In an attempt to be friendly and not raise weird antisocial children (although that ship may have already sailed), Awkward Mom has joined a playgroup. This enables the Super Boys a chance to interact with other kids, teaching them valuable life lessons regarding sharing, interactive play, and manners. The fact that these outings typically descend into hoarding toys, pushing, and running with scissors has not yet dampened Awkward Mom’s resolve. Plus, they give Awkward Mom a chance to royally embarrass herself on a weekly basis. Let’s watch.
You would think that it would be easier to get Super Toddler excited about a play date at an inflatable bounce house. Apparently, he has a better offer. He is currently using his Sesame Street playhouse as some sort of toddler U.N.; there are 19 action figures of varying skill sets milling about the place, seemingly in perfect harmony. Batman, Mickey Mouse, Donald Duck, and Strawberry Shortcake (although Super Toddler knows her as “princess with the red hair”) are engaged in conversation on the roof. Cookie Monster, 3 dinosaurs, and a chicken are popping in and out of windows on the second floor. Ernie is holding court in Hooper’s store, selling items to Grover, the Flash, Woody from Toy Story, Oscar the Grouch, Dr. Doom, and SpongeBob. (And yes, Dr. Doom cuts in line.) Big Bird and Luke Skywalker just shared a kiss, not sure what that is about. Spiderman is standing near the front door, hollering for Rapunzel to let down her hair, which does not seem forthcoming or likely.
As much as I hate to break up this testament to toy togetherness, the playgroup starts at 10 and I want to leave in plenty of time, especially if MapQuest decides to send us on another adventurous side trip, like last time. I start to sing the clean up song, which has the desired effect of the toddler joining me. In singing that is. The cleanup part still seems to be my job. Whatever. I don’t want to be late, so I toss “the buddies” into a box, wrangle a jacket onto Super Toddler, and head for the car. We are on the steps before we remember to come back and get Super Baby.
Needless to say, we get lost. These days it is really more a question of how lost we are going to get, rather than if we are going to get lost. This is a low-level lost. We aren’t late and I don’t swear, out loud. Only 3 U-turns and 5 minutes consulting the map in the Wendy’s parking lot. Nearly a successful trip, really. Although, someday, I really am going to have to equip the Awkward-Mobile with GPS; we are simply too much of a danger to all the other drivers, who are convinced we just jetted in from 1986 and are rubber-necking to catch a glimpse of that artifact, the paper map.
We arrive at the place; a non-descript facility in a strip mall. Super Toddler is not impressed, especially considering the company he left at home. We amble in and greet the other moms and kids. They are all very friendly and sweet, but Super Toddler clings to my leg, as if confronted by Captain Bligh. He stays here until the proprietor heads over to a door. A very ordinary door. And yet, she pulls it open to reveal a treasure trove of bounce houses and castles. It is magic. The colors alone are mind-altering; vibrant oranges, eye popping yellows. The low hum of air being pumped into these amazing labyrinths seems to sing and vibrate with possibility, you can feel it instantly. Super Toddler stares for a full minute at this door keeper of the bouncy castles; he has only seen her in his dreams. This fairy godmother, who oh so casually holds the door open to wonderland.
This might be a good time to let you know about Super Toddler’s royal fixation. For a long time now (six months or several eons in toddler), Super Toddler has been obsessed with princesses. Now, being the modern superhero parents that we are, Awkward Dad and I are pretty accepting of this. Super Toddler has a bejeweled tiara, 3 magic wands, a princess cone hat (complete with a glittery scarf that has been stapled back on a dozen times), and a host of royal accoutrements. Super Toddler’ most beloved lovie is a blanket bear he calls Princess Bear, and she, with her Frog Prince consort, rule the stuffed animal kingdom with benevolence and style. He has even branched out from being solely a princess, with Awkward Dad’s slight nudging and the purchase of a “king crown.”
But Super Toddler’s royal interests really shine at bedtime. This is when a whole host of regal personages crawl out of the woodwork to parade about in Super Toddler’s legendary bedtime stories. Now, you have your standard Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty, and Frog Prince. Rapunzel is super big in these tales, as long as mommy agrees to shake her hair over the collected audience (typically, the motley crew from the Sesame Street house, a few bears, and Elmo) at pivotal moments. Super Toddler is a pretty big fan of the Disney world in general, and most of its inhabitants move freely about his tales. Usually, it goes something like this: Princess Bear, who lives in a big, beautiful castle near a lake and a forest, kisses a frog and turns into a frog. Then the evil witch, who can turn into a dragon, imprisons Princess Frog in a tower with no door. Not sure if she is still in frog form, but a prince (but not the frog one) on a horse (this seems to be an important detail) asks her to send down her hair, which she does, so I am guessing she is no longer a frog. Anyway, she comes down or he comes up; it varies. Then, 1-3 fairy godmothers show up, with a bunch of lightning bugs. It is dark in the forest, you see. They poof the princess a new dress and shoes and they give the prince a sword or sometimes they give both the prince and princess new dresses and shoes. Again, it varies. Then, they go to the castle and have a ball. They dance all night and eat lots of hot dogs. Some dinosaurs show up and give everyone rides on their backs. Rivals Shakespeare, doesn’t it?
Anyway, Super Toddler is a mega-fan of the royal, so imagine his awe upon seeing castles. Real castles; not in books, not in a movie. Real castles to play on, jump on, imagine in. Not sure if real castles were ever orange or yellow, but real enough for Super Toddler. He is thunderstruck. For about a minute. Then, he flashes his beloved Fairy Godmother his widest grin and flings himself off my leg and into this magical room of castles. Bet he is now happy I tore him away from his U.N. conference this morning. I am feeling smug and like the best mother in the world until I read the list of rules on the wall in front of me. There is a no shoes policy in this bouncy kingdom. The good mothers are patiently removing their children’s shoes and carefully sticking them in the shoe cubbies to the left of the door. Super Baby and I go dashing after the toddler. We find him, or rather the lower half of him, sticking out of the door of a bouncy castle. I snatch a shoe off, and then, like Cinderella at midnight, he disappears. A few tense minutes and shouted instructions later, the other shoe comes flying over the side of the mesh wall. My duty complete, I stash the shoes and attempt adult conversation for the first time in a month. It does not go well.
We return you to your regularly scheduled programming, as Awkward Mom hears the melodious tones of Super Toddler arising from his nap. It sounds like a karaoke duet with Swamp Thing and the Jolly Green Giant, and it is not something to leave unattended for long. We’ll be back to finish this tale of the bounce house very soon; you have to hear about Awkward Mom's run-in with the Blow-up Rock Wall.