You know how you quickly learn that certain environments are not particularly hospitable to toddlers? You don't take your rowdy two-year-old to a quietly elegant restaurant at 8 p.m. or to opening night at the symphony.
And there are also events and venues that are actually very welcoming to toddlers....but only if you can get in.
David and I took William to Woodmont Christian Church's amazing annual Walk Through Bethlehem event yesterday afternoon. It's really quite an elaborate set-up, and very impressive. The church sets up their fellowship hall like a small town, with shops, a synagogue, homes, and other sites. Everyone is dressed in (roughly) appropriate attire and engages in activities that people living in Bethelem might have done at the time of the birth of Jesus. Outside on the grounds, they set up a stable where they stage a living Nativity, surrounded by animals. William's imagination has really been captured by his Fisher-Price nativity set, and since Diane and I took William last year to the event, and he had a blast, I figured that it was a no-brainer to take him again.
This is where the "unfortunately" part comes in, though. We got there a little after 2:30 only to find a very long, very slow-moving line. A greeter told us to expect to wait about 45 minutes. Wait in line, for 45 minutes (or longer) with an eager, active toddler? But...but...but, we came early so we wouldn't have to wait in line! The line isn't supposed to be here yet! Everyone told us to come early in the day so we'd avoid the line!
But there was a loooong line. And we were already there. We'd already talked up seeing the little town of Bethlehem and petting the sheep and seeing Mary and Joseph and the Baby Jesus.
So we waited. Luckily, we at least got to spy on the animals from part of the line:
So you may be thinking...why did you even take your toddler to this event if you didn't want to wait in line? And maybe we shouldn't have tried to take William this year. Maybe he was too young. But we wanted him to see the town of Bethlehem. We wanted him to see what it might have looked like in person, not just in his books. We thought it was a great educational opportunity for him. And all things considered, William did okay. He was squirmy, but what would you expect? He didn't really run around or dash off or even screech loudly, although since we were outside, that wouldn't have been so terrible. There were many, many other young children there, and everyone seemed pretty relaxed and happy about being there, which was encouraging.
But several older boys behind us in line started egging him on, teasing him and talking about dog poop and God knows what else. So then we had William brightly chirping about "Ewww, I smell dog poop! Gross!" like a preteen. Great. David tried to talk him out of that, but you know how it is. You try to convince your child to not talk about something or say a certain word and suddenly that's all they want to do. So he dropped it, and eventually, William forgot about dog poop, too.
Finally, we got to enter the actual "town," located in the basement of the church. William was pretty respectful, too. He seemed to really be paying attention to what the various characters were saying, and he enjoyed visiting the carpentry shop and seeing the musicians playing their instruments. But the "town" was fairly dark, and people were crushed in there together. We had to keep picking him up so he wouldn't get stepped on--and so he could actually see what was going on. Finally we just skipped out on seeing the rest of the town and headed outside to see the stable, the Baby Jesus, and the Three Wise Men (who wouldn't have actually been at the stable the night the baby was born, but I can digress on that later). He got to see a camel up close and stick his nose in the urn of frankincense, and then we left.
We waited in line far, far longer than we actually stayed in "Bethlehem" but I think we did as much as we could. We just can't reasonably expect William at his age to wait patiently in a long line for a long time. And I think he did okay. We just didn't want to press our luck. He was happy to see the things that he saw, and that's good enough for me. Next year, he'll be able to do more. It really is a wonderful event. It's just become so popular that it's not as easy to get in and out of as it might have once been. I'm glad we went. It was worth standing in the line.
But it did make me start thinking about how long it takes to acquire patience for that sort of thing. Remember how hard it was to wait in line when you were little? I think we adults tend to forget that. I am not exactly a big fan of lines now, but if I'm by myself and I find myself in a long line, I just pull out a book or magazine to pass the time. Or people-watch. Or send text messages. When I've got William with me, I try to avoid all but the most utterly necessary lines. Otherwise, I go back later without him. But what can you do when the reason you're standing in line to begin with is to take your small child to do something that is supposed to be fun for him? Ply him with snacks. Entertain him with books and stories. People watch. Hope that the line moves quickly. Sing songs. Tell jokes. Hope your child ignores the other kids in line. Wonder if you're just a teensy bit crazy. Remember that, if you're at the right kind of place, no one is going to mind if your child is a little bit rowdy.
But in case anyone ever wanted to know one of the biggest reasons why we've never taken our son to DisneyWorld, well, now you know. Lines.