I have always tried to sort out my feelings and experiences with words. Putting a pen to paper came naturally to me, even when I was a young child. It’s evolved over the years, and these days I spend more time in front of a keyboard than I do with a journal open in front of me, but the sentiment is the same. I find clarity and understanding by writing things down.
I sometimes find myself searching for words to explain what it means to be a parent.
I can’t do it. I’m not talented enough with words to explain the love I have for my children – when I try, it always seems hokey. And then, parenting is so much more than just love.
Sometimes I have an experience with the kids that really reminds me of what parenting is all about.
Today, it got up to a balmy 50 degrees in Texas (I know, brrrr). After days (weeks?) of being cooped up inside, I decided to take the kids – and the dog – for a walk.
Now, technically, Snoopy isn’t supposed to be going for walks. He got neutered on Monday, and he’s supposed to be “taking it easy.” But…he’s a puppy. One of those really energetic, out-of-control puppies you might see on The Dog Whisperer because he won’t stop knocking small children down and eating their hair. So basically, he’s got a lot of energy to spare. And sitting around for two days was turning him into a whiny, trouble-making mess.
With Snoopy, Claire, Jack, and my cough (which is wretched enough to count as its own entity), I headed outdoors. A quick walk around the block, I told myself. Just enough to take the edge off of everyone.
I was coughing. So, so hard. Doubled over, having to stop and clutch at my ribs (99% sure they’re bruised, and that really, really hurts), and trying not to inhale the cold air that was stabbing me in the lungs, I realized it was probably not a great idea to take everyone for a walk at this time.
And then you know how you commit to something, and immediately regret it, but it’s too late because you committed to it?
Yeah. That happened. Jack asked if we could go to the park and I said “Okay.”
WHY! Why, why, why?! It was a mistake, and I knew it immediately. I didn’t have drinks for the kids. I hadn’t made Claire use the potty before we left. I didn’t have the stroller, and when I don’t have the stroller someone always cries and begs to be held and asks why I didn’t bring the stroller even though they never, ever want to ride in the stroller.
But I said yes. And with a five-year-old jumping up and down and saying “Yippee!!” and a two-year-old falling behind because her new pants wouldn’t stay up and a puppy bouncing at the end of the leash, we turned down the road towards the park.
We made it there okay. No issues, no tears. No dog pooping on the sidewalk, as they are inclined to do when you don’t bring a baggie with you to clean up after them.
Jack ran ahead and climbed onto the play structure. Claire and I lagged behind (those darn pants), and as soon as we reached Jack, I sat down on the bench, soaking in the weak late-winter sun.
“I have to go potty,” said Claire, holding up her pants with one hand and wiping a runny nose with the other.
I looked at her. “Really? Can you wait?”
“No. I have to go potty. Now. I have to go potty, I have to go potty, I have to go potty!”
I looked at Jack at the top of the slide. So much energy to burn, so happy to be outside. I looked around me. The park was empty, not a soul in sight. And not a bathroom in sight, either. :::SIGH:::
“Can you wait until we get home? Don’t you want to play?” I asked again, hoping the answer would change. That she didn’t really have to go, but might be wooed by the twisty slide she so loves to climb that was just feet away from her.
“No! I need to go potty…”. And she did a little dance to prove it.
Below us, in a little dip of land, were a cluster of trees. Away from the road but still in view of the park, it was looking like my best option. Snoopy jumped up on me, barking at Jack, pulling and twisting and weaving around my legs. Home was a fifteen minute walk away – practically an eternity to a two-year-old with a full bladder.
I said a bad word.
“Okay, Claire? We are going to pee in the trees.”
She smiled. “Okay!” She was game. I wasn’t, but there was no turning back.
I couldn’t tie Snoopy to the bench. He’d bark and draw attention if anyone was walking by. And what if he escaped? So, I dragged him with us. Tried to step on his leash with my foot to keep him from jumping on Claire as I picked her up and pulled her pants down the best I could. “Go potty! Please, hurry, go potty!” I pleaded.
She laughed. Snoopy jumped on me, nearly knocking me over, and started trying to lick the puddle of pee at my feet (dogs are gross, y’all). With one hand, I shoved Snoopy back (over, and over, and over again) as he relentlessly tried to climb over me to get to Claire, who I was now trying to dress with my other hand.
There was a wet spot on the waistband of her pants. Maybe the size of a quarter, if that.
“NOOO!” she screamed. “My pants are wet!” and she hit at my hands, trying to pull her pants back down, because OMG WET PANTS. I rolled the waistband down several times so that she couldn’t feel it and tried to carry her back to the park. “No! I want to go home! I want to go home! My pants are wet.”
And so we stood, Claire refusing to be coaxed back to the park, Jack melting down because I told him we had to go home, and Snoopy jumping and down like a crazed beast, the leash in his mouth, his had shaking violently in his effort to destroy it.
With some serious bribery (“Who wants to watch Daniel Tiger on TV when we get home?”), we started home. Whose idea was this, anyway?
The sun was sinking below the rooftops and we were walking in the shade. It was cold. Claire ripped her coat off and refused to put it back on. Jack ran around a corner up ahead and hid behind a car and I screamed at him to get back where I could see him while pulling Claire away from the flowers she was picking from someone’s front yard, only to notice a couple staring at me from their front porch…clearly entertained by the spectacle, I assume.
After what seemed like a (very cold) eternity, we made it home.
I fumbled around in my pocket for my keys while Jack rang the doorbell over and over again, and Claire stood at the bottom of the driveway.
“Mom!” she said. “My pants are dry! We can go to the park now!”
And that, my friends…is parenting for you.