Ok, obviously, when you become a Mom, your priorities and interests take a radical veer off into a netherworld of things you didn't even imagine a person could care about, let alone care deeply about.
My girlfriends and I have been on the hunt for the perfect park. At this point, the perfect park would be a place where all the toys were safe and age appropriate and didn't require the Moms' constant participation. This perfect park would also be a place where Moms could hang and talk with 1-2 eyes on their babes instead of 2-4 appendages.
Nicole *almost* found this ideal park. In fact, for most all intents and purposes I would say she did. The other day we went with our little pals to Lincoln Glen Park, where a rod iron fence surrounds an area designed just for toddlers, complete with low playground toys, a sandbox, grassy areas, and toddler swings. The only problem was that lots of other kids were there, many of whom left their sandbox toys, scooters, and other tempting things lying around while they played elsewhere. We still had to constantly pull the kids away from these toys, make sure they weren't burning their little feet on an asphalt area that got really hot, and keep them from trying to escape every time a bigger kid left the gate open. Still, it was pretty great as far as kid parks went.
That park, however, is in San Jose. I wanted something closer.
Then, on my way home from work today, I remembered that the one Mom I know in my city told me there was a great toddler play area at a nearby mall (which is a total dud, ghost town of a mall that I would never go to for any other reason). I decided the Monkey and I would take a little drive over there and scope it out.
Today's New Activity: Tunneling at Bayfair Mall
From the moment we stepped foot in this (padded) walled-in play area, I was grateful to my friend for the hot tip. Every single structure in there was so low to the ground that I felt totally comfortable letting Monkey climb around at will, but each was fun enough that they kept his interest.
For a while he was content to just crawl and creep through and under stuff.
Then he discovered these wheel-go-round things
And then, he decided these girls had let him in on their game of hide and seek
These girls had totally not let him in on their game of hide and seek, but I was so proud to watch his attempts at being social.
I was so proud of his attempts at everything. At one point I nearly wept out of simple joy at watching him explore, watching him smile. And I've noticed that certain qualities of his take me right back to my own childhood. He's friendly and curious about other kids like I was, but a little timid, even shy at times like I was as well, and always ready to defer to any kid even the slightest bit more assertive/aggressive than him. It makes me happy to see that he waits his turn and doesn't fight with other kids or insist on hogging toys, but I also worry a bit that he'll let the other kids take advantage of him (of course I had to find something in all this fun to worry about, right?).
At one point a kid who was too old and too big to be in this play area was sitting near Monkey with his two bright red toy cars on the ground next to him. Monkey moved to pick up one of the cars and the kid snaps, "HEY!" I told my son that those were the other kids' toys and mumbled that the kid didn't want to share them (even though he wasn't playing with them--pooper).
It's funny, feeling this protective Mama bear come out, because later that same kid was spinning tiles on a wall-mounted toy that was definitely big enough to be played with by two kids at once. Monkey walked over and tried to play by the kid's side and the kid was like, "No!"
I said, "Monkey, he wants to play by himself right now," and then, under my breath, "little loser."
I couldn't help myself. Of course, being his Mama, I want every person to welcome Monkey the way I would. I never want to see him being rejected, especially when he is so young and reaching out in curiosity. But as his Mama, I also know that trying to protect him from the hurt feelings that result from these interactions will only hurt him more in the long run. I have to let him experience life, hurt and all.
Anyway he's too young to really feel the sting just yet. He rolls with it and moves on. And that's a quality I hope he'll retain for the most part. Not that I want him to put up with mistreatment, but I hope he'll be adaptable, flexible, and able to find alternate sources of happiness and entertainment when his Plan A goes bust.
But that's all just ruminations. Today was fun. And I couldn't believe that we spent 45 minutes in that little area and Monkey never got bored. Still, he wore himself out well enough that when I said it was time to go he didn't put up any kind of a fight.
This one is definitely going on the list for repeat visits!