Let the Games Begin

I’m wearing a bright red volunteer tee shirt and holding Thing 1’s hand as we cross the West Side Highway.  We’re headed for the artificially turfed athletic field on the other side. Red is not my best color.  It brings out the pallid quality in my scottish epidermis.  We’re surrounded by screaming kids all anticipating what should be their first taste of physical competition in front of their adoring yet demanding New York parents.  I for one am very stoked.  I’ve manage to make an impressive number of daddy related appearances this year and they’ve all been disappointing.  First was her birthday back in April when I came to read Thing 1’s  favorite book to the class with her sitting proudly next to me on the podium.  She picked a book I can’t stand about a boy with severe Down’s Syndrome who finds acceptance and purpose by joining a group of girls in the school ballet.  I hate the book because it’s completely implausible.  Next, I accompanied her on the Tug Boat Museum field trip, where I skipped a critical half day of work to learn that people who work on tug boats leave adult magazines on their unmade cots and smell of stall oysters and cheap booze.  I was also disappointed to discover that it’s quite possible for me to get sea sick only 5 blocks from my apartment. I’m thinking Field Day will redeem all this.  Once on the pitch I notice no familiar signs from the field days of my youth.  No white chalked track lanes.  No chin up bars. No sand pit for broad jumping. No relay batons.  Not even a freakin’ rope for a three legged race.  I’m told the line up is going to consist of various free form tag games,  group parachute manipulation and self starting relays with the children imitating interesting animals… like rabbits. I’m shocked.  As the day progressing chaos sets in.  With no competitive focus the kids are left to there to their own goofy impulses and start slamming into each other in the bedlam of the free form tag environment.  It’s like that scene from Saving Private Ryan when Tom Hanks hits Omaha beach. I can barely watch as Thing 1’s platoon suffers multiple casualties.  Next up is the parachute game where 20 kids and adult volunteers struggle to keep a massive expanse of material suspended while kids climb underneath.  This also goes terribly wrong when the wind direction changes and the once enticing bubble house comes crashing down on the claustrophobic kiddies like a big top in a tornado.  After treating Thing 1 for early on-set PTSD from the tag and the parachute drill, we head for our third rotation at the relay area.  What could possible go wrong here?  Well,  I quickly discover that with no pressure to win comes no desire to finish.  This results in a non-Olympic qualifying  time of 15:14 for five kids to cover a total span of 40 yards.  At the end of the day every kid gets the same ribbon.  Thing 1’s pride is heartwarming but at this point I’m considering entering her in one of those kiddy pageants so she can develop the killer instinct required to survive 1st grade.