Not that I lack confidence in my parenting skills. I think I have tremendous parenting skills! The problem is, the kids still have me outnumbered. At least when there are two of us parents here, we can switch up on a Zone Defense type of coverage on the children, assuming that only 1/2 of the children are acting up at any given moment in time. But with only a lone parent, I need to make sure only 1/4 of the children are acting up at any given time. Now, I *could* do the math to show how UNlikely it will be that only 1/4 of the children are mis-behaving at any one moment in time, but that would be too much work. Instead, I'm just going to leave you all with what happened the LAST time my wife left me with 4 children (no, not the time I set the kitchen on fire)...
Wife: Just take the kids to the play group? They will be good there, and have fun, and then they will stop fighting.
Me: Why don't you just try not being sick today?
Wife: I do this everyday. You just tell them to get thier coats and shoes on, and they will. Then they will pile into the van, and go play at the play group. Its not a big deal.
Me: Alright. I've got this. KIDS, go get your coat and shoes on, we're gonna go to the play group.
Wife: You better hurry, the group starts in 30 minutes.
Me: Its only a 15 minute drive. I've got lots of time.
Wife: If you say so.
Now, this was happening in the midst of Winter, so what I had to do, in 15 minutes is get 4 young children into their snow suits, mittens, scarves, hats, and winter boot... maybe it was my utter lack of the gravity of the situation, or maybe it was my naive nature in trusting my wife that things would go the way she said it would. What happened over the next 30 minutes, is pretty much un-typeable. How do you try to translate into typed text the frustration of trying to get 4 children bundled when they did not want to be bundled?
By the time I had the 1st child into their snow suit, the others were off and running again, getting into fights and trying to start a fire in the basement corner. When I finally tackled the 2nd child to the ground, and started pulling on their snow suit, the fire was now catching on and the free children were looking for a small woodland creature to sacrifice to some heathen deity of Play-dough, Glue and Lego. By the time the 3rd little bundle of joy was hog tied and roped into his snow suit, the 4th had decided that this life was just too much to take, and was trying to jump from the couch arm to end it all.
Eventually, all 4 children were finally dressed, and ready to go... and so far, its only been a 1/2 hour. Not bad I thought. But anyone who has ever dressed a 2,3 or 4 year old in a snow suit knows EXACTLY what happens next... yes, they had to go potty. So as I undressed two of the four to go potty, the others still dressed in their snow suits, at this point for about 1/2 hour, started suffering from heat stroke and dehydration.
Eventually, we DID make it to the van.
By this time:
2 children were crying because they were too "hot"
1 child was crying because they were too "cold"
1 child was happily singing at the top of her lungs which was really driving my newly acquired head-ache home.
But I could see the light at the end of the tunnel. Yes'ir, I was a scant 15 minute drive drive to the promised freedom of the play group which would fix all my issues, and provide a utopian environment where the children will roam in the grassy fields, with the bight warm sun shining down on them playing with the butterflys and other children... laughing... singing... can you see it? I could see it!
Then it was gone. As the van got stuck in the 4 feet of snow on the road.
As I was standing out in the blowing snow trying to dig the van free, I though to myself "how can it be that the city of Ottawa NEVER snowploughs our road clean, but today, TODAY of ALL days for some un-explicable reason, SOMEONE came and ploughed 4 feet of snow right on the end of my drive way!"
Another 15 minutes, and we were underway again.
By this time:
2 children were fighting over a toy in the van.
1 child was STILL crying because they were too "cold"
1 child was MISSING?!
Curse the day when children figure out how to UNbuckle their seat belts! I found the little cuteness climbed over the back of the rear bench and hiding in the trunk of the van.
"Only 15 minutes to freedom, only 15 minutes" I kept telling myself. Think of the meadows, and the rivers, and pure joy and rapture! We drove through the blowing snow for a few minutes, when someone HAD to goto the bathroom. And this wasn't just anyone, NO sir, this was the "Mister Small Bladder" himself! So I pull the van over on the side of the road, and stand in the blowing snow using my body as a shield to protect Mr. Small Bladder (and Mr. Small Bladder Jr) from the harsh elements of our cold cruel Canadian Winters.
By this time:
2 children were screaming at the top of their lungs, over what, I still don't know.
1 child was NOW crying because they were too "hot".
1 child was removing all their clothes... (really, I let that go at this point. Whats 1 more naked child in this world today?)
Finally, against all odds, we pulled into the parking lot of the play group. But by this time, we were quite late. Getting a good parking spot, was OUT of the question. Alas, we were resigned to parking in the back corner of the lot. A quick 30 second jog to the door for any adult. However, a monumental undertaking for little ones with a mere 4 centimeter stride. I was temped to just pick them up and run carrying them to the door... but then realized that 1 was naked, another had taken all their winter gear off, and the ones who were still were fully dressed were dripping with sweat! They would all catch pneumonia if I made them walk in their condition to the door. Oh, and they were still all fighting. I looked at the watch, only another 45minutes left in the play group, I've been gone from the house for about an hour already, I could turn around and head home... just tell the wife that "yes, we went to the playgroup". It wouldn't be a lie. I mean, we WERE at the playgroup... so, standing there, in the open door of the van, I ordered them to get back into their car seats and we were going home.
I don't know why I changed my mind. Maybe it was the crying. Maybe it was the threats. I'm not sure anymore. But I did have a change of heart. Standing there in the cold, I re-dressed the naked, got their winter gear back on, and took up as many of them in my arms as I could.
1 on my back.
1 in my left arm.
And 1 in my right.
The eldest child, grasping my coat for dear life as getting lost in this now typical Canadian Winter Blizzard would mean certain death.
And off we ran! Or staggered. I'm not sure if many of you have tried running with 3 children on you and another in tow, it is harder than it looks...
- The one grasping my coat decided that they didn't want to walk, and I was dragging him along the way.
- The one in my left arm decided that I should not be carrying the one in my right arm, and the two of them were now fighting with each other, and trying to spring free from my arms so they could get at their switch blades and tire irons.
- The one on my back, has decided that they are afraid of heights, and is squeezing so tight to my neck that I can't breath!
But only a few paces from the door... three more steps... two more... one more... LOCKED!
Oh for @$%% sake!!!
By this time:
2 children were fighting in my arms.
1 child was crying because they were being dragged across a parking lot against their will.
1 child was still strangling me.
We get around to the front of the building and in through the main doors. Kick off the snow and slush, and head downstairs to the play group. Before I can even get the youngest child undressed the two eldest ones are undressed and off playing. Eventually I get the two younger ones undressed and go to re-join the older ones in the play room.
It was at this point that some woman started yammering at me to "sign them all in". So I go back to the front desk, and fill out all the paper work. I'm sure this is a wonderful and noble thing, but it took just long enough for the children to slip away from me and into the main play area.
- By the time I arrive in the play area, the eldest one had commendered ALL of the building blocks and was building a wall around himself so he would not have to play with any of the other children.
- The 2nd eldest (a girl), was in a fist fight with a little girl at the back of the room over a slide.
- The two younger ones were playing at the paint station...
"Okay man, I can't do the zone defense here, the ice surface is too big, I gotta go man on man!", I was thinking to myself. I start sprinting to the back of the room where the physical fist fight was well underway with hair pulling and punches being thrown. As I hurdle over the wall which Mr. Small Bladder had built I told him to "share the blocks with the other boys" who were now just sitting there, without any blocks. I arrive at the fist-a-cuffs just in time to break it up before the blood started flowing. I remember thinking, "why aren't any of the other moms trying to break up this fight?". Oh right, because they were all sitting on the side, drinking coffee and felt "justified" to let the token "Dad" break up the fight, since they "do this every day". Okay, what ever... I turn to see what the others are up too.
The two youngest were still at the paint station, except, the decided to PAINT their CLOTHES! The youngest pretty pink shirt was now covered in browns and yellows. I started dodging through the crowd of children and un-interested mothers as I shouted at Mr. Small Bladder again to "stop building a wall AROUND the other children". I guess since I would not allow him to build a wall around himself to keep the other boys out, he decided to build a wall around THEM to keep them IN.
I arrived at the youngest two, striped their outer sweaters covered in paint, and start washing them in the sinks. Now, they did have LOVELY large easels there, with big sheets of clean paper, and others with pictures to paint. And while there were a good number of children painting in the predictable manner, mine decided that they would not be bound by the arbitrary rules and conventions of our narrow minded and utilitarian culture. To them, everything was a canvas just waiting to be painted - to be given expression and a story to tell through colour and madness. While I was washing their sweaters, they painted on all the tables, the little kiddie chairs, them selves, each other, and just plain others. I spend the next 20 minutes washing everything (and everyone) down.
It was about this time that all the children gathered for their "Snack time". Snack time?! No one told me about SNACK TIME! Well all 4 children lost it as other children pulled out puddings, gummy bears, fresh fruit, and the like. Mean while, I scrapped a few dried out Cheerios out of the carpet and passed it to my troop...
... finally, as the children settled down with their crusty Cheerios, one of the other Mothers walked over and asked how it was going. I said it was kind of crazy... and asked if my children's behavior was "normal".
I was so relieved when she answered, "Yes, this behavior is normal... but only when a Dad comes."
At that point, I packed the children up, and left.
When I left, I thought, "we must have been there for well over an hour!"
You can imagine my disappointed when I climbed wearily into the van and looked at the clock. We had been in there for less than 45 minutes... much closer to 20minutes really.
I slowly left the parking lot... and drove down the cold, desolate highway. The children, finally tuckered out, started to settled down and drift off to sleep, when I heard, "I need to pee".
Wife: So, how was it?!
Me: Oh, great.
Wife: It was just like I said eh. The kids really liked it and were great.
Me: Oh yea. Of course.
Wife: I'm so proud of you! I knew you could do it.
Me: Well, I am a rather awesome Dad ya know. The kids were great. No problems what-so-ever.
Wife: I'm so lucky to have you!*
Me: Yes, yes you are.
Wife: Why is this sweater covered in paint?
Never let 'em see you bleed! If she knew how rough it was, it would only make her feel more justified in her whole "Its hard to be a Mom" thing, and I would NEVER hear the end of it. :-)
* = I added that line. I know she was thinking it though.