Going someplace with four children under the age of six is always an adventure, particularly when two of the kids are alarmingly close in age and infants. Sometimes you get polite comments, sometimes you get stares, very occasionally you get outwardly snide comments. My Facebook friends know how I dealt with the last one - a big dumb smile and a cheerful "Boy, I wish I knew what caused that!" I don't mind the social commentary but regardless, schlepping four kids anywhere is a chore I prefer to avoid at all costs.
Sometimes, though, you have to bite the bullet. Today I realized that despite a run to the grocery story the day before, I had forgotten to buy bread. I also had to get over to the elementary school and pick up a packet of information for incoming Kindergarten students (which - can you believe it? NO). Neither of those could wait until Baby G went home or Tim arrived after work, so away we went.
I considered driving to cut our time out of the house, but it was a mild day and there were two other contributing factors: I had a quarter tank of gas to last me until Friday and the scale has not budged since I closed Sweeney Todd a month and change ago. In fact, it may have crept up a pound or two. How long can I blame that on "just water?" So we started walking.
Walking anywhere with four kids is an exercise in multitasking. Mary wants to run ahead and is built like I was as a kid - tall with all her height in her legs. Anna wants to run ahead and "race" but she's built like a spark plug - tons of energy in this compact little body that doesn't stand a chance against her older sister at this point. So eventually she gets annoyed and walks next to me, or lags behind, or wanders out into the middle of the road before I can frantically call her back, at which point she will turn to me dreamily and start dawdling back to the sidewalk before I grab her arm and yank her to safety.
"Hey, don't pull me!" she snaps indignantly, as though not wanting her to become a cartoon pancake version of herself is an unreasonable goal for motherhood.
It's true, though - I'm quite unreasonable. Don't walk through the puddles in your light up sneakers. Stay on the sidewalks - don't walk on people's lawns. Unless there are no sidewalks, then yes, on the very edges of the lawns but DON'T try to balance on the curb (whyyyy?) and stop picking the leaves off of people's trees. Yes, even if you can "really really!" reach them. Don't make eye contact with the man smoking pot in his garage in the middle of the morning. When I pull you off the street for the thousandth time as a BMW goes roaring by at 40 mph, pointing and saying "hey, Mom, look, a car!" is really just stating the obvious, my darling.
So the older girls raced and Mary won 99 percent of the marathons between stop signs and cross streets. Anna only won when I happened to tell them to stop for some reason. She would listen, wait until I was done, and then yell "Go Mary!" and take off before Mary could stop staring at the grass, or her shoes, or the stroller, or absolutely nothing.
Lily co-operated today and did not protest her clothing, her shoes, her socks or the indignities of being strapped in a stroller. She did sit there like a tiny dictator and mimic me by yelling "STOP" at the girls when they ran ahead and arrived at the next stop sign. The hand wave and finger wagging was a nice addition to the repertoire.
About halfway through the walk, or The Point of No Return, Anna will invariably announce she's sick of walking and demand to get in the "cawwidge." The "cawwidge" is full of babies I wouldn't trust walking down a sidewalk if you gave me a million dollars so I deny her. She sulks for a moment and then will run ahead, legs akimbo, red faced, arms flying free, until the next stop sign, where she will reiterate her desire to not walk, be home, be in the carriage.
This will last, in quiet fashion, until the grocery shopping is done and we are leaving the store. Then the following happens:
Mary: Where are we going now, Mommy?
- Home, to make lunch.
Anna: BUT I DON'T WANT THE WALK TO BE OVER!
Mary: Can't we go someplace else?
- No, we need to have lunch now. Come on, hold hands until we get to the sidewalk.
Anna: BUT I WANT TO WALK! I WANT TO RUN! LET'S RACE, MARY!
Lily: Stop! STOP! STOP! STOP! STOP!
All the way home.