FACT: Every year after loading the car, strapping in and confirming that we are all ready to go the check engine light comes on in the car. Without fail.
I find it really strange that my kids can go somewhere for an entire day - behave as if the entire experience is annoying - and then declare later on that they enjoyed it a great deal. They will moan, won't engage with anything, refuse to do much and make it clear they are not having fun. They say they want to do something - but after beginning it they seem to immediately become uninterested and demand we go on to the next thing. They will remind us that we promised they could do something - usually whilst doing something else that they'd been promised they could do. But the fact it isn't the other thing is evidence that we are not allowign them to do anything they were looking forward to. They'll remember that we mentioned getting a snack or drink after we see something - so will hurry through it without even remotely paying attention so that they can get to the food and drink quicker. And when asked to just wait until we've done whatever it is they'll behave as if we've just angrily told them that they won't be getting that amazing drink or snack at all now - and will in fact be forced to watch as their mother and father buy it, chuck it on the ground and then stamp on it in evil spite. And yet - hours later - none of the moodiness, irritability and boredom remains. Instead they'll claim all was happy, fun and good. It wasn't - but they recall it that way so much that they really want to do it again next year.
On Friday we all went off to the NewYork State Fair. We had high hopes for this year. Last year was confusing because it was excellent in one sense. I had picked up a new rabies-awareness fridge magnet and The American Crayon with "Made In Mexico" emblazoned on them. So truly a great day in that sense. But it was appalling in every other sense. We had brought a butterfly-stroller for my son because he was still falling asleep like clockwork at 11am every morning then. We have never used a stroller of any kind. They seem like such a massive pain in the arse and it's much easier to sling or tie a child to you. But in 95 degree heat for 5 hours the heat is horrible. So last year we brought the little stroller hoping to plop my son in it once he started to fade. But my daughter had a tantrum right off the bat (one of those ones that saps a child's strength so much that they start yawning and don't have the energy to be grumpy) and never really recovered. She decided early on that she didn't want to see anything and needed to nap in the stroller. Leading to my son being usurped from the stroller when he needed to sleep. Add shoving it around was every bit as irritatign as I imagined it would be. Why anyone bothers is beyond me.
But a year on I hoped my son would feel jazzed about the plethora of animals - and my daughter would genuinely enjoy some of the other things that she's tended to flirt with previously. My wife - attempting to avoid last years tired kids problem - rented a wagon (like this one but without seats). I was weary because it is twice as big as the dinky stroller. Meaning you can't go anywhere there's even a modicum of people. Add my son saw the day at the fair as a chance to have his mother hold him all day and balls to everything else. So when that didn't transpire from the get-go he did that thing where it becomes very apparent that he having one of those days where a 10am nap would have been a very good idea. My daughter did sit in the cart - and eventually my son did. But it was a cumbersome annoyance and feels very foreign to me. So much so that I imagine next year my wife will recall this but still somehow manage to rent a golf cart.
For my own part I felt massively let down by the complete lack of free tat on offer. No wanky trinkets, free pencils or whatnot from government agencies. And in the health building there seemed to be a dearth of stuff too. We did pick up a bunch of coloring books and magnets - but they seemed to be leftovers from last year. I did manage to pick up a foreign language raccoon-rabies book mark though. And a magnet about tick-borne diseases. But it's just not the same. Frankly it reminded me of being told as a kid that we might be able to go to the new McDonalds that had been built in our area (back then it was a novel thing) for a burger. But then come dinnertime being handed a burger being told that - even better than that - my mother would make one. Then being handed a soggy burger that was already dissolving the Mighty White bread and dripping butter all down my arm.
Both kids kept saying they wanted to see the various animals. But they didn't actual do that. They kept wanting to just keep moving. When stood next to the sheep they insisted we get to the pigs - barely even making an attempt to stick their hands through the bars before being reminded that we aren't supposed to do that. We did wander about the building with all the birds in it for long enough to actually take a photo. I snapped this massive pigeon. This bastard isn't going to be waiting around for you to drop pastry-flakes off your Gregg's pastie. No sir - he's actively going to wrestle the whole thing off you.
We didn't even get to half the stuff we aimed to. No bees. No baked potato. No watching my wife be inordinately proud/boastful/taunting-to-ANYONE-observing about how impressive her lung capacity is. But the kids got to go on a few rides. My daughter got to milk a wooden goat (which she remembered from last year). I did get to eat an entire tub of Warburns ice cream in the Dairy building. And my son got to experience travelling at The Speed Of Milk.
But my wife did get to do a bunch of the experiments/crafts and whatnot in the 4H building. That was clearly the only part of the day when everyone was happiest. It was only part of the day when one of the kids wasn't complaining about being hot/thirsty/hungry/bored. To give some context at around 2pm we finished up with one half of the Fair and were headed over to get something decadent to stuff ourselves with when my daughter asked if we could just go home. It was just too boring and taking too long. So we cut our losses and left.
And I can understand the irritability. It was very hot, very crowded, very loud and busy. I get irritable in those situations. For my daughter's part she felt like we were just saying no to things - and that was when we could hear her. The circumstances themselves aren't really conducive to a five year old, a two and a half year old and two adults to enjoy the day at the same time. Watching family after family move around the place grumpily was testament to that. But usually at least one person out of each group was enjoying it.I don't recall much of that from Friday. My wife enjoyed being with her kids even though they were grumpy though. But they were just perpetually irritated. Yet when asking afterwards both claimed that they loved the whole day. I offered up the point that they didn't behave like it was enjoyable at the time. A scandalous thing to say, apparently. I am more than happy to endure something unpleasant as long as my kids like it. I live here in spite of not liking it for that very reason. But I do that for my family because that's part and parcel of what being a parent is about. You just get on with it and take respite in the fact that your kids are smiling, enjoying an experience and collect good memories. But when nobody appears to be enjoying it I'm not really prepared to repeat things.So the grouching, moaning and mild-whinging are not really a good argument that it was, "the best day ever." Either that or both my kids have begun expressing their enjoyment of things by moaning about how shit they are.
Then again they are British so it's possible they did think it was fantastic and can't help but moan about it.