Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Down Time

Sometimes I’m a smart-ass. Sometimes I’m not so smart.
Here’s the story.

Madge is taking ballet class again. Once a week. Forty-five minutes, really, but the whole afternoon is used up getting a snack, getting things together, walking there (or taking a bus when it rains) – all fairly quickly because it’s “only” an hour after she gets out of school; waiting for class to be over; packing up again, getting a snack on the way home, and finally detoxing and making dinner and doing homework and getting ready for bed.
The middle part is the toughest: waiting for class to be over. I figure I deserve a little break; but Coco figures he deserves to be entertained. We’re both right, of course.

The first time we went, I tried walking around the neighborhood, but there’s nothing entertaining for a three-year-old within walking distance that can be taken care of in the 45 minutes (walking there + activity + walking back = longer than you think). No good. But, in the ballet school’s waiting room, there was a kid with some cars, and luckily he shared with Coco, and we were good.
So this time I figured I’ll buy Coco new toy and he’ll just play in the waiting room while I read. Not a bad plan, really.
Coco’s not good at sharing new toys and there are a whole lot of other bored kids in the waiting room – waiting for five minutes is excruciating when you’re younger than ten, if memory and evidence serve. So right away there’s a problem. And Coco isn’t good at communicating an unwillingness to share. I think because he knows he ought to.
So I helped him out a few times, but got a bit tired of it.

“Hey, kid. Could you please ask him before you grab his new toy?”
[Can I? – No.] “Hey, kid. He said No. Don’t play with his new toy.” [?] “Put it down.”

“Hey, kid. His toy is really new and he’s not ready to share it yet. I’m sure you know what it feels like.” [Yeah.] “Hey, kid. Put down the toy.”

“Hey, kid. Don’t crowd him, either. He’ll share when he’s ready.” [?] “Put down the toy.”

And in my mind I’m thinking, “Where the *&$!! are the mothers and nannies?” I hate it when kids congregate around me because I’m the only guy around and they know: Adult Male = Energetic Physical Fun. (Unless, of course, the mothers or nannies are particularly cute, but that has to be in some sort of proportion to my effort and tiredness – it’s a complicated formula.) But I’m not always that kind of Adult Male, because I stay at home and I’ve learned to pace myself. And this, dammit, was my down time.

Next came a group of girls Madge’s age and Coco really didn’t know what to do. They’re smarter than the previous batch of little weasels, see? And he knows how she plays and they did exactly what she does. The picked up the pieces he wasn’t touching at the moment and said, “But he’s not playing with these. But we’re only looking.” They think I’m an idiot. And then they did the persuasive thing with him, showing him how he might play with his toy more efficiently or more imaginatively (read: their way).
So Coco lowered his head and slumped in that dejected Charlie-Brown way he has.

Meanwhile, I’ve reread the same paragraph three times and still didn’t know what was going on in my book. And there are still no other caretakers interfering.
I should present them with a bill next time. [Ooooh. That’s actually a great idea, next time I’m at the playground. “Here, lady, I ran around the playground three times with your kid and played tag for 10 minutes, while sat on your ass and talked on your cell phone. You now owe me $15.” See how that goes over.] Anyway, I shooed the pink gaggle away from him.

Finally, there was a kid who had just come out of his dance class. He grabbed a car that was laying around and drove it through the pieces of Coco’s toy. Coco growled, “Aaaaaargh.” The kid drove the car around some more and through the pieces of Coco’s toy. Coco growled, “Aaaaaargh.” The kid drove the car around some more…
So I placed down my book in my rehearsed exasperated eye-rolling manner and said, “Do it again, kid. See if he likes it this time. It’ll be great.” Sometimes I forget that not all kids are fluent in sarcasm.
So, for the first time all afternoon, a mother comes over. Doesn’t look at me, of course, or Coco, but talks to her kid (loudly) about the guy not being happy with the way he’s driving through the toys and maybe if he wants to play he should introduce himself and then she asks Coco his name.

So I’m involved in dealing with someone else’s kid again! Because of course I feel guilty, especially since finally this kid may be learning something. But Coco’s speech still needs translating, especially for a bully kid who doesn’t really give a wet diaper about the whole proceedings. Luckily, I kept the “smart” part of my smart-assiness in check, and she figured it was time they went home.

Writing about it, I’m all worked up again. Grrr. Grrr-grrr-grrrrrrr!
Here’s a rule: Just because you see me interacting with my kids, don’t try to foist yours off on me.
And, as sub-clause: If you see me relaxing around my kids because they are somehow otherwise occupied, stay the hell away. I think I’ve earned it. And I’ll bite.
Unless, of course, you can claim the Cuteness Exemption.

I still haven’t finished that paragraph.

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