While America celebrated Independence Day over the July 4th weekend, we celebrated a number of firsts with Sprout.
My in-laws visited for the holiday, eager to spend time with Sprout before our August trip with them. They saw the trip as a bit of a “practice run” for Disney, testing out how he’d do with a variety of new experiences.
The first was staying up far past his bedtime to watch fireworks. He had actually seen fireworks before, but he was only two weeks old at the time. Then, we couldn’t bring him anywhere crowded because he hadn’t received his vaccines yet and I couldn’t muster much effort anyway in my sleep-addled state. So we just walked over to a pedestrian bridge less than half a mile away to see the town’s show half-blocked by buildings.
In contrast, this year we trekked up to lovely Frederick, Maryland, which hosts a huge 4th of July celebration at its city park, complete with bouncy rides, bathtub races, tons of food trucks (not the fancy ones), and a big fireworks display. Despite the other entertainments, the very first thing I noticed was how retro their playground was. After reading so many stories about how playgrounds are becoming overly safe to the point of monotony, it was refreshing to see metal slides and a merry-go-round! They even had a sand pit, where Sprout had his first feeling of sand between his toes as my mother-in-law helped him walk through it. Later on, we visited the petting zoo exhibit, where he got up close and personal with some goats. While he was mostly curious about them, it didn’t help when the farmer wrangled the baby goats out of the enclosure without a warning, causing all of the kids – human and not – to freak out.
After wandering around, we settled down to wait for the fireworks. With Can’t Stop Believin’ played by an adequate Journey cover band as our soundtrack, I tried to keep Sprout from wandering onto other people’s blankets and stealing their stuff. Just as he was experiencing new things, I too had to lighten up a little. As the culinary choices were limited, I tried to feed him some quesadilla (cheese has protein!), but he was totally uninterested. Instead, he managed to find his appetite for my Italian ice, slurping it down. Since he hadn’t eaten any dinner and we were outside any resemblance of a normal schedule, I let him eat as much sugar and red dye as he wanted. To quote my mother-in-law, “It’s July 4th!”
Despite missing his afternoon nap and the fireworks starting more than an hour after his bedtime, Sprout managed not only to stay awake until the show but more impressively, be in a good mood. He would have been a disaster if we had been at home, but there was enough people to look at that he forgot how tired he was. He even held out throughout most of the fireworks, watching them with the intense gaze that he’s turned to everything new since the day he was born. It’s a look of: “This is fascinating, but I’m not sure what to make of it yet. I’ll gather more information.” That was, until the finale. The continuous and overlapping booms put him over the edge and he burst out wailing. Fortunately, once the display was over, he calmed down and promptly fell asleep in his stroller despite the obstacle course-like path back to the car.
The next day, we continued the festivities by visiting a local outdoor mall that has a train ride, a carousel, and paddleboats. In my family, the mall is best known for the place where we did slow walking laps around the pond to induce labor when I was three days past my due date. Needless to say, this time around was much less stressful. To see how Sprout would potentially handle rides, my mother in law wanted to bring him on the carousel. Chris sat Sprout on a horse, holding on to him from the side, while I rode an eagle next to them. Much like with the fireworks, Sprout’s expression was observant without being outwardly happy. I have a suspicion this is going to be a common look at Disney. While he didn’t smile, I think he enjoyed it – he certainly knows how to let us know otherwise – and I suspect he would become much more obviously joyful as he got used to it. He was pretty impassive the first time we pushed him on the baby swing at the park, but now he grins in response.
That night, my in-laws got to be the guinea pigs for another first – the first time someone other than Chris or I put Sprout to bed. After a lot of bedtime drama that involved Sprout whining loudly at me for more than a half-hour a night, Chris recently switched to putting him to bed. But it would be a whole different challenge for someone else to put him down. Would he be worried that we weren’t there? Would he cry and reject consolation? Would he want to continue playing with Grandma and Granddad? Whatever happened, we wouldn’t be there to find out, gallivanting around D.C. baby-free. We bar hopped, going from one to watch the World Cup to another to play chess and skeeball. We wandered downtown, popping in a candy shop with adult confections, watching a street dance / acrobatics group that half-failed at their tricks, and listening to a jazz band on a corner in Chinatown. We finished the night with dinner at a fancy restaurant, eating Fruits de Mer and fois gras. The time was just for just the two of us, where there were no dishes to be done or baby monitor on in the background. It felt like a big sigh of relief. Fortunately, bedtime went just fine, at least according to my in-laws. They didn’t elaborate and I didn’t ask for additional details.
The last day of their trip, we trekked to the town pool. Sprout loves splashing in the bath, but that’s quite different from even the kiddie pool. After slathering him up with enough sunscreen to let you walk on the sun, we put him in a disposable swim diaper and headed off. Much to my surprise, his shorts were already soaked when I lifted him out of his car seat, five minutes later. Lesson learned – disposable swim diapers are designed to allow pee to flow through, not hold it in. Ick.
Despite this knowledge, I still waded into the kiddie pool, holding Sprout’s hand so he could walk. He was hesitant at first, looking up at me for reassurance. I’m constantly telling him not to stand up in the tub, so I’m sure he was confused by me encouraging him to walk through water. But once he caught on, he thought it was great, combining bath time with his current favorite activity, leading us around so he can practice walking. The fun only increased when they turned up the little fountains. Of course, he chose the one that had another kid at it who wasn’t interested in sharing. To avoid a showdown, I finally picked Sprout up and relocated him to a different fountain. Even when the kids were all at their own fountains, they kept eying each other and wondering what was so awesome about the other fountain that the other kid was using it. I spent an absurd amount of time at the pool as a kid, so I hope this is only the first of many visits.
From fireworks to fountains, Sprout had an eventful Independence Day weekend.