People Watching

It’s been a long time since I’ve written a post, partly because life is busy and time gets away from you so easily, and partly because baby #2 is on its way and I’ve been so incredibly tired that I haven’t had the creative energy!
But in this case, this idea for a post has been brewing for some time, and I haven’t put it to words because I’m having a tough time communicating it in a humorous manner….and without sounding like I’m being judgemental. All this revolves around “people watching”, and the hilarity and clarity that ensues when you see other moms and dads out there stumbling over the rocky and wonderful terrain that we called parenting.
Like I said, these are purely observations….about parenting, demographics, and most importantly, preferences for different types of coffee. 
It came to me one day when I diverted away from my usual community center’s “tot romp/open gym/stay and play”. You see, I usually take my daughter to the community center that is closest to my house. It’s a great way to let the kids blow off some steam, romping around with the sporting equipment and socializing with other tots their age. It’s also a great place to meet other moms, chat, and compare parenting notes.
Did I mention that I love people watching?
The open gym is a great place to observe people and their behaviour. I’m the type of person that could sit on a park bench for hours, just watching the people go by. I like to try to imagine their stories, where they’ve come from, and what they’re doing. Disneyland is a great place for this….but I digress…..
I rotate between 2 rec centers in my area, because they seem to have the most kid-friendly programs and the timing of the open gym corresponds perfectly with my daughter’s schedule.
The first gym we’ll call the “I drink Tim Horton’s Double Double” gym. It’s a great gym. It’s never overly busy, the kids play well together, and like I mentioned before, it’s close to home. I’ve met a lot of moms there. There stories are all similar – they are usually working moms, on their day off, or on their way to an evening shift. Some are pregnant with their second child. They are 20 to 30 somethings, fresh faced but often tired, usually no makeup in sight, wearing sometimes Costco yoga pants, sometimes Lululemon. They are enjoying their Tim Hortons Double Double, letting their kids run free, but also interacting with them when needed. When the kids get hungry, they have a supply of fishie crackers, juice boxes, water or fresh fruit available. They laugh, they run with their children, they smile, they enjoy their day. They step in when their kid spazzes. Change their pants when a newly potty trained kid has an accident. They try to be real. This is the gym where I feel most at home. 
However, if the “I drink Tim Horton’s Double Double” gym isn’t available that day, I go to my second choice gym. 
We’ll call this the “I drink a grande Starbucks skinny no foam sugar free soy vanilla latte” gym.
This, too, is a great gym.
However, hence the name, perhaps a little more complex. 
It’s always super crowded. The ratio of mommies/daddys/nannies (all there in equal representation) to children is sporadic. You will see the yummy mommies, outfitted in their designer rain boots, name brand sweaters and diaper bags that cost more than my car, carefully watching over their one little offspring. Then you will see the daddies, who are just as decked out in designer duds, chasing after their children, who are equally as decked out in designer duds. Don’t forget the nannies who have 3 children in tow and are efficiently, seamlessly managing. The playtime flows like a well-oiled machine. The mommies look more rested than I feel, and they are armed and ready for snack time with organic fruit snacks, kale chips, spinach smoothies and purified alkaline water.
These are my 2 choice gyms. I love the diversity. I love to observe the people, the parents, their interactions. I love to pine over the cute pair of teal designer rain boots and the unique ways that the mommies and daddies show love and discipline to their brood.
However, on one particular day, our usual “Tim Horton’s Double Double” gym was cancelled for some reason. My daughter was intent on going to a gym of some sort and was vocal about her disappointment in it’s cancellation. So, I pulled over to the side of the road, and googled to see if there was any other tot romps occurring that day in the area.
Lo and behold, I found one….right around the corner from my house! I was ecstatic! I would have a happy child, and an opportunity to try out a new community center right in my neighbourhood.
My first impression when I arrived was that the drop-in fee was more money. Hmmmm. That must mean that there are more activities, or perhaps some newer equipment?
As I walked into the gym, child in tow, I soon realized that I was quite wrong on both accounts.
It wasn’t so much an open gym as it was a “makeshift daycare” with toys, books and some gymnastic toys strewn about. There was a craft table and a baby area with toys appropriate for those under the age of 1.
So far, it looked good.
Then I noticed that the majority of the parents were all sitting around a large table, sipping coffee from a vast array of mismatched mugs. Upon further investigation, I saw that the coffee was….gasp….FREE? from a large urn in a small kitchenette at the back of the gym? Wow! Free coffee! This was a bonus!
Thus….this gym gained the name “Free coffee from a large urn, to be drank in a ‘world’s best teacher/Dad/cat’ mug”.
The parents were friendly and very clearly well acquainted with each other, as they chatted around the table. It appeared they were so called “regulars” at this open gym. They all knew each other by name. I hung back, observing, debating whether to grab myself a free coffee (I had already indulged in my usual double double that morning in anticipation of hitting up the aptly named open gym).
Then, things started getting kind of strange.
There was an old man in there, chatting and interacting with all the kids. He took a keen interest in my little one, commenting on her hair and how cute her shirt was. Don’t get me wrong, this guy didn’t set off my “creepy” alarm, but I was (and still am) confused as to which child belonged to him, or if he was just there for the free coffee?
A few minutes later, my daughter, in true terrible 2 form, decided to whack another kid in the head when a toy was taken from her. It wasn’t bad, there were no tears, and was over and forgotten before I could say boo, but this weird old man decided to take it upon himself to discipline my child….but he decided to YELL it across the gym instead of approaching her directly. Yes, I know, both weird scenarios….first of all, who the hell are you and please don’t discipline my child!? And second, when you yell “HEY! NO HITTING! NO HITTING! NO HITTING” from 30 feet across a room, to a 2 year old who doesn’t even know who you’re talking to and has already moved her 2 second attention span to some other toy, yeah….it’s not going to work, pal!
Then, my attention was turned to a rather loud, borderline hysterical scream/cry coming from the other side of the room. Some kid had bailed off of a Little Tykes playhouse. He wasn’t injured, but likely startled. I scanned the room, either expecting weird childless old discipline man to remotely come to this child’s rescue, or for the rightful parent to swoop in and kiss it all better.
Once again, things started getting strange.
The kid cried for a good 20 seconds. Stopped. Looked around. No one was coming to help him. So he cried a little louder, a little harder. Still nothing. WTH? Where is this kid’s parent? I wanted to go help him, give him a hug. I was about to move over there when finally, I saw a young mom elbow the girl next to her at the coffee drinking table, and say “hey, isn’t that so and so (your kid) crying over there?” And finally this mom realized that it was her offspring that was upset and perhaps slightly injured, and she came to his side to make things better.
But still… did this one not know it was her child that was crying? I don’t know about you, but I would recognize my child crying from a mile away.
Moments later, one of the gym monitors approached me and said “You’re new here….we have circle story time now. We all put the toys away and then we sit on the red carpet and have story time.”
I looked over at the red carpet, just as some kid dumped his juice all over the red carpet. Another kid sneezed and wiped his hands on it.
I’m not one to give up easily, so I started to put the toys away with all the other moms. ( was told that the ride on toys go into one storage room, and all other toys into the other. I dragged a cartoon themed tricycle behind me, only to feel a “tap tap” on my shoulder.
It was weird old “who’s child belongs to this old man?’ again.
“That doesn’t go there.” he pointed at the bike. “it goes over there.”
Keep in mind that I’m 6 months pregnant here, and my hormones (not myself, but my hormones) get irritated very easily. And this man was seriously irritating my last one.
I graciously put the bike back into it’s correct home, and nonchalantly scooped my child up and snuck out of there before anyone noticed. I was secretly fearful that if they saw me leave before storytime on the pee rug was over, that I would be forced to clean all the boogies off the plastic food that belonged to the ‘never been cleaned’ kitchen set that resided in the corner of the gym (which, BTW, my lovely daughter opted to lick the fake ice cream cone, which might have given me a minor heart attack).
I drove away that day, silently deciding that I definitely preferred my “Tim Horton’s Double Double” gym to this “”Free coffee from a large urn, to be drank in a ‘world’s best teacher/Dad/Cat’ mug”. I wondered what I could learn from what I saw there, and how it compared to what I saw at other gyms on other occasions. 
I had nothing. And I still don’t. 
I just thought it was a funny story, and I had to share.
My mom and I had a good hard laugh later about the weird old man that yelled at my kid later though.
I’m only observing, and not judging. But that doesn’t mean that I can’t have a laugh, right? And if I ever do go back to “Free coffee from a large urn, to be drank in a ‘world’s best teacher/Dad/cat’ mug”, and weird old man is there trying to parent my kid, my hormones might have to be my only alibi in court 😉
XOX Melly

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