There are times when I make motherhood a lot harder than it needs to be. This usually presents itself in the way I overload our calendar with obligations and commitments that I end up regretting when the time arrives. I wake up dazed and drained from a night of bed-hopping and bad dreams, and Mama just wants to stay home; my calendar says otherwise. I hit the floor, send a quick “running late” text, and throw us together. We fulfill our scheduled day of “fun” and before the good-byes are said, I have somehow committed to a future day of “fun” that seems like an awesome idea until it doesn’t. It’s a sickness.
This past weekend was no different. It was St. Patrick’s Day, and my husband was on a boys’ weekend binge-watching basketball and trying to relive his twenties, an annual experiment which results in a growing look of disappointment every year when he returns on Sunday afternoon. While he’s away, the weekend widows and I schedule a get-together with the kids. Why should the boys have all the fun?
This year, our girlfriend had guest passes to the local public museum and invited us to tag along. We were supposed to meet in the city at 10:30. I sent multiple texts that morning delaying my arrival and eventually turned up at 11:15. Not a full hour behind, so I was doing better than normal.
Our other girlfriend, who has one baby just over a year, was awaiting our arrival. She looked great – well-rested, cute outfit, amazing hair. I looked haggard, sporting my typical off-center bun dry-shampooed into place, a borrowed scarf and ripped jeans. I’m always in ripped jeans, though. It’s my attempt to relive my twenties.
We fudged our way through the ticket gate, my girlfriend claiming most of the children as hers so she could use her annual family pass while the guest passes covered the remaining adults. I’m sure they didn’t believe us, but no one questions three women surrounded by six children.
The day started out easily enough. The kids gasped at the giant whale skeleton hanging from the ceiling in the museum’s main walkway. We zig-zagged through the first floor and made our way to the carousel where we all got to sit and enjoy three minutes of going in circles. We ran into my kids’ pediatrician who wondered aloud, “Are you here by yourself with all three?” Oh, no, don’t be silly. We actually have three others to keep track of, too.
Following the carousel, the kids ran down the hallway and up the flight of stairs to explore the rest of the building. I called to mine as they neared the top. “Too far, boys!” They slowed and waited for me to reach them before continuing on.
“Is mine with them?” called my friend from the bottom of the stairs, dragging a stroller up the steps with her baby clutched to her chest. Hmmmmmm……
“I don’t see her.” I snagged the boys and ran ahead to find the missing kiddo. I finally spotted the curious little red-head gazing at a picture at the top of the stairs.
“We’ve got her!” First crisis averted. Okay, time to start counting six heads instead of three. I am constantly counting: one, two, three, all day long. Are all my boys accounted for? Yup. One, two, three. Today, it was six.
Next up, a room with a giant maze. This should be fun. The older ones immediately took off through the cluster of canvas walls and metal poles, twists and turns. I lost them within the first ten seconds and spent the remaining twenty minutes wandering around calling their names. Time for bathroom breaks, but not all at once, of course. One by one. The other moms and I took turns escorting the little ones to and from the facilities while the remaining adults watched the ones left behind.
“I’ve got the big one! You have the two littles?”
“I’ve got the baby! You have the other five?” and so on and so forth.
We eventually made it to the third floor, a taxidermist’s dream filled with every form of Midwestern wildlife. My kids were in heaven, jetting back and forth in awe of each new species, stuffed and sound-effected. The moms and I sat for a few minutes to attempt a distracted conversation.
The kids started melting down, and it was time to wrap it up. We’d been wandering for an hour and a half, and that’s about all you get with six kids five and under. Was this honestly worth it?
We hauled the kids back to the cars, stopping on the wrong floor and delaying an elevator full of other families while we herded the children back through the doors and up another level. I left the parking garage first and pulled into an empty lot across the street to wait for my girlfriend.
Two minutes passed. Five minutes. Ten. What was taking so long? I called her.
“I am 25 cents short, and the garage won’t let me out.” I started laughing. We had to work for our fun today.
“I have a quarter. Stay there, and I’ll turn around and run it up to you.” I pulled a u-ey and parked my vehicle on top of the sidewalk in front of the garage. I turned on my hazards, locked the truck and ran up the ramp to save my friend, quarter in hand. Second crisis averted.
We pulled off at a liquor store because that’s what tired moms do, and my girlfriend ran in for some Irish beer to celebrate the holiday and our survival. 15 minutes later, she returned empty-handed.
“Fail,” she mouthed to me and threw her hands in the air before climbing back into her car. We would not be defeated. There’s always another liquor store. If we could get six children safely through a three-floor museum, we could find a six pack.
We did and returned back to her house to make lunch. I cracked a beer. She fed the baby while I hit the kitchen. Pizza would have been a smarter option, but I had insisted on cooking for us – healthy salads and gourmet grilled cheese for the moms, fruit and macaroni for the kids. It took an hour. I’m an idiot.
Children ran from room to room, dragging toys with them throughout the house. Four of them pooped: one in a diaper, two in the potty, one in their underwear. You can’t win them all.
By the time we finished cleaning up lunch, my girlfriend and I had still not spoken a complete sentence to one another, and the kids were overdue for naps. But, oh no, not yet! Not on our day of fun! We had promised them cookies, homemade cookies that still needed to be rolled out, cut, baked, and frosted. What was wrong with us?
We gathered the kids around the table, dusted it with flour, and handed out rolling pins and shamrock shaped cutters. The kids made cookie after cookie, laughing and showing us each new creation, all the while stuffing raw dough in their mouths. The cookies baked, not quite long enough because we were kind of over it by this point. We let the kids frost a few, shove them in their faces, and it was time to go.
It was four o’clock, and none of my boys had napped. They hadn’t eaten lunch until 2:00 and had gorged themselves on cookie dough all afternoon. It would be an interesting evening.
We arrived home and piled on the couch to watch t.v. and shut down. My kids were cranky and tears were shed over minuscule offenses. I tried to referee their battles through half-closed eye lids. Dinner didn’t come to fruition until 8:00 when my kids are usually sound asleep, but not tonight.
The boys finally quieted down around 9:30 or so, and during the bedtime prayer, my middle son thanked God for “the museum and the big whale skeleton and the cookies we cut out and put frostin’ on and eat.” I called my girlfriend the next morning to share this with her and thank her for the invitation. We both reflected on the chaos of the previous day and how stressful our subsequent evenings had been.
“Maybe next time we order pizza.”
“Maybe next time we bake the cookies ahead of time.”
“Maybe next time we pick the museum or the cookies.”
“Maybe next time we stay in our pajamas and don’t do any of those things.”
We laughed, both knowing we would find ourselves in the same situation again because we had just determined there would be a next time. Maybe we would skip the homemade cookies, maybe we would skip the struggle of dragging all those babies into public, but probably not. I heard my little man whisper out his gratitude for our day of “fun” into the nighttime air, and all was right again. I scribbled a note into my calendar for the following month. I had grown accustomed to my sickness.