Recently there was an apple festival near our house. It was advertised as family-friendly so we headed out early Saturday morning. We got the kids up, fed, and ready. We managed to get ourselves dressed as well, but didn’t grab breakfast. This was our first mistake. We loaded up a cooler bag with milk and snacks, a backpack with extra clothing, and put the double stroller into our car. The morning was chilly, just below zero, so we bundled up. It took a little longer to do all of this than expected, and the drive was about 20 minutes further than I’d calculated, so we arrived about an hour after the festival opened.
Parking was nowhere to be found. My husband was not impressed. Possibly the empty belly didn’t help the mood. We did a few loops, and I could sense his tension rising. Managing it well, he took a lot of deep breaths to relax himself.
At last we found a parking spot a few streets over from the festival, loaded the twins into the stroller, and walked over. With the sun now fully up and approaching mid-morning, the chill had seemingly evaporated, and we both got a bit sweaty. My hunger pangs were present, but the promise of a hot apple fritter was keeping me optimistic.
When we arrived at the festival, located on a bustling closed down main street, my stress levels began to rise. The place was absolutely packed. It’s not easy navigating crowds with a double stroller, and my choice of attire was just too heavy. The kids were okay, but I was anxiously looking in all directions at every shopping bag, large dog, and other stroller brushing past them, alarmingly close.
A local politician was giving out free apple crisp, which we bribed the girls with as we lumbered on in search of fritters or some sort of age-appropriate entertainment the twins. We came up to a carnival area, which included a merry-go-round, a selection of bouncy castles, a miniature train, and some games, complete with metre-tall plush toys suspended in temptation.
My husband’s face lit up. I followed him through the gates with trepidation. Loud carnival music blasted from the rides. The oversized plush seemed ominous in its scale. Children screamed as they bounced around inside castles. Screams of joy? Screams of terror? It’s hard to say. I know I saw at least one little girl weeping. Perhaps sad it was over. Perhaps with broken fingers.
This area was no less busy either. Navigating the crowds, we tried to figure out the cost to participate in these forms of entertainment. Meanwhile, we were avoiding a father putting winter boots back on his toddler, a grandma baby-wearing while also supervising what appeared to be a herd of elephants, and dozens of selfie-taking insta-moms trying to get the shot just right with the merry-go-round casually over their shoulders.
My husband noticed things were off with me. “What’s wrong?” he said. “I’m stressed,” I snapped. And then I tersely added, “I’m sorry but you got stressed finding a parking spot. I think it’s completely reasonable that this music, screaming children, and carnival rides might leave me a little tense.”
Still sweaty and nearing naptime, we decided to wrap it up and head home, anticipating the girls falling asleep the second they landed in their car seats. In retrospect, I suppose a busy street festival isn’t the ideal place for one-and-a-half year olds, but perhaps that’s just because it’s also not the ideal place for parents of one-and-a-half year olds. Especially ones who haven’t yet had an apple fritter.