You end up doing activities with them that you never did before.
Everything you do with them turns into a colossal time suck.
Because of most parents’ work schedules, this collision of stuff you would normally not be doing, and the often frenetic pace you have to maintain in order to accomplish everything, usually manifests itself on the weekends. You go to bed on Friday night (often after spending all week working at the behest of your boss and dreaming of winning the Mega Millions lottery) knowing that come Saturday morning, you are going to have to hit the ground running and you might not get a break until you finally pass out Sunday night.
This past weekend was like that. A combination of a Chinese fire drill and the Ringling Bros. Circus all rolled into one non-stop Super Bowl of kid-related activity that seemed like it all took place on a Greyhound bus with no brakes driven by two of the Three Stooges.
Those two being my daughters, Maddo and Little Sis.
Saturday, 6 a.m.
With that run of footsteps, Maddo was awake and in our bedroom, waking up me, and soon enough my wife, The Thoroughly Awesome Ms. Crums. My wife uttered a few expletives, and I tried to give Maddo my iPad so she could entertain herself with some “Go Diego Go!” via Netflix. This didn’t really take with Maddo as she was bent on me getting up to take her for donuts and donut holes. I won’t go too much into this experience, as I have described it before here.
But, like I said, everything involving a kid also involves time. And it’s always more time than you initially expect. This Saturday donut run was no different than anything else; although she first got me up at 6, sure enough, it was nearly 7 by the time I got myself, and Maddo, dressed and out the door.
And this evaporation of time just went on from there.
Of course, by the time we got home, my wife and Little Sis were both up and caterwauling around the house, wondering what was for breakfast. Also, by this time, Maddo had already choked down three donut holes, and their glazed sweetness was doing its trick on her mental state. She was bouncing off the walls, clamoring for the same “Dora The Explorer” episodes she has seen 182 times already and generally tormenting her sister.
We whipped through some Cream of Wheat–easily the world’s most-underrated breakfast food–got ourselves semi-cleaned up, pulled Maddo down from the fireplace mantel, and got the little ankle-biters dressed to go out for Maddo’s latest horse riding lesson.
All of the above took place over four hours. And by the time we hit the stables it felt like four months.
Taking, no making your kids learn how to ride a horse is one of those things, like owning a speedboat or brewing your own beer, that sounds better in theory than it does in practice.
As any parent knows, nothing has a shorter attention span than a three-year-old. This is why basements across America are littered with toys that kids just had to have because their parents made the mistake of going down the Spongebob Squarepants aisle at Toys R Us. Today’s “favorite” thing often quickly becomes tomorrow’s toe-stubbing obstacle.
But feeling like something that was attractive, yet now seems like a millstone, is not just a characteristic of pre-schoolers. It’s also why my wife and I have gone from getting excited about taking Maddo to go riding to…well, feeling dread might be too strong a term, but let’s just say that come Friday night, when we realize we have to swing into gear early Saturday to get Maddo to the stable, we look at each other with a feeling of “How many more lessons does she have?”
Every lesson has become a combination of shyness, excitement, crying, elation, frustration, not listening to the instructor and, occasionally, actually doing some riding on the back of Raquel, the Welsh pony that has borne the brunt of Maddo’s bronco busting. We have also gone through four different young ladies as instructors, so just as Maddo gets used to one girl, along comes someone else to help her brush Raquel and get all the gear on what has to be the most-laconic equine in the state. Staff turnover hasn’t made it easy on Maddo’s psyche when it, literally, comes to getting in the saddle.
This particular Saturday’s lesson was no different. There was a new instructor, Victoria, and a lot fear on the part of Maddo. I should note that Victoria is going into her junior year of college and its probably 100 pounds soaking wet and about as scary as a bag of marshmallows. We ended up spending about 10 minutes of the 30-minute lesson telling her that if she didn’t listen to Victoria, we were going to leave. Which, at the time, was exactly what Maddo wanted.
She eventually calmed down enough to get on Raquel’s back and take about three laps around the indoor track. Back at Raquel’s pen, Maddo kicked up a bunch of sawdust and generally ran around like she didn’t know where she was. Victoria got the next girl ready for her lesson, and we were on our way to a birthday party.
Maddo’s lesson ended at 11. The party was at noon. There was no point in going home because we figured that doing so would make us late for the shindig. Plus, the party was as a park we had never been to before and we decided the extra time couldn’t hurt in finding it. Also, if there is anything anyone knows about me it’s that I hate being late. I really can’t stand being late for something, or for anyone to be late when I am expecting them. I’d rather be 15 minutes early for an event than even one second late.
So, of course, it took us less time than we imagined, and we were the first ones to arrive. We became “those people”—The ones who show up for your party when you are still drying off from a shower or putting the tablecloth on the dinner table. Yeah, that was us.
Oh, there is one more thing I haven’t mentioned yet. We had caravanned to the party in two cars. While the party was a noon, my wife had a hair appointment at 2, in another town about a half-hour away. No problem, we thought. She would stick around for an hour and a half and then go do her thing. I would stay with the girls and let them enjoy the festivities for a while.
This plan fell apart almost as soon as we got to the party.
Being the first ones there, my wife and I volunteered our services to help set up things. Of course, this flew in the face of the need to chase after Maddo and Little Sis, who had begun tearing around the tables, spilling snacks and, generally, making mayhem with one of the birthday boys. (The other, who was turning one, slept peacefully in the carrying mechanism his mother wore with the ease of a T-shirt. He didn’t make a peep.)
Before we knew it, Maddo had smacked her face on a pillar, Little Sis was screaming like a wild banshee for no reason in particular, and we were desperate for some kind of reprieve. That came in the form of the nearby pond.
Yes, I know, putting your two non-swimming kids in a body of water is Lesson No. 1 in the book of good parenting, right? Well, desperate times call for desperate measures, so it was into the water we went.
Luckily, by this time, a couple of more kids had arrived and our daughters had some friends to play with. And by “play” I mean, “splash maniacally, run into each other, and generally try their damnedest to drown in less than two feet of water.”
It is truly amazing how quickly, and without a shred of fear, a 22-month-old can go from the sea level of shoreline to…well, I don’t know how deep a fathom is, but Little Sis nearly found the toddler-depth equivalent of it before I grabbed her by the back of her swimsuit. Maddo was operating at her own standard whirlpool level of zaniness and would have scared off a great white shark if we had been in the ocean.
It was mayhem. Kids sprayed water with weapons that the Birmingham, Ala. cops would have found useful against civil rights marchers back in 1962. Maddo would be at my wife’s feet one second and the next, she was splashing like the next Missy Franklin. Memories of my days from high school basketball camp came flooding back as I played a zone defense against the girls getting too far out in the water that would have made Gary “The Glove” Payton proud. Within 15 minutes, we were exhausted.
And the party still hadn’t really started.
Soon enough, it was time for my wife to go, and for me to call it a day, too. The girls were so amped up from a combination of playing in the pond and excitement over all the potential goodies that there was no way I could have handled them both. Normally, I’m not afraid of dealing with both of them by myself. But on this day, I just knew one of them would have taken off running at some point. And then, it would only be a matter of time before some park authority started blaring over the loudspeakers about how he had a little girl who was missing her daddy.
We said our goodbyes, pried Maddo away from the buckets of snacks, loaded up a screaming Little Sis into her stroller, and trundled off to my truck. By this time, it was 1:30 in the afternoon. Seven-and-half hours of the day had gone by, basically, the equivalent of a full day at the office.
My wife laid some rubber and peeled out of the parking lot, excited about her hair appointment. But she also knew that she had a mini-vacation of at least three hours ahead of her that wouldn’t involve one of her kids crying, dropping stuff, asking repeatedly for juice and snacks or needing a diaper change.
Me? I had to get the girls some lunch–bless you, McDonald’s Happy Meal–and get them home without them falling asleep so that when we got home I could put them down for a nap and enjoy a little free time to myself by watching that afternoon’s Seattle Mariners game.
My day was far from over.