The gym I’ve been going to recently has a children’s play area. For $3, I can drop Ryan off for up to an hour and a half while I work out. The room is full of cars, trucks, art supplies, a small climbing area, even a TV complete with a library of Disney movies.
The employees who work in this “Kids’ Club,” as it’s called, clearly enjoy working with kids. They sit at the little tables with them to color or try to teach them how to catch a ball.
I like taking Ryan there a couple times a week because 1. it allows me to work out in guilt-free peace and 2. Ryan used to be around other kids for upwards of 50 hours a week. He needs some kind of social interaction with other kids in a consistent and familiar environment.
Ryan loves it there. Every time I pick him up from the room, he’s grinning from ear to ear and tells me “I yike Kids’ Club! I yike it!”
The problem is that he forgets he likes it by the next morning. I’ll tell him we’re going to have breakfast and then get ready for the Kids’ Club and he glares at me as though I told him he would be eating nothing but broccoli for the next week.
He fights me all morning on it. He yells, he growls, he begs to stay home. I am finally able to convince him to go willingly by telling him he can play on my iPad when we get home.
This morning, after two hours of negotiation, I walked into the gym, holding Ryan’s hand. We arrived at the door at the same time as another mom who was holding the hand of a little boy about Ryan’s age.
As I reiterated the rules to Ryan (you be good, you get the iPad), she was explaining to her son the proper way to walk down the steps.
Her tone was familiar. The words sounded like “Come this way, sweetie” but felt like “Oh dear god, let’s GO. Right. Now.”
I smiled at her and she sighed.
Other mom: Have you ever had one of those days? Where you’re just sort of over negotiating with your son?
Me: Ha! Yeah, like every day.
Other mom: It’s not just me?
Me: Definitely not. Right there with you.
Other mom: It’s like … just PUT YOUR JACKET ON! You know?
Me: And GET IN THE CAR SEAT!
Other mom: Exactly! GET IN THE CAR RIGHT NOW!
Me: NO MORE DISCUSSION. DOOOO IT.
Other mom: Thank god. I feel so much better.
Me: Me too.
I’ve been thinking about this conversation all day. I come across other moms out in public all the time. Sometimes their patience is shining out of them; other times, their frustration. We’re human, so we all have good days and bad days. Our kids do, too.
Sometimes I smile at the other mom to let her know I’ve been there. Sometimes I chat with her kid. But I’ve never outright asked what that mom asked me: Are you ever just over it?
But I should. We should all ask each other that from time to time. It was a reminder that my son isn’t purposefully annoying or contrary or temperamental. He’s a toddler. The vast majority of toddlers are that way at least some of the time, and the vast majority of moms sigh in exasperation when they are. Somehow, acknowledging that fact with a total stranger made my morning seem more amusing and less frustrating.