In the annals of our family history, last week will not be remembered as one of our best. In fact, it was one long stretch of horribleness that involved a lot of throw-up, several late-night fever spikes, and a traumatic encounter with a bunch of inept phlebotomists that left my son with two bruised arms and me with Kill Bill–style revenge fantasies in which I give those needle-jabbing b*tches a taste of their own medicine. Topping it all off was a screwup—perpetrated by Yours Truly—of such magnitude that I will never again be able to watch Yo Gabba Gabba without bursting into tears.
But while I continue to suffer over all the hurts my son endured, he is over it. Like, completely. So why do I keep torturing myself when the only negative thing he seems to recall about that week was getting zapped by static electricity on the playground slide?
One: hormones. I normally hate this “excuse,” but I am nine-and-a-half freaking months pregnant and my emotions are now entirely controlled by the demonic chemicals that are coursing through my bloated body.
Two: I made the mistake of trying to have something turn out the way I’d planned it.
But let me back up a bit.
I’d been feeling a little sentimental about my son’s last days as an only child, and I wanted to make the most of the time before his little brother’s arrival. So when I saw that Yo Gabba Gabba Live was on tour and making a stop in New Jersey, I knew I’d found the perfect thing.
For those of you who are asking yourselves, “What the heck is ‘Yo Gabba Gabba’?”, it is a children’s show on Nickelodeon that features an orange spandex–clad guy named DJ Lance Rock and five magical toys/creatures that come to life in order to sing, dance, have adventures, and learn life lessons.
I’m not crazy about the creatures—especially Muno, who looks so much like a giant dildo that I have to believe the TV executives were completely baked when they approved it—but overall the show is kind of great. Mostly because it is so cunningly geared toward parents. It’s packed with super-hip musical guests like The Flaming Lips and Bootsy Collins, and people like Sarah Silverman and Andy Samberg are always stopping by for a visit.
Truth be told, my husband is probably a bigger fan of Yo Gabba Gabba than my son is these days (Junior’s current obsession is Paw Patrol, a show about a cadre of canine do-gooders). But the little guy often asks to watch YouTube videos of some of his favorite Yo Gabba Gabba hits before bed, like “Out in Nature” by Band of Horses, and “Balloons” by The Postmarks. And when he gets frustrated, he soothes himself by singing a classic Yo Gabba Gabba song that urges kids to “keep trying, keep trying, don’t give up, don’t give up.”
The concert was happening the following Saturday. We bought the tickets and immediately began talking it up to the kiddo. He was psyched. Every so often he would randomly exclaim, “I’m going to see Yo Gabba Gabba Live!” Oh, what a wonderful family outing it would be. When all of us fell ill in the days that followed—a nasty stomach bug knocked out my husband and me simultaneously, and mysterious night fevers had the little guy screaming in his sleep—we held on to the promise of the awesome theater-going experience that awaited us. We were going to sing and dance together as a family and buy T-shirts and make memories that we would cherish for the rest of our damn lives.
And then the big day was here. Our tickets hadn’t come in the mail, so we figured they were being held at the box office. We printed our receipt to be on the safe side and set off on the hour-long drive to Red Bank, NJ. Everything went perfectly: the little guy dropped off to sleep within minutes, there was no traffic, and we didn’t get lost. We pulled up in front of The Count Basie Theater with a half hour to spare.
The first thing we noticed was how charming the theater is. It’s a landmarked building that dates back to 1926, when it was built to accommodate “moving pictures, vaudeville, and dramatic shows.” The second thing we noticed was that it looked… closed.
“I guess Yo Gabba Gabba doesn’t draw the big crowds these days,” I said. “There’s no sign for the show or anything,” said my husband. We fell silent. Then I handed him the folded ticket receipt. “You’d better check the date.”
In the backseat, our son continued to doze. My husband unfolded the paper. November 6, he read. Today was November 8.
It took mere seconds for us to turn on each other. Yes, I’m the one who initially got the date wrong and passed along the misinformation to my husband. But surely he could have noticed when he bought the tickets. Of course, we both had failed to properly read the enormous ad for the show, which I had found in the pages of a local family magazine and left splayed on our kitchen table for the last week.
Either way, this gaffe put a serious dent in my argument, carefully honed over our eight years together, that I am always right.
The guilt I felt was literally nauseating. What were we going to tell the little guy when he woke up? It’s one thing when you are single and selfish and in your twenties, and you do stupid things like ignore parking tickets (me) or habitually miss flights home to visit your family (my husband)—but we are parents, for god’s sake. We just cannot screw up like this anymore. We had to figure out some other fun activity, fast.
We decided on the Liberty Science Center. It was an hour’s drive back in the other direction, but our son was still asleep and we were desperate. It was a grim ride.
The little guy woke up the second we pulled into the parking lot and immediately dashed whatever hopes we’d harbored that he would somehow magically forget all about the concert. The first words out of his mouth were: “Are we at the show?”
He took the news rather well, considering. After some mild protesting and half-hearted whining, he seemed to accept that there would be no Yo Gabba Gabba Live today. Unfortunately, the Liberty Science Center didn’t exactly fill the void left by DJ Lance and friends. But really, nothing short of Lighting McQueen coming to life and and taking our little guy on a magical drive to Radiator Springs could have made up for it.
And so we dragged ourselves through four floors of exhibits that left all three of us decidedly unimpressed. I was particularly turned off by an exhibit called the “Infection Connection.” Really, the whole damn place was one big Infection Connection, crawling with runny-nosed children putting their boogery hands all over the museum’s “Exploration Stations.”
Meanwhile, the only exhibit that interested the little guy was a yellow race car—conveniently the one object in the whole museum that you are not allowed to touch. Angry that he was unable to get his hands on the car, yet unwilling to leave, the kiddo spent a good half hour moping around the exhibit, while my husband and I tried to interest him in other things. Finally, we left.
I continued to seethe as he ate his ice cream, my sweet little guy sharing every other bite with me, and as I drove us back home. There, we snuggled up together on the couch and watched an episode of Paw Patrol. I had failed to come through on the concert, and I had helped hold him down while a bunch of morons dug around in his arms with needles, but he was still happy to snuggle with me, his imperfect mommy.
I am grateful for his willingness to forgive and forget; I know it won’t always be this simple. And in the meantime, I will add the events of last week to the file for his future therapist.