He was a small boy of about two, and he needed a nap like no two year old in the history of two year olds at a carnival has ever needed a nap before. He was sticky and hot and so not pleased with the corn dog his mother had just placed in front of him. Now, people older than two, when presented with a corn dog that displeases them have a couple of options. They can either eat the corn dog, or not eat the corn dog. No big deal. Exhausted toddlers at carnivals have a third option. They can drop from the folding chair they are sitting in onto the grimy street below and scream at the top of their lungs. This appears to be the option that most two year olds choose.
Now, parents of two year olds also have options when a corn dog melt down occurs at a carnival. Option one involves removing the offending corn dog from the two year old’s line of sight and replacing it with something else. Option two is to continue having lunch as if nothing is happening while the two year old thrashes about on the pavement below. The third, most difficult, option is to pick up the two year old and walk away from the corn dog as quickly as possible without looking back. My unscientific study shows that parents at carnivals almost never choose option three. This is unfortunate for the two year old and everyone else.
Because the thing about carnivals and two year olds is that there are a lot of expectations as to how things are going to go. Young, well-meaning parents think that they are doing their two year olds a favor by taking them into crowds of other two year olds to “have fun” and “go on rides” and “eat corn dogs” in July. I did, too, a long time ago. After all, what’s not to love about a place full of loud noises and strange smells and people and ponies? It’s FUN, right? Right??
It IS fun. For approximately ten minutes. After that, it is just a gory scene from a bad survivalist reality show for everyone.
I spent a lot of time last weekend walking through the festival, pondering this phenomenon of corn dogs and melt downs and little people. How parents start out with such high expectations where carnivals and kids are concerned. How things go so terribly wrong so terribly fast when it is 84 degrees in the shade. And then, I had a conversation with my great niece, Elyza Rose, who at the age of four, is seriously one of the smartest people I know.
Me: So, Elly, did you go on any fun rides?
Me: Why not?
Elly: I got a “Frozen” movie instead. Got it taken away, though.
Me: Oh no! Why?
Me: Are you going to be naughty tomorrow?
Elly: I don’t know. Depends on if I get a good night’s sleep, I guess.
Yes, my smart, sweet, wise, fire cracker of a girl. I guess it does, doesn’t it?
Whether we are two, or four, or fifty, or more.
I suppose it does.