Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Awkward Mom vs The Spray Park

As we tune in, Awkward Mom is making her way out of the relatively comfortable confines of Ann Arbor into its surrounding towns; towns fraught with peril! Well, not quite peril, but certainly new ways to embarrass our heroine. She is pulling into a lush and sunny park, but what evil lurks beneath this picturesque setting? Let’s find out in this latest adventure of Awkward Mom!

OK, this must be the place…..large stone structures that certainly look like they spray water. No water, but perhaps it is on a timer. We are early. I am so proud that we are early, and I remembered everything. EVERYTHING. This time we are going to be prepared. We are going to impress. We are going to make friends. So, I brought everything. Extra clothes (both sizes), extra diapers (both sizes, in normal and swim!) sun block, bug spray, chapstick, and another spray….not sure what that one is, but I am sure it is important. Plus, I have a changing pad and about a million of wipes….no repeat of the Y incident here. I have a blanket to sit on for our picnic lunch; a healthful feast which consists of water, granola, and organic fruits. The toddler has those fancy sandals that can get wet; he is also wearing a new swim suit and an inch of sun block. The baby is wearing a festive green and blue onsie, a huge hat, and another inch of sun block. Everyone matches and everyone is relatively clean; oh yes, we are gonna fit in today. Now, I just have to stash this Diet Pepsi in the car with the decidedly non-organic Finding Nemo fruit snacks, load up the stroller, and we are good to go!

Hmmm…no one is here yet. Not exactly sure how the spray part of this spray park works. I have walked through it, hoping for sensors. I have touched random parts of the structure. I even did a tap dance in the middle of the thing, to the toddler’s delight, but no water. Hmmm…could it be broken? Are we here on the wrong day? Just as I am contemplating heading home, as well as an interesting hand print built into the middle of the middle structure, a child appears, seemingly from space. He places his hand on the hand print, grins at me, and flees. I have 2 seconds to ponder what the rumbling noise could be, before the toddler, the baby, and I are drenched. Flying from every apparatus surrounding us is the water; water I was foolishly wishing for 2 seconds ago. The toddler is thrilled. I am not.

Leaving the toddler to delight in the sudden rain, I make my soggy way through the equally sudden throngs of children. The hand print kid must have heralded them secretly. Luckily, I left my supplies on this dry bench, before my ill-fated search for water. Now, I will just get a towel, dry us off, and commence making life-long friends for myself and my children. A little seed of panic settles into my stomach; towels were on that list I was so proud of, weren’t they? Of course, they must have been. I, a superhero mom, must have realized that spray parks spray water, which causes wet children, which causes the need for towels…..right? I MUST have.

I have been rooting through my bag with increased unease; now I start to unload everything onto the bench, shoving a little girl onto the ground in the process. They must be in here, I must have brought towels. I start obsessively thinking the word “towel”, as if my mental prowess could conjure towels out of the air. Sadly, that is not one of my superpowers, and alas, my panic seed was correct. I have no towels. I have nothing resembling a towel. Except the blanket we were planning to picnic on, so I wrap the baby in the blanket, repack the bag, and settle into my personal puddle on this very empty bench. Sigh.

This morning is progressing in some frustrating directions, but I am stubborn. (That is one of my super powers.) The toddler quickly joins a group of kids, whose main aim appears to be: start the sprayers and then attempt to stay as dry as possible. This involves a great deal of running, screaming, leaping, and fleeing about; which all happen to be superpowers of the toddler. He is in his element and not in need of any orbiting on my part. I decide to take on some of his enthusiasm, so, as I feed the baby on this soggy bench, I put on a cheerful face and look about for potential mom friends.

I spy several candidates. Rather messy hairdos? Check. Laugh lines? Check. Wrinkled clothes? Check. Perpetually loving if rather hapless expressions as they watch their children shriek about with mine. Double Check. I am delighted to notice that some of them are wet as well; the fact that they have remembered to bring towels is something I will just have to ignore. The baby gorged and sound asleep in my shoulder, I head over. My enthusiasm is rewarded; they are delightful! We are chatting away about kids and the park and moving; no one has mentioned a milestone or asked me what my job is or suggested I see their stylist immediately. Ah; bliss. This is perfect. Well, it is perfect until a new mom sidles over and pokes me in the arm.

Is that your son?

Why yes. This is my youngest; he is terribly sweet and wonderful. His name is…

No. Not the baby. Is that your toddler over there in the puddle?

My heart freezes, as I, and my new found friends, turn to watch my eldest. The heir, my first-born and joy of my life. My toddler is lounging in a puddle in the middle of the spray park, lazily drinking the water that the right side of his face is half-submerged in, singing to the clouds above; looking for all the world like a very contented beached whale.

He really shouldn’t drink that, this tattle-tale mom tells me, quite unnecessarily. Does she really think I don’t know that?

Yes, yes, thank you. I am feeling many things toward this woman and gratitude is not one of them, but I don’t know what else to say to her. My new found friends begin to drift toward their own, suddenly angelic, children, so I gather up the baby, my wet blanket, and what is left of my pride and head over to the puddle. None of the children are paying him any mind, but he has gathered quite a collection of horrified mothers to gape and point, all craning their necks to see which irresponsible mom will come forth and claim him. Who among us is going to admit they let their child drink spray park water?

As I near the puddle and it becomes clear that I am this animal-child’s mother, the pack of moms begin to look away uncomfortably. Wickedly, I feel like waving at them. I don’t. Instead, I lean over and tell the toddler to get up and stop drinking the water. Happily, he does get up. But then he glances at his audience and smiles a secret smile. He shoots me something that looks an awful lot like a wink, crouches down, and begins to drink the water like a dog. An alarmed murmur flares up around us and the toddler starts laughing so hard that he is blowing bubbles into his puddle.

Guess it is time to go. Once he has a reaction he likes, he is gonna keep doing the same thing to get that reaction bigger and better. There is no way I want to live in infamy as the mom with the puddle-drinking son, so I haul him up out of the puddle and cart him to our waiting stroller. By now, he is howling and flailing, which drenches me anew and wakes the baby, who immediately joins his brother’s chorus of screams. I try to dry him with the blanket, but in his panic to be away from me, he works it up onto his head, ghost-style. I somehow hoist the baby onto my hip and strap this slippery, blanketed child into the stroller, as I try in vain to ignore the stony stares of disapproval coming at me from all directions. Once the baby is also ensconced in this screaming stroller of shame, I toss my wet hair over my shoulders and hold my head up high. I leave the spray park proudly because that is what superhero moms do.

Besides, and thankfully, we do not live in this town.

Awkward Mom strikes again, with her own bravery and steadfastness and …well….complete and utter lack of grace under pressure. But she will try again, and she will live to attend another playdate. Join us next time for another heart racing and shame inducing episode of Awkward Mom!

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