Thursday, April 5, 2012
The Road to the Mexican Restaurant . . .
As I said yesterday, no matter how many times I learn, I should never allow myself to think "Wow, I am just awesome at this parenting stuff!" But, alas, it happened again a few days ago.
Here is the deal. We were having a wonderful Saturday. Tim and I had promised ourselves and each other that we would make sure that getting outside and getting some exercise was the main goal of the day. It was a beautiful one, the temperature was just right and there were no excuses not to get the kids out to enjoy it (or to at least get them out and explain to them that they were enjoying it). Stuff got in the way, though, as it is apt to do when there is a house full of kids around. A bunch of nice of kids ended up at our house and everybody was having a ball. We decided to put off our family field trip to bike or hike or whatever.
We were feeling laid-back and allowing the house to be trashed, screaming kids to run through and lots of kitchen items to be whisked 'secretly' from the house to be used for things I'm not sure I want to know about. It was a good day. I worked on some editing, Tim worked on his sermon and small people of various sizes and sexes ran back and forth. We finally reached that point that it becomes quite clear that to keep the day a good memory, the children must be put back in their own homes. You know the moment - they can't stop fussing, everyone is speaking in a high-pitched animal-like whine, they can't stand the look of each other and they are begging to spend the night together - THAT moment.
Being the perfect parent that I was at the time, I offered to take everyone home in the back of the truck. (In this time of fear, vigilance, rules, etc., a ride in the back of the truck through our neighborhood is the closest thing we can offer to the care-free fun of our own childhoods.) My offer was enthusiastically accepted and the gang of mostly boys piled in for the ride. They alternated between smile and tired whine on the ride home, were dropped off dirty and smelly in the driveways of their houses, and I returned home with just my own. That's when I, in my infinite wisdom, concocted the way to save our early morning promise of 'getting the family outside together to exercise and enjoy the day.'
I got home and excitedly offered Tim my plan. In his usual willingness to indulge me and my wishes, he agreed. We would walk together, as a happy family, to 'the Mexican restaurant' near our house. It would be wonderful. We would laugh and hold hands and soak in the springtime air. We would get our exercise and we would be together on an itty bitty journey of magic memory making.
This restaurant is very close to us. As the crow flies, it isn't even a mile. As the crow flies. As the crow flies. As the crow flies.
As the family walks, it is not as simple. Though I often pretend it is not so, our home backs up to a very busy road. The street has four names, none of which help make it sound any less busy; and the worst of which is 'The By-Pass.' It's not the kind of road along which you often see your neighbors walking. I had saved the day already, though. On our truck ride of happiness, I had spotted what I knew to be a secret and nicely cleared path, which would grant us easy walking straight to the restaurant. It would be wonderful.
This new path I noticed, would allow us to stroll gaily through our neighborhood, through the wooded beauty beyond and spit us out on this 'by-pass' for just a split second walk to the chips and salsa of our dreams. It was all worked out. Tim and I were ready to go, but for the chore (which neither of us offered) of telling our children. Somehow, we knew, we knew in that way only a parent knows, that these precious little offspring of ours were not going to jump for joy at this idyllic offering of love and open air.
We told them. It did not go well. We did the best we could, we forged ahead and we reveled in the fact that two of the three faked happiness about the whole idea. We found matching lace up shoes for all five of us (this is harder than it may sound), we gave Sadie a treat and we headed off to familial bliss.
The neighborhood portion of the trip was just fine. Harry found a Louisville Slugger bat he had lost six months ago in a friend's yard, we enjoyed catching up and the bug spray we had force-sprayed upon the children worked. And then, more quickly than I had remembered, we came upon this new miracle trail I had spotted. "Hmmmmm," I thought, as it didn't seem to be headed off in the trajectory we needed to cut off the by-pass. It was our only hope, so we trotted along. I prayed, desperately hoped, that the direction it appeared to be going was not actually the direction it WAS going. I was wrong.
In approximately nine seconds we had come to the end of the miracle trail. It had spit us out on the by-pass, about fifty yards from our neighborhood entrance and not the quarter mile down the road that I had worked out in my brilliant mind.
Hmmmm. Folks weren't as happy then as I had hoped. Tim and one child cheerfully headed off along the unkempt shoulder of this busy road, and the rest of us followed. It was not pretty.
One child marched in a fear of being spotted by anyone, mortified about walking along among the debris. It wasn't a smooth walk, as the littered cans, broken glass and road-kill forced a jagged course. The front two made a lot of ground quickly, as I fell farther and farther behind with the child who cannot walk and talk at the same time. The child who feared being spotted walked angrily along in the middle, fifty feet from the front two or the two of us in the back.
I was fortunate to be walking with a happy child, but one who needed to stop and smell the . . . well, stop and smell stuff. We wondered about things. We wondered how things had gotten there, why people litter, how each of the fried creatures on the road's edge had met their death and any number of other items. We did not move fast. Cars whirred by us and our conversation was muffled. So then, of course, we had to stop and start it again. We had a swell visit, we did, as the rest of the thirty or so thousand of our town passed us. Sometimes we had to go way down in the grassy brush to head off an impediment and sometimes we had to hold hands and walk closer to the tarmac of doom. There were no birds whistling happily in the sky at this point; or if they were there, we could not hear them.
Way up ahead I witnessed two of the family turn into the safety of the restaurant parking lot. They had reached the summit; now just three of us to go. Eventually the lone child in the center veered in, safe and still as overjoyed as ever. The last two of us, though, took our time. We had things to discuss, stuff to wonder about and piles of once-living things to investigate. It took a while.
Finally, all five of us were safe. We had made it. We hadn't actually heard a word each other had said the majority of the stroll, but we were there. We joined the throngs of folks who had taken the easy way out and simply arrived in their heaps of metal and fiberglass. Bless their hearts.
The waitress asked if we'd like to sit inside or out, and I overtook the wishes of the other four and yelled out for a table outside, overlooking the beautiful bypass we had just enjoyed, up close and personal. It was pleasant sitting outside, and luckily everyone agreed. Dinner was ordered and folks were happy. Everything tasted just right and the sun set silently over the East Newton skies.
Mid-bite of some morsel of deliciousness I realized something that was not a happy thought. It was dark. Dark. Dark, like when you can't see where you are walking. Dark.
We began to consider our options. Should we call a friend, get a ride and suffer the laughter that would ensue? Normally, it is impossible to eat at this particular restaurant without seeing friends or acquaintances at at least four of the six closest tables; this night, however, the place seemed to be inhabited by only strangers from afar. They were not our friends. They were outsiders, taking the places of familiar faces. They were no help.
Eventually, Tim decided he would walk back along, fetch the car and come back to retrieve us - our knight in shining mini-van. Harry couldn't pass up that adventure, and went along. And that was when sheer, pure bliss came over the faces of the girls. That was the moment of the whole debacle they loved the most! The eased up, enjoyed the last few bites of Mexican vittles and everything from then on was lovely. They were safe, relieved of the embarrassment of the walk of doom; saved from the immense effort that would have been needed to scale the embankments of grossness.
Somehow it all worked out. I guess. It was not the moment of shining parenting perfection I had envisioned hours before, but we were all safely home. We had walked. We had been outside. We had eaten dinner. And, through thick, thin and road-kill, we had done it all together.