I joke a lot about kidnapping children.
Obviously (I mean, I HOPE it’s obvious), I will never do such a thing! But when I am out and about and see an especially cute little babe or energetic toddler, I can’t help but mutter, “Oh my gosh, I just want to take them home!” I’m usually joking with my wife or coworkers when I say things like this. In fact, I’ve had more than one colleague say that if a child ever goes missing, they’ll be checking my place first.
The trick with this kind of humor is to know my audience.
This point was made clear the other day when we had our boys at one of those large, wooden play structure things that mimic a small city. So many twists, turns, slides, swings, bridges, tunnels, and sand traps that I could barely track my redhead as he darted in and out of sight.
My littlest guy, Joshua, was playing in the sand with a delightfully chubby little boy. This child was adorable. I’m pretty sure I’d seen his face on a box of Honest Company diapers and he was dressed like he had arrived straight from the gym. Cute sweatpants and Nike shoes so tiny they made me weep. (Okay, you could safely guess that I may have a bit of baby fever.) He had curly black hair and the biggest brown eyes. Josh’s first friend! I leaned over to my wife, Dawn, and said, “He’s so sweet! Can we keep him?”
Wait. Back up. About five minutes prior to me publicly declaring I wanted to take this particular wee one home, a blonde and brave fella walked up to Dawn and simply asked her to hold his “tiger string”. It was a remnant of what we guessed was a balloon. A six inch piece of orange rubber with black stripes. The saddest thing you’ve ever seen, but clearly precious to this kidlet.
“Will you hold this and keep it safe for me?” he asked.
“Sure! I can do that,” she said. And she stood exactly in that spot, gripping a small piece of what was clearly trash, all so that a little boy could go play elsewhere unencumbered.
So now, here I am exclaiming that I want to take a child that is NOT mine home with me, and my wife is holding ANOTHER strange child’s precious broken balloon in her hand.
Who would’ve guessed that that would be the exact moment BOTH of their moms walked up to the sandbox?
Before I could properly explain myself, Joshua’s first friend was being ushered to the swings while his mom kept one eye on me and two hands on her kid. The other mom pointedly looked at the piece of balloon in Dawn’s hand.
“Is that yours?” she clipped.
“No, I’m just holding it for one of the kids,” my wife replied.
The mom cocked her head to the side while keeping her eyes on Dawn and yelled, “Harry! Come over here!”
Harry walked up and took his balloon back. “Thanks for holding this,” he said, and then he too was guided away by his Mama Bear.
We each tracked down the mother we had distressed and explained. We assured them that we definitely weren’t kidnappers, and we were there with our boys. Not a couple of creepers that hang out in parks and shop for babies.
In fact, our boys started playing with their boys and everyone had a great time! At one point, Harry asked our Ezra if he wanted to be his best friend.
“Oh my gosh, did you hear that?!” I asked Dawn. “We should just keep him.”