I’m lucky to have had a lot of family support this summer when my husband went out of town for work. Between my mom and her new fiancee (omg, a step-dad…?! A topic for another post) and my in-laws, I’ve had minimal stretches of time home alone with both kids.
Last weekend, I decided I’d put on my Big Girl Panties and slog through a Thursday-Monday stretch on my own. Hoo, boy.
We did fine on Thursday night. Friday, by the grace of some wonderful higher power, we got new backyard neighbors, and the husband of the family has been a friend of mine for 12 years, so our kiddos kept each other blissfully entertained while we shot the shit on their patio.
Saturday I decided to really go all out — my city was having its annual music and BBQ festival, complete with a kids art tent and inflatables, so I arranged to meet my friend Stacey and her 3-year-old daughter there. We planned to rendezvous around 2:30pm, which would mean Peanut needed to go down for nap around 12pm instead of 12:30 or 1pm, her Saturday norm.
The first of my delusions to be shattered was the idea that I could force a schedule onto my headstrong toddler. I allotted 30 minutes for lunch, which would have been fine with anyone other than Peanut. She’s going through a phase where she refuses to sit in her booster, so she perches on her knees in the regular-sized chair, and climbs down about 42,000 times. She has the attention span of a gnat. Forty-five minutes later, we were nowhere near done, and I was frustrated. I finally lost my shit and said, “Peanut, oh my God, I cannot take any more whining!”
She looked at me sternly. “Don’t say oh my god, Mommy. Say ‘Oh my peas.'”
My daughter, the Language Police. Touché.
I finally got her down for nap at 1pm, a full hour later than planned. She slept soundly until 3:30pm, when I opened her bedroom door to gently wake her so we could meet Stacey sometime this year.
(Sidenote: Squeak chose that day to nap from 10:30am until 12:30pm, which meant he was wide awake and rarin’ to go when Peanut went down for nap… so much for me getting a nap… sigh.)
I quickly packed the diaper bag with snacks, water bottles, sun hats, and changes of clothes in case of accidents, then slopped sunscreen on both kids. We were off! I could do this! I was doing it!
We met up with Stacey and her little one, along with her husband Armando, and started through the kids’ art tent. The tent made for some good shade, but the humidity was at 175% and the temp was rapidly climbing into the upper 80s. Sweat dripped down from my chest and made a classy wet spot on my shirt. I attempted to wrangle Squeak in the stroller and help Peanut with her crafts, but it wasn’t working, and in such cramped quarters, I was pissing off others who were trying to squeeze past me. Luckily Stacey jumped in and helped, as did Armando. Thank goodness for friends!
At one craft table, Peanut needed help making a button with her name on it. I tried to scribble her name on the small piece of paper, but holding Squeak in one arm, I couldn’t pin down the paper to write on it. A gracious stranger saw me struggling. “Can I hold him for you?” he offered, and I happily accepted. He wasn’t a creeper, just a dad with his own kids (kids far past the holding stage). Peanut got her button and was happy.
After some coloring at another table, I sighed with relief when we exited the art tent and headed to the petting zoo and inflatables, where things were a little more reasonable space-wise.
But my adventure was far from over. Peanut wanted to pet the goats, but strollers were forbidden. My wallet and phone were in the stroller, and unhooking the diaper bag from the handle was a chore… What the hell was I going to do? Stacey and Armando were already in line at an inflatable, far ahead of us. Luck struck a second time when a mom friend near the petting zoo, Leann, offered to watch Squeak while I dashed inside with Peanut. Score! We quickly petted every goat and pig (plus one creepy llama) and retrieved Squeak. I showered her with thank yous, but she waved them off. “It’s no big deal,” she said. “Plus I got a little baby fix, but this one does make my crazy ovaries want another baby!” she laughed.
Finally we made it to the inflatables. Peanut was fearless and ready to take on the most daunting inflatable they had, an obstacle course. After a short wait in line, I lifted her in and she conquered it quickly. “More!” she demanded, and we queued up again.
The third time through, she didn’t come out so quickly. I waited and watched the end of the course, looking for her pigtails at the top of the slide, but they never popped up. I started to panic. Stacey’s daughter, who’d gone in at the same time as Peanut, had come out three minutes earlier. But still no sign of my kid.
Stacey offered to watch Squeak, whose eyelids were drooping as he sat in the stroller, while I ran around the back of the inflatable to look for my toddler. I spotted her in a passageway on the back side, and as soon as she saw me, her face abruptly changed to an “Oh shit I’m busted” expression, and she took off in the opposite direction. I yelled for her to come back, but she rounded a corner and I lost sight of her again.
I went to the front and asked the doorkeeper if I could go in to retrieve my child. She nodded and I kicked off my sandals and dove in. I found her climbing the ladder to the exit slide, and she spotted me immediately. “No, Mommy! Go away!” she shouted, her little brow furrowed. I told her too bad, and pushed her to the top and then made sure she slid down and out. I gave her a stern talking-to when we were putting our shoes back on.
Stacey and Armando said their farewells, as their daughter had skipped nap and was nearing meltdown point (she hit it just a few yards away, and they stood patiently smiling as she writhed on the grass, protesting their imminent departure). Squeak had decided he was too cool to nap, so I took my crew of miscreants to the nursing area so I could feed Squeak. Peanut was very well-behaved while I nursed, so as a reward, I told her she could do one more inflatable before we headed home.
She picked the obstacle course again, but this time I explained to her why it was important to come back out quickly. “No other kids can go in until you come out, so it’s not nice to stay inside playing,” I explained. She looked at me intently, nodding.
“Okay Mommy,” she said earnestly. “I come out.”
We waited in line, with Squeak back in the stroller sporting a full tummy, and when we got to the front, she kicked off her shoes and climbed in. I stepped aside where I could see the slide, and waited.
I was fuming. THAT LITTLE SHIT.
This time, I didn’t have anyone to watch Squeak while I went looking for Peanut. So I waited some more. Still no sign of her.
Finally my anger turned to panic. What if she’d fallen down into one of the cracks and was suffocating? What if a big bully had kicked her and she fell off the top of the slide and she was crying for me?
I looked around frantically. Halfway down the line was a woman I worked with… about seven years ago. Lisa and I were Facebook friends though, so I was pretty sure she’d help me in a pinch. I darted over to her.
“Hey! How are you? I have a really big favor to ask, could you watch Squeak here for me while I try to find my kid? She is in there and isn’t coming out,” I blurted, all in one big breath. Lisa nodded and said of course she could help.
I took off running down the side of the inflatable, peeking inside at every crevice. At the back I found a dad, also searching for an absconded toddler. “Looking for yours, too?” I asked. He nodded and rolled his eyes. “Mine is a girl, striped pants. Have you seen her?” I asked him.
“No, but I’ll keep an eye out. Mine is plaid shorts, orange T-shirt, boy,” he reported.
“Got it. I’ll holler if I see him,” and I ducked under a guy wire to check the far side. No sign of her anywhere. I looked in all the little windows and through all the cracks, and nothing. I went back around to the front in case she’d come out. Nothing there either.
But not only were no kids exiting, no kids had exited recently, either. Nobody putting their shoes on, no kiddos coming down the slide. A bunch of kids had gone in, and they were all still inside. The doorkeeper was visibly annoyed, as were the parents and kids waiting in line, unable to enter.
Now I really started to freak out. I checked in with Lisa quickly, then took off to do another lap. At the back, I ran into the Searching Dad again. “I found her!” he shouted, pointing. “She’s right over here, she’s got a whole big group of them with her.”
I ran to the side and spotted her, squeezing between two columns, with a group of about six kids with her. My kid, the rebel ringleader. FML.
“Peanut! GET OVER HERE RIGHT NOW!” I shouted. She spotted me and ran back the way she came, pushing her little compadres in front of her. But my patience was exhausted. With some sort of Herculean talent I doubt I could conjure again if I tried, I leaped over the side wall of the inflatable, grabbed Peanut by the hips, and hoisted her out over the side wall, dodging arms and legs as she kicked and screamed.
We walked around to the entrance/exit area. “I found her,” I told the doorkeeper. “Sorry about that, she’s out now.” She looked a little confused as to how the kid had come out without using the exit.
Peanut continued to squirm and fight, screaming through clenched teeth with balled-up little fists. “NO NO NO NO NO I NO WANNA GO I NO WANNA GO!” she shouted. I walked over to Lisa and Squeak, thanking Lisa, rolling my eyes comically at Peanut: “Toddlers, huh?” She laughed; she had one of her own, though hers was standing next to her very well-behaved at the moment.
As we walked away, I told the wildly tantruming Peanut that she could lay on the grass and throw a fit, or she could calm down and I would get her some water. It took a few minutes, but she composed herself, wiped her snotty nose on my shirt, and opted for the drink. We sat in the shade while she backwashed into a bottle of water and I ate a walking taco, reflecting on the life choices that had brought me to this point.
(Kidding, kidding. I just sat there wishing I was closer to the beer tent, and wishing it was socially acceptable to wheel a stroller in there and order a giant cold one.)
We made it home sweaty but alive a half-hour later. All evening, Peanut kept recounting our little ordeal.
“I go in bouncy house,” she said seriously. Then her face would grow sad, her brow furrowed. “Mommy take me out,” she said, “and I sad.”
I smiled and hugged her, and told her I loved her. “Yes, Mommy had to take you out, because you didn’t have your listening ears on. When Mommy says to do something, you need to do it, okay?”
Eyes wide and serious, she’d nod, and I’d kiss her nose. Then she’d move on to the next distraction.
Parenting Moment #1,339: survived.
But as I put the kids to bed that night and enjoyed my 90 minutes of peace (with a pint of Ben & Jerry’s in hand and Jeopardy on the DVR), I realized that I had only survived the afternoon thanks to my village. First Stacey and Armando, who helped with crafts and pushing the stroller. The random dad who held Squeak for me in the art tent. Leann, at the petting zoo. And Lisa, during the ‘Peanut Search and Rescue Mission.’ I would never have made it without the extra hands.
At the beginning of the weekend, I’d resolved to put on my Big Girl Panties and go it alone. But you can’t really do it alone. We all need help. We all need our village. I’m happy that mine was there when I needed it.
Photo Credit: Anna Hurley via I’m About to Pitch a Fit