Field notes from a thrill-seeking dad

You thought you life was over when those kids came along. Maybe the fun is just the beginning.
Thrill Dad
Illustration by Mark Matcho

1. Repeat after me, young man: There is no shame in carrying a diaper bag.

2. You still have a beating heart and a 266-horsepower engine. You can still go out and paint the town. But you’re a man now, with grown-up responsibilities that James Dean never imagined, and your Porsche 550 Spyder has become a Toyota Sienna, and your cigarettes have transmogrified into Goldfish, and your new adventures will have one slight complication:

3. You’re going to bring the kids.

4. The Dangerous Playground stands on a plateau near the eastern terminus of 13th Street in Midtown. You might call it the Noguchi Playscape, which would be accurate, or That Place Where They Used to Sell Drugs, which would also be accurate, given the history of its hidden staircase. The staircase winds upward nearly 20 feet inside a tall white cylinder and leads to a long and fast and wonderful aluminum slide that curves down the tower’s outer wall. Don’t let your children go down this slide without you. Someone has to make sure they’re safe.

5. The Flying Trick is an outdoor trick involving a small child and a father where the father picks up the small child and hurls the child into the air so that the child is briefly flying, and then the father catches the child—much to the relief of everyone who is standing by and trying not to look horrified. All I can say about this trick is that children really like it and ask for it by name, and children should always get what they want.

6. Stay gone as long as you like. What’s your wife going to say? Please bring the kids home; I miss them? The house is too quiet? The house is too clean?

7. The Dangerous Playground also has a mound of concrete that is useful for playing king of the hill and possibly knocking out your teeth. Also, large cubes of concrete that lead to vertiginous open space. And another set of lightning-fast slides that can only be reached by climbing hazardous metal ladders. This playground is one of two at Piedmont Park. Take your children to both, then ask which one they like better: the Regular Playground or the Dangerous Playground? They will answer correctly.

8. The Spinning Trick is another outdoor trick involving a child and a father and a whole lot of centrifugal force. Afterward, you’re both dizzy, so you lie down in the grass and look up at the sky and consider the self-evident truths of life, such as this one: Children need to play outside, even at age 34.

9. It would be a little weird for a man to show up alone at the DeKalb Peachtree Airport and sit there for hours and watch the planes take off and land and take off and land with their screaming jet engines and their vapor trails and their general breathtaking awesomeness. If, on the other hand, the man had children, and he were taking his children to the playground next to the airfield, he would not be weird at all. He would just be a good father.

10. The Scary Trick is similar to the Spinning Trick but slightly more dangerous. It’s done only upon request, preferably when no one else is looking.

11. When it’s cold and wet outside, sometimes a theoretical man might drive to a theoretical downtown to a certain very large theoretical hotel with a cavernous atrium that has numerous elevators and escalators and staircases and acres of carpet that children and their father could run up and down and around on if they happened to be there. Atlanta magazine does not condone such activity, for what it’s worth, which isn’t much because the whole scenario is imaginary.

12. In this same theoretical downtown, there is a subway station deep in the earth with an escalator that has been accurately described as the Big Big Giant Escalator. This escalator is located outside the turnstiles, which means one could ride it unlimited times without ever paying the fare. If one were so inclined.

13. Diaper change on the grass in Centennial Olympic Park, and you have to do it really fast, and it’s a special kind of diaper that requires two plastic bags, and the kid is twisting and wriggling and laughing with evil delight, and you’re trying to get the job done before anyone notices, and you go through half a box of wipes and wrestle his pants and shoes back on, and you get this big rush—this pulsing thrill of victory—the same way you might feel on a boat at sea reeling in a blue marlin.

Thomas Lake is a freelance writer in Decatur. His work has appeared in Sports Illustrated, the Wall Street Journal, and the Washington Post.

This article originally appeared in our June 2015 issue.