The Prater is a big park, about 5km wide. It includes a fairground, a big outdoor swimming complex, countless restaurants, multiple playgrounds and many more things I probably haven’t discovered yet. It’s my favourite place in Vienna. One of Noah’s beloved haunts is the bouncy castle area where there are bouncy castles of all different shapes and sizes. This morning I promised him we would go to the bouncy castles today. He was very excited and sang If You’re Happy And You Know It all the way to kindergarten. I say sang, but what I actually mean is bellowed, jumping off his scooter every time he had to clap his hands.
What I didn’t count on was the sweltering 30 degrees heat…
I stuffed my bag with snacks for Noah, suncream and drinks and picked him up from nursery. As soon as we got on the tram that would take us to the Prater, Noah wanted a drink and a snack. This was when I discovered I hadn’t put the lid on his beaker properly and everything in my bag was covered in apple juice, including the briochekipferl (sweet bun) I had bought him for a snack. I was also covered in apple juice after attempting to remove the unfixed lid. What annoys me about this is that I have done this same thing SO MANY TIMES. Why have I not developed a natural instinct to CHECK THE LID every time I fill his beaker up?
When we got to the bouncy castles, the place was deserted. There were literally no other children there. I asked the man for an admission ticket and he told me to go and check they were okay because it was very hot. They were fine. It was hot but the sun was sheltering behind some clouds.
Noah started climbing up the gigantic inflatable slide. The problem is, he loves a mate. If he is around other children, even if he doesn’t know them and doesn’t speak their language, he is happy. As I watched him flit solo from one castle to another, I realised that this is why people have children close together: to provide a 24/7 friend for the first born. I have friends who have fallen pregnant again less than a year after having their first child. When Noah was a year old, I was flabbergasted by these people. I was still of the mind-set that I was never, no way, absolutely not, going through pregnancy, birth and newborn angst again. But, today, as I watched Noah bounce around aimlessly, looking a bit lost, I felt sorry for him. I thought about how all of his toys are “sisters”. I thought about how he pointed at his friend’s baby brother last week and said, “I want one of those.” When he appeared in front of the deck chair I was lounging in and asked me to play with him, what else could I do but gamely make my way up the inflatable slide?
Five minutes later, all the bouncy castles were scorching hot. Noah stepped on one and started screaming. And that was the end of the bouncy castles.
What I had hoped would take up over an hour of our afternoon, came to an abrupt halt after fifteen minutes. Next I let Noah have 3 euros to go on three rides. He managed to choose the three most inappropriate rides for his age:
- A machine where you had to manoeuvre a scoop to pick up balls and drop them in a goal. He couldn’t do it.
- A game where you had to shoot water at targets to make parts of a scene move. He couldn’t do it.
- A digger that moved sand from one place to another. He couldn’t do it.
We had some ice-cream and then found a playground. It was deserted. Noah called it, “my own park”. Other children had left some buckets and spades in the sandpit. There were also a pair of pink sandals in the sand. My first thought was, Oh my god! Who would leave their child’s sandals in the sandpit?! My second thought was, I am exactly the type of person who will one day leave my child’s shoes in the sandpit…
Then it was time for the journey home. This is usually when everything starts to fall apart on our outings and today was no exception.
Impediment 1 – I had allowed Noah to bring his bubbles. Every five minutes we needed to stop for ten minutes so he could blow bubbles.
Impediment 2 – Noah was hot, sticky and tired and I had forgotten to bring the scooter pull. He didn’t want to walk so I had to walk leaning sideways so I could steer the scooter, dragging him along next to me.
Impediment 3 – There is a souvenir shop, aka tack shop, which I decided to take Noah inside because they sold Austrian dressed rubber ducks and Noah’s Nan (my husband’s mum) collects them. Of course, he wanted the ducks too and picked up the Mozart duck, the Dirndl duck, the lederhosen duck, the I heart Vienna duck, the courtesan duck…and any other type of duck they had in the Austrian themed duck basket. “You can’t have all these ducks,” I said. “I want them!” he insisted. This exchange was repeated six or seven times before he had a melt down and I told him he could choose one duck and he had to pay for it out of his pocket money. He’s rich; he can afford it.
Impediment 4 – The duck didn’t appease Noah. He started crying and refusing to wear his hat or get on his scooter. We made our way to the station by me pretending I was walking off and leaving him and him chasing after me, screaming. Meanwhile the sun was beating down on his bare head. I was illogically furious that he wouldn’t wear his hat, even though we have had this battle since he was born, before he even knew what a hat was. I banned him from watching television for the rest of his life.
Impediment 5 – We waited at the tram stop for fifteen minutes and no tram arrived. There was an announcement which I couldn’t understand as, unsurprisingly, it was in German. There was also something in German on the board which usually says how long the train will be. I painstakingly typed it in to my Google Translate app and was told “disability due to road traffic accident”.
Impediment 6 – Back in the train station, we passed a vending machine. I needed a cold drink and reasoned Noah probably did too. The only drink Noah would contemplate was a Capri Sun. I had an altercation with the machine which wouldn’t take any change and then spat two Capri Suns out at me. So I was having a Capri Sun too, then. We had to get down two escalators to get to the right platform. The impediment was that I was now holding Noah’s scooter, his hat, two rubber ducks and two cartons of Capri Sun, as well as gripping Noah’s hand for dear life.
We had to get a train and then a bus. When we sat on the bus, we opened our Capri Suns. I took one sip and vowed Noah would never have a Capri Sun again. I nearly choked on the sweetness. I checked the back and found it contained more sugar than it did fruit juice. And I am supposed to have given up sugar. As well as chocolate. And wine.
Noah calmed down. He informed me he would now wear his hat and enquired as to whether he would now be able to watch television when we got in.
All I could think about was Prosecco. I have stopped drinking wine indoors for fear I was turning into an alcoholic (I so need a glass of wine at the end of the day…), but I knew there was a bottle of Prosecco in the cupboard. If I got in and put it in the freezer, it’d soon be cold. But if you open a bottle of Prosecco, don’t you have to drink it all because otherwise it will lose its fizz? Would it be wrong of me to drink a whole bottle of Prosecco tonight? My husband is working late so I knew I’d have to do dinner, bath and bedtime alone. Surely I’d deserve a drink? But what if something happened and I’d need my wits about me? Reluctantly, I decided against putting the Prosecco in the freezer when I got in. But I still can’t stop thinking about that bottle in the cupboard…
I don’t mean to imply you drive me to drink, my Noah. Really, I don’t mean that at all.