new indoor playground called Happy Willow had opened. I was heartened to find that adults were allowed into the playground which boasted a large ball-pit, to ensure the safety of their playing children. In my head, this effectively meant I was paying $18 for my son’s entry, and I got to play for free, and when Dad is pushing 35 years of age and he’s told he can go into a ball-pit, he isn’t going to waste any time.
As we entered, the ball-pit was filled with kids of various ages, doing target practice on a couple of hapless domestic helpers. Being a former kid with experience in ball pits of varying sizes, I knew some of these kids might play rough, so a little way into the ball-pelting, I had the idea of drawing the kids’ attacks on me so my son wouldn’t really be harmed during the play.
The last time I played so hard in a pool of plastic balls, I was 12 years old.
And those kids were rough. They dished out everything they could on me; from ball pelting to shirt and limb tugging, and at one point they even orchestrated a 6-kid pile-up on top of me to keep me from getting up when I fell flat in the ball-pit from trying to get away from everyone. It was a riot, and my son had fun following the crowd, attacking daddy in good fun.
But then it got rougher. In the midst of playing, 3 of the larger boys got carried away and decided to corner me, then started hitting me on the head with their hands, kicking me and even grabbing at me and scratching me.
While I was shielding myself from the over-enthusiastic onslaught, I managed to see my own son suddenly position himself between me and the boys, arms raised and hands open wide, shouting, “Stop! No more beating! Cannot beat!”
There was a little pause, and I placed my hand on my son’s shoulder. He turned around and I could see the brave, determined look on his face, accentuated by his furrowed brow and angry 3-year-old pout. There was also a hint of fear in his eyes; I realized then that he was instigating a stand-off with the boys, in an effort to protect me.
I said, “Don’t worry, Xan. Daddy’s okay. You want to help Daddy chase away the boys? Grab some balls.”
And he did (just the plastic ones, though, thank goodness). He threw those balls at the boys as fast and heavy as his body allowed, and together, we managed to force the boys further from us.
Eventually, we won the battle, together. The boys scampered off to seek shelter from the shower of blue balls that my son and I blasted on them, and every time they creeped towards us, we’d make sure they didn’t get close enough to get physical with Daddy again. My wife had to call a timeout – on me – when she couldn’t decide if I was capable of taking care of myself, much less my son, and the battle of the balls was called off after about an hour.
It’s times like this – when my son gave me a chance to relive my childhood in a ball-pit – that make me so glad I am taking every opportunity I can to spend time with him.
It’s times like this – when my 3-year-old son stood up to protect me, stood up for what was right, and stood up for justice – that make me feel my wife and I must be doing something right.
It’s times like this – when my son fought alongside me through the rest of that fun-filled evening – that make me so proud to be his father.