But there is peril lurking in the mall. It's not stores selling shiny new objects or the McDonald's by the exit (which Monkey seems to have noticed for the first time yesterday). No, it's a set of five brightly colored trucks, cars and trains positioned to suck every dollar bill out of a parent's pocket. The pint-size automobiles are changed every few months, but there is usually a train, a convertible and an odd car with a screen that travels through deserts or jungles. I can tell you that each car is carefully selected to tempt little toddlers with promises of fun and adventure driving their very own car.
Every time we pass those trucks, Monkey runs excitedly to them exclaiming, "I want the trucks!" It's fine when I'm feeling energetic and most of my errands are done, but having to face those trucks when my patience is wearing thin is a nightmare. First of all, with Monkey's capacity to invent complicated scenarios with his own vehicles at home, you'd think he'd play on his own. No such luck here. There used to be an miniature ice cream truck which compelled Monkey to lean out the window and ask me which flavor I wanted over and over again. It was cute the first time he did it, but by the millionth time he said, "No, Mami, we don't have that flavor" I was ready to cover the whole thing in chocolate fudge and run out of the mall screaming. The ice cream truck has been replaced by a school bus, which would be great news if he didn't insist on being the bus driver and making me play a student going to school.
Secondly, there is nowhere for parents to sit. It'd be easier to allow Monkey to entertain himself for 30 minutes if I could entertain myself with books or, more likely, by over-analyzing my long to-do list. Instead, I'm forced to hover around the scooter or sit on the car platform six inches off the ground because there is nary a bench in sight. The space on the platform only allows me to read my phone, which, of course, makes me look like a neglectful mother, willfully ignoring her son who wants to become the Donald Trump of ice cream.
Thirdly, waiting around for a three year old to get done playing, while juggling his backpack, our coats and the magazine I wish I was reading is incredibly boring. There are a million articles about how to keep your kids from getting bored, but I don't see any for parents who are tired of the monotony of supervising playground visits. There are plenty of interesting parents with whom I enjoying sharing play-dates, but at the mall, I'm on my own.
To prevent the car madness, I sometimes tell Monkey a little lie. Monkey has noticed that one entrance to the mall has a ramp and one doesn't. I use the latter entrance if he's on his scooter and can walk down the stairs and I use the other, less convenient, entrance if I'm hauling both kids in the double stroller. What Monkey hasn't noticed is that one entrance leads to the trucks and the other--the one by the McDonald's--does not. On days when we're rushing to another event or we have to get home, I use the other entrance and, when Monkey asks about the cars, I tell him they must be taking a break or napping.
Of course, as most bad parenting decisions go, this one will probably bite me in the you-know-where. Yesterday, as we dodged the sleeting rain by going through the mall, I ferried the kids down the ramp and passed the McDonald's that Monkey has only been to once, long ago, when I was pregnant with Munchkin. As we went by, Monkey said, "Mami! Stop! I want THAT!"
I'm going to need a new strategy.
What do you do when faced with mind-numbing play time? Are there any white lies you tell to keep your sanity?