The Living Jungle-Gym

At times I find myself to be something similar to a living jungle-gym. While the rewards of fatherhood are incomparable, I seem to be ending up dirty and strained more often than not. Like that overused slide whose paint has been worn away by years of loving use, endless hours of sliding down, climbing up, falling off of, and whatever other uses children can devise to enjoy, love, and terrorize.
I feel like a sandbox when child #6 crawls into my lap. The toddler starts by putting whatever comes free into his mouth, whether pen, hat, or iPod. Often he then starts ruffling through my hair as if digging for a lost toy, and I am not really sure why his fingers are wet.
The two year old #5 prefers to climb up one arm and then slide down the other. I have lost many arm hairs in the process, and he gained much disfavor, he should know better that to mistreat his toys, I can’t be replaced.
Child #4 loves to take a running start and leap onto one arm, swinging to her hearts delight. She hangs on until finally shaken off, giggling as only she can. That does help take away the sting.
#3 is not about to miss her chance. Observing #4 swinging, she darts out of where ever she was hiding and takes hold of the other arm turning a swing into a precarious seesaw. With effort we even out, sometimes.
The #2 child still yearns to dangle from as high as she can get, either lifted or by her own efforts. If allowed she would climb right up my back, but she is finding the monkey-bars do not react to her as they once did. She does not know it, but she is getting bigger.
The oldest, or #1, has learned the lesson that her younger siblings are still learning. Like an old tire swing, she checks the rope and tree before throwing her weight on it. With knowledge beyond her seven years she understands it is better to ask permission rather than risk irritating her playground. Thank God! They can be taught.
Yet in the same breathe I see no better way to exist. In the same way as that slide, if the children decide to save the poor sheet of metal, it will find itself rusting away without care. I do intend to rust, I will always have little children polishing my limbs with their little hands, or at least coating them with whatever slimy substance is the flavor of the day.