Saturday, December 12, 2009

Who knew you could get Jumping Castle Rage?

When is a park not a park? When it's hosting a 'private party.' Visiting a local park for a bit of a play and some morning tea, Alex's eyes lit up when he spied a jumping castle set up on some grass. To the side of the jumping castle was a group of people milling around doing vaguely social things like eating and drinking, a few kids in tow. Your basic Christmas meet-up scenario.

Alex ran over to the jumping castle and asked a man standing in front of it how much it was for a go. He told Alex to go and ask one of the ladies in the nearby group. There were only a few kids on the thing, so I thought, they'll probably let him have a 5 minute go and then off we go, every one's happy.

Alas, this is where the story turns sour. A woman smugly informed me that the jumping castle was for their "private party" and no, we could not have a go. Actually, she informed Alex of that fact as he was the one who had asked for a turn. (Maybe she wasn't smug but this is a retrospective account and I'm so annoyed that she looks smug from where I'm sitting right now.)
"But at least you asked," she continued, "we've had to get kids off there this morning who just walked up and got on without asking!" Imagine that, I thought, kids getting on an unattended jumping castle in a public park!

"Thank you!" she trilled, indicating we should get lost now. Alex expressed his disappointment with a bit of a whinge but was otherwise impressively stoic for a three-year-old. We headed towards the regular playground instead, (the one marked with a sign, 'for the plebs').

Unfortunately most of the play equipment at the park had been set on fire by vandals and resembled a scene from Apocalype Now so no joy there either. I offered Alex a consolation piece of watermelon. He threw me a withering look (but took the watermelon).

Next thing later a Santa turned up in a company ute. "Look, there's Santa!" Alex called, his hopes rising once more. Unbelievably, one of the mums from the 'private party' group overheard Alex's exclamation and turned around to shout back, "Not for you!" (This time there was no mistaking the smugness). It was one time in my life that I was truly too shocked to respond.

Of course, with the arrival of Santa all the kids who'd been on the jumping castle vacated it to mob the red-suited guy, leaving the castle mocking us in its emptiness. It was all I could do not to smuggle Alex on to it and tell him to go for his life. Picturing the potential ensuing mama-biff (which I did actually picture in a fair amount of detail - I'd take my earrings off if I wore any, and yank that pony tail to the ground if she had one) I took the lover-not-fighter route and stayed where I was.

I know when I'm beat by a bad-vibe park. Alex knew it too. There was nothing for it but to raise the white flag. Contraband jumping castle on one side, ashy remnants of a choo-choo train on the other, we two forlorn figures trudged glumly back to the car. Good times.

Friday, December 11, 2009

The ins and outs of Santa

Alex is working on wrapping his mind around this Santa thing. As is his wont, he is asking many and varied questions to get a grip on how it all works. The other day he expressed some scepticism. "Mum, I don't know how that guy can take presents to every kid in the world at one time," he mused, rhetorically I hoped. "You wouldn't be the first kid to think that," I commented by way of response.

Also, no photos with Santa again this year, because "I don't want to sit next to a guy dressed as Santa, you can just tell him what I want instead."

His pre-school teachers must be more convincing than me. "Mum, Jess has a hippo on her roof eating cake, and Emma has to use a ladder to go up on the roof and get it down!" he announced wide-eyed. So he buys that, but still, the Santa thing has holes in it.

And finally, a comment on Santa's digestive system. After going to the toilet himself, Alex commented, " Santa must do lots of poos." Dare I ask why? "Because of all that food kids leave out for him to eat, he must have to poo a lot."

"Alex," I replied, "you may well be the first kid to think that."

Party time!

There is nothing so precious as the dawn of first memories, snatches of time from when you were a small child where you can recall having the time of your life. It was probably a simple pleasure, something experienced for the first time that provoked a sense of wonder that is hard to re-capture.

Alex went to his first proper night-time party last night. When I say 'proper', it finished at 8pm, but he was specifically invited to it and he stayed for the duration. In fact, we had to virtually drag him out of there. If this is a sign of things to come, he'll be the last one standing, with a 'work it till you can work it no more' philosophy.

Personally, these days I love a party that ends at 8pm. Very civilised indeed. It was the end of year day care party, complete with sausage sizzle, BYO salad, and a jumping castle. Those folks know what kids want - fake tattoos, singalongs - Alex was dazzled and didn't know where to start. Except, of course he did. On to the jumping castle he went, and there he stayed for close to 2 hours, forsaking food and drink in order to keep jumping higher, higher.

I had given the kids a bath before we left, partly so that we at least arrived at the party clean, and partly because I knew it would be late when we got home and no way would I be attempting it then. When we got in the car AFTER bathtime, Alex knew this was a pretty special event. "We're not ready to go to bed!" he cheered in the back seat, "We're going to WORK OUR ENERGY instead!"

At the party he only got off the jumping castle to give interim reports about the state of his relationship with a 7 year old boy who had become his nemesis during the jumping festivities. It started with a bit of biff, before they grudgingly called a truce and spent the remainder of the evening following/bossing each other around. "He's pushing me now!" Alex would jump off to announce, returning to the jumping castle before waiting for a response.

In the car on the way home, tired and exhilirated, Alex's final words before dropping off to sleep were, "I want to do that again some time." Don't we all, son, don't we all!