Thursday, November 3, 2011

After the gauntlet

My two children are really pretty much champs when it comes to rolling with whatever comes along. The little guy still sometimes loses his cool altogether during actual moments of transition, but as long as we inform (and repeatedly remind) him ahead of time what to expect, he hangs tough, three-year-old style. His sister, meanwhile, is simply one of the most mellow babies I’ve ever met.

So we took things to the limit over the course of last weekend. On Saturday we visited friends at their house for dinner, which entailed a half-hour car ride out, three or four hours of hanging out, and a half-hour car ride back. There were no waste-elimination accidents, happily, and despite getting home well past bedtime the actual process of getting the little guy ready for and into bed was not seriously derailed. Sunday the whole family went warehouse-shopping (at a warehouse store, not for a warehouse) in the early part of the day, then visited different friends for dinner, in D.C. no less. Same results: no accidents, got home after bedtime but dodged the off-schedule tantrum bullet, all was well. Monday was of course Halloween and I got home from work (I can’t legitimately claim to have “raced” home because the train moves at constant speed no matter what I personally have got going on) and gathered everyone into the car to head over to yet another friend’s house, because they live in a neighborhood that takes trick or treating seriously: almost all the houses are elaborately decorated and residents take pains to be home throughout the evening to give out candy. It also doesn’t hurt that it’s a new-ish development where all of the houses have very small yards and are built right on top of each other, which is exceptionally handy for the short-legged walking door-to-door. The little girl was underwhelmed by riding in her umbrella stroller in a strange place in the dark, so she ended up only accompanying her brother to the house next door to our friends, but the little guy gamely knocked on eight or ten doors (when he wasn’t spouting dialogue from Cars and running around like a racer on the track because he was, inescapably, dressed up as Lightning McQueen) and got his handful of candy and then luckily was just as ready to go home as we were. That still put us home after bedtime, though, and right about then came the unsettling realization that we had really put the kids through the ringer with driving around and staying up late for three nights in a row.

Note: felt like, but did not actually happen.
Now of course I’m firmly resolved to not take the kids anywhere requiring automotive transport this coming weekend. We can play in the yard or walk to the park but that’s it for what should be a car-seat-free couple of days, I hope. To their credit, though, the kids seem to have taken it in stride and after just a couple nights showed no signs of being reborn as unrepentant night owls or anything. Just last night the little picked out as his bedtime story “Head to Toe” by Eric Carle, which involves all manner of body movements emulating animals, and I sat with the book in one hand and the little girl on the opposite knee while we both watched the little guy imitating monkeys and buffaloes and crocodiles and elephants, and the little girl was entranced and delighted, and the little guy had a blast showing off, after which he got in bed (twenty minutes early!) and didn’t make a peep the rest of the night.

So really the primary toll was taken on my wife and myself, because of the hecticness of all the driving and kid-wrangling and, let’s be totally honest, the relentless socialization. It’s not like we don’t like our friends and have weird toxic relationships propped up by mutually assured social destruction or anything crazy like that. Ordinarily we’d be pleased as proverbial punch to spend time hanging with our respective peeps and/or homies, it just was a mistake to dogpile so many get-togethers one on top of the other, because no matter how amazing those people are it just gets to be too much with no break. And then compound all of that with no small amount of guilt because we’re lugging our kids around hither and yon rather than spending quiet restful time at home with them … there was a certain overheated smoke drifting from our braincases by Monday night, is all.

The strange thing about it, though, is that it’s all self-correcting. Soon enough the kids will be old enough to actually express whether or not they like visiting mom and dad’s friends, or riding in the car, or staying up late, or whatever, and we won’t have to fill the void with imaginings and projections and such. And not too long after that, we (my wife and I) won’t even logistically have the ability to overbook ourselves socially, because the kids will have sports tournaments or recitals or scout camps or whatever which take precedence. So maybe we’re just trying to squeeze every moment of opportunity out of these days of small accessory-sized children that we can? Maybe so.

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