As of late, I have been bringing Penguin to a place in the mall to help him shake off the winter doldrums.  It’s really childcentric, which is great for children, but many of the parents walk away with a slight twitch. I don’t because I can handle otherworldly amounts of over-the-top stimulation. That is the gift of ADHD.

This place is what Tokyo would look like if Tokyo was allowed to encapsulate every surface with very soft and puffy, iridescent pink, yellow, blue and green padding. They play a musical selection that seems to be a collection of every kid song ever recorded, but sped up and then cranked up to eleven. The room overall is large, extremely well-lit and very bright white. It’s almost jarring.

Since I am the furthest thing from a curmudgeon, I can go there and have a good time with Penguin. I don’t mind incredibly childcentric things (hello, Disney World vacation in about three years) and I can tune out all but the most horrific aural assaults. Since I had full knowledge of this place, I thought it would be tremendously funny to bring curmudgeonly Papa Bird along and not really tell him what he was in for. First, he hates the mall. I wouldn’t say it’s my favorite place on earth, but I am quite ambivalent  about its existence. Second, the bright lights and the LOUD, CHEERFUL, SMILE NOW songs. I was giggling internally the entire drive over there because I just knew that the place was going to make him want to scream.  Internally, of course.

Sure enough, as we were walking towards the play room and the recognition started to dawn that we were, in fact, heading towards the bright, white, loud space, I saw his face tighten. I am pretty sure a look of fear crossed his eyes for a second there. Since he does not like to disappoint Penguin, he entered, wearing what could be best described as a plastered half-smile. Penguin and I promptly ran off, leaving Papa Bird and Owl to stare befuddled about the place. I would sneak peaks back now and then and he would be wearing that same look. I know him well, so the internal monologue accompanying that look goes a little something like this: “Dear LORD, this place is too much. The music, I think it will drive me crazy. I don’t want Penguin to feel bad since he seems to love it here, so keep smiling. Man alive, this is miserable. Why does it have to be so bright in here? Who are all these people here? Why are they even at this mall? I hate the mall. I hate consumerism. That’s such a problem in this country. We work ourselves into the grave to buy crap that we don’t need. I want a simple life. I want to drop out, grow some organic vegetables and sit in the sun. I hate the cold. Oh, smile again. There he is. He’s so beautiful. Children are wonderful. I love my family.  I don’t know how she can handle this place.

We stayed playing for about an hour an a half with Papa Bird that day. Owl even got in on the fun since everything is padded to the hilt and he can walk around everywhere and not harm himself. He enjoyed toddling about. Papa Bird made it all the way until the last five minutes, when he could just take it no more and walked around the mall a bit with Owl while I was getting Penguin ready to leave.  It was a fun, family outing when all was said and done.

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