Ben's in school Monday through Thursday. Today is Friday...Bubba's in school, and Mom's at work, so it's just Ben and me. This Friday, we had people show up to work on our house at 8:00 a.m. and Ben and I had to find something to do. It was 25 degrees out.
We start off with McDonalds. I have a sausage biscuit and Ben has a hashbrown thingy. Not good, I know, but it makes for a happy daddy. We take a roundabout route to Red Butte Gardens, and go for a walkabout with the pink toy stroller. We get onto the Bonneville Shoreline Trail, and just roam around. We say "hi" to several hikers and dogs, and randomly wind our way down into the research park. We dodge cars and get to see a dump truck testing its dumper and a garbage truck and a cement mixer. Ben rides his stroller down the driveway of a software development company. In some not-too-different alternate reality, I'm inside that building on a Friday, thinking about deadlines or estimates or bugs.
We head home to check out the house and find the workers gone, having done a good job. Snack time and time for Curious George. Snack time turns into a bigger deal, and winds up being lunchish. I figure he's in pretty good shape and we'll be ok for our two errands today. We head off to REI for #1, buying a new winter coat for Ben. He wears mostly hand-me-downs, but he has a decent wardrobe. Sadly, he just screwed up the zipper on his best winter coat.
He is not in the mood for shopping when we get there. He wants to roam the store, and bicycles and climbing walls are much more interesting than clothes. I talk him halfway across the store, but we stall out. He asks me to put him in a cart. That would mean going all the way back to the entrance. I decide to risk it and urge him forward to the kid's clothes. We make it there, and I try to get him interested. I get one jacket on him, and it's not a bad fit. He immediately starts saying "Take off!" and as I do, he hightails it for the luggage section of the store. I glance at the jacket's price tag...$99. I'd not have paid that anyway. We're surrounded by things that are half off, but they're intertwined with full-price stuff. It's hard to figure out what's a good deal and what's not. I can't think about it anyway, because Ben has made a mess of the luggage and is heading towards the cookware. That could be tragic.
I swoop in and pick Ben up, trying my best to calm him. It doesn't go well. We leave the store quickly, and get in the car. He's ticked off and screaming "Bite. Bite!" at me. He wants to sink his teeth into my forearm and get his anger out. He wants to feel deep pressure in his jaws. I stick a chewy toy in his cupholder and drive.
Deep breath. We head onto chore number 2. Spoons and Spice has graciously agreed to donate a martini shaker to the "James Bond" basket I'm putting together for the school's charity auction. We get out, and Ben needs to be carried. He's wound up. I carry him in and somehow end up behind the cash register before I realize it. There's a line of customers trying to check out and get their spoony and spicy needs met. A clerk says, "May I help you with something?"(translation: "Should I call 911?"). Ben is thrashing in my arms while we are surrounded by lots of breakable things.
I say, "Nick Granato said we could pick up a martini shaker here...". The clerk says, "Nick will be right out", and goes back to her customers. A self-assured young man comes out and introduces himself as Nick. I lamely hold out our school's donation letter, and he makes me feel welcome, "Great! That's just what we need." He passes me the shaker and we bolt from the store.
Ben is yelling "walkabout" at me, and has tears running down his cheeks. He's not a big crier, so I'm pretty sure he needs it. We head towards home, and I think about where to go. That park in Sugarhouse, Fairmont, is right on the way. Ben has calmed down as we pull up. He is bad with his "s" sounds, but I realize that he wants me to get his stroller out of the back. We do, and head into the park.
He's drawn to the play structure. It's not the best for him, but has a couple of slides (yay). The downside is that it has several ladder-like things that are beyond his ability, but not his desire. There are also a batch of kids there, playing and having a good time. He ditches his stroller and heads to the structure.
Ben usually ignores other kids, but this time, he latches onto two young girls. They are probably 11 or 12, and have a younger brother (3 YO?) they are entertaining. Ben jumps right in with their games. I'm a little anxious, because he's been so up and down today, but I'm also psyched, because he's interacting with other kids and is happier than he's been all day. The girls are laughing and Ben is too. Their brother seems a little jealous, but I don't think he's going to start pushing Ben away (that's happened before).
Meanwhile, an 18 MO has latched onto Ben's stroller and started holding it possessively. Two moms are standing next to her and chatting. Ben hasn't noticed.
The girls run off, and I get Ben onto the swing. We do some seriously good swinging, but Ben is now watching the little girl with his stroller. About 10 minutes later, he wants to get down and get his stroller back. He articulates it, and actually says, "want stroller back," which is very good for him. I say to the moms, "Hey...he's going to need that back." "Oh, that's his?" "Yes, it's his favorite toy." They pause in their conversation and sweet talk the girl out of it. She's not happy, but gives up quickly. We rattle off toward the skate park.
I have a small pity moment. With my typical kid, we had playdates all the time. I had a small set of moms that I saw 2 or 3 times a week. I'm a dude, but they accepted me and made me feel part of the clan. We vented about our spouses, medical issues, movies, crap (literally), and plans for the future. We hung out in libraries, parks, museums, and the zoo. We could continue a playdate by taking the kids to lunch.
When Ben came along, it was pretty different, pretty soon. To start with, we didn't have any friends with kids the same age. I tried a couple of times to get playdates started. It was different though...Ben wouldn't play with other kids. He didn't want to be on the playground. He wanted to roam the park.
Watching those two women brought it home to me. In the hour that we were there, they had been talking the whole time. They were having a grown-up conversation while I was spotting Ben on the ladder and orbiting the play-set. When Ben came along to retrieve his stroller, it took them maybe less than a minute to mollify the little girl. Since I left the house that morning, I'd barely talked to anyone but Ben. I do try to engage him as much as I can, sometimes narrating what he's doing and trying to get him to respond to questions.
Anyway, so much for my pity moment. I've forgotten errand #3...we're out of dog food. I convince Ben that we should go to the store now ("you want yogurt for breakfast, right?"). We exit the park and make our way to the grocery. In and out, we're fast. We stop by home and unload. Ben wants to watch Curious George and eat yogurt. We have 20 minutes before we have to pick up Bubba...that's enough time..
Tip o the day:
If you're trying to put together baskets for charity auctions, check out this thread.