Monday, June 30, 2008

Relaxing at the Arts Festival

The Utah Arts Festival was this past weekend in Salt Lake City. On Saturday I went by myself, because I was speaking on a panel about the “writerly life” sponsored by the SLCC Community Writing Center. But Sunday was even more fun, because that’s when I took my son.

My son and I love to go to arts festival – we wander through the booths, looking at paintings, photography, pottery, and sculptures. We laugh at the funny things we see (and the funny people). We hit the Maui Wowi stand for an icy fruit smoothie. We listen to music. We pick out the things we’d buy if we were rich, like that really cool inlaid wood coffee table that was in three curvy triangular sections that could be pulled out into separate tables. Yeah, definitely that. And maybe that glass vase in shades of gold and turquoise. And the earrings with the silver doodads for me. And for my son, the garden sculpture made from an old army helmet that looked like a little creature driving a tank.

We stopped to listen to a guy playing a Chapman Stick – a stringed instrument that kind of combines both a guitar and a bass. We wandered through the children’s art yard, even though my son is getting a tad too big for the activities. He still liked playing the large variety of musical instruments from around the world that were set out for kids to try – especially the Chinese gong, which he whacked with great zeal. OK, I admit it. I tried it, too. I had never banged a real gong before, and really, that’s something you should definitely do before you die, right?

So we had a great time, just the two of us. (Dad’s on a business trip, so he missed out.)

At arts festivals like this, food is always ubiquitous. There are lots of food stands with culinary choices ranging from Thai food to Navajo tacos, pizza to crepes, Greek souvlaki to grilled corn on the cob. Usually, those food booths are clustered in just one area, which makes it easy to avoid. But for some reason, those cinnamon-roasted almond stands get scattered throughout the fair. They smell wonderful, but they always make me nervous when I walk by them.

This year, I noticed a nonprofit group was raising money by selling PB&J sandwiches and cold milk for $2. They had a booth in the food area, but they also hit upon an even more enterprising idea – they had a guy pulling a little wagon through the festival, selling the sandwiches from his wagon.

As marketing goes, it’s a great idea. Get the kid food out to where the kids are melting down. What’s more brilliant than that? When my son’s blood sugar drops, he gets really whiney and argumentative. If we’re out somewhere and it’s been too long since he ate, I’ve found that a quick soda (even though I’m not a big soda fan) is a great antidote to his downward-spirally attitude. He becomes a new kid almost instantly. So bringing PB&Js out to the masses is a great idea. I bet it saved a lot of temper tantrums this weekend.

But it still made me a little nervous to see that wagon driving around the booths. On the other hand, it only made me a LITTLE nervous. That’s when I realized how much my son is growing up. A few years ago, the sight of that wagon would have sent my heart pounding. But he’s old enough now, he’s not going to pick up a half-eaten sandwich off the ground and put it in his mouth. He’s not going to handle everything he sees. Of course, he did still pick up that gong mallet and strike a mighty blow with it. And who knows who handled that mallet before him?

But I realized that as he gets older, I’ve become much more relaxed in environments like the Arts Festival. I stay prepared, with his medicine and wet wipes handy. And I point out things like the roasted almond stand so that he’s aware of his environment and can take precautions. But it’s so nice to feel like we’re both watching out for him together, instead of me watching out for him, and him hell-bent on turning my hair gray.

So if you’re a parent of a toddler with allergies, take heart. It really does get easier as he gets older.

Of course, when he becomes a teenager, I’ll probably take that statement back. For a lot of reasons. But I’m not going to think about that just yet, okay?

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