Monday, November 09, 2009

Play play play!

I am really pushing myself to write this post. Every night I think of writing a post, but I just feel lazy when I get to the laptop and I just read news/emails and some blog posts if I happen to blog hop (I have not yet started using google reader). There is so much I miss out by not posting - first of, the wonderful feeling of reading a few comments from blog pals and feeling that connection. And that feeling of reliving some nice moments. There are things I wish I had written about so I can go back to it now and remember what KB did when he was two or three years old. I told myself that I will just at the least write about how our weekend was since it was the kind that I most enjoy - unplanned, spontaneous, really low-key, relaxed and totally fun.

KB has started attending Bal Vihar classes on Sunday mornings. I should write a separate post on that topic since I had many arguments with B about sending KB to Bal Vihar classes. The class meets from 11.30 a.m. to 1.00 p.m. B did not like the idea of a block of time taken up like that every Sunday. Anyway - since he is attending those classes now, that leaves only Saturday entirely free for us to do whatever we want to. Since my FIL is in India now, I don't even need to be home for cooking meals on time. We just pack the kids lunch and go where ever we want and come back around 3.00 pm for their nap. I always feel this pressure on Saturday mornings though to make sure that our precious Saturday doesn't get wasted in mundane chores like waiting at the bank or me going grocery shopping. Some Saturdays we manage to make the most of it, some Saturdays, it does go in things like those - which is fine, but a little dull in my opinion.

So last Saturday (Nov.7), I woke up and was reading the newspaper and having my morning tea. Back of my mind, I was also thinking about where to take the kids. All fun on Saturdays is only kid-centric. A new children's museum has opened up in our city and I thought may be we could take them there. A friend of mine was planning to take her kids on a train ride in the local regional park, so I was wondering if we should join them there. Suddenly, I thought of our local zoo where I purchased a family membership. It only takes an hour or so to cover the entire zoo which includes a petting zoo. And they have a wonderful play area which is shaded and is very lively since kids who come to the zoo are always stopping there before heading back home. I had taken the kids to this zoo a few times on my own (with friends, but without B) but I thought it might be fun for the kids to go with Dad. So finally I had a plan for the day.

We left home at 11.00 a.m. and went to the zoo. I was surprised to see so many cars parked there just an hour after it opened. But thankfully it didn't feel too crowded inside. We went inside and looked around at the various animals and birds. Highlight each time of course are the Gibbon swinging monkeys. They make these wacky sounds loudly and are swinging across tree branches like Tarzan - the kids just love it. The Guanaco, from the Llama family is of course another favorite for them. We have been to this zoo so often that now KB especially talks about these animals with such familiarity. "Hey, look at that gliding turtle" he says with much familiarity when we finally spot it in a swamp. We then took the train ride around the zoo and then the kids did their customary carousel ride - KB chose the big eagle and KG the tiger (calling it Sher Khan since they are such big fans of Jungle Book). Then of course came the drudgery that KB had to endure if he were to be allowed to play in the play area. Lunch! He tried bargaining with me, but I put my foot down and said, he had to eat lunch before going to the play area. So he managed to finish 3/4th of his lunch and then begged me with his usual "Porumaa?" (can I stop now?). They then played for more than an hour in the play area. KB decided to name that play area and called it "Channing park". There was a little boy, may be four or five years old, who adamantly blocked the way when KG was trying to go through the steps leading to the slide. She first looked puzzled and then looked up at the boy and said "MOVE"! It is kind of cute to see a little girl not even realize that the boy was trying to intimidate her. She just stood there waiting for him to move. He stood his ground though and refused to move no matter how many times she told him to. Finally I had to go tell the boy "Move, please?" in a rather stern voice. Only then he moved. God save our gentle kids in school as they grow up.

Finally, we got back home around 2.30 p.m. The kids went to nap. B and I had our lunch, followed by tea. Within half an hour KB woke up. In the meanwhile, my friend said she would be coming with her two sons to the big park near our place. KB was thrilled when I told him I would take him there if he wanted to join them. So after just an hour and half or so at home, we were again out at the park. KB wore the tiger mask I had bought for him at the zoo and startled his friend when he met him at the park. KB decided that they were going to be "people rescuers" (from Diego) that rescue people from the giant. The bright red, tall and curvy slide he said was the beanstalk. KB said he found the key and unlocked the magic harp and defeated the giant when he went up the slide (walking the wrong way up!). They played on and on going on the castle like structure and defeated several more giants with their super hero tactics. With the day light savings time now, it gets dark very early. By 5.15 or so, it was pretty dark. But there were some kids in the park and as always we don't leave until most people have left! Now the kids decided on some sand play. All the monkeys climbed on top of the sand tunnels and made sand mountains and what not. The weather was cool and there was some lighting in the park. It just felt good to see the kids just play on and on without any worries.

After an eternity at the park, we finally got home around 7.00 p.m. I quickly made their dinner and they ate around 8.00 p.m. B had to go buy milk since we were running out. I had to entertain both kids, so we decided to play hide and seek. KG of course kept giving away our hiding place by running with me and saying "Mamma" and looking at me when we were ducking behind the bed. I had bought a tub of vinyl Dinosaurs for KB at the zoo. He is so into Dinosaurs now that we pretend to be different Dinosaurs at different times. We played the Dinosaur tickle attack game where I would hide outside the room and then after a moment of silence suddenly spring into the room screaming "The Barosaurus is coming" and with my hand pretend to have a long neck and come and tickle the hyper excited screaming kids to the end of the bed. And for KG's sake we played the Dino counting game where the three of us just screamed ONE, TWO, THREE together while counting the tub of Dinosaurs. There was so much laughter in that room when B walked in, I told him that he had to come right away into the room and to join us.

It was a day full of childish pleasures from simple games and things. Just filled my heart with joy. I did not have time to think about much else and we just lived in the moment and I felt like I was also four years old when playing with my kids! KB told his dad this morning, "Dad, you know, some bad people killed the Tamarin monkeys and now there are only 400 Tamarin monkeys left (in the wild, which he did not say)". KB went to school this morning and told his teacher, "I went to the zoo. You know what my favorite animal is? The swinging monkey. It sat on a branch and ate leaves. You know, if you upset the Guanaco, it will spit on you". His teacher, who is amazingly sweet and wonderful with kids said, " gel for me?".
Later, she was asking the kids to say some word in the letter their names begin with and KB said "Herrerasaurus" since his name begins with a "H". It was as if the weekend of animals, park, dinosaurs, sand play etc was still in his head and he was barely getting out of the weekend mode!

I met an Indian woman at the park on a day when KB did not have school. She asked me how old he was and I told her he had turned four in August. She immediately said to me, "Oh, he is four. Why don't you put him in the Abacus class (for Math)? My daughter has been going there, it is really good". She meant well, I did not take offense to her. I do get nervous when I talk to such parents that I have not enrolled KB in any kind of academic class and he only goes to half a day school, that too not a Montessori school. But when I think of days like last Saturday, I feel like my heart is full - that feeling of just giving him the time to just be, to enjoy life's simple pleasures in a way that only a child can...he was learning in his own way that day too. It was not academic in a rigorous way but he was enjoying it fully. We have read so many books that he learned phonics on his own and is able to read simple books just from that even if he didn't attend any phonics classes. He does simple mental math while playing "Bear's birthday party" with made up stories of how many bears would be in the room if four more bears joined the party etc etc doing mental addition in the process. I feel at ease "teaching" him this way rather than in a more rigorous way through classes. B sometimes feel we are being "too" relaxed and we should remember that he will be competing against the hard core Indian and Chinese kids who are always pushed to be one or two grades higher than their age level. I tell myself that I will also try to be more of an academic mom but when the clock shows 3.45 p.m. and I know there is only an hour of day light left, I still find myself rushing to get the kids ready to go to the park rather than stay home and do some activity books. And when we get back, it is time to cook dinner, feed them etc, so it leaves us only half an hour or so to do "work" before his bed time. If he brings his "Frog and toad" book and wants dad to read to him, we just say OK rather than force him to sit and write his numbers. I just hope "going with the flow" is also an accepted method of parenting that will work out OK in the end.

For now, I am glad I wrote about a day filled with play and more play that I can read about when KB is slogging away at his homework, studying for his SAT's after a quick shower and dinner when he gets back from his soccer game, finishing the science project report and practicing the piano for his upcoming concert and emailing the volunteer coordinator while checking the score for the NFL game! :) Enjoy it now, you little giant defeater, for the pressures of adulthood wait for you as you go up that beanstalk!