Man-Eating Fire Trucks, Unpredictable Horses of Satan and Other Forms of Childhood Entertainment

There’s a saying that “It takes a village to raise a child”. I firmly believe in this adage, particularly when visiting places like indoor carnivals, hence how we ended up with a four to one ratio of adults to toddlers last month. In our motley crew was; myself (obviously), Tex, my Dad and best of all Clark’s chosen godparent, my old friend Gordy.

After a visit at my Dad’s, we decided to spend the day at an indoor fair. Is there a better place for children? Rides? Check. Animatronic dinosaurs? Check. The biggest indoor playground one could imagine? Check. An endless line up of quarter and loonie operated machines to climb on? Double check.

This place is truly a child’s dream. Six months ago when I visited my Dad, the three of us had spent an afternoon at the carnival and it was fun. Unfortunately, Mini-Tex, my son is a toddler and a super cautious one to boot. Given that Mini-Tex is becoming more of a riot and more independent with each passing day, I had high hopes for yesterday. That said, my little boy darts, and also requires a fair amount of reassurance, hence the excessive adult entourage. I figured I could comfort from one side, Tex would be the other half of a toddler reassuring sandwich. My Dad could take pictures and enjoy watching and Gordy would be on hand to catch him if Mini-Tex tried to pull a toddler Houdini.

It was a great plan. Truly I was destined for the toddler mothering championships. And then we walked in; the first thing Tex, Mini-Tex and I saw was a giant animatronic elephant. Mini-Tex LOVES elephants. He adores pictures of elephants, he kisses his stuffed elephant, he enjoys acting like an elephant with his little friends at the library once a week. However, the enormous trumpeting elephant at the entrance to the indoor fair solicited a “No thank you, no thank you” when we got close. Same for the animatronic Santa wishing him a Merry Christmas.

No matter, we rushed up the escalators to meet Gordy and my Dad. My father had thoughtfully purchased ten tickets while he awaited our arrival. “Let’s go on the carousel” he suggested, anxious to start enjoying some awesome Grandpa-grandson bonding time while galloping on wooden horses. Mini-Tex likes horses because of where we live, he sees them regularly. My son even does a spot on impression of a horse’s whinny. Essentially, he’s a total horse fan. With eyes as big as saucers, Mini-Tex approached the stopped carousel. The attendant had just closed the gate but we ushered our little guy forward, eager for him to watch the ride and get in line. Then the carousel started to spin, Mini-Tex’s brow furrowed in horror as he realized what we were pushing him towards. “No thank you, no thank you” he cried scrambling to climb up my body and away from the out of control carnival ride that was clearly going to end in his death.

So that was a bust. No matter. His Daddy needed coffee so Tex and Gordy ventured off in search of caffeine while my Dad, Mini-Tex and I looked at the forty foot T-Rex which was flanked by a ten foot baby T-Rex. Ever the optimist, my Dad said “What about the hot air balloons?” During our last visit, Mini-Tex had clung to me like a terrified baby spider monkey on this ride. We got into line. No protests. We entered the ride. Mini-Tex stayed silent. We boarded our balloon and all was well. Up and away we went, spinning around and around with me using dance training skills to spot the purple slide in an effort not to puke. My Dad was delighted and pointed out dinosaurs and sights to my son.

Upon exiting, we spotted Gordy and my husband. I remembered that there was a quarter operated fire truck about ten feet away so we all walked there. I carefully explained that Mini-Tex loved these machines but only if they didn’t move. An important point for my Dad, who competes for “Grandpa of the Year” constantly, and would have loose change at the ready in no time flat.

Mini-Tex was enthused at the idea of riding his own fire truck, having seen an actual fire truck outside of our house a month ago, but unbeknownst to us, a kind stranger had deposited change into the fire truck and left it for the next person to enjoy. With wonder in his eyes, Mini-Tex clambered into the front seat, smiling an actual smile rather than the uncertain, fearful expression he had been wearing since we walked in. And then he pressed the big green flashing button, all at once the truck sprang to life, moving back and forth. Mini-Tex froze and then lunged for my arms. Desperate to help, Gordy stood by the truck touching it “It’s all right Mini-Tex, look I’m having so much fun!” When Mini-Tex was unconvinced by this display, Gordy folded his adult male sized self into the truck and rode the bucking quarter machine, “This is fun, wheeeeeee!” Best godparent in the world, right there. But Mini-Tex was still skeptical and furthermore, my son extrapolated that if THIS machine moved, all the others did too, so from then on he kept a wide berth between himself and all the unpredictable helicopters, jeeps, zebras, tigers and racecars in the event that they too began moving on their own. So that was a win.

Still, we forged on, determined to make a magical afternoon for my toddler. Mini-Tex loved watching the triceratops and brontosaurus as we made a beeline for the train. Unfortunately, the train was closed for maintenance, but just beyond the station, was another dinosaur! Win! Or a win until the dinosaur roared loudly and scared the living daylights out of our meek little boy. Again, ever the supportive godparent, Gordy started petting the dinosaur and cooing to it about how it was such a nice dinosaur. No dice, Mini-Tex was not going to be swayed- this was clearly an evil, boy-eating dinosaur and possibly the others were too.

We decided to give the carousel another try. In the face of rogue fire trucks, and vicious dinosaurs, by contrast, the carousel now seemed tame to Mini-Tex and he willingly walked onto the ride with me. My Dad was ecstatic and immediately whipped out his camera to document the entire experience. I chose, what I felt was the gentlest looking horse, and just as I went to lift Mini-Tex onto it, came the stream of “No thank you, no thank you, no thank you” before giving way to a terrified screech when his pleas didn’t work. My Dad and I sat on the sleigh. Mini-Tex clung to my front, white knuckling it for all three turns while Tex and Gordy looked on from the outside, waving vigorously each time we past, in an attempt to convince Mini-Tex that this was fun.

Last, we tried the enormous playground. Gordy was going for broke with the whole “Best Godparent Ever” idea and waited at the bottom of the slide for twenty minutes so that when Mini-Tex’s little head popped up at the top of it, he could encourage him to slide down. SPOILER ALERT- it wasn’t successful but man did Gordy try. My son actually enjoyed himself though; he met a six year old girl who wanted to be his friend. She kept shoving him aside and lightly trampling him but in the grand scheme of how his day was going- escaping death by fire trucks, dinosaurs and rabid horses, it seemed like the lesser of all the evils so Mini-Tex accepted being squished and pulled like a champ.

At this point, Mini-Tex was fading fast and using his Dad as a pillow, so we called it a day. Although the day could reasonably be called an exercise in terrorizing your child, personally I would classify the day as a success; super fun for me and I was reminded how much my family and friends love me and the lengths they are willing to go to support both me and Mini-Tex. As it happened, the next day, Mini-Tex was telling everyone about the “big, REAL dinosaurs” he saw to anyone who would listen, so it might not have been a total parenting flop.

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