We awoke today to some gorgeous Spring weather. Sunshine! There's sunshine out there, for the love of all that's good and pure! Since you live in Missoula, too, you understand why that's such a big deal. We haven't seen the sun in weeks. At least, it certainly feels that way. Anyway, since there's an abundance of what we have been previously lacking, I knew it'd be damn near criminal not to take advantage. After breakfast, I grabbed some water bottles and readied the munchkins for a stroll along the river. As we headed out the door, Ethan noticed his pushable Thomas train and I thought "Why not? Let's take it along and Ethan can push his Thomas train to his heart's content! It'll be fun!" This is not the first time I've been horribly wrong about something similar. I should know by now. To be fair, though, the stroll started out well. The kids were smiling, Ethan was happily pushing the train along, Ben was skipping and dancing, birds were chirping, etc. How lovely!
When we got halfway to my target destination, things started turning sour. Ethan began to refuse to push the train any further but he didn't want anyone else to touch it, either. Neither did he want to leave it behind. I'm not sure exactly what he wanted to have happen but it was clearly something beyond my control or capabilities. Benjamin actually diffused the situation by inviting Ethan to sit and rest with him on a bench, where I took some pictures and stupidly thought that everything was going to be ok after all. That was when Ethan hopped off the bench and made a run for it. At first, I didn't see the harm since he was headed for an open and empty field that certainly posed no danger. As if he knew what I was thinking, he stopped his mad dash and started trying to eat rocks.
The details of everything that followed are fuzzy - just glimpses through a reddish haze and peppered with feelings of futility, humiliation, confusion, and desperation. The boys hit each other a lot, Ethan planted himself face down on the ground several times, Thomas was brutally thrown fairly often, and passing dogs were terrorized. I eventually ended up carrying Ethan - as he pinched, bit, scratched, slapped, and kicked me - while Ben dutifully pushed Thomas along side of me. Trust me, people at Big Dipper, yours were not the only pointed looks I endured this day. I walked through a gauntlet of judgment, avoiding eye contact, all the way back to my car where I strapped a still-shrieking Ethan into his car seat and thanked Ben for helping me with the stupid train. I told him he could have an ice cream for his troubles, which is how we came to be at Big Dipper this afternoon.
You see, Ethan was not going to get ice cream. There was no way I was going to reward his horrifying behavior by giving him a delicious treat. Also, whether or not the kid was going to get ice cream, I knew that standing in line with him would be an utter disaster. Have you experienced flailing toddler rage? It's nearly impossible to deal with when the parent to child ratio is 1 to 1, when the parent is outnumbered it's game over. No matter how dutiful and well-behaved the non-flailing child has been to that point, he or she will only register that Other Child is getting an awful lot of attention and will follow suit. No, thank you. So I parked the car in the shade. I rolled the windows down a bit and told them that I would be right back. I walked the 20 feet to the line and barely took my eyes off the munchkins. I saw you staring worriedly at my kids and I noted your disdainful glares as well as the shaking of your heads. I also noted how there were 5 of you to the two small children present in your group.
You got up from your table and dispersed, leaving behind one member of your party who happened to be the mother of the little girl present. And you, mother of little girl, took it upon yourself to "guard" my children until I closed the 20 feet between us and got back in my car. You thought you were noble, I'm sure, and you will tell the tale of the Evil Woman at Big Dipper to all your friends to caution them against such gross child neglect. Someday, mother of little girl, your daughter will throw an unholy tantrum in public and drive you to your wits' end. She will shatter every single illusion of parenthood that you ever had. If I'm standing there when it happens, I won't shake my head at you. I just want you to know that.