Thursday, March 15, 2012

Negotiating the park

Yesterday, Eric's teaching day, was gorgeous--high 70s and sunny--so after work, I fed Maia, changed everyone's diapers, packed up a picnic dinner (peanut butter crackers, Wheat Thins, three kinds of cheese, grapes, an orange, a banana, and some cookies), and we headed to the park.

On the way Chloë said, "My stomach hurts," and pulled up her shirt to clutch at it. She'd had nearly a cup of black beans as a snack before we left, and I suspected that was the problem. We were also proceeding extremely slowly, as Chloë has lately seemed constitutionally incapable of walking more than two paces together without stopping to look at a crack or duck behind a tree or point out a fire hydrant or a plane. So I said, "I tell you what. Since your stomach hurts and we're going very slowly, I don't think the park is a good idea. Let's turn around. We'll have a picnic in our yard."

Chloë hesitated. She pulled at her shirt again and said, "My stomach only hurts a little." I looked at her, and she looked up at me, her whole face trembling, and said, "I really want to go to the park." It was clear she was about to cry, but she wasn't doing it yet; she was holding herself in.

So I relented, and she started running so I couldn't complain about her slowness. We got there in good time and started looking around for somewhere to sit and eat. The place was packed (and sadly, the garbage cans weren't out for the season yet, so it was littered too), so this wasn't easy. It was even less easy when Chloë ran off to climb up the small climbing wall, though she was stymied by the one-year-old boy who sat at the top eagerly watching her. "This is going to be a while," I told Maia, and pulled her out of the stroller.

Chloë got off the other side of the play structure and headed toward the place where she and that other girl had played "naptime" last time. I went the long way around with the stroller in one hand and Maia in the other. By the time I'd navigated the other kids, the other parents, and the structure itself, Chloë had lost interest in naptime and was looking around for me. "Chloë!" I called. She came running and said, "Let's find a place to sit down and eat our picnic!"

We eventually found a stone bench close to the river. I settled Maia on my lap and opened up our containers, and put bits of cracker and cheese and fruit into my hand for Maia to nibble on. She was more interested in feeding me than herself, but she did get food in her. Chloë enjoyed the repast, but was more occupied in watching the kids on the baby swings and the dog-walkers going past and the water. "Where are the boatses?" she said. We did see one motorboat, and also a floatplane taking off, and a little boy on a tricycle. "Will you get me one of those someday?" she asked. I laughed and said no, she had an even better one at home, and next time we went outside she should try it.

After we finished the meal with a cookie (well, two for me--but they were small), we packed up and headed over to the other play structure, where we witnessed a girl going across the monkey bars properly, which Chloë may never have seen before. Maia pointed at the flag above us, snapping in the wind. "Look!" said Chloë, pointing to the flag pole. "A tall rocketship!"

"It's getting late," I said. "You can go down another slide, and then we have to go." She jaunted onto the structure to get to her slide of choice. "Time to go home," I said.

"I want to go down two slides," she said.

"I said one."

"I really want to go down two."

"If you do, then we go home right away afterward with no whining, crying, or screaming," I said. She agreed, so I gave in and she ran back up the ramp. She picked a short slide, which surprised me; but when she came off I said, "Okay, let's go," and she immediately started walking with me toward the street, no argument.

"Thank you for going to the park!" she said.

"How's your stomach?" I asked.

She reached under her shirt to pat it. "It feels all better!" she said, sounding surprised. Then she had to point out a girl with sparkly streamers on her bike and asked "What did we have for our picnic?", and we talked the whole slow way home.

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