Dear Dad at the Park Calling Your Son Chicken for Not Wanting to Slide

I can’t get you out of my head.  Rather, I can’t get your boy out of my head. After I heard you say it for the third time, “WHAT ARE YOU CHICKEN?” as your boy was at the top of the slide taking in his options, my blood was boiling.

It crushed my heart to see his face.  It made me so sad and so angry AT YOU.

There are few times I can excuse people being an asshole.  And there’s a lot of it going around.  When you are an asshole to kids or animals those excuses are no longer applicable.

Then I thought, maybe there’s something else going on here.  I try my best not to judge as we have no idea what’s going on with anybody else.  I’m not going to come down too hard on anybody given my past.  Given my past behavior, what right would I have?  What right does anybody have anyway?

Maybe it was a thing you guys did for fun.  Maybe it was a Back to the Future Marty McFly thing.  I don’t know you.  You could be having a little teasing thing going on.  Like he was in on the joke.

But one look at his little face told me he definitely was not in on the joke. He wanted to make you proud so he steeled himself and shot down the slide each time.

The last time, I high fived him and whispered, “good job” and his face lit up as if I’d given him a million bucks.


I just want you to know a few things.  I understand where that comes from. That lashing out.  That wanting to make people feel as miserable as you do.  That wanting to hurt others just so you can not feel the hurt yourself for 5 gd seconds.  But listen.  This is your little boy we are talking about.  Look at his little face.  Look in his eyes.  Do you really want him to be afraid of you?  And yes, there should be a teeny tiny flick of fear from parents, but not this.

How did you get here?  Please know I understand feeling like shit about yourself.  I understand being screwed up and hurt and even really really angry at the world because of your situation.  But you are a parent now like it or not and you need to act like one.  I understand having no confidence or joy to spread around, but you are in charge of bringing up another being now and you need to get your shit together.  For him.  Even if you are faking in front of him, you need to do it.  He needs more from you.

You know don’t you that all he wants is for you to be proud of him. To say something kind to him.  To show him some compassion.

Look, I don’t know your life and I don’t know how hard it’s been for you, but I know how hard it’s been for me.  I know how in order to be positive and give others encouragement, you have to first feel it yourself.  You have to be lifted up in the tiniest way by somebody else.  My guess is that you don’t really want to treat your kid like shit.  You don’t really want to be that guy. But you are.  YOU ARE BEING THAT GUY.

I didn’t confront you at the park because, well, I had my kids and I was by myself.  I didn’t want to make it worse for your kids or mine.  I didn’t want to let it get out of hand.  And while many would say it’s none of my business, then what? Whose business is it?

I didn’t mean to hurt so many people when I felt so sad and angry.  But I did.  Until I snapped out of it and started looking for the light, the darkness followed me everywhere.  Maybe that’s where you are and I understand.

Maybe you don’t even know you are being a bully to your son.  Maybe you or someone feeling this way will read this and realize, hey, I am being a jerk to somebody I actually love and don’t really want to hurt and maybe I should really work to stop that.  

I have to try.

I get it.  You had somebody treat you like shit.  Make fun of you.  BULLY YOU.  So most likely that’s what you are doing to your beautiful son because that’s what you know.  Hurt people hurt people and all that.  It’s true.  I get it.  But you can change it.

You have an almost blank slate here.  He’s so little.  Do better.  Be better.  Give your kid encouragement and you give him the world.  Give him a kind word and you become his safe space.


It’s time for you to deal with your shit and I don’t mean by passing it on to your kid.

Nobody likes a bully.  And when that bully is a parent, well, that shit stinks.

I don’t know, man.  I smiled at you and said hi.  I tried to be kind to you.  I tried to give you the benefit of the doubt.  Please get your act together. And quickly.  These kids are growing up right before our eyes and I hope you don’t have to live with regret.


These kids just want to be with us and for us to want to be with them. That’s all.  They want kindness and nurturing and affection and compassion.  They want to laugh WITH you.  Isn’t that what we all want?

How we talk to them really matters.  It shapes who they are as adults.  Hell, it shaped you and I didn’t it?  We can get lost along our way, but we can fight our way back to kindness.  We can.  I know from my own experience. When I lost all hope and kindness and compassion weren’t in my picture, I lost everything.  Little by little, it came back when I started sharing it and it all started with sharing it toward myself.  Sounds silly, but it’s true.

Kindness toward ourselves first.  Kids see everything.

I knew just from just 20 minutes watching you that your boy is really a sweet, great kid.  He was kind to my kids.  He thinks you are something special just because you are his dad.  You can be worthy of his incredible smile.  I believe in you.

See also:
Where do mean girls come from?
You are funny smart clever kind

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