Tuesday, July 31, 2007

The Battle of Chick-fi-la

Saturday I told Amy I would give her a break from the boys so she could get away for a couple of hours by herself. I loaded up the van and took the boys to the park. It was very hot and muggy -- North Carolina in July -- so much so that we were the only ones at the park the whole time. The boys played on the slide and enjoyed themselves when I heard a train whistle. There are train tracks through some woods behind this particular park so I hustled the boys off the playground into the woods in search of gold -- a real, live choo-choo train.

The boys tripped over themselves running to see the train, but when we got to the train tracks there was no train coming. My stomach sank. Here I had worked the boys up into a frenzy to see the train, but it must have stopped over in Apex at the train station. The whistle I heard was from a distance, but I just assumed it would be coming our way. So I searched for an explanation.

"Train stopped."
"Train is not coming."
"Train is broken."
"Train go night-night."

The boys were confused, but eventually they repeated my cooky explanations enough to become distracted. Luckily they accepted their consolation prize of throwing rocks off the vacant train tracks. Eventually we left the train tracks to go back to the playground.

I told the boys I would make it up to them by taking them out for lunch. We hopped back in the van and drove to Chick-fi-la, which on a Saturday is hopping with families and kids like a three-ring circus. The boys settled down long enough to sit in the booth and eat most of their lunch. All the while they eyed all the kids who had made their way to the play area at the front of the restaurant.

When we were finished eating I led the boys to the play area, took their sandals off, and turned them loose. In typical fashion, Owen cautiously grazed amid the commotion from a safe distance as he quietly shuffled some blocks in the toddler section. Gus on the other hand took one look at all those older boys and girls who were running like banshees and punched his ticket. He stammered up the spiral steps to the tunnel, over to the slide, back through the tunnel, dodged 8 year-olds playing tag, and landed in the Chick-fi-la cow car that was suspended at the top of the play area. While he was in the car I could see him overhead through two small windows in the car, beaming as he piloted the car & turned the steering wheel.

So the boys played and played, eating up all the activity from the other children, free from Dad's watchful eye as the play area is elevated and I stood at the bottom. Owen even climbed up the stairs and joined the fun. After about 15 minutes another batch of parents dumped their kids in the play area -- I was the only parent in there with about 10 kids -- and it started to get a little too wild for two year-olds. Nap time was approaching, and I decided it was time to head home. I stood at the bottom of the steps and caught Owen's attention, asking him to come down. He obliged, slowly spiraling down the steps and sat down on the bench behind me.

At this point I'm beaming with parental confidence. I had just given my hard-working, pregnant wife a few hours to herself away from me and the boys. I had entertained the boys with a trip to the park, a trek through the woods, and a rock-throwing trip down the train tracks. We had an easy lunch followed by a raucous time in the play area that was sure to wear them down for a good afternoon nap.

So I looked up to get Gus's attention. I saw him as he sped from the car through the tunnel to the top of the spiral steps. He saw me looking at him. "Gus," I said, "it's time to go. Come down please."


"Gus, come on. We need to go see Tucker and Mom."

"No, da-da."

At that moment Gus ran back through the plastic maze and out of my sight. He landed in the car and I caught his gaze through the small window. Again I told him it was time to come down, this time in a little firmer voice. He turned his attention away from me to the steering wheel and pretended to drive away.

This continued for another 7-8 minutes or so. I entertained my obedient child in Owen at the bottom of the play area while my rebel child avoided me altogether. At one point I made a frustrating attempt to climb up the spiral stairs in hopes that I could grab a shirt, a hand, a leg of Gus's and drag him off the playset. About halfway up I realized that adults -- especially those 6' 5" tall -- were not meant to play on the Chick-fi-la playset. The sight of me calling to my disobedient child and trying to climb a plastic behemoth must have delighted the parents who ate their lunch looking at their children from the other side of the floor-to-ceiling windows.

Finally, I reached my limit. I called one of the out-of-control banshees over to me -- an unsuspecting ten year-old who had nearly knocked over every toddler in the play area.

"Do you see that little guy in the gray shirt driving the moo car?"


"I need you to go up there and get him down here for me."

The kid and a younger girl took sympathy on me and climbed back up, made their way through the herd of other children, found Gus and peered through the car window at me. "This one?"

I nodded.

"He won't move."

"Move him. You're bigger than he is."

After another five minutes or so down the slide came my child with two older children he thought wanted to play with him. I grabbed a leg. He knew his rompous time had come to an end. I put his shoes on as he fought me, took Owen by the hand and led them out of the Chick-fi-la battlefield. I expected applause from the parents on the other side of the glass, but I think they were oblivious to what had gone on as they lavished in a short meal in peace. Gus punched me and tugged my hair, mad that he was duped by the older children he so desperately wanted to be like. I sighed and lugged him out of the restaurant, finally victorious in a battle with a two year-old.

Maybe it was that train that never came....


1 comment:

Ashley said...

Your story is so funny! We can relate to the whole thing. We have had kids who wouldn't leave the play area in Burger King, Chuck E. Cheese, and McDonalds. It was really frustrating.....especially when 2 of the 3 would mind....and I would have to send one that I actually had out of the equipment back in to try to get his/her brother.By the time it was over,we had zero kids out and three kids back inside.