Sunday, January 28, 2007

And you know that you're the only one to say O.K.

So Nolan and I joined Gymboree.* There's one right nearby, in a shopping center next to a grocery store that I never go to (right by the Great and Evil Wally World).

I went to a first birthday party there for a mom-friend's kid in November. It was pretty awesome, as far as these things go. It's basically a big padded room (I knew I would end up in one of those eventually) with lots of modular climbing equipment - ramps, ladders, slides, tunnels, cushions - and lots of things to throw around in said environment - balls, scarves, hoops, inner tubes, bubbles, etc. It's toddler paradise.**

Now, when I went to this birthday party, I was like, "Hey, this place is pretty cool." but I wasn't actually considering joining a class. It's $200 for twelve weeks, for pete's sake. But recently, I've made a scientific observation of sorts concerning Nolan's behavior:

If Morning Nolan is given a chance to run around like a madman and burn off a lot of energy, Afternoon Nolan (a.k.a. Post-Nap Nolan) is a much happier, much mellower kid. He wants to read books and drink milk. If there is no morning Energy Dump, Afternoon Nolan morphs into Captain Crankypants, and the rest of the day is shot to hell - he wakes up crying from his nap and things go downhill from there.

So, given this (admittedly lacking in rigorous statistical support) observation, and given that the weather lately, unlike earlier in the winter, has been FRICKIN' COLD, limiting the possibilities for outdoor, playground-based Energy Dumps, we joined a Gymboree Class. The class itself is only once a week on Tuesday mornings, but the Extra Added Bonus is that they have open Play Gym every weekday afternoon for a couple hours, which means when Captain Crankypants makes his appearance, I can whisk him off to Gymbo the Clown's*** house and let him work his anger out in a healthy, mom-approved way. Two hundred bucks divided by twelve weeks divided by five weekdays per week is roughly $3.50 a day, and there have been some afternoons when I would have paid $3.50 a minute to have someone take him off my hands, so I think we're getting a bargain.

And now, the story at the heart of this rambling post.

We went to the aforementioned Open Play Gym last Friday. Not this past Friday, when KB had to stay home from work because I was permanently ensconced in the bathroom with effluvia coming from both ends, no. The Friday before the Great Plague of Ought Seven, this was. (Can you tell I'm writing this post at twelve-thirty in the morning? You can, can't you?)

When we got to the playroom, there were already a couple other toddlers and their moms/guardians hanging out, running around and hooting. Nolan and I took off our shoes (rules of the house) and joined in.

We quickly became acquainted with a young boy named Khrystian, mostly because he ran up to us the moment we came in the door and said, "Hi! What's your name?" before scampering off again. I know "Khrystian", and not "Christian," is his actual name, because he was wearing a name tag on his back (another rule of the house) and because his mom must have said his name about thirteen thousand times in the hour and a half we spent there.

Now, what I learned later but did not know at the time was that just prior to our arrival, Khrystian (Gah! How it galls me to even have to type that bastardized name!)'s mother had given her son and another toddler named Ethan some peanut M&M's. This in and of itself would not have been a problem (aside from the potential for a sugar-induced mania) if Khrystian's mother had bothered to ask Ethan's aunt (his guardian at the time) if it was okay. This she failed to do. And, as fate would have it, Ethan has a peanut allergy. Oh yes.

So shortly after our arrival, Ethan started to cough. And gag. And generally seem to be feeling not so hot. When the information that her nephew with the peanut allergy has eaten peanuts comes to light, Ethan's aunt is...strangely unconcerned. She seems more put out with Ethan for having the allergy than with Khrystian's mother for giving him the peanuts. She allows Ethan to continue playing. (!)

A few minutes pass. I quickly discover that Khrystian is a pain in the ass. Or, to be more accurate, Khrystian is a high-energy, seemingly intelligent kid who needs some close attention and firm discipline to really guide him, and Khrystian's mother is a lazy slag who would rather stand by the door and drink her Diet Coke than play with her son (or keep him from walking all over the other kids). He keeps taunting Nolan with his smuggled-in contraband toy car (am I the only one who reads the rules?) and intruding on every activity I try to engage Nolan in FAR AWAY FROM HIM so Nolan will stop crying for the friggin' car. I am losing my patience with this kid and his do-nothing mom. (She occasionally yells at him from the other side of the room things like, "Khrystian! Give that car to me right now or we're going home!" but she never actually follows through on these promises. This kid is going to be one hellacious teenager, I'm guessing.)

Suddenly, a cry of dismay goes up from the other side of the room - Ethan Of The Peanut Allergy has vomited. All over one of the slides. Yuck. Of course, all the toddlers have to check it out, and Ethan's aunt comes running over and proceeds to scold the kid for vomiting on the slide. Nice.

The Gymboree supervisor, an RN, comes over with the industrial size package of Clorox Wipes to clean up the mess. She hears that Ethan Of The Peanut Allergy has ingested peanuts and becomes alarmed. She asks the aunt if she has an Epi-Pen. Sure, says the aunt. It's at home. Great. The RN insists that Ethan's aunt take him to the doctor right away. The aunt says she will call the pediatrician as soon as they get home. The RN looks at her like, 'Are you friggin' nuts, lady?' but very politely says, "I am going to call an ambulance. I suggest you wait in the lobby with Ethan until they get here." And she walks out. I cheer her in my head.

Poor Ethan tries to get up and continue playing, and his aunt actually YELLS AT HIM for wanting to play! She grabs his arm, shakes him, and says, "You cannot play! You're sick!" and hustles him out to the lobby.

Another mom in the room and I make eye contact above our toddlers' heads with that little widening of the eyes that means, "What the fuck?"

The ambulance comes. Six, count them, six strapping EMTs (all hubba hubba men) come in to check Ethan out. He's breathing okay and seems pretty calm, but his face is bright red and he's coughing a lot. They take him into the ambulance with the aunt, whose main concern seems to be what a crimp this is putting in her day.

Nolan and I continue playing and trying to avoid Khrystian the Annoying until Play Gym ends (with no further incident) at 5pm.

I later learn from a mom-friend who works at Gymboree that Ethan was given an Epi-pen during the ride to the hospital and another one upon arrival, and that he's doing fine now. The aunt has been schooled in the necessity of always carrying an Epi-Pen with her while looking after Ethan, although she seems to believe that it means she can allow Ethan to eat peanuts if he wants to as long as she has the Epi-Pen.

And I thought I was a bad mother. Bah! I'm Mother of the Decade compared to Ethan's aunt and Khrystian's mom.

Thanks for reading.

*Actually, Nolan was not consulted. I joined the friggin' class and he goes where I go. I said "Nolan and I" because it sounds more diplomatic, as if I gave him a choice. Ha!

**Have you ever heard George Carlin's bit about how toddlers are basically like monkeys on acid? It is so painfully true. They careen about frantically, flapping their arms, pooping their pants, and screaming, and then their gaze is suddenly halted by some tiny random object that they focus on until they trip out and start running around again.

***No shit. This is really Gymboree's mascot. Every time the Majoring-in-Early-Childhood-Development-college-sophomore (I'm totally guessing here) who teaches the class mentions "Gymbo the Clown" I get visions of Courtney Love working the pole at Jumbo's Clown Room and I shudder. Not the best frame of mind for interacting with your toddler.


Ann said...

Just wanted to say I really enjoyed reading your blog. I got here via my Google Peanut Allergy Alert. For all the moms out there with a peanut allergic kid, this Gymboree episode is horrifying, and you can plainly see why many of us are a wreck and struggle to deflect the title "Helicopter Mom". It just takes one "Ethan's Aunt" to make us all crazy. Kudos to Gymboree for calling 911.

Electric Mayhem said...

Poor little Ethan. Joy, you're a good Mom, a total natural; even us single, kid-less people can see it.