This morning I had to take our dog, Mina, to the vet for a rabies shot, and since we are in the heady grasp of summer vacation, needed to take the children with me.
It was one of those things that sounded like it would be super easy, you know? Get the kids and dog in the car, scoot the mere couple miles down to the vet for a quick visit and come home. I didn't even bother asking if anyone could watch them, it would be so fast.
The kids were excited about it even. They liked the prospect of seeing Mina get a shot. Because they are a little bit evil.
But about ten minutes before we were scheduled to be there, Gabriel informed me that he had to go to the potty, then took my hand and led me to the bathroom where he proceeded to not only go, but engage me in a play-by-play of the process, spoken in proud whispers while pointing, ensuring that it took 20-30 times longer than necessary. I stood there as my baby weight seemed to increase exponentially. If we didn't have somewhere to go, I may have curled up on the tile floor.
I was trying to be a good and patient parent, but at a certain point had to remind him that the car was running with Mina inside, who was very anxious to get her shot. This helped him recommit to the cause.
When we got downstairs, however, we found Nora lying on the living room floor, one pink sandal on and the other tossed to the side. Her face was locked in an expression of utter despair and when I asked her what was wrong she explained, in between deep sighs, that she could not get her shoes on and no one would help her and she couldn't stay home alone if we left her and it was never going to get better.
I looked out at the car. It was still running, windows cracked and Mina did not appear to be dead inside or prepared to put it in gear and get the hell away from our family, forever and ever, which, honestly, I'm surprised she hasn't done yet.
What I wanted to do was tell Nora that if she couldn't get her shoes on, we would leave her there, on the floor, in her misery, and then start walking out the door as though about to do just that.
The thing about using threats as a parenting technique, however, is - no, not that it's mean, is "it's too mean" what what you thought I was going to say? - that it doesn't work. Unless you are fully prepared to follow through with the threat, and obviously, I couldn't leave Nora home alone, although she is going to be a great and very strict babysitter someday.
So, despite the fact that I was entering parental territory best described as "fully losing it, holy shit," I paused, took a breath, and said, "Listen, Nora. You're five. Gabe's only three and I've got another baby in my belly. Since you're the oldest, I need you to do things like this by yourself, and when you can't, you can ask me for help. But ask me in the right way."
She acquiesced. "Please can you help me put on my sandals," she said, pushing away the adopted whine and forcing her voice into a semblance of normalcy. I did, and we made it into the car a full two minutes before we were scheduled to arrive at the vet appointment, which went fine, except for the part where I informed the kids, when they asked, that Mina had already gotten her shot; they'd been so busy playing that they missed it. I was able to distract them from a world regret by pulling some medical literature I'd recently received from my own doctor out of my bag, along with a few crayons that just happened to be in there and letting them draw.
I'm telling this story because life can be like this a lot of the time when you have kids. Excruciatingly tedious. Physically demanding. Kind of disgusting. There are a million essays on the topic out there, lamenting the difficulties of modern parenthood while encouraging moms and dads to, nonetheless, appreciate these moments before they fade away.
I don't love the sentiment, if you want to know the truth. I mean, I'm not sure I'll savor those precious moments where Nora wouldn't put her shoes on, while moaning low and relentlessly, like some kind of world weary refugee.
What I do think, however, is that life with little kids can be a lot of fun, and fulfilling for everyone involved, at least most of the time. But you have to make conscientious choices towards that end.
For me, that involves carefully planning my time. Like, not choosing not to try and do "just a little bit of work" while home with both kids, when what will happen in reality is I'll get down to the task at hand right as Gabe decides to try and lethally maim his sister with a wooden sword. Hence #8.
It also involves doing things that both me and the kids like, not just one or the other. I've never been the type of parent to regularly get down on the floor and play with my children - it's just not in me - but I love to watch them play while digging my feet in the warm sand and listening to the waves roll in. Hence, #5.
I almost skipped writing summer goals, like I did last year. After all, I've got a baby on the way and am going to be hindered by my pregnancy somewhat this season, then by a newborn.
I think that's even more reason to make a list, though. To keep me from holing up in the air-conditioned heaven of our bedroom and watching TV shows on the iPad with a pint of ice cream.
Although, don't get me wrong. I'm going to be doing that.
Those of you who know me well have full permission to roll your eyes at #1. I realize at this point action speaks louder than words, and that my words on this subject have been nothing but false promises.
Seriously though, guys. This is the summer I do it.
- read "Ulysses"
- buy a Beyonce album.
- get the baby clothes out and organized
- go to a game, any sport
- spend an afternoon at the beach
- go to Contois Tavern
- exercise regularly
- plan a better schedule for the days I work
- go on a kid-free getaway (or two)
- have an incredible cheeseburger
- visit a CT town I've never been to before
- plan a drive to Maine with plenty of interesting stops
- go shopping with my Mom
- go for a morning walk with my Dad
- have a killer glass (or more) of wine (post-birth)
- have an amazing glass of lemonade (while pregnant)
- celebrate an engagement
- cook out at Lighthouse Point
- have dinner outside once a week
- grow an herb garden
- get my car detailed
- create a designated bank account for travel
- eat peppermint ice cream
- take a nap