At 4:14 this afternoon, I stood in the procedure room of ABC Pediatrics and sent ten friends the following text:
"Friends: Please be witnesses as I swear a solemn oath to never, ever, ever take my children out in public again. No errands, no restaurants, no stores, no doctor appointments. I don't need ANYTHING badly enough to take them anywhere. Church is only permitted because (I erased something really sacrilegious). Please be my sponsors when my resolve weakens. Remind me that being on the no-kids-in-public bandwagon is essential for my sanity. That is all. Thank you and good night."
In response, my sweet friends said encouraging, validating, empathetic things. That's why I love them. One in particular said, "I hope this at least turns into a good blog post!" So Audra, this one's for you.
Today included things like leaving two hysterically screaming children in the YMCA child watch and then arriving in the cardio room to realize I left my ear buds on the kitchen counter and would have to complete my hour-long elliptical workout in silence.
And Gavin spilling pineapple juice all over my freshly mopped floor.
And children who raided their Halloween candy bags at 6:00 a.m. and then fought constantly until they were ushered out the door to school at 8:00.
And a teething baby whose diarrhea has turned her poor bum into a raging red war zone.
And a four-year-old who took his baby sister out into the greenway behind our house and started climbing a tree as she roamed, unattended...all while I had a short little potty break.
And a child who has stormed through the house, angry about something or other, nearly every moment of the time we have been at home together.
And a boy who whacked his brother with a metal broom handle and then complimented the injured child's piercing scream with shrill bursts of a referee's whistle.
And then we went to the doctor's office for flu shots. Just getting from the house to the van involved tears, sibling-on-sibling physical assault, fighting over car seat placement, and copious complaining about the upcoming activity. Then we had to navigate the medical office parking lot. The kids fanned out, each disappearing behind a different vehicle, popping out occasionally to scare and/or irritate the daylights out of me. Gavin had a close encounter with a moving car. Then he and Lexi screamed over who got to push the blue button that opened the door. And then again at the elevator.
Gavin, Zach, and Tyler bounded up the stairs to the second floor. Lexi wanted to ride the elevator. So we waited as I heard boys thundering down the hall above us. An elderly woman, moving along with a walker, an oxygen tank, and an assistant, got into the elevator first. Lexi nearly bowled over the poor lady and jumped for the panel of buttons. The woman was not charmed with her impetuous behavior. Neither was I, but I apologized.
When we arrived on the second floor, I could hear the boys' animated laughter, but I could not see them. Gavin darted around the corner, running toward us at full speed, and almost knocked over an elderly couple stooped over walkers (it must have been Senior Day at the doctor's office). I offered my apologies as I chased Gavin. Zach and Tyler raced Gavin down the hall, and all three boys came to a screeching halt (literally, because they were yelling) at the pediatrician's door. Lexi ran ahead and fought with Gavin over who got to open the door. They were banging on the metal handle and shaking the whole door. I finally opened it and my four mobile kids burst through the door and ran to the toy area. About 15 people were waiting in the chairs that framed the room, and everyone one of them was staring at us. A few of them (honestly and truly) had dropped jaws and wide eyes. I offered a big wave and a loud hello, announcing that the Bartle family had arrived--in case they hadn't noticed.
Of course there was a problem with the paperwork at the front desk. All of the kids except Lexi needed flu shots (she got hers in September), but somehow Zach wasn't on the list. I had to fill out and/or sign three sheets of paper per child, some of which was slow in coming because of the mix-up. I was at the desk for at least five minutes (although it seemed like an hour), and the kids were running wild. It was like one of those over-the-top, inane movies about a crazy large family whose children literally bounce off the walls, paint people with mud, and pop a perfect stranger in the eye. People stop and stare because the spectacle is so...spectacular. And I play the helpless, idiotic, out-of-touch mother whose pleas for order and civility fall on deaf ears. If there was ever a scene for SuperNanny to crash, this was it.
At one point another [surely more seasoned] mother walked all the way across the long room and started lecturing Gavin and Lexi and picking up the books they had un-shelved and re-positioning the bean bags they had dragged to odd places. Gavin was, admittedly, jumping from the windowsill, but he was completely unreceptive to a perfect stranger telling him what to do. As soon as she turned her back, he did it again. And then she wagged her finger. When I walked up and apologized, she said, "Well, someone had to intervene." Yep. She was totally right. I wanted to ask if she'd just take the kids home with her, but then I thought she might have me arrested for Terror Toddler Trafficking. Or something illegal.
Things were a little calmer when we were taken to the procedure room where the nurses would administer the flu vaccines. There was less real estate to destroy, at least. But there weren't enough chairs for everyone, and Gavin apparently had an irrepressible need to hit someone, and Lexi was his target. There were at least three children screaming/crying when two nurses walked in to greet us.
And then there was more paperwork, and the taking of temperatures, and the naming of children, etc. This is when I began typing my SOS text.
Tyler was the first and bravest shot victim. Zach was less so. And by the time it was Gavin's turn, he was completely hysterical and required two people to hold him down for the shot. He was screaming, "I DON'T WANT A FLU SHOT!" over and over again. It took him a while to realize the whole thing was over in two seconds and it barely even hurt. What with all the theatrics, it was hard to notice a little pin prick.
The kids chose temporary tattoos as prizes on our way out. [Insert more fighting: "I want that one!" "Let me hold the basket!" "MOM!!!!"] And then we navigated the elevator/stairs/parking lot in exactly the same manner as we did upon entering the building. And I'm pretty sure Gavin almost knocked over the same lady with a walker.
By the time the kids were in their seat belts in the car, compassionate texts had begun to flow in. I sat in the driver's seat and took a few deep breaths. I resisted the urge to leave the van full of children and walk by myself into the sunset. Instead I drove home, sent everyone to their bedrooms, and called Garry to ask him to bring home dinner.
That is the story behind the SOS text dated November 6th, 2012.