Wednesday, October 30, 2013

We Never Get Anywhere On Time

Three out of five nights nowadays, the girls and I are off and running. But no matter where we are running to -- my exercise classes on Monday, Awana on the other side of town on Wednesday, or gymnastics on Thursday -- we're never on time.

I'm delighted if I get to class on Monday in time for the warm-up routine. If we make it to Awana early enough to eat with the other children, it's a bonus. On Thursday, E1 usually gets to enjoy most of her class, even if the smaller ones and I have to make a run to the store for snack food because I didn't have time to pack it.

Prompt was never my middle name, but I once managed to get where I needed to go when I needed to get there.

It was an illusion of self-control washed away on the tide of last minute potty trips, lost shoes, and cranky toddlers who weren't ready to get up and get going.

When E1 came along, we didn't have a lot of motivation to go anywhere. If I wanted to take her out, it wasn't a big deal. But I'd only been out of work eight months when she was born and for a while I was still enjoying not having to go anywhere. It was great to schlep around in old clothes and no makeup. There was so much I could get done around the house because, after all, she napped.

The arrival of E2 complicated things and for a long time I just gave up on going anywhere. Part of it, no doubt, was the fact that I was still driving the convertible and putting the babies in the back was a literal pain. I hated to drive it in nice weather with the top up, and they complained about the wind.

But Mommy had the idea that her wide open toddler would like gymnastics, so after she turned 2, we began a weekly trip to Flyers where I helped E1 while trying to keep tabs on E2. E2 did a lot of early crawling and toddling on the cushioned floor of the gymnastics studio. We were almost always on time for class.

Last year with the knowledge that E3 was en route, I traded my convertible in for an SUV with enough back seat room for three safety seats. As our fun time summer faded to fall, I also realized that two bigger girls, not to mention their grandma, would enjoy getting out and doing something just for fun once a week. Our Friday adventures were born.

Granted that first Friday was an "Oh, my gosh! It's freaking RAINING AGAIN! What am I gonna do?" What I did was take the kids to McDonald's, feed them an unhealthy lunch and join them for 45 minutes of playland. Yes, that's me, the crazy adult in the kids' playground coming down the sled with two curly haired curls in my lap and scolding your little boy for pushing one high up in the top where you can't see what's going on. (Oh, wait, that's a different story.)

But we did other things as well. We went to the Blue Ridge Music Center and listened to an old-time music jam session and hiked the trail toward Fisher Peak. Another trip took us to Rockford General Store where we had a diner style lunch and the girls drooled over the old-time candy bins and explored the remains of a historic hotel. And many weeks, when the weather took a nasty turn, we went back to McDonald's where we traded nutrition for a lot of healthy exercise.

I guess it was those weekly adventures that once again created the idea that I could do more.

This summer we took on Vacation Bible School at the Salem Fork Baptist Church where a friend of mine goes. The girls, who go with the rest of the family to Fellowship Baptist on Sundays, enjoyed it so much that when they introduced Awana (a youth program) on Wednesdays, preceded by a meal, I decided we would do that as well. I thought exposure to a different group of kids and teachers would be good for them. Socializing, learning and craft time are a blast for them and I manage to control E3 most of the time. Luckily, their nursery teachers are very patient and don't mind if they miss the opening program or most night's we'd be missing the meal.

And Mommy decided E2, who already had learned a lot following her sister through nearly two years of gymnastics class, would like to try the program as well. E1 had moved up to the preschool class, so E2 and I are now in the mom and tot class with E3 in the role of baby crawling behind us on the floor. That means nearly two hours of gymnastics, if we get there on time.

Finally, I decided I had to have a little me time in the week and fell in love with a couple of Monday night workouts at Move2Melt. It was a chance to be around other adult women and let go of some of the tension of the week.

That seems like a lot of explanation for why we never get anywhere on time, but the fact of the matter is that these are things that are worthwhile for the girls and I or otherwise we'd simply throw up our hands.

There are, in fact, many evenings when I'd like to do just that. When I'm dragging the baby directly from crib to car seat and she's protesting the change in environment, or I'm having to wake E2 and heaven knows that I treasure every minute of her nap. When two out of three children are crying, and E1 is declaring that she can't put on her leotard. When I cannot think what to pack for snack. When I'm beginning the first of two or three trips to the car to get everyone and everything loaded. When I catch a glimpse of myself in the mirror and realize that I look tired and should probably stay home and not subject the rest of humanity to me, and by the way have I done anything with my hair today.

Besides, we need to be at Awana in five minutes, or gymnastics in 10, or my class in 30 and there is no way I can do the amount of driving required in time to get there.

The alternative, however, is staying home with all of us (well, except E3) having a bad attitude because the plan for the day was disrupted and that means the evening will be long and not get any better. The fact that I wind up a bit flustered and maybe more tired is really nothing compared to the payoff most days.

So we load up and drag in at whatever time we get there and make the most of the outing, however it goes. E1 frequently takes a power nap in the car and the other two are usually blissfully quiet. I sing along with KLOVE or whatever CD I have playing and do an emotional reset for the rest of the evening. And whatever time we get there, whatever we learn while we're there, we've had time to catch our collective breaths and I know that it will be time better spent than it would have been had we just stayed home.

So if you have young moms in your life, or old moms with young kids, I know that the joy of traveling with car seats and diaper bags and stuffed animals and lost shoes and sticky hands and emergency potty breaks is one we all like to forget, but don't. Remember when they come to your get together, show up for your class, make it to church, or even are wandering the aisles at Walmart with a child screaming for some treat they've been denied, that they've all been through a lot just to get there. Don't get aggravated because they're late or because they've disrupted your schedule or because their child is annoying you. Try to remember how hard it is to try to do it all and make it look easy and that sometimes it just doesn't work out. Smile and let it go, because you won't remember it nearly as much that way. And if you manage to make someone's day a little better by being compassionate instead of judgmental, you'll be remembered for it in a thankful way.

Friday Adventures have been off the table since there have been three at the house, but maybe, just maybe, remembering how much fun we had will be enough to get me going again as we say a fond farewell to summer. There are still places nearby that we haven't seen and the McDonald's playground is always available when the weather turns foul this winter.

But either way, you can count on it, we won't be on time, for anything, any time soon.

If we are, well, we'll just count that as our special blessing for the day.

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