Back in the days of one-childedness, I didn’t get out much. Maybe even less than I do now (!). This was because 1) Where would I go? (e.g. nearest WalMart is 35 miles away); 2) BoyOne was Oversized and Angry. His unpredictable (or all-too-predictable) nature, combined with his substantial girth and noisy refusal to ride in the cart, made solo expeditions simply Not Worth It; and 3) I had no idea what I was doing as a parent. This hasn’t necessarily improved, but my embarrassability has decreased substantially.
In those days, when we did run so completely out of food that I had to go to the grocery store, I used to marvel at those Amazing women who rolled through the store with two or three (or more! good heavens!) kids in tow. I knew I could never be like that.
Fast forward three years: Now I’m the one who’s out and about with the infant seat in the cart’s basket, the toddler up front, and the preschooler trotting more or less along. I’ve learned a little secret: those women weren’t Amazing so much as they were Desperate.
In fact, perhaps those women, whom I revered from afar for their apparent organization and competence, didn’t even set out to go to the store. Maybe the baby was colicky, the toddler not only wouldn’t nap but was literally climbing the walls, the preschooler was pushing everyone’s buttons, and the combination of household chaos and noise level made her so desperate to escape that she strapped everyone into their carseats so at least she knew where they all were and they couldn’t hurt each other or themselves and maybe just maybe the baby would finally fall asleep! And as she began that desperate drive, maybe she thought that as long as she was spending a disturbingly expensive gallon of gas to drive toward the next town she might as well try to get something done, despite realizing belatedly that her hair was somewhere south of brushed and she hadn’t changed her shirt since the baby urped on her.
And then after that first errand was accomplished and everyone was strapped in again, maybe the preschooler casually asked, “Hey, does the hardware store have a bathroom or something?” And then the Desperate mother realized that the only nearby public restroom of acceptable cleanliness and sufficient dimensions was at the library. So they headed over there and unloaded everyone again to take care of business, and then since they were there and no one was yelling, they settled in to look at the puzzles and get a couple books.
And suddenly this Desperate mother (who was swinging the baby in the carseat, reminding the toddler not to throw all the puppets off the rack, and trying to supervise the preschooler's book selection) realized that the woman across the room--who was looking frazzled as she dealt with one toddler--was looking at her like she must be Amazing, Competent, and Organized to do this with three children. And this Desperate mother was very, very amused.