I ventured to Grand Haven this week to drop off my photos for the library show and while we were out there we decided to make an afternoon of it and go to a park, get lunch and just explore.
It was a great day except that we’ve reached a point in the age difference of the kids that taking them out of the house together needs a committee of elders to meet on, plan and decide. I’m not always up for the challenge. And Challenge, it is.
I put the car in park at the library and it’s like Jessica can sense the freedom coming. She’s going to be allowed to walk next to me while I wrangle and hold Oliver so he doesn’t run off, all the while carrying 2 framed photographs and paperwork. Oh, and I have no idea where I’m going.
She immediately starts jumping out of her skin. It’s an art and she’s perfected it.
This might be a good time to tell you all that Jessica is not afraid of life. Nor is she afraid of strangers or being rejected. She sees it as a challenge to get the older kids to play with her and like her and she’ll walk up to ANYONE and start a conversation. Most recently there was an employee in a grocery store who was using a walker, he was younger and obviously didn’t need one because he was like a Grandpa or Grandma in Jessica’s eyes – so she asks me, right next to him why he can’t walk. He can hear, though. So I told her to ask him. He smiled at her, and then answered – he was hit by a car when he was little, just like her – and now his legs didn’t work like hers did, but he could still walk with the help of that nifty thing on wheels.
So Jessica … she’s adventurous. And by now the jumping out of her skin has reached her vocal chords and she’s squawking like a bat being eaten by a tiger. She can make that noise. I kid you not. And we’re IN the library. The place where everything is quiet. It’s a sanctuary, really. A place I consider to be like heaven because there is silence for a time. SILENCE. I digress.
Any way, I get there and follow the signs to a woman sitting at a table with a sign in sheet – I just need to fill it out and sign it for each photograph and then approve the way they plan to hang it and I can be on my way. Sounds easy. Sounds seamless. Ok, I can do that.
Put Oliver down, grab the pen and start writing as fast as I possibly can. Block out the fact that Jessica is trying out every available chair within 100 feet of us by running and launching herself onto each one, with a very loud OOOMHFF! Then she declares whether or not they’re good. The people sitting at the table next to us gives me the eye as Oliver runs off up the ramp screeching in delight because he knows in about 3 seconds mom is going to bolt after him and swoop him up again. He’s right, I do and he thinks it’s a game. A really, REALLY fun one. I know this because of his belly laughter. His loud, uncontrollable, too adorable for words belly laughter. I get more “eyes” from the library patrons, Jessica is still launching into chairs, I try to scold her into being civilized for a minute longer (a minute at all?!?!) and I keep writing like a madwoman on this sign-in sheet from hell. Name. Signature. Name of piece. Approved to hang? Email. Home Address. Sign some more. Did you double check it? Is it spelled right? DO I CARE?!?!
The woman at the table gives me a sympathy look as I start visibly sweating from the 120 seconds I’ve spent inside the library with my 2 kids, alone and unarmed with distractive tactics, she gives me the final details of the evening to come and I try to retain anything other than the fact that my kids are now, both, running up the ramp without listening to my pleading for them to stay by me. I nod and smile and then excuse myself to go fetch the Wild Things walking around and we leave.
Everyone gets back in the car and I take lots of deep breaths in and out. Lots of them. By now the kids are high on stupid. They just want to play, not sit buckled in the car for another hour as we go home so I find the courage somewhere deep down to find a park near by. I go slowly, making sure to hit all the red lights possible, I just need some recovery time.
We find The Park. The most amazing park, ever, oh my god. Jessica is hyperventilating in the back seat as the park comes into view and Oliver, catching on to the fact that something big is coming, starts to wiggle and screech in agreement. The wooden-castle park! THE WOODEN-CASTLE PARK. SCREECH. SCREAM. EXPLANATION POINT. EXPLANATION POINT! EXPLANATION POINT!!!!!!!!!!!
I still have blood sugar issues from that one time I gave birth to a 9 pound child. I’m seriously hitting myself for not eating breakfast and it being 11 am, my hands are shaky and there’s no way I can turn this car around and explain to them that mommy needs some sugar or she’ll faint.
Wait for it.
I park and through blurry vision I search the FLOOR OF MY CAR for something in the sugar department. Carbs. Old sucker. Something.
I hit the jackpot with a scone, or pieces of scone that the kids decided would be much funner to shred than actually eat. Oh you’re picturing that right, I’m eating crumbs of a scone off the seat of my car. In a parking lot of a park and my children are looking at me like I’m really THAT crazy.
Go take your birth control pill right now.
So the park. Yes, we play and it’s fun and it’s also like 90 degrees and humid out and this awesome park? Is right next to a YMCA who apparently is holding summer camps for all age groups. So the park is packed. And here’s where the age difference of the kids gets tricky. There’s no way Jessica wants to spend her time in the toddler part of the park. Mom! THERE ARE BABIES IN THERE. The big kids are over there, dangling on top of pretend castle tops and hanging like monkeys off the structure, I need to be over there. With them. Duh.
Also, here’s where the whole she doesn’t have fear thing comes into play. She doesn’t have any fear. I have to have fear for her because she has none. Jessica would most certainly walk off the park because she saw something better going on over in the soccer field, yet she wouldn’t tell me about it or even think that I might need to know where she is. So I have to be on her like white on rice when we’re in a crowded space. And Oliver? Wants to leave me, the woman who wants to limit his skill of climbing and hiding, in the dust.
So I’m chasing both kids – in different directions. I am that crazy as bat-shit woman on the playground, sweating from my bra line, running from one play structure to the next and always, ALWAYS, yelling out the names of my kids.
And by the 5th time, I know how many other kids are also named Jessica or Oliver so I can keep track of which is which and what color my kids are wearing.
WHY HAVE I NOT GOTTEN OFFERED A JOB FOR THE MILITARY TASK FORCE? I CAN KEEP TRACK OF SHIT YOU DIDN’T EVEN KNOW WAS GOING ON. THE MULTI-TASKING IS LIKE ADRENALINE ON CRACK.
Going to the park is super fun.
Then I see it. The potty dance. Jessica is dancing away and even though I’m asking her if we should find a bathroom she’s running away from me trying not to get caught but stopping mid run to dance around. The kid has to pee, lets just pee already! Don’t fight me on this, child. We’re finding the bathroom.
The bathroom that is literally 1/2 mile away.
So thats another task in which I complete and then feel like running away to a faraway land with nanny’s for free and fenced in yards and playgrounds for kids as standard.
I convince them that it’s lunch time and we need to leave. But not before they both run up the hill and roll down it 27 times. Procrastinators. I’m shaky again because I still need to eat something other than crumbs so I speed things up abit with a little tactic I like to call Defensive Parenting, bribe them. Jessica, do you want to pick where we eat? It can be ANYWHERE you want!? Oh you do? Awesome! Lets go right now so we can find out where you want to eat!!
Stellar move on my part.
Pat myself on the back.
She chooses Subway. HUGE SURPRISE.
And folks, all of that up there – all those words? ALL OF THOSE WORDS. Are for this next part. This is the story I wanted to tell you.
So subway. By now Oliver is fed up with being held. He wants to walk, he wants to interact with other people. He wants to be just like his big sister. So I’m fighting Oliver the minute we get out of the car to stay in my arms. He’s currently perfecting the back-arching technique so there was a lot of practicing that. Super fun. And Jessica is out of her mind excited about Subway that we get in there and she starts dancing in the middle of the crowded cafe to the music over head. The girl can dance. And she needs room to do it.
So I’m the lady in line with a baby fighting me in my arms and a daughter who’s livin it up in the middle of the store. There are no other children in this Subway, only men on their lunch breaks. Yes. Men. None of them care about a cute little girl dancing in the middle of their lunch – they all look away, convinced that if she doesn’t see them looking at her, she’ll just go away.
SHE’S FOUR. If you’re breathing in the same room as her, she’s going to try to get your attention. Please put us all out of the misery that you are apparently suffering and look at her. She’s asking you to look at her. Just look.
It’s my turn to order, but not before I let Oliver down to wander when he systematically takes all of the chips off the rack. And chews on a few.
I want the fastest sub you can make me, do not toast it. Wrap it and throw it at me. Thank you.
Both kids are sitting when I get the drinks and then deliver the food, I have to eat something soon or it’s not going to be pretty. Oliver wants the chips that he chokes on EVERY SINGLE TIME he eats one and Jessica’s not in a sharing mood.
We’re that family in the corner. I’m pretty sure everyone can sense that I’m stressed out. Finally a few of the guys perk up and help with one thing or another – I have to run after Oliver – but there’s a nice guy distracting him for me so I can catch him. I strap him down in the highchair and we eat. Those were the most blissful 7 minutes of my entire life up to that point. Food. Kids, eating. Kids, quiet. Kids, contained.
I honestly don’t think that adding one or two kids in between ours would have made it worse. I feel like I have a brood of 12 because of the ages we’re at, and the distance between them.
And I’m tired.