Friday, March 14, 2008

Thank God Moms Don't Have a License Requirement...

I’ve joked in the past about how there should be a parenting test to try to weed out those who really shouldn’t have children. I realized this afternoon that I hadn’t considered one portion of the test that really would need to be included in this day and age. Needless to say, I failed it.

Lucky me, today is a day off school for both my kids, so of course I booked us up with activities, just like every other sane mom. We did a Language Stars makeup session at 9 and moved a couple towns north to visit our local fire department with my babysitting co-op group.

(Yes, my neighborhood has a co-op, yes, I’m a member and yes, I’m the social chair and organize all our activities – including a Ladies Tea tomorrow – simply because I don’t know how to say now.)

After visiting the fire department with a group of children, what is the logical next step? A stop at the local McDonalds with a playland, of course! So we all trooped over there to have lunch.

It started out well for me, actually. At noon on a Friday when schools are closed, the parking lot was shockingly full. So we parked nearby and walked, which gave me an extra chance to explain to my children the need to actually leave when I said it was time to go rather than throwing a fit.

Once we got inside, I let go of their hands for a moment to put my car keys and sunglasses away. There was mistake number one. Mister Man had already disappeared, and my hope was that he’d run into the playland and was playing nicely. Little Miss started to dart into the other room, but I saw her in time and called her back to me while I ordered.

Two cheeseburgers, an order of apple dippers, two chocolate milks (Little Miss only drinks chocolate milk at McDonalds, I’ve learned), and a yogurt parfait. Fridays in Lent are a killer at McDonalds if you don’t like fish. Order came, as I ensured that Little Miss was not licking the counter. Ok that she stopped licking it. Each time I caught her doing it.

I then stepped over to get straws for the milks, as I know my wee ones well enough to not give them the option of drinking out of the wide mouth of the milk jug. Spilling milk occurs on a daily basis – particularly by Little Miss goofing off because she can’t sit still – at home, and I try to avoid incidents where I can. Of course, Little Miss also took the opportunity of me being distracted looking for straws to dart off.

I hoped she, too, had headed into the playland and moved into that area as quickly as I could. Before anyone gets too concerned and lectures me about children running off, keep in mind that I was there with 11 other moms from my babysitting co-op who know my children well and were throughout the restaurant keeping an eye on exits and everyone’s kids.

I didn’t see Little Miss, but I did spy her coat tossed on one of the tables, so I assumed that she’d been through there. As I hoped she had at least taken off her shoes, I checked the cubby and yep, her shoes were there. As were her socks. YUCK! Bare feet on McDonalds floor and playland?

I put the tray down and waited to catch each of them as they came down a slide to head them over to the table. Both were quite willing to stop playing to eat, fortunately. I opened the milks, put the straws in and handed over the cheeseburgers. As Mister Man started picking off white things from the bun, I realized I had a problem. I’m supposed to order plain cheeseburgers for them. Mister Man doesn’t like any spices or odd textures or anything out of what he considers kid-ordinary. His biggest concern was that the white things were celery, as he recently had a bad experience with celery when I made pot roast earlier this week.

I reassured him that it wasn’t celery and that they were so little he wouldn’t be able to taste them. Silly, innocent boy, he believed me and took a big bite. And bit into pickle. Oops. I promised to take off the pickle, and opened the bun. He saw the ketchup and mustard that I tried unsuccessfully to hide from him. Fortunately, I had ordered a yogurt parfait for myself that came with a spoon, so I scraped off the offending ingredients. Crisis averted.

That’s when Little Miss announced she wanted her pickle removed, too. I was actually surprised by this, as she tends to be my adventuresome eater, but it’s not worth the battle obviously. As I remove her pickle, she insists I remove her ketchup et al. By poking her fingers in it and shouting “This, too! This, too!” As I started to scrape the cheese part of her burger, she picked up … and dropped her top bun. Fortunately it landed goop side up on her chair, and I made the executive decision that it was more sane to retain the top bun than to have her try to eat the cheeseburger sans bun. So her goop was surgically removed from the top bun, as well. Finally, I can start eating.

Except that I can’t yet. Little Miss knows that she has to pick up her milk and put it down near her lap to drink from the straw to avoid spilling it. She even remembered this. The part she forgot was that you can’t tip the milk or it will spill. She finally remembered this as the milk soaked through her shirt and onto her tummy. As I darted across the table to assess the damage, I discovered that the milk also spilled on the chair, her jeans and the floor. As I looked at the tray to grab a napkin, I realized that I hadn’t picked up any napkins when I got the straws. So I ran halfway across the crowded restaurant and back to get some napkins.

Fortunately, she’s pretty good about having slightly damp clothes. Unfortunately, she can’t stand puddles. So I had to clean up the puddle on the floor which showed me just how gross and dirty the floors actually are.

Would you believe me if I told you that Mister Man then tipped over his milk jug? My catlike reflexes came into play as I managed to get the milk upright with only about a quarter of it lost and pick up his cheeseburger from the milk before any soaked in. So I trek back to get more napkins to clean up the second, larger spill. In case anyone was wondering, the napkins at McDonalds are not very absorbent. Someone upstairs felt sorry for me though, and the milk all stayed on his cheeseburger wrapper which made disposal a bit easier at least.

As the wee ones finished eating, I put Little Miss’s socks back on her and let her go play. By the end of the first trip down the slide, I saw her socks were once again tucked very neatly into her shoes in the cubby. She was too quick for me to catch her to put them back on that go-round, but I did catch her as she got off the slide the next time. This time I explained that the socks had to stay on or we had to go. Yep, they stayed on after that.

Finally, I was able to talk to a couple of the other moms who were there. At which point another friend pointed out that Little Miss was at the top, crying. Assuming she didn’t realize that I’d moved, I walked under her and waved. When she continued crying, I realized she must have gotten hurt somehow. Not that the playlands are built so that adults can get in there and rescue children when needed.

As I gestured to her to come down via the slides, she figured it out (bright girl!) and moved that way. That’s when I saw Mister Man come down the slide with tears on his face. He ran over to tell me that bigger kids were walking all over Little Miss and she was hurt. Great! The only reason I wasn’t panicking more is that she is my Teflon child who never gets truly hurt, no matter what happens. I asked why he was crying, figuring that something had happened to him, too. Nope, he just felt bad for her. Everyone together: awwwww.

One friend started to send her older son up to help Little Miss come down from the top. That’s one of the benefits of traveling in packs of families. Fortunately, she came down the slide right as he started at the beginning of the climb. She just wanted a hug but wasn’t actually hurt or bothered at that point. Like I said, she’s my Teflon girl.

At that point, I decided the could have one more go-round, then we were headed home because my sanity was stretching to the breaking point. Everyone said they understood the directive. Down the slide comes Little Miss. Across the mat and back to the beginning she darts, as I grab the back of her shirt to remind her she had her last turn already. Out comes the lip, the look of pure evil is shot my way, and the flop is on.

My method of discipline with my kids for the last several months is to ask nicely once. The second time, I explain that this is the second request and that said child is in danger of losing X (a favored toy). Said child then has the choice of obeying or losing X. Generally, the child makes the “right” choice and follows the initial instructions. I’ve found that for my kids, this method seems to create the least stress and anxiety for all involved.

I give Little Miss the choice of Losing Baby Coco or walking over to find her shoes. She continues the flop, so Baby Coco is lost when we get home. I ask if she’s going to lose Baby Giggles, too, or go get her shoes. Baby Giggles is also gone. As I ask if she wants to lose Baby Maria, she finally drags herself towards the shoe cubby. A friend’s daughter hands us her shoes before Little Miss reaches the cubby, so Baby Maria gets a reprieve.

By some miracle, Mister Man actually listened completely and is putting on his shoes by himself with no reminders. As I finish putting on Little Miss’s shoes, she starts trying to grab the laces to untie them. Luckily, Mommy knows how to tie quadruple knots. At that point I give up on independence from her and carry her back to our stuff to put on her coat.

As we’re finally walking out the door, Little Miss insists she can walk herself. I put her down and open the door to walk outside. Mister Man obediently holds one hand, but Little Miss hides her hands in her arms and turns sideways. Apparently she’s upset at me and doesn’t want to hold hands. I won’t walk through parking lots or across streets without holding hands, and this is not a rule I’m willing to bend. I give her the choice of being carried, holding my hand or holding Mister Man’s hand. I don’t think I finished all the choices before she darted to his side and grabbed his hand. Yep, she was definitely mad at me. The good news is that all was forgotten by the time we reached my car, and she was back to her usual sunny self.

Isn’t there a requirement that all parents are able to “do” McDonalds with their kids? It seems to be a rite of passage and somewhere that people go frequently enough to have the rhythm down. Thank God this wasn’t a test on whether or not I was ready to have kids, or I wouldn’t have my beautiful angels! I failed the McDonalds exam miserably.

And on a total side note, what is it about McDonalds that makes it one of the “what a small world” kinds of places? Today, on top of the babysitting co-op folks, I ran into my parents’ next door neighbor with her two kids there for a birthday party (2 McDonalds closer to their house than this one) and a boy from Little Miss’s preschool class. Last time I was there, I ran into one of the co-op families and a guy who used to work at my company until he left last November.


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