Let’s face it. Every kid in the 3-7 year-old range sound pretty much exactly the same when they get hurt. That high pitched squeal of exaggerated pain emanating from the most fragile princess of a 3 year old girl, is almost indistinguishable from the sound blaring from your rough and tumble football playing 6 year old boy. Somewhere in the very depths of children’s range of noises, they all have an inner “Horn of Gondor” that all parents instinctively tune in to, and reflexively brace against. This moment is the Russian Roulette of parenting in a playground. We all hear the same child and, horror above all horrors, it might be ours. We’re looking and hoping beyond hope that it isn’t.

It’s not that we aren’t collectively empathetic for the hurt child or the parent he/ she is running to, but DAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAMN does it feel good when it’s not yours. I breath a genuine sigh of relief when I’m able to pick my kids out of the cacophonous swarm of children running hither and thither around the park. “EFF yeah!!! It’s not mine!!” is usually the inner sentiment that races through my brain. But as my thoughts go straight to the selfish celebration of victory, I try to feign an outward look of sympathy for the child and parent who aren’t quite so lucky. But my sympathy is a total sham and I suspect that at least 80% of the looks of compassion worn by the parents around me are equally counterfeit.

I think if we were all being honest with ourselves, we’d smile broadly and release a hearty “Thank God!” to the heavens. We’d pat the other winners on the back, thumbs up the people from across the swings and high five all within reach who dodged the proverbial bullet for that round. To be honest, I wouldn’t be above gloating to the poor sap who now shouldered the burden of skinned knees on a child who’s acting as if they were stabbed with sharpened popsicles of pure molten lemon juice and peppermint. This gloating would only last until the inevitable moment when I am on the losing end which I all too frequently am.

Now, I’m not a pure sadistic sociopath (I just dabble). I don’t WANT any kids to get hurt and I also don’t want any parents to have to be the ones who are left dealing with the aftermath. But I can freely admit that it’s marvelous when it’s not me. I get that brief moment of panic that it might be my situation to deal with, followed by the sweet release of endorphins in knowing that it’s not. Ever come really close to having a car accident, yet you manage to avoid it unscathed? Yeah. It’s that feeling, only it’s collectively felt by all the winners in this game. From now on we should just have some subtle, secret signal amongst all of us to celebrate our playground victory. Something that says “We’ve made it through this, together” without letting the kids know that we’re so very very relieved. 25 strangers simultaneously doing the Running Man around one downtrodden parent is subtle, right??