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Published: Sunday, June 22, 2014, 12:01 a.m.

Going to the park: an easy, breezy 1,000-step process

“A walk in the park.” Have you ever heard that expression? It's used to illustrate simplicity. But maybe it would be a better example of irony.

Any parent of young children will tell you that a walk in the park is trickier than it sounds.

First, you need to gear up: baby-safe sunscreen approved by the Environmental Working Group, BPA-free water bottles, non-chlorine diapers; you need an environmental sciences degree just to pack your diaper bag.

Throw in some snacks and the challenge continues. If you pack organic grapes in a Ziploc bag, will the other moms judge you for wasting plastic, or will your greater sin be deemed not cutting those grapes in half? After all, choking is no laughing matter. You're not even supposed to say Heimlich anymore, but you can't remember why.

Once you've finished packing, it's time for sunscreen. You squirt white glue into your palm and try to rub it into your toddler's arms. It turns him into Casper the Ghost's cousin. Meanwhile, your other child is running around the living room screaming, “I hate sunscreen!” at the top of her lungs. You tackle her on the couch and smear in the goo.

Suncreening should be a verb.

When your whole family is sticky white, you open the garage door and survey your fleet of vehicles. Between strollers, bicycles, wagons and trikes, it's a crying shame you didn't buy stock in Little Tikes. If only you could find the helmets. Five minutes, later you locate them next to the soccer balls.

Now you're rolling. Only traveling to the park takes twice as long as it should. Tent caterpillars are everywhere and your kids want to squish them all.

It's a moral dilemma for sure. Tent caterpillars look icky, but should you be encouraging your children to murder? While you wrestle with the issue, your kids squish a dozen. You reach the park through a trail of carnage.

But the park — the beautiful park! You're here now and can rest easy.

Except you can't.

One kid wants to be pushed on the swing and the other needs constant reminding to not run with sticks. Then they both want to play with the phone tube, which seems like a good idea in theory until you realize that neither of them can reach the speakers.

You dart from one play structure to another trying to help. Wood chips get in your shoes.

When snack time comes, you monitor your kids carefully while they eat grapes, in case they choke. You're also on guard against crows. They'll steal cheese bunnies if you're not careful.

The sun moves across the sky and the afternoon gets hotter. When you contemplate packing up for the journey home, you start to sweat.

It's a beautiful day at the park. But it ain't no picnic.

Jennifer Bardsley is an Edmonds mom of two and blogs at teachingmybabytoread.com.

Story tags » Parenting

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