The Law of ‘The Land’

Posted on January 27, 2011 by Jeff

The Kerr family is a big fan of the Mall of America.  Even I, 32 year old-white-suburban-male, have most of the big mall memorized.  Our children are annual pass holders to “The Park”, which was formerly known as Camp Snoopy until contract negotiations with the Peanuts Gang went south.

I wish I was a marketing guy for the Mall of America where I would be in charge of coming up with a new name for ‘Camp Snoopy’ and all I’d have to do is say… “Um… how ‘bout “The Park”.  “Brilliant!” other’s would say… “That’s why we pay you the big bucks.”

I will now talk to you about “The Park” and how I feel we as the visitor can improve everyone’s overall experience with only a couple minor behavior modifications.

The first offender is Parents at the Airplane Ride.  The Airplane ride is a kid’s ride that goes round and round, two kids per plane.  The cool part for kids is that they can control how high the plane flies by pulling back on the big stick.  Inevitably there are those small kids who are new to the ride and don’t know about the big stick.  They are content to just go round and round without flying high.  No harm done.  But the parents of these “low-fliers” get really stressed out by this, fearing a life of inferiority, and they start motioning to their kids to pull back on the stick.  With each pass of their kid’s plane the charade and facial expression intensifies, as they desperately try to get their kids to fly high.  After the plane goes by each time the parents pause the charade and try to look calm for all the other parents glancing around as if to say “My kid can totally fly high, he’s just not doing that today… he usually flies way higher than any of your kids…”

So tip number one:  Step off, parents.  Let your kids fly the plane.  All you are doing is causing your kids to miss the ride because they’re worried about you.  “Why is my mom dancing around, shooting her arms up in the air? Is she being stung by a Bee?”

Now the second is Lego Land.  This is a place where we need parents to step in a bit.  There is common sense rules that if we’d all follow, I wouldn’t have to behave like I did in the following true story…

Lego Land’s best feature is the opportunity for kids to make their own Lego cars and race them down a track against other kid’s cars.  Last month I was there with Lucy and Charlie (My 6 and 5 year olds) and they were excited to build a car.  Now, you learn pretty quickly that even though there are thousands of Lego pieces, there is a shortage of wheels, which makes it tough to build a car.  So my kids waited patiently for some other kids to be all done with their cars and unassumingly took their wheels as they left their cars behind and we built two high-quality cars.  They then went to the track to race.  Their cars ran beautifully, well balanced, straight, fast, sleek.  But my pride was soon overcome with horror as their cars reached the end of the track.  At the bottom of the track, several small hands reached in and started immediately disassembling our cars like freshly killed prey around a pack of wild hyenas.  There was a whole ‘Junior Chop Shop’ operation going on.  My sweet kids are staring from the top of the track in horror as their cars were being attacked.  They look at me and I am faced with a choice… Do I step in or ignore the situation?  I chose to become the Lego-Cop.  “Part Lego, Part Man… All Cop”.  I swooped in and firmly stated… “Hey! Those aren’t your cars” and I snatched them back from the firm grip of the offending 5 year olds, not at all worried about all the other parents who were now giving ME the dirty looks like I was the one behaving unreasonably.

So I had to go through the routine of car protection with each race as the appetite for wheels became more extreme.  Eventually one of the hyena’s mom’s came up and snatched Charlie’s car.  And I (not wanting to behave irrationally) calmly stated… “um… I think that’s my son’s car”.  And she quipped back “My daughter wants to try it, can’t she borrow it for a couple races???”  I said “Sure, why not?”  (not wanting to be an overreacting parent)  So little Susie raced Charlie’s car.  She won of course.  I was looking around at everyone giving them the look of “Sure Susie won, but she totally used Charlie’s car… which I built.”

Well another little boy wanted to try this.  So he picked up Lucy’s car and I said “do you want to try this car for a race?”  and he nodded.  So little Tommy walked away, handed Lucy’s car to his dad and they both started taking it apart making their own car!  Lucy looked at me with teary eyes as if to say “Dad, why did you give my car to that boy?  Do you love him more than me?”

I realized I had been duped.  But I knew this was a teachable moment for her. So I knelt down, looked my daughter in the eye, wiped away her tears and softly whispered in her ear… “Keep an eye on the kid who took your car and when he races it, you grab it.”

She smirked. We hugged. She got her car back.  ‘Take that Timmy… oh and you look silly flying your airplane so low to the ground.’