Here in Lithuania, Father’s Day is always on the first Sunday of June, which means it could be anywhere from the 1st-7th. Children’s Day, however, is always on June 1, so there is a chance, although it didn’t happen this year, that they will fall on the same day. But this year, on May 31, Monki was very excited for Children’s Day because, as she rightfully points out she is “a children” and so expects presents and wonderful things on this day.
So, on June 1, she came bounding into our room bright and early (and since this is Lithuania, far north of the equator, it gets very bright very early), waking me up (Rasa can sleep through almost anything) and letting me know her feet were telling her she needed to get ready for the goodness to come. And yes, she did get a present and we had special lunch and overall it was a great day for her (“Best Children’s Day ever!” is a direct quote).
Thing is, she also expects these things for other people on their day. And she’s willing to go to great lengths to make that happen. Especially if she’s involved and gets something out of it as well.
Of course, since Father’s Day is on a Sunday, we were able to make a whole weekend out of it. Our Weekend started early on Saturday as Rasa had booked us into a Daddy/Child event through Edulandas*, an educational camp focusing on STEM and physical activities. This one had the theme of “My Dad is My Hero,” and was loosely based around a Batman motif. There were two group times and we had chosen the second, 11:15am. Being us, Rasa drove and we got there early but still had to wait because the first group was running late. No big deal.
Eventually, the first group finished up and we went in. Monki was probably the youngest there, considering it was supposed to be for 6-12 year olds and she won’t hit that bottom threshold for another 6 weeks or so. Again, no big deal. At least not yet. Naturally, I was the only dad who didn’t speak Lithuanian, so that was also a stumbling block, but at least I knew to expect it and wasn’t expecting it to be a problem. It mostly wasn’t. But the first thing we did was a little “get to know you” style game where the parents had to guess how the kids would answer and the kids did the same for the dads. We both did okay, but I don’t think Monki quite understood the concept. She did have fun answering the questions though.
When that was done, the next thing was what, I think, she was most excited about. We built a “robot” car, which, when it was finished, could be controlled by an iPad app. For her, it was similar to building LEGO, following “constructions” to get it all together. The difference here was that instead of bricks, which connected to each other, the pieces in this particular kit used “rivets,” connector pieces that snapped through holes to attach the pieces together. Sometimes, when the pieces wouldn’t connect easily, I noticed that her frustration levels were a bit high. If she couldn’t get something on the first try, she would get angry and we’d have to stop and have a chat to talk about her attitudes and how she just needed to focus to do it properly.
We did finish, finally (and not last) and were able to connect our car with the app to drive it around the track which had been laid out on the ground. After playing for a few minutes, there was a short race, where all of the cars lined up and had to go in a straight line a short distance, turn around, and go back to the start. Not very complicated but again, Monki’s frustration levels got a workout. When another car would bump into hers (the controls weren’t very sensitive and were also a bit backwards) she would complain about how they “made her lose.” Losing is a very big deal for her at the moment. When we play games at home, she always has the choice to play by the real rules or by “Monki Rules.” Monki Rules being the ones which let her win. She knows they’re not the real rules and not how you play the game, but at this point, winning is more important for her. I figure we have until she’s 6, in July, to let this continue. There are a number of behaviors in her life which she has designated as changing when she turns 6. I think, for her, 6 is a demarcation point. She’s already lost her first tooth, a definite rite of passage, but 6 is when she starts to feel like a grown-up. That’s when she starts first grade, when a number of age-restricted games and toys become available to her, and when she feels like she can do things by herself. I look forward to 6, too.
But with the race finished, we moved on to the second part of the activities for the class: Judo.
It started off well enough, with some basic exercises and stretching, which was fine. We ran around the little classroom area, jumping and clapping hands, similar to what we do at home during what we call “Deep Gnee Bends,” which are exercises we do to help Monki when she needs to poop. The instructors then brought out a padded mat and the kids did somersaults and rolls, which they all liked. For me, it started to get a little strange when the instructor, in his full gi, wanted the kids to do headstands. If this is something you’ve never done before, it can be a bit frustrating to try and accomplish it, especially with so many kids, not enough room on the mat, and only dads to hold them up. Then the Judo started. The instructor started showing the kids how to do flips and takedowns, asking the dads to act as sparring partners and again, nowhere near enough room on the mat for everyone, so people were getting thrown around on the hard floor. This was the point where Monki kinda checked out of the whole thing. She had really liked the science and tech stuff, but now was “out of breath” and just didn’t want to participate. Add in the fact that we were running long (same as the first group) and were already a half-hour past our original stopping time with still more to go. Monki wanted to get to more science and when I explained there wasn’t any, we decided it was probably best for us to just go, which we did.
Leaving there, Monki assured Rasa she had a great time but now we were hungry so it was off to “Old McDonald’s Cafe” for lunch.
At lunch, Rasa mentioned that while waiting for us to finish, she had read there was a big Kake Make** festival going on at Akropolis, one of our two big malls. Kake Make is a kids’ book character, kind of like Ramona the Pest (at least that’s how I’m understanding it). She stars in a number of storybooks that all have a moral or lesson (and yes, we have the full set) as well as educational books like how to tell time or deal with strong emotions. We all decided that might be fun, so away we went for the second part of the day.
Here, Monki was able to get her picture taken with various Kake Make characters and participate in a few creative activities, like getting her face painted, experimenting with dry ice and making a flower pot, complete with soil and a seed. That last one was in conjunction with a Kake Make book about gardening, which we bought because the author was there and signing copies. From there, it was time to go home and rest a bit. It had been a long day already.
Sunday, actual Father’s Day, started when Monki came into the bedroom checking if we were awake and if I was ready for my surprise. I was.
I got a beautiful handmade card and a big hug and kiss, which, honestly, is the best way to start any day. Of course, after Saturday’s extensive fun, we weren’t sure what we wanted to do on Sunday. There weren’t any good movies playing and honestly, going to the mall wasn’t anything that sounded like fun anyway. Rasa thought about going to a park for a walk in nature but I suggested we head out to the Botanical Gardens, which is a favorite spot and since Rasa’s a student, Monki is little and I work for the university, doesn’t cost all that much for entrance.
So off we went, ready to spend a couple of hours exploring the flowers and gardens. Monki had a great time running ahead of us, scaring the ducks and marveling at the fish swimming in one of the many ponds. In fact, the ponds and water areas were the big highlight this visit, not counting the discovery of a little pop-up cafe which served cotton candy. Monki did end up, at one point, with a stick of bubble gum flavored cotton candy which, as it was consumed, proceeded to turn her lips and teeth an alarming shade of blue. She was in heaven!
We also saw frogs inflating their throats to make noise and communicate with other frogs across the pond, and we went down a path we’d never gone down before, leading to an area not as neatly manicured as the rest of the gardens. Amidst the overgrown grasses and dandelion fields were also the remains of an old defensive fort and some more ponds.
Leaving the Gardens, we ended up back at McDonald’s for lunch (so rare to even have it once, let alone twice in two days, but this is pretty much our allotment for the summer) and then back to the car wash and back home, where Rasa decided she wanted to finish cleaning the car’s insides. Monki and I had gone up to our flat, which is on the 4th floor, but Rasa suggested Monki come back down to play with her soap bubbles and sidewalk chalk. This was the point we did something we’d never done before – we let her walk down the stairs by herself. I stood outside the door to our apartment and watched her down and out the front door and Rasa was waiting for her to come around the corner, so there was never a point, really, where she was out of sight, but for Monki it was a huge step. Literally. She was so proud of herself for being able to do this that she even said, out loud, to Rasa on Sunday night that “maybe, just maybe, she would be able to go up to her classroom by herself on Monday morning.” What makes this such a huge deal is that when the school year started, she not only wouldn’t go up by herself, she wouldn’t do it without crying. Slowly, she’s gotten over the crying part, but the idea of going up by herself had never entered the picture…until now. So the positives in this context are huge.
She ended up going back and forth, between the car and apartment a couple of times, even trying to come up with excuses to go up or down by herself. In the end, she didn’t go up to the classroom by herself, but I still count it as a victory. She’s said that next year, when she’s 6 (that mythical, magical 6th birthday rears its head again, huh?) and in first grade, she’ll definitely go by herself, but just the fact she’s suggesting it now makes me happy. I don’t care that this is the last week of the school year.
When they were done cleaning the car, everyone came back upstairs and we finished off Father’s Day weekend by watching a movie and getting ready for the week ahead. All in all, a wonderful weekend.
And now here we are on Monday morning and I’m writing this up. Honestly, it feels good since I haven’t really written much of anything since the year started and now it’s almost half over. So just the idea of getting words down feels like a big win for me. And I’ve got some new fiction ideas to work on, and trips to plan which, I know, will include some blog post write-ups so, fingers crossed, I’ll get my word count up in the second half of the year.
*I discovered them through Comic-Con Baltics, which always has a great, interactive area for kids.
** pronounced Kah-keh Mah-Keh