We Were That Family

It’s summer. Not technically, but the pool at the Y is now open so really, it’s summer.

We’ve been twice. The first time I took all three kids by myself, to meet my friend Angel and her daughters, Zoey and Mya.

It was so much easier than last year. The kids played in the children’s pool for more than an hour. I sat for much of the time. And talked to Angel. James went down the water slide over and over and over. Sophie dipped her naked Barbie in and out of the pool. Owen, well Owen spent much of the time on my lap but still, when he did get in the water, he had fun.

I envisioned a glorious summer made up of afternoons at the pool, in the sun, happy.

So naturally our next visit to the Y was a disaster.

Andy and I took all three kids Sunday. Everything was great—until we had to leave.

All three lost it. We immediately stopped, got down on our knees at their level and sternly told them how inappropriate their behavior was and how there were going to be consequences as soon as we got home.

James listened to us and stopped.

Sophie (Sophie! Who is 5!) and Owen drew stares.

It was if their bodies had been taken over by demons. They screamed and kicked and carried on in a way we have never seen before. I took Owen. Andy took Sophie. There was no talking to them at this point. We carried them, our heads down and lips tight.

The walk to gather our towels and then exit the Y was so long. So very long. It’s not an exaggeration to say that everyone took notice. Some people had half-smiles on their faces, with I’ve-been-there looks. Some had frowns, with why-can’t-you-control-your-children looks. Some were bewildered, with dear-God-is-that-what-it’s-like-to-have-kids looks.

I wanted to disappear. I still get red-faced thinking about.

Once home, once calm, we had a long discussion about leaving, kicking, hitting, screaming and appropriate behavior. Owen and Sophie lost all dessert and treats for three days (which, for them, is a very. big. deal.). And we’ve told them that from now on we’re not going to put up with even a hint of whining when it’s time to leave—and that if something even close to that happens again, stricter consequences will occur.

So far, everyone has been incredibly well-behaved today. Sweet, even. So much so that I’m half-tempted to drag them all to the pool just to say, “See! They’re not always possessed by demons! Most of the time they’re actually wonderful, kind, incredibly-pleasant-to-be-with children!”

Tell me: Worst public tantrum (if only to make me feel better).

“Temper tantrums, however fun they may be to throw, rarely solve whatever problem is causing them.” —Lemony Snicket

Those. Stairs.

Getting out the door with all three children is tough, especially in cold weather. I refill the diaper bag. I check diapers. I remind Sophie to try to go potty. Again. And again. And again. I find six socks. I put on six socks. I find six shoes. I put on six shoes. I find three coats. I put on three coats. Two out of the three want to zip them on their own. I unzip. One can’t zip on his own, gets frustrated and starts to scream. While I’m solving that matter, another one takes off his shoes and socks. While I’m putting those shoes and socks back on, I’m informed that someone has a stinky diaper.

With the wrong attitude, it can be maddening.

But it’s oh-so-much easier than it used to be. Now I can leave pretty much regardless of the time, without thinking about breast milk and pumping and bottles and bibs and feeding times. Now, if they’re hungry, I just pack snacks. And water bottles. And, of course, my favorite Trader Joe’s organic lollipops for any unexpected meltdowns.

But then there’s the run to the car, and by run I mean they love to run the square of sidewalk/walkway/driveway in the front of our house over and over and over until I’m using my yelling voice and hoping the neighbors don’t think less of me. And then everyone wants to climb in “all by myself I CAN DO IT! all by myself.” And then everyone wants to buckle “all by myself I CAN DO IT! all by myself.” (But they can’t.) And then there are tears because someone wants to push the button so the sliding door closes and then opens but they are already buckled in. And then there are tears because someone else wants the interior lights off even though I explain, again and again, that they turn off automatically when all the doors are shut. And then, when I figure out how to manually turn off all the interior lights regardless of the status of the doors, there are tears because someone else wants them on.

Again, with the wrong attitude, it can be maddening.

But I see a hint of light. Sophie, for example, is in a booster seat. Often, she buckles and unbuckles herself. This brought me such unexpected joy. To think that someday all my children may climb in the van and buckle themselves in …

Even as things continue to get easier, though, something changes. Like where we put on shoes and socks. Lately the boys have insisted that we climb to the top of the stairs for this activity.

I learned early on I must choose my battles. This one, I don’t fight. It’s not worth it, when we’re trying to get out the door. I don’t know why they insist on it, every time. Again, again, with the wrong attitude, it can be maddening. With the right one, I like to think of it as extra exercise. Extra exercise, with a heavy sigh.

“My mom used to say it doesn’t matter how many kids you have … because one kid’ll take up 100% of your time so more kids can’t possibly take up more than 100% of your time.” —Karen Brown