Preschoolers and toddlers and babies, oh my!
So, we finally make it to the Wonderful Wizard of Oz exhibit, after an extended stay in the land of toy trains. It is very difficult to explain how this tiny corner of the museum has been transformed. Furthermore, I am quite sure that I can't convey how a 3-year-old, with a deep love for sparkles, an unrelenting imagination, and a huge Oz fetish, sees this room. The closest I can get you is to ask you to try to remember that moment when Dorothy opens the door into technicolor amazement. Do you remember her face? Toto's face? The face of whichever of your siblings you were watching it with? Remember that and then you will know what Super Preschooler's face looks like right now.
And then, he sees this:
It is hard to see his face in the ruby red aura, but, believe me, I was there, and it was worth every penny of that membership. I have 2 seconds to bask in the gloriousness of pleasing my child before I realize that Super Toddler isn't gazing at shoes with us. Nor is he contently sleeping in the stroller, like Super Baby. I glance left. I glance right. I look under the stroller for some unknown reason. I start to peer into other people's strollers. I look in the case with the ruby slippers (which, by the way, Super Preschooler is still staring at), but Super Toddler isn't there. And then, panic settles into my stomach. My dear readers who have small children, children who were once small, or animal-friends will understand this panic completely. That out-of-control feeling that just takes over. That icy feeling that steals your breath and hijacks your brain and all of a sudden you are thinking that flying monkeys taking your toddler is a perfectly reasonable explanation. Some parents handle this by becoming deeply calm and assessing all possible outcomes in a methodical and orderly manner. Some seek the nearest guard/police officer/person in charge and turn over leadership to cooler heads. Some alert all nearby adults and spread out the worry. Some keep their children on leashes and never have this problem. Some rely on their adrenaline and let it power them through a search of all nearby hiding spots. Some parents tap into their unique skill sets to guide their particular response to this frightening but completely manageable problem. I am not some parents; I totally freak out.
I trust the ruby slippers have Super Preschooler under a deep enough spell and leave him in a whirl of stroller wheels. I careen through the entire section depicting the Gale Farm. Pretend tomatoes and ears of corn crunch under my feet, as I race across the yellow brick road manically. I upset some children making homemade tornadoes and 2-liter bottles go flying in my wake. I barely notice; I totally would have taken out any munchkins had they been trying to sing at me. I don't see Super Toddler anywhere. He isn't coloring a picture of the tin man. He isn't building a crown for Glenda. He isn't dressing a scarecrow. He isn't changing the horse's color. He isn't conferring with the Wizard or crawling through the lion's woods. My eyes are darting everywhere at once and I can not for the life of me remember what shirt he is in. I circle the room at a sprint, two-wheeling the stroller around the corners. He isn't watching the movie on any of the 6 televisions in here and he isn't hiding under any of the couches. The scene playing is the flying monkey scene. Of course, it is. He isn't pedaling Miss Gulch's bicycle and he isn't peering through the witch's magic portal. He isn't climbing into the witch's lair and he isn't one of the dozens of children pretending to sleep in the poppies. People are staring, of course, they are staring. I look insane. I am talking to myself. Saying his name over and over, like some deranged magic spell. He isn't making up lullabies to the left. He isn't twisting and turning in the tornado house to the right. He isn't playing a matching Munchkin game and he isn't building a lego yellow-brick-road.
What he is doing is strolling out of the gift shop, one hand jauntily jammed into the pocket of his itty-bitty jeans and the other holding the biggest lollipop I have ever seen. I screech to a halt in the middle of an entire field trip of first-graders and feast my eyes on my missing child. I am panting. I am shaking. I am drenched in sweat. And I am so damn happy to see that tiny little boy as he saunters across the room, benignly smiling at the chaos around him and calmly eating his stolen goods.
I march the new head of the Lollipop Guild back into the gift shop, pay for his bounty, and strap him into the stroller. We head back to the ruby red slippers to get Super Preschooler. Who is not there.....
Oh readers, fear not! As evidenced by this photo, Awkward Mom did have all 3 in her sights...at least for some of the trip:
Sadly, the Wonderful Wizard of Oz exhibit is now closed. They are replacing it with one on the Titanic.....and yes, we are now taking bets on who she loses first at that one.