The worst thing about winter, to me, is that it gets dark at 2:00 pm. Okay, not really, but seriously, 4:30. So, by the time we get home from work, we can't take Nathan to the park or do anything outside. This has been a problem for us since he started his new daycare. At the old place, the husband would take the oldest two boys to the park, the library or an indoor gym every day. For an active 2 1/2 year old, this was so necessary. At his new daycare, which is wonderful, they stay inside (because it's winter in Chicago) and do more organized activities, like crafts. When we get Nathan home, he's insane! He meeds (needs) to RUN!!!! Sometimes, this desperate need results in him crazily ping-ponging off the couch and the chair and having some sort of head trauma.
About a month ago, Joe decided to take Nathan to the Chuck-E-Cheese in Lincoln Park. As long as he avoided the nasty-ick-a-lot ball pit, I was cool. Well, he decided to do this on a Saturday night and the line was crazy! Joe said he soon realized his mistake. Nathan was getting impatient and this woman in front of him kept throwing the N-word around like it was the word "the." She said things like "they'd better let me in soon, because this "n-word" is getting pi$$ed off!" Joe was pretty horrified. To make it worse, the group of people the woman was with joined in, using epithets and profanity to voice their outrage at having to wait in line. Joe left quickly because he was so afraid Nathan was going to repeat the words.
When he got home, we talked about needing to find a new evening activity. We agreed that worst case scenario, we can go to the icky Play Land at McDonald's. One night, we did just that. Except! The McDonald's had remodeled! Instead of the slides and tubes that certainly were never cleaned and that Nathan was afraid of anyway, they had a soft-surface area with the soft rubber/plastic/whatever climb on animals, race car, and slides. It's awesome. Also, they request that it's just children 3 and under. Nathan calls it "the other Chuck-E-Cheese."
The first night was GREAT. Nathan sort of hogged the race car, but Joe got him out and ran around with him. We decided we would try to go there once or twice a week. Most of the time, it's been fine. There are often children who are too big (like 9 or 10) to be in there with crawlers and new walkers. Also, there are often children whose parents aren't watching them at all.
But the other night, there was a mother of four kids. I'm guessing they were 4, 3, 2 and a newborn. The mom stayed in the restaurant with the newborn while the older three played in the area (a whole different room). The oldest two were girls and were just fine. The youngest, likely just turned two, was a little boy and he was awful. Nathan was sitting in the race car minding his own business, when the boy came up to him and grabbed his arm. He shouted "NO!" in his face and then walked away. Nathan, who we refer to as a gentle giant, just sat there and looked confused. We said it's okay, just keep playing. But, every few minutes, the little boy would come up to him and do something physically aggressive and yell at Nathan. This little guy was about a head shorter than Nathan, so he wasn't hurting him, but he certainly did confuse him. My last straw was when Nathan was playing in one of the tunnels and the little man walked up to him, yelled at him, and then SPIT on him! WHAT IN THE WORLD? I'm guessing little kids hitting and yelling at one another is fairly normal, but spitting on each other? At 2? Is that normal? So, I said to the little boy "That's not nice" and then I played with Nathan for the next fifteen minutes. I told him that he could play on what he wanted to, but that he should be polite and share. But really, I was mad at this (undoubtedly) tired and overwhelmed mom.
I wondered if she had just been in the same room, would her little boy - her toddler - be that mean. I wondered too if he was that mean because he was treated that way, or neglected at home. Whatever the answer, Nathan is none the worse for wear. But, it's such a careful balance. Maybe I should have said something to the mom? I'm not sure... but I do feel bad for the two year old shouting for attention.