Yesterday the three year old granddaughter and I went on a play date.  I try to cycle through the grandkids since it not only delivers me a little one on one time with each child, but also releases the kid’s parents and rest of the family from having to watch after the child in question.  We’d originally planned to go to a park but it was raining like a sieve so we went to the downtown City Creek mall instead to 1) feed the fish, 2) investigate Dinosaur Playland, 3) have lunch, and 4) ride escalators.  As chance would have it, it’s been almost exactly a year since this particular child and I had been to City Creek mall.  You can read about last year’s adventures here: Aging.

Fish Feeding – Thorough Exploration
Last year my job was mainly making sure the child didn’t fall into the fish stream/pond.  This year, with a full year’s physical development under her belt, no such oversight was required.  Rather, we explored the environment we were in, she enthusiastically reporting what she found.  “White fish!” she’d exclaim pointing enthusiastically.  “Black fish, see!” with another point.  “Baby fish!” accompanied by perilous lean over the stream to get her eyes close to the water for detailed examination.

Dinosaur Playland – Topping Out
Last year my job was making sure she didn’t sneak out of the play area.  This year that wasn’t especially necessary.  She already knew this was her day meaning she was pretty much in charge of what we would be doing.  She was beginning to understand that if she wanted X, she’d have a much better chance at obtaining X by negotiating with me directly rather than trying to sneak by me unnoticed.

Still being a climber, she set out to ascend every dinosaur to be seen and managed all but one; a not particularly large but very steep set of hollow rib cage bones curving off a top ridge spine.  Technically, it was a slide with kids gliding under the spine and through the rib cage but when you’re a climber, it’s mountain to be conquered.  Though she had me set her atop it once, her interest in the toy quickly shifted to permanent, “No, I do it!”

With Dinosaur Playland being a no shoes area she’d been climbing all the critters in slippery socks but Rib Cage wasn’t to be conquered without good foot traction so she eventually tore her socks off, handed them to me, and then got down to serious climbing.  Hauling herself up the underside monkey bar style, I watched her search around for a location to place a loose foot and use that point as leverage to heave her body around the ribs and onto the top spine.  Though several attempts got her close, none quite get her all the way there.  Finally I interceded merely to point out that maybe she should try the other end where there were more pokey things to latch on to.  This did the trick.  With a pokey to work against, she pried herself onto the top, surveyed what she’d conquered and announced “See, I do it!” followed soon after by “I’m hungry,” so off to lunch we went.

Lunch – Oopsie!
Not everything changes.  She once again spilled her ice water though this time much later in the meal meaning less needed to be cleaned up.

Escalators – Pushing Envelopes
Escalators remain point of fascination and, depending on how far one pushes, genuine challenge.  Last year we’d worked on the ever difficult on/off transitions and though she’d gotten the hang of it, it was always with steadying adult hand close by.  This year it was mostly question of whether she still needed that steadying hand.  Early on she clasped my fingers but she quickly judged this unnecessary and took to hopping on a step or two before me.  The terrible moment of truth had arrived.  Does the adult have to be on the escalator at all?  For the adult, it’s a heart rending question.  For the child, no heart is rent, rather the kid is confident or she isn’t.

Unlike Dinosaur Playland, escalators are sharp, pointy and unforgiving.  Escalator boo boos are going to hurt, very possibly a lot.  Still, she was confident so, though dying inside, I sent her on her way and up she went while I waited at the bottom.  Once at the top she looked back not quite sure what to do next so I instructed enthusiastically, “Well come back down!” which she did.  The game was afoot and continued for several dozen additional rides until I called it to a close as grandchild overconfidence approached: she not paying attention to the task at hand one time meaning she almost tumbled off the end followed by her dragging her fingers along the side panel as she traveled on the very next ride nearly toppling herself over mid escalator.  Had we still been in Dinosaur Playland I’d have let boo boo unfold but escalator escapade accident?  Nope.

All too soon she’ll be learning how to drive a full size car.  ::gulp::