Carousel Conflict

I don’t mean those big merry go rounds you find at travelling fairgrounds. The ones with the giant horses that go up and down which are fun for about twelve seconds before you start to feel nauseous. I mean the teeny tiny kids sized ones you find outside of supermarkets and in malls, meant to placate your kids into thinking the grocery shop or browsing excursion was in any way meant for their own amusement.

We have a couple such rides at our local shops, and R is completely at the right age to find them fascinating. I often see small babies placed on them, with parents looking eagerly at their little nonplussed faces, camera phones at the ready, while the baby in question continues sucking its hand or gazing into the semidistance in total disinterest. The parents-unwilling to admit they just wasted the extortionate sum of money paid, start pulling faces and making noises to elicit the desired smile or giggle. When successful, and photo snapped, they consider the job well done and no doubt head off to develop the photo and frame one of many pictures in every parents home which basically depict a lie. Ruby had so much fun on the merry go round today-just look at her little face!

Slightly older kids have the opposite problem to poor bored Ruby. Too much excitement. When R was about a year, he loved the rides probably even more than he does now. But all that excitement, expressed mainly with clapping and bouncing, meant that he was constantly on the verge of falling out of the mini seats as they went round and round. (Why are they open like that? How much could they possibly save by omitting doors in the design-and surely any saving is offset by lawsuits anyway?) It basically meant I had to dance like a moron around with him as it rotated, holding him up or filling the gap so that he didn’t land on his head every 4 seconds. Fun for R? Maybe. But far too few photo opportunities to prove what a fun mum I am, and certainly no fun for dizzy ol’ me.

I am pretty certain that in a few months time, he will pass the age where he enjoys monotonous music and repetitive motion, and the rides will be boring once again, so I am taking as much advantage as possible of these few enjoyable weeks where I can snap away to my hearts content while he smiles and makes happy noises and presses the buttons and turns the steering wheel correctly and has a whale of a time for about 45 seconds and what can reasonably be called the cost of a small property.

But this precious time is being spoiled for me by the pure evil of The Other Parents.

I can guarantee you that they have a plan. When I get to the shopping mall, they are nowhere to be seen. The aisles are empty of pushchairs, I can hear no whining or pleading in my earshot, and there is certainly no one waiting for or participating in a ride. But they are there. Skulking in the dark corners of the shopping centre, these parents wait until they hear the clink of the pound coins falling into the machine, and then jump out with their toddler, avoiding all eye contact, and placing their kids onto the adjacent seat.

NO. For those unfamiliar with the concept, normally the rides have about 3 seats, which all move together. By putting in my coins, I have paid for all three seats. They are mine. I own them for the next minute. If you want to use one… it is not only polite, but it is only legal to ask me first! And to pay me half of what I have put in for that matter. If I wanted to give your kids a free ride I would have offered. You might say why does it matter, I’m not using all three seats, but I think anyone with a toddler will attest to the fact that they may in fact want to change seats midway, possibly multiple times. All of which is besides the point, it’s the principle, you just haven’t paid for the ride!

Why do I feel so awkward telling them to cough up or get off? I know that it is unfair, and I know that they are trying it on by either avoiding eye contact or giving me those brazen smiles. I also know that if I just summoned up the courage to say “that will be £x please” they would probably all stump up the cash. But it’s just so embarrassing asking actual strangers for their money. And as it is normally quite a small amount, it makes me look like the tightest person ever!

This is becoming one of London’s most heinous parenting crimes. And yet it is an increasingly socially acceptable form of thievery. Well I’m not putting up with it any more. The next parent that carousel-jacks my son is getting asked straight out, to dig deep or move on.

If I can summon up the courage that is.

Repetitive Behaviour. (Did I already say that?)

My baby boy is starting to understand things.

He understands that if he brings me his snack pot, I will give him a snack. He knows that if he is thirsty, finding an empty cup on the shelf and pretending to drink will get me to fetch him some water. He knows that if he is tired and bored of playing, he can go stand by the bath to let us know he is ready for the bedtime routine to begin. He even knows how to choose a toy or a game for us to enjoy with him, dragging it across the room in a half crawl, and then throwing it at us from a unsafe distance.

But the main thing he understands, and the activity which has simply taken over my life, is Peekaboo.

How I miss picking up a book or a magazine without first having to hide behind it and poke my head out 7 or 8 times. I remember fondly the days where I could just leave a room, no jumping back round the corner or peeking round the door, or through the window. Imagine getting either him or myself dressed without making the well practiced exclamation of “Wherrrrre’s R? … THERE he is!”

I get it, it’s a bit fun. You cant see, and then you suddenly can. (Something he should be used to by now.) And truthfully, my heart skips a little every time he engages me in a game that inviolves vision. I could probably sit there playing Peekaboo with him from wake up to lights out without getting genuinely frustrated with the lack of variety. After all, it’s a much more preferable game to “Do you think he saw that?” which was mine and C’s favourite game of his first 6 months.

But it is weird how he never gets bored of the same activity over and over again. The same songs, the same snippets of baby einstein, the same games and puzzles. And actually, it’s quite charming. So once again, my son is teaching me something special. There are few things in life that adults really enjoy, no matter how much of it we get. Too many chinese take-outs, and however delicious the duck pancakes are, we need a few weeks of home cooked meals before reaching for the menu, where were often heard saying “Maybe I’ll try something new today.”. A favourite movie or book is usually best revisited after a break, and often without the same joy it’s first viewing gave us.

Even spending time with those we love. Our best friends can get on our nerves, we ask for some ‘me-time’ away from our spouses or family. I’m not saying there is anything wrong with that, but it’s so different from how we acted as a baby. I would venture a guarantee that my 1yo never thinks about having ‘me-time.’ I bet he doesnt even understand the concept. Why wouldnt I want to be around him and entertaining him all 12 hours of the day that he is awake? After all, he wants me there all the time, surely I must feel the same way?I must LOVE Peekaboo! In terms of trying new things, that’s up to me to introduce, and more a case of him incidentely learning that he enjoys something, rather than going out of his way to discover new activities.

It’s an interesting distinction between us as kids and adults. At some point between childhood and adulthood, we decide that things are most pleasurable if we indulge in them more rarely and on special occasions. We stop wanting constant gratification and enjoyment and the same things over and over again. This is clearly a normal part of growing up.

But sometimes, even as an adult, you cant help wanting your best friend round for a whole day to watch back to back Friends episodes and order that same old chinese food.

Adventure sport for kids

I’m going to admit something here, and I do it in the almost certainty that all other parents are secretly doing the same thing. But there is that 1% in the word almost that has me a little afraid. I tell you what, loyal readers, if anything you read below shocks or appalls you in any way whatsoever, feel free to assume I was joking and put it all down to poetic license. No need to call social services on me just yet.

As a mum who only works part time, I spend a lot of time at home with my son. As a one year old, he puts absolutely no effort into planning our time together. Seriously I dont think he even gives it a second thought. He doesnt lie in his cot planning conversational points to spark chatter, he doesnt plan games or activities for us, or even places to go together to while away the time between food. The pressure is all on me.

As I’ve said before, I have an irrational fear that my baby thinks I’m boring. Yes yes, he loves me in that “youre the only thing I know about / complete reliance on me” kind of way, but does he enjoy my company? I worry not.

But as parents, we all know what that incredible moment feels like when we hit on a winner. We suddenly try a weird face or funny noise, that we may or may not have tried before, and our baby smiles. Sometimes even laughs. We repeat it, and they laugh again. They might even try to copy us. They might touch our face to make us do it another 2 or 3 or 30 times. It’s an amazing feeling. My child is entertained. Not simply putting up with me, not having a pleasant time, actually enjoying himself, as a direct result of something I am doing! Wow.

But it isnt always a face or a noise… sometimes, it’s an action… or a game.. And let’s not beat around the bush here, it’s normally a slightly less than safe one. Why is it, that our kids enjoy high risk activities? Sure, I might get a small smile when I blow a raspberry in R’s direction. But the peals of laughter I get when I hang him upside down by his ankles are just not comparable! I’m pretty certain it isnt just my son who is into extreme sports, which leads me to the obvious conclusion that all children enjoy such well known fun adventure games as:

  • Whoops, nearly dropped you!
  • Ahh! Dropped you but caught you just in time.
  • Can you balance? (props needed may include but are not limited to: window sills, banisters, kitchen counters and the like..)
  • Piggy backs even though the child in question doesnt even begin to comprehend the words “hold on..”
  • Where’s the baby? (While said child is lying flat, tummy down, on your head and you’re spinning round and round)
  • 1,2,3,wheeee.. (the numbers accompanied by swinging baby through the air, cumulating in dropping them on a bed slash sofa type object.)
  • Pretending to slap each other round the face, making the “ow” sound loudly. (Really? No-one?)

That last one might just be us. Either way, I do sometimes wish my boy got his kicks from some situational comedy or observational humour, rather than all the physically exerting amusements that really his father is more suited to performing.

The hypocritical thing is, if anyone else played any of these so called ‘games’ with my son when I wasnt around, they wouldnt be looking after him again. Why don’t you play with a nice jigsaw puzzle, or let him show you his shape sorter? I don’t want anyone else teetering on the edge of acceptable playtime behaviour with him, after all, what if something HAPPENED? I’d rather they had him vaguely attentive and having a pleasant time, even if it does mean they miss out on those adorable baby giggles.

Go figure.

Ps, if you have picked up the phone to report me to child services, try this woman first.