ESSAY: A Man’s Game of Tag with His Son, Others at a Watertown Playground


Dean Berlin

Playground, by Dean Berlin

So this is it, huh?

A lifetime of building a reasonably fit body and observing predator-prey strategies, and here I am: chasing a 5-year around a playground. I’m playing my Son’s favorite game, which is just a variant of tag. Over the years, I’ve introduced increasing subtleties into the game (no tag-backs, a base, a point system, etc.), and for that I’m very proud. Still, here I am, an adult male capable of whatever my LinkedIn says, lurking beneath a blue plastic slide for a child to find me.

He doesn’t, of course. Or at least, not consistently. He is getting better.

Still, how many Nature shows of wolves chasing hares to breathless exertion or American Gladiator wanna-be weekend warrior shows do you have to see before you’re climbing on the “outside” or standing on the “dangerous side”? Not that many, and not that often.

So, here I am, now making goofy noises with the same body that ran a triathlon. I’m psyched. I’m ready. I’m old – he’s young. I’m racing a game, I’m slowly losing and yet I’m loving it. He’s learning my tricks and developing new ones. Did I lose my Son, or was he spying from a crevice? Doesn’t matter, I’m faster… for now.

Brachiating over the guardrails, I find another, new child wants to play. The Chasing Game is well understood in Childrendom. There is an It, and there are the Children.

Sure, I’ll chase you too.

Instantly, several thoughts race through my adrenaline-mind, almost concurrently: 1. chasing is fun, chase everybody. 2. The new child is white, you’re black. Don’t chase him. 3. MA is liberal. You’re still black. 4. You’re a Dad, the new kid must have a Dad/Mom. Seek them. 5. Chase your kid, ignore the new kid. 6. Herd both kids, but touch none of them. Hope for maximal giggling and laughing. 7. Chase both kids, but only tag yours.

Whew, I missed my Son going down the slide to score a point. Wait, I can’t forget remember the plotline: I’m a marine ship and they are pirates. “peuw peuw… I’m boarding you now!”, I shout.

Answer: 7, with plans for 4.

Twenty minutes and a fairly intense workout later, I’m panting (seriously, my parkour skills are the minor bomb).

Huffing by the trashcans, the new kid’s Dad sidles up to me. He’s somewhat rotund, but not uncommonly so. With his iPhone disappearing into his pocket, he offers a fist bump: “Thank you for being the monster.”

Yeah, bro.

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