Check this out:
I literally saw this scene flash before my eyes on Saturday. Well, not all of it. I saw the part where the kid douses his dad with French fries and takes off running. I really and truly saw that part in my mind and at the same time could (almost) see myself and the boys as if I were watching us. Strange, and yet it allowed me to (almost) laugh, even at the time.
So here's how it happened. From the beginning.
Jared had to catch up on some studying on Saturday, so after Micah's nap I took the boys to Colonial Williamsburg by myself. It was a beautiful day, and we were all itching to go outside. Sounds perfect, right?
We pretty much went straight to the Governor's Palace gardens. This is Luke's favorite destination and, as it is fenced in and usually uncrowded, it is also the best place to let Micah run around-- or so I thought. But pretty much as soon as we got inside Luke wanted a snack and Micah wanted to jump into the water. I can juggle that okay. I gave Luke his snack and told him to stay on the bench and I chased Micah around. But then Luke finished his snack and he wanted to go one direction and Micah another. Still not a problem. Luke is old enough to go where I tell him, so Micah picked the direction this time. Then we went to the maze for awhile. It was fun!
Then I realized that Micah needed a change just about the time that Luke's potty dance started. We went to our favorite restroom (also located in the palace gardens), but it was closed! This doesn't seem like a catastrophe, but if you think that, you don't know Luke. To get him to pee in a new place for the first time is an ORDEAL. And he has peed there before. We had already done the whole melt down. Now where do we go? I trudged everybody about 1/2 mile down the street to another family restroom that I know. At least I figured that while Luke threw his tantrum I would be able to keep Micah out of the toilet since it was just a one room fix-all. And there would be no witnesses. But it was a no go. Luke would NOT go. I didn't want to ruin the day, so I just put him in a pull-up and called it good. Then I changed Micah and off we went again.
You're probably thinking, "When does this story get good?"
We just went a quick skip-hop-and-a-jump across the street by the courthouse. There is a big lawn there that has a large metal circle in it. I think the circle is actually a giant covering over a road or something, but regardless it is loud when one jumps on it, and Luke and Micah love it. Luke calls it the drum. So Luke was running round and round on it. Micah was climbing on and off and getting just a little muddy in the process. It had rained the night before, so all around the "drum" was a shallow mud puddle. Luke took a break from running to come get his bag of pretzels again. And then went right back to running with his pretzels. He was laughing. Micah was laughing. And then all hell broke loose...
Luke fell and the pretzels spilled. Everywhere. Sliding across the drum, falling into the mud. And Luke started SCREAMING. I was trying to talk to him and calm him down. I ran to the diaper bag, pulled out a ziploc bag (gotta keep a couple on hand), and started scooping up the pretzel mess. Micah, for his part, was having a grand old time eating pretzels out of the mud. In fact he sat right down and just went for it. Luke was upset by this for some reason, and bent down to stop Micah, and he knelt in the mud by accident. There was a slightly-bigger-than-a-quarter-sized spot of mud on Luke's knee. SCREAM!!!! He was trying to rip his pants off. He was yelling. Micah got scared and started crying. I am still trying to clean up the pretzels and talk calmly to Luke. And keep his pants on. And then, one of these people who work at Colonial Williamsburg (Picture someone like this:)
decides that NOW would be the perfect time to come over and talk to my son in a TERRIBLE, FAKE, STUPID, WORSE-THAN-MY-OWN (and that is saying something!) BRITTISH accent.
"I say, Little Sir. Whatever is the matter?" (REALLY?! BY ALL THAT IS DECENT AND GOOD IN THIS WORLD, I ASK YOU: WHY?!)
Luke took one look at her, screamed in her face, and took off running down the street. REALLY, REALLY FAST.
And, for just a split second, this is where the move plays in my mind. I am frozen for just that split second... until I realize that I need to stop that kid.
I'm yelling, "STOP! STOP, LUKE!" and it's doing no good. I scoop up Micah and take off running.
And Colonial Helpfulness yells after me, "Your pretzels!" (AGAIN I ASK: REALLY?!)
I catch Luke. I get my wits about me. I tell him to take a deep breath "like the doctor," and start chanting our special mantra. "I'm okay. Luke, say 'I'm okay.'" He tries. I tell him that I have an extra pair of pants in the diaper bag. Does he want to put on the new pants? He says yes. (Still crying.) I tell him that he needs to calm down, stop crying. We are going to finish picking up the pretzels, then we're going to walk back to the bathroom and change his pants. Can he do that? He stops crying.
And that's when I look up and see Helpfulness standing just a few feet away holding our bag of pretzels. She starts walking over. (In my head: "Oh no. Oh no. Just go away. Just go away.") She says, still in her terrible accent (I guess she heard something about the bathroom), "Look, Little Sir! That white building just over there is the bathroom." Luke, luckily, just gives her a dirty look but doesn't scream or run away. I just tell him to come on, let's go get the stroller. And as we head across the street she calls, "That's a mighty fine name, Luke! My brother is called Luke!" Oh, Girl! Please, PLEASE just stop. Just STOP!
We make it across the street. Luke gets new pants. I leave Micah in his muddy ones because (Thank Goodness!) he doesn't care. And we head on home.
Honestly, when I thought about and hoped for parenthood I pictured scenes like the happy, blissful skipping in the movie from above. That looks like fun, doesn't it? The crazy thing is that my moments of "parental reality", in their own crazy way, are also interesting. Not fun, really. But they make good stories. But the real thing is-- that is to say, why I didn't imagine them in all my dreaming and planning-- is that they're just impossible to imagine before they happen. I mean, who would ever put together the words pretzel, mud, colonial actor, and disaster? How could I EVER have anticipated that? So, like I said, these scenes are impossible to imagine. And probably terrifying to witness as they're unfolding.
So I wonder: What do people see when they look at me?
I hope at times they can see the blissful skipping. Those moments DO happen, even pretty regularly. I KNOW they sometimes see the terrifying tantrums. Those scenes tend to draw attention. And those who witness our "special moments" probably swear off parenthood forever or condemn me for my assumed lack of parenting skills. I know that I thought (before I experienced parenthood for myself), "My child would never be allowed to act like that!" And while I should probably not think about it at all and probably not care about what anybody else is thinking or wondering, a part of me does. And a part of me REALLY hopes that some veteran mom in the Colonial Williamsburg audience was thinking to herself, "Way to go, Mommy. Way to keep your cool! You handled that beautifully." Because, given the situation, I think I did.