My little guy is an ANIMAL LOVER. He loves them all; from ants to rhino’s to snakes to kangaroos. The kids are on Spring Break this week so we went to the zoo. A huge, crowded zoo. We spent the better part of 4 hours walking around and looking at almost every single exhibit. There was a butterfly garden, a petting/feeding area, a 4D show, a slide built through a hollowed-out tree and of course all the animals on display. Jay loved everything about being there. He was curious and interested and amazed and obedient and happy and excited and even patient about waiting on-line. There was not 1 negative incident. Not one.
The following day, we didn’t have any plans so I decided to spend a part of the day at a small, local play ground. It should have been simple enough. Just me and my 2 smallest boys. They both love swings and slides and running around and climbing on stuff. We had just spent a huge chunk of time walking around the biggest zoo in our tri-state area and everything was fine there. The play ground should be a piece of cake. Except, at the play ground, it was not a piece of cake. It wasn’t even a 100 calorie snack pack. From the moment we got there Jay was grumpy. He wanted to walk up the slide and got mad when other kids wanted to slide down it. He wanted to hold onto his toys and climb the wobbly rope ladder at the same time and it wasn’t working. He wanted me to follow him around and applaud him every time he did something. (Really!?!). He cried (not with tears) and he yelled and he made his very loud grumbling noises. There just was no pleasing him.
I could feel the other mothers (and nannies) eyes on us. I know they were judging. I saw them looking at each other and shaking their heads. I heard them tell “their little angels” to move to the other side of the play structure. It wasn’t in a way like, “Aww, poor thing, they’re having a rough day so lets give them some space OK Susie?” It was more like “Ugh, let’s get away from that woman and her bad kid before some of her bad parenting rubs off on us“.
I get it. I probably would’ve been one of them a few years ago.
There was a time … not that long ago … when that would’ve bothered me but it didn’t bother me this day. I couldn’t care less what those other women were thinking.
I was too busy thinking … “We’re just at a freaking play ground. Why does this have to be so hard for my sons?” Yes, sons. Both of them. Jay was having a difficult day and because of that Ace wasn’t able to enjoy himself either. He tried so hard to help make the play ground fun for his little brother. He knows all the tricks now. He knows what words work with Jay and he offered to help Jay with climbing the ladder and he tried to reason with the other kids there about giving Jay his space but nothing he did worked.
We lasted about 1/2 an hour before I pulled the plug and we went home. Truth be told, I probably let it go on way longer than I should have. But I kept thinking he would find a way to enjoy himself. I kept giving him a chance to figure out how to have fun there. In the end, it just wasn’t meant to be.
Ace didn’t give me a hard time at all about leaving. I think he’s getting to the age now (a very wise 5) where he too can recognize when it’s time to call it a day. He knew it was for the best. I feel bad that he’s had to learn that lesson so quickly but so too I feel like because of children like him, my Jay will be OK down the line. Children like Ace, grow up to be adults who are NOT like those judging women at the play ground.
Plus, we’ll always have the zoo.