Balancing my life with my kids is the hardest thing I’ve ever had to do. I always have big plans, but the girls… well, they’re little and require littler plans. Otherwise we run head first into a wall. Figuratively and literally.
This weekend, I decided that maybe we just needed a simple day. We’d go to the “yellow playground.” I don’t mean to gloat, but my kids have wicked mad naming skills. There’s yellow playground, blue playground, and their favorite movie, “Sparkle Pig.” Restaurants are known by what they serve best — Mac n Cheese, Sugar Apples, and Fork and Knife. Adults ask my kids what their stuffed dog is called, and they’re like “Can’t you see it’s a damn doggie?” Except if they do know the word “damn” — and trust me, they do — they know better than to say it aloud. Singing it happily, as you’re looking for your “damn toy” when you think your mom can’t hear, that’s another story.
Anyways, the yellow playground is the mythical “faraway (less than a mile) playground with the yellow slide. I figured its lure would be strong enough to get Squirrel to ride her new balance bike while I ran and pushed Goose in the stroller. Squirrel had been commuting on her new bike for the past week, so I figured she could do a short run with me.
I had never been more wrong. We didn’t even get across the street before the temper tantrum erupted. All I wanted to do was run. All Squirrel wanted to do was sit. We were at an impasse. I’d like to say I was understanding, but I was not.
So what do you do in instances like this, where you’ve had a really crappy week, you’re parenting by yourself, and just this one thing –this one simple thing that would make you feel human again– is denied to you by your own progeny?
We took deep breaths. We talked, and cried, and finally, because Squirrel wanted to go as slow as molasses, I said we’d go for a hike. Squirrel was excited about the prospect of getting a stick (They’re hard to come by in the city, so also somewhat mythical). Goose just wanted to sleep, but not in her bed. Done.
It was slow. Getting there required a car — in which Goose slept. It was the exact opposite of what I wanted. But the kids thought it was amazing.
I showed them Queen Anne’s lace and how its leaves looked like a carrot. I taught them what poison ivy looked like (or “Boys an’ Ivy” if you ask Squirrel). We touched moss, saw a spider, discovered what a cicada sounds like, and stepped over logs. I wondered how bad a mom I was for not dousing my kids in hormone-disrupting bug repellent. We cried when we dropped our stuffed animals in the mud. Twice. And we laughed maniacally when our older sister slipped on rocks (I’m beginning to wonder about Goose and her macabre humor. Or maybe it’s just her sleep deprived state). We thought every nut was an acorn (note to self, the kids need more nature) and we found some cool feathers. We also learned about lichen, why trees fall, who lives in that hole, why you don’t pick up broken beer bottles, glaciers, and insects that make egg sacks out of tree leaves. And of course there were snacks.
We probably didn’t go further down the path than a quarter mile. And while I could clearly hear the cars on the road that we came in on the entire time, there was plenty of “Where’s the car?” “I think we’re lost Mama!” “Where is everybody else, Mama? Are you sure we’re not lost?” These are never questions asked of Dad!
But in the end, after stopping at a nearby bookstore for new bedtime stories, we made it home, where the kids fell asleep with only one extra request for hugs after I left the room. And while I didn’t get that run in, I more than made up for it by carrying Goose, looking for that magic stick for Squirrel, and lugging all the snacks there and back.