We all have moments where we are not our best at parenting. Often times, a simple decision can lead to a devastation that is far worse than you could have imagined. There are some days I feel like I did a good job, the kids are all in bed asleep, we had fun, the house is clean and I am still standing. Those days it is good to just drop the mic and walk out, carried like a champion on the shoulders of imaginary moms everywhere. But on a lot of days, I get it wrong, and I mean, not the I-gave-them-cake-for-breakfast wrong, but really, really wrong. Today I am bringing to you the story of another “Mom Fail” where a simple decision to walk to a friends house, ended in disaster.
Disclaimer: Whilst these stories have some great discomfort for both mom and child, no one was harmed in the writing of this post, and we have come out the other side and are friends and healthy, although professional counseling in the future may be required on both sides.
The Journey Home
Ok, get this. I went to a two-week christian sports camp in Missouri every year, for for five years, starting in 7th grade. The camp is called Kanakuk Kanakomo and every summer they have thousands of kids come through several different camps all summer long. Every year, with no prior planning, a girl named Tricia from Kansas, was in my cabin. Naturally, we were buddies every year. But that was before the free flowing usage of emails and Facebook, so we lost touch through High School graduation, college, marriage, moving and 13 years of life. When Facebook came into being, we did find each other but we still lived in different states and entirely separate lives.
When we moved to our current home in Nashville, I was amazed to find out that Tricia had moved into a house three months prior in the same neighborhood about a half mile away. Not only that, but she was married to a pastor (just like me) and had three boys four and under (just like me) and was pregnant (yup.) due two months before me. Crazy. God is pretty amazing, right?
Well naturally, we decided to get all of our boys together to play. And as is usually an added bonus, Tricia and I got to catch up too. On our first playdate in April, she walked to our house with her boys. And I thought that was a pretty bold move seeing as how she was 6 months pregnant and had all those little guys with her. So when we set up another playdate to happen at her house, I thought that the boys and I should walk too.
It was early May and the mornings were only in the 70’s. So, aside from the usual hazards of walking with two four-year-olds and a two-year-old, the trip to Lisa’s house was just fine. The boys all played together, jumping on things, throwing toys down stairs, reading and coloring. Throughout the morning, the heat and humidity decided to intensify and the temp creeped up into the 80’s. It was too hot to play outdoors for an extended period, but we let the boys go outside for a few minutes to run around and reach the right amount of exhaustion that would ensure a good nap time. Of course, being as pregnant as we were, Tricia and I stayed inside, in the air conditioning and watched from the window.
It was almost lunchtime and thus, it was time for us to leave. Knowing how hot it had become, I was really starting to regret my choice of walking, but there was nothing for it now. Still trying to remain optimistic about my abilities to make the journey, we got our shoes on and were set to go. We said our thank yous and goodbyes and before I knew it, Eli had taken off running down the stairs of the front porch, down the driveway and almost clear out of the cul-de-sac. Reuben was not far behind him. Silas was walking sulkily due to the oppressively hot atmosphere that we had walked out into. I was torn between the need to stop my twin sons from running off into the street and not being able to abandon my two-year-old or drag him down steps any faster than his little feet could carry him.
I broke out my “mom voice” and yelled at Eli to stop and come back. We caught up with each other at the corner and had a family heart-to-heart about running away from Mommy and being extra careful next to roads. We had been through this many times before, but talks on the topic of caution often need repeating in order to stick in the mind of a four-year-old. By the time, I had completed my lecture, we were all feeling the blazing sun and hot-wet-towel-in-my-lungs humidity. The boys all wanted a drink from my “bubba”, which is a giant water cup I bought at Walmart to help me to stay hydrated during pregnancy. I had been sipping on it all morning and was grateful I had it with me and that it was still half full. We all took a drink.
Now all together, briefed in safety, and watered, we started to walk home. Reuben wanted to hold my hand. I had my heavy purse on one shoulder, holding Reuben’s sweaty hand with my left and my bubba with my right hand. We took two steps and had to stop. Silas refused to go on unless he was holding my hand, just like Reuben. My whole hand, not just a finger. So I switched my bubba to the other hand, Reuben held my index finger on my left hand, sharing the rest of my hand with the bubba, and then Silas was able to hold ALL of my right hand. At this point sweat was starting to drip down my back.
We took another two steps. “It’s too hot, Mama!” Eli sits down in the shade of a small tree, not much taller than me, and decides he will stay there. “Come on, Eli! We are on a mission! An adventure to get home! We must be brave and make it to the next stopping point, otherwise we will melt!” With a renewed sense of purpose, he stands up and wants to take my hand. I ask Silas if he would be willing to share a few fingers with Eli. He refuses. I tell Eli he can hold onto my pocket and this seems to satisfy for the time being.
After a few more steps, I sensed that we had another problem on our hands. That day, I was wearing a pair of pants—'trousers' for my UK friends—that were hand-me-down maternity wear from a friend-of-mine, that I got when I was pregnant with Silas. So these suckers had been through several pregnancies already and were a little difficult to keep from slipping down, especially, now that I had my son pulling on them from the pocket and my hands full of little fingers. With every step, my pants would slip down just a little more. This meant that periodically, I had to stop, release everyone’s hands, pull up my pants, and then reconnect to the boys again.
If only I had decided to wear a dress…
We take a few more slow steps down the road. Our steps are more like shuffles as everyone is so close together, we can’t take actual steps. I’m fanned out like an upside-down peacock with little boys for feathers and we are moving at a snail’s pace. I look back, we’ve only gone about 50 feet from the corner of the cul-de-sac.
Really?!?! We’re never going to make it home.
“I want some waaaater.” Silas moans. I look up ahead and see the stop sign at the end of the block. “Just hold on until we get to the stop sign. If we can make it, we will all stop and have a drink.” We continue to shuffle one painful, hot step at a time. Eventually, we make it to the stop sign. We all take a drink from the bubba. Silas takes a few big gulps and I realize that we are down to a quarter full. Everyone slightly revived, we decide to press on to the next stopping point, all boys holding some piece of my fingers. With some protest from Silas who still wants ALL of my hand, we cross the street to start the next block.
On the other side, I ask Eli if he would be the leader and we could follow him to the next stopping point, thus freeing up my hand for Silas to have it in entirety and giving Eli another sense of purpose. I encourage him to stay with us and not run ahead, reminding him of our conversation that took place minutes before. Eli walked in front of us, but with the intensity of the heat, his pace was slower than we were walking before.
Every few seconds, I have to encourage him to keep walking so I don’t step on his heels and so that we reach home before dark. Desperate, I try to think of something to inspire us, to keep us going. UREKA! I remembered I had a few M&M’s in my purse. Behold, a new incentive to move us down the road. Praise Jesus!
“When we make it to that corner, we will all get an M&M!” Immediately, the kids chime in with what color they would like and our pace quickens a very tiny bit. We make it to the corner. I set everything down, hike up my pants, and sit on a small retaining wall to distribute the goods. I look in my purse and see that I only have seven M&M’s, all the wrong colors of course. I give each boy one M&M, and one small sip of water. Still being 15 minutes from home, I realize that I have to ration our supplies if we are going to make it at all.
We sat there a moment longer in a sweaty haze. Suddenly, a giant beetle flew down the front of my shirt! I scream and jump up, pulling down my t-shirt, revealing my bra, and batting frantically at my chest to hopefully get the little guy out of there. And of course, at the same time, a truck with two work men pull up to the stop sign across the street and see the whole show.
Great. Sweaty pregnant lady flashes strangers in front of her small children. Awesome.
Embarrassed and beetle gone, I sat back down and waited for the truck to drive on, and then we commenced back down the flaming sidewalk towards the park, the halfway point. We cross the street and shuffle to the park. We stop under the shade of a small tree again, and refuel. The bubba is empty now and we are out of M&Ms. Knowing that we had no more provisions for the rest of the journey, I decided to lead us all in a family cheer. We all put our hands in the middle, “We can do it! On three...one, two three, WE CAN DO IT!” I stand up again, pull up my pants as much as possible, wipe my sweaty palms on my shirt and instruct my hand holding sons to do the same, and we continue to shuffle down the sidewalk to the next corner.
We cross the road, and have to make a decision, as we do every time we walk home from the park in our neighborhood. Do we turn right, and go up on the sidewalk by the houses or do we go straight and cross the bridge over the creek? I didn’t care. It was the same distance either way. I just wanted to keep walking, but the twins had selected their preferences. Eli wanted to go right and Reuben wanted to go straight. Very quickly, both became more entrenched in their own opinions and if I overrode either one of them, we would have a major tantrum on our hands by at least one child and maybe one hot, hormonal, mama. We were at an impasse. Not to mention all of us were hungry, hot, thirsty, and tired.
We sat down on the grassy knoll of our crossroads and I asked each boy their reasons for wanting to take a particular path, trying to keep my patience even as the sun beat down on us, as this stopping point had no small tree to give us shade. Eli said his path was shorter, Reuben wanted to cross the bridge. Both excellent points. I told them to figure it out with each other, and fast because we needed to get home. We sat there for a quiet moment, Silas leaning on me sweaty and moaning. Then Reuben said, “Let’s go Eli’s way because I asked Jesus and that is what he told me to do.”
“OK!! Let’s do it!” I was shocked. I was fully expecting to have a stalemate on our hands and was trying to think of bribes to get them to relinquish their strong stance. But Praise Jesus and thank you Reuben for listening to Him! We all got up and shuffled to the right, up the hill towards the sidewalk in front of the houses. There was a bit of complaining from each boy but all I could say is, “We are almost there! Just keep going!” I encouraged them with tales of ice water and popsicles upon our return. We said each house number out loud as we passed, slowly counting up by twos. Reuben and Eli were running now, seeing our front door had given them hope.
I continued to shuffle along with Silas, and met them at the door. I was so eager to end this scorching, half-hour journey, and so frustrated with myself that I could have avoided it all by simply piling the kids in the car.
Shaking, I got out my key, opened up the house and we all stumbled in, greeted by the glorious air conditioning. I lay down on the floor, just to feel the cold tile against my skin. The kids, feeling revived by the cool, asked, “Mommy, what’s for lunch?”