Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Charming or charmed?

There is something about Nicolas. He has quite a unique character and loads of personality. He wears his heart on his sleeve and his moods, the highs and lows, are very apparent. Nic has boundless energy and curiosity, is fearless and adventuresome. He is outgoing and loves introducing himself to people with a great big “HI!” and a broad grin. He makes the sullenest people smile. With his wit and happy disposition, his curly ringlets and natural charm, people are constantly telling me how gorgeous he is. These qualities also make it quite a task to keep an eye on him. Nic exhausts me. 

I took the boys downtown recently. We spent the whole day there: sliding down the big Picasso sculpture, ate gelato at Lavazza, took part in some summer activities specifically for children, attempted to listen to the symphonic orchestra practising in the Pritzker Pavilion, ran about, played in the Crown Fountain and visited the Institute of Art. Phew, what a day! 

The Crown Fountain was covered with children playing. I let the boys join in. Luc is extremely good at watching Nic – as far as a three year-old can be – and this allayed some of my fears at letting the boys play in such an open, public and inaccessible (for me) area. Fears were also allayed as there was a contingent of Millennium Park ‘people’ watching and observing and the boys were amongst a very distinct demographic – their white sun-screened skin ‘shone’ amongst the sea of ebony bodies. 

The large videoed faces on the two towers of the fountain occasionally close their eyes and pucker their lips. A well-orchestrated timing system ensures that the faces then spurt a stream of water from their mouths. This is followed by a cascade of water falling from the tops of the towers. The kids playing under the fountain are more than aware of the signs and timing of this process, so a line of kids congregate every so often under the impending stream of water. It is very amusing to watch. 

There were several different groups of people watching the boys and they commented upon Nic’s extreme energy levels: rushing from one tower to the other. They marvelled at the way he was able to ‘cheat’ the huge cascade of water… he would stand under the tower, and would just happen to move off to see something else, moments before the cascade would fall. It saved his skin every time. The observers couldn’t help but notice how Nic would rush about amongst a sea of other rushing bodies and remained standing and how he could crawl over girls lying in the water, and yet no one objected. They commented that he seemed to be surrounded by an invisible bubble that protected him: he was charmed. I noted that yes, this pretty much summed up Nic. His bubble burst a little later on and he was bowled over. I had to tear my shoes off and race through the water to rescue a sodden and crying little boy. His tears of pain soon turned to tears of desperation when he realised that I was not going to let him go back to play in the water. 

Another recent and big bubble burst occurred at the Zoo. We visited one of Luc’s favourite exhibits – the climbing tree. An intricate maze of multi-level suspended platforms, encased in netting, this is a fantastic indoor resource, particularly for the winter months where it allows children to burn some energy. Despite its recommended age range of 4 to 8 years, it is full of pre-schoolers during the winter months, and Luc really got into it at age 2 ½. When Nic, a natural climber, recently expressed interest in climbing it, I wasn’t too worried. 

On our last zoo visit, Nic decided he would climb further than the lower levels. A zoo official didn’t object to him climbing on it, so I let him go. He climbed almost all the way through, then turned around and came back (despite it being a one-direction path). Our friend William (same age as Nic), also made it through with a little help from a very capable young 8 year old girl. Nic played with the other exhibits then decided to give climbing another try. This time he got a little lost and ended up at a very high dead end. It was then that fearless Nic lost it. He started to cry. 

I sent Luc up to try and get him down. Luc prides himself at being able to help kids through (as he has often done with children older than himself). But in this instance, Luc couldn’t navigate himself to where Nic had trapped himself. The little girl that had helped William offered to help, but Nic would not let her hold him or help him down. The zoo official that had let him climb the structure then offered to go up. Upon finding that she had never actually climbed up it before, I knew I was going to have to save him. I then embarked upon a very humiliating rescue mission. 

The structure was not made for anyone over the age of eight, let alone a forty-year old mother that suffers from claustrophobia. I had to squeeze my way up, pushing against the tide of children on their way out. Nic was sobbing uncontrollably at this stage. I managed to get all the way up and was very grateful that I had not worn a skirt that day. I grabbed Nic who immediately clung to me and did not want to let go. I started on our way down, as far as Nic would let me. It was then that Luc decided he was going to lose it too. There I was, lying very dishevelled, and prone on my back, 10 feet in the air, covered with two sobbing boys. Nic gained some composure as he tried to push Luc away (after all, this was his rescue mission, not Luc’s), but continued to sob. It was then that Gabrielle took some photos for posterity sake. I wondered if life as a mother could get much better than this?! 

As I very ungraciously made my way down, bra strap hanging out my sleeve as it decided to unattach itself, another zoo official decided to give me a serve about how irresponsible I was to let a 20 month old up in the first place. As if I had somehow failed to see the error of my ways or feel humiliated enough! Nic continued to sob inconsolably for some time. Only the offer of some food saw him cease. 

We ate lunch and spent the early afternoon walking around the zoo. I was later confronted by a little boy who announced “It’s you again!” I was a little puzzled as to who this boy was, and how I should know him: until he noted he had seen me on the embarrassing rescue mission. SIGH… I had now become a notoriously bad mother.

Photo: Nicolas having a babycino in our favourite local, Lincoln Perk