By ‘outside’ I mean ‘out of the house’. As in, on an outing. As in, let’s take five kids further than just dropping Ron off at preschool because it’s almost May, for heaven’s sake, and when it’s not freezing it’s raining.
My backyard, I’m discovering, has terrible drainage. It’s growing a fine mixture of scrubby grass, moss, weirdly slimy mucky patches, and thick, sticky, clay-filled mud.
The only kid who is happy to play in that disgusting mess is Louis. As a result, we’ve been indoors more than we should be. The four walls are closing in.
So yesterday I stuffed them all in the van and took them to the mall.
It was actually, god forgive me, fun.
Pixie loves any environment where strangers smile at her and tell her she’s a pretty princess. So she was happy. Daisy likes to hold onto the stroller and walk a lot. George has been sick with a cold all week, so he was just non-committal, but at least he wasn’t screaming. Ron had some birthday money to spend so he was happy.
Louis has never been to the mall.
Not since he was a tiny infant, anyway.
NEVER. He was completely enchanted by the mall. The lights! The music! The
echabators elvasators ESCALATORS!!
And the mannequins.
The mall we visited has been trying in recent months to ‘upscale’. There is an Apple store and a Coach store and a huge Victoria’s Secret. The decor is all ultra-modern. It’s all very sleek. As part of this new re-branding, all the stores have the same mannequins – slightly taller than a real person, smooth grey skin, and no heads.
Louis, understandably, was a little freaked out by the mannequins.
So, I explained. And explained. And explained again. At every clothing store we passed, I explained. Finally I had a brainwave, and took them to Sears, where the mannequins are on the floor. I knocked on one with my knuckles. I held its plastic hand. I coaxed Louis over so he could touch it too.
And lo, a passion for fashion was born.
I’m pretty sure we looked at every mannequin in the mall yesterday. We examined their clothes. Some of them had props; Louis and Pixie chatted about one with a skateboard for a good five minutes. We wondered why they had shoes but no socks. (Even the ones with sneakers – no socks. I’ve never noticed that before.) We saw lady mannequins and daddy mannequins and even some boy and girl mannequins.
Finally, as we were leaving, this happened:
Louis: Hannah, can you BUY a mannequin?
Me: I… don’t think so, buddy. Why would you want to buy a mannequin?
Louis: To take it HOME. And put DRESSES on it.
Me: Oh, like Barbies! You can do that with Barbies.
Louis: (softly) Barbies…
Fast-forward to pick up time. Louis’ dad arrives at one minute ’til closing, as usual. Louis is jumping up and down and screaming:
Daddy! It’s my daddy! Daddy! We went to da mall an’ we had Timbits an’ we saw the chocolate store AND NOW I WANT A BARBIE!!
Watching his dad’s face as he desperately tried to not react in a my-boy-will-never-play-with-Barbies way was possibly one of the high points of my childcare provider career.