“Off like a herd of turtles” is what my dad always used to say as my family climbed into our green Dodge Dart and headed off to wherever we were going. I always just assumed it was some annoying things grownups say—until I had kids. And tried to go somewhere.
I’m not sure what it is about kids that makes it so HARD to get out the freakin’ door everyday. They could whine all morning about wanting to go to the park, but when it’s actually time to GO TO THE PARK, they turn into, well, a herd of turtles.
Here’s what happened one day this week when we decided to go to the park:
Me: “OK, guys! Time to go to the park!”
Boys: (nothing. Suddenly playing happily with matchbox cars, even though they had spent the last 40 minutes arguing and writhing around on the floor complaining of acute boredom).
Getting out of the house should be easy. I have a simple mental checklist to follow, and once it’s all done, we’re on our way. Here it is:
· Out the door
It’s really not much. It really should be quick. Sure, at times there are complications—like the 5 days a year that it rains, for example, when we’ll need umbrellas—but it’s not like I’m putting these kids in snow pants and boots and mittens and all that. (I’m pretty sure if we lived somewhere with snow we wouldn’t leave the house all winter. We would try, but we’d spend all our time putting on and taking off our winter gear instead.)
So, here’s how it went the other day:
|Now THIS turtle knows how to get places.|
Diaper/Potty: I cornered William and carried him like a football toward the bedroom. Over his loud protests (“NO DIAPER! NO DIAPER! NOOOOOO!”), I told Matthew to go potty. But just hearing the word “potty” set off some 4-year-old obsession with all things toilet-related, and he began stomping around the living room chanting, “You are a poopy stinky butt! You are a poopy stinky butt!” I decided to assume that he’d find his way to the potty eventually and focused on the task at hand—the diaper change.
Sometimes changing William is easy. And sometimes it’s like wrestling an angry alligator. Generally, if I’m trying to get out of the house, it’s ‘gator time. Since reasoning with a two-year-old is only somewhat more effective than reasoning with a houseplant, I resorted to the usual: I pinned him down with one elbow and strapped that diaper on as fast as possible. The results weren’t pretty, but it would do the job.
As I let William go, I could hear from the THREE successive flushes that something—maybe potty, I hoped it was potty—was going on in the bathroom. By the time I poked my head in, Matthew was at the sink, pumping hand soap all over the counter and finger painting with it (or, as he calls it, “washing his hands”). I got him back on track and moved on to…
Clothes: I had managed to wrestle William into his clothes during the diaper fight so I headed for Matthew, who was wearing his favorite outfit: just underpants. I got his pants on, but in the time it took me to lean over and pick up his shirt he wandered off declaring, “I’m going to touch the cat’s eyes!” I rescued the cat (again) and got Matthew’s shirt on. Great. Now it’s time for…
Shoes: I scooped William into my lap and got started. Matthew looked at us, saw an easy target, and before I could stop him hit William gently on the head yelling, “BOP!” William laughed, but I was getting annoyed at this point (WHY WHY WHY was it taking so long to get ready??!! WHY???) so I ordered Matthew to time out. “But Mommy!” he whined. “I didn’t hit him! I bopped him! You never said no bopping!” I’m not proud of it, but then I did that thing where you get crazy eyes and hiss/whisper dire threats through clenched teeth, and he grumbled his way into time out.
|Couldn't help it. I just love this.|
As he sat there, I decided to move on to…
Sunscreen: I hate this part. My husband and I have been known to fight over who has to do it. I will put my kids in long-sleeved shirts in 80-degree weather just so there is less skin to protect with the evil lotion. Why do kids hate sunscreen so much? Why do they act like you are trying to spread acid all over their faces? Is it because they know I will bribe them into doing it peacefully?
So. Time out finished, sunscreen applied, bribes delivered, we moved on to finding our…
Bags: I grabbed my diaper bag and leaned over to grab the monstrous bag of sand toys we bring to the park. As I did, Matthew yelled, “Show off your tushie! Time for stickers!” and I felt several little pokes to my rear end. I sighed, knowing that my hands were too full to remove the stickers he had just placed there and that I would inevitably forget about them and spend the rest of the day with motivational sayings like “Gr8 job!” and “Way 2 go!” all over my butt.
But that was ok, because we were about to make it…
Out the door: The easiest step, right? Just walk out the door and to the car parked right there in the driveway. Ten glorious feet, and then both kids would be strapped into their car seats, unable to poke, hit, or bop each other for 5-10 glorious minutes. Easy-peasy.
You would think.
Instead, Matthew opened the screen door, took one step out onto the porch and stopped to check out the neighborhood, I guess. I’m not sure exactly what he was doing, but there he stood. Just behind him in the doorway stood William, his tiny fingers placed in the exact spot where they would get pinched if I let the screen door close. One step behind him was me, looking like a hobo Irish step dancer as I juggled my two bags and did a crazy jig designed to keep the cats from darting out to the lawn to eat grass, which they would then just barf up inside the house.
Trying to stay positive (we are SO CLOSE), I chirped, “OK! Let’s go to the car!” No one moved except the cat, who tried to slip between my feet. I danced a little faster and said (not quite so chirpy this time), “COME ON, boys! Let’s start walking to the car!” They were frozen in place. WHAT WERE THEY WAITING FOR? WHAT WERE THEY LOOKING AT?? The cat feinted left and my jig turned into more of a drunken ju-jitsu thing. I dropped all pretense of friendliness. “GO GET IN THAT CAR RIGHT NOW OR SO HELP ME I WILL LOSE. MY. FREAKIN. MIND!” I yelled. They both looked at me like I’d already lost it, then ambled over to the car while I tackled the cat and threw, I mean, placed him in the house and slammed the door. I smiled and waved at my lovely and childless neighbor, who was obviously thinking she made the right decision at that point. I gathered the sand toys from where they landed all over the porch (why I even bothered I don’t know—they only like to play with the old empty yogurt cups I threw in there once).
And we were off. Like a herd of turtles.