Monday, November 15, 2004

Dealing with these yo-yos

Yesterday was one of the mellowest football Sundays yet.

It started with a pool party given by one of Cara's classmates. Mike was going to the Jets game, so Ryan was coming along to the party, too.

The party was held at a hotel, and the kids got to swim in the pool for an hour and a half. I didn't bring Ryan's bathing suit because I didn't know if any other parents were staying, and then, if I did stay, if Ryan would be allowed in with the other kids, who are all 9 or 10.

After the kids were swimming for about a half-hour, the birthday boy's mom realized Ryan wasn't in the pool and said he should feel free to jump in. I told her I didn't bring his suit, but I could run home and get it--if Ryan wanted to go in. That began a happy little repartee between me and Ryan.

The birthday boy's mom asked if he wanted to go in. He shook his head no. "Are you sure?" No. But he didn't want to watch the kids swim either. Meanwhile, a friend I haven't seen in years, but exchange Christmas cards with every year, walked in with her family. We were busy catching up poolside, and Ryan wouldn't stop climbing on me, standing on my feet, covering my face with his hands. The kind of stuff you think ends when they're two-ish. He was bored. I said, "Let's go get a drink for you."

So, no sooner do we get into the party room, and he announces he wants his bathing suit. "Are you sure?," I ask him. "Yes, I want to go swimming." We go to get our coats, and he says, "I don't want to swim. I want a drink." Heh?!

Whatever, we get him an iced tea and a couple pretzels. We were shooting the breeze with the birthday boy's dad and grandma, when Ryan announces, "I want to go swimming." Time's up! Because, when you're a parent, you realize that this back-and-forth business is a game. I could see us leaving the party, getting his gear, getting him changed, and then him deciding he wasn't going to go in after all. For once, I wasn't falling for it. And frankly, even if I had brought his suit, chances are he would have pulled the same thing. He enjoys the challenge.

Cara had a terrific time. Swimming is her favorite sporting activity, hands down. She's like a fish and never wants to come out of the water. But our hosts had a lot of food and the birthday cake waiting, so the kids had to dry off. Since Ryan had eaten two pretzels and a chip, he was waaaaay too stuffed to eat lunch.

Meanwhile, Cara and her crew decided to delve into all manner of gustatory exploration--pizza with potato chips on top, pizza with french fries and ketchup. We parents kept our distance--it was safer for everyone that way.

The party wrapped up with a SpongeBob cake (mandatory cartoon character for 2004), and a yo-yo ball for each child. If you haven't seen one, this is a toy where a ball is attached to a retractable string with a ring on the end. You put the ring on your finger, throw the ball, and "It's the yo-yo that always comes back." Kids love 'em. Parents like them, because you don't have to re-roll the string with every yo-yo attempt, which could be about 30 times in two minutes.

Cara got a yo-yo ball, and then saw a kid with a purple one. Purple is her favorite color. "Just keep what you were given," I said. "But I want purple." She asked the kid to trade, but it was a no-go. "Can't I just see if there's another purple? I didn't open mine yet."

This is such a touchy situation for a parent. You don't want your kid to be or seem ungrateful, yet they're not asking for the world either. The mom was walking by with her bag of yo-yos, so Cara asked, "Do you have a purple one instead?" The mom was like, "Let me see. Oh, sure." Moms just want the kids to be happy. I was relieved.

Then, everyone started opening their toy. But Ryan's was in the kind of clear packaging that requires plastic explosives to open. The birthday mom heard me tell Ryan to wait until we got home to open in, and she came over with the bag again. "I'll give him one that he can open now." So she handed him one with a black bat design. I knew we already owned a yo-yo ball with a black bat design, but I didn't know if it was Cara's or Ryan's. The mom had already been nice enough to give us two exchanges, I didn't want to say anything else. She ripped open the package, handed it to Ry and moved on. He gave it a look and said, "I have this one at home."

Lord, help me. "I want the red and black one again. I'll just hold it until we get home," he said. I swear, it's too much. I could have started hissing at Ryan to be grateful, or just yanked him out to the car where he'd scream all the way. These were the options I was running through my head--anything but ask this really nice woman for yet ANOTHER exchange. "If it means that much to you, you ask her," I said to my brave four-year-old. "YOU COME WITH ME!," he yells.

In the end, he got a red and black yo-yo ball that could be opened at the party. The mom was super nice about the multi-exchange program we were on.

Ryan loves his new yo-yo ball so much, he slept with it next to him last night. And that's why, at not-quite-7 a.m. this morning, he mounted a search to find his old black bat yo-yo. H....E.....L....P.

--Catherine Schetting Salfino

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