There are days, every once in awhile, where I somehow manage to grossly overestimate my ability to wrangle two kids at one time. Pfft, I say to my myself, how hard can it be? Put together, they don’t even equal half of me in size or weight. One of them can’t even walk. Or sit. The other one can walk AND sit. I can do anything with them that I could possibly want to. I got this. I am Supermom.
Today was one of those days.
It all started with the snowshoes we got Max for Christmas. Now, I like to pretend that I am really, super outdoorsy, and sometimes I’m so good at pretending that I talk myself into doing things like hiking a steep, 7 mile mountain trail in the rain at 6 months pregnant while carrying a toddler on my back or going camping in the back yard in a 37 degree downpour just because it’s supposed to be summer dammit or ,oh, I don’t know, strapping snowshoes onto both myself and a whiny two year old with a screaming infant on my chest and plunging into the frozen wastes without anyone around to help me. For example. So anyway, I somehow decided a few weeks ago that it would be a brilliant idea to buy snowshoes for my firstborn son so that we could trek out into the tundra and hunt caribou together during the coming very long and very housebound winter whenever we’d had a bit too much of crayons, Dora, and homemade playdough. What a wonderful way for both of us to get outside in the snow and get some exercise! I thought. And I’ll just tuck Baby C in the ol’ Moby wrap and put on my sealskin parka and then we’ll be all set. It seemed like a no-brainer. Probably because it was a no-brainer. As in, me having no brain. But you may have guessed that part already, probably because you are about 400 times smarter than I am and would never, ever think that any of this is a remotely good idea to begin with.
Anyway. Fast forward to this morning, when we had a thick, white stretch of snow on the ground and a new pair of toddler snowshoes gleaming innocently in their box. We’d been housebound for days, mind you, and the thought of one more sedentary morning fighting with Max over which chair he wanted to sit in at the breakfast table was striking me as overwhelming. “You know what? It’s a good twenty degrees outside,” I said to myself. “Let’s go outside!”
So, I put on something a little more sturdy than yoga pants and started to get everyone dressed to go outside, which was simple enough; after all, that involved only carefully putting down a sleeping Baby C who promptly jolted awake, chasing a mostly naked Max around the dining room table for approximately seven minutes before I was able to catch him, carrying him into the bedroom, trying to bend down and grab clothes out the basket of clean laundry we seem to be calling our dresser these days, having him squirm away and run off again, spending another seven minutes chasing him while Baby C started to cry, grabbing Baby C to comfort her, catching Max again, carrying a child under each arm into the bedroom, propping C against a pillow, wrestling Max (literally) into a warm shirt and fleece lined jeans (of course we don’t have any snowpants for him yet; why would I buy snowpants? Who needs snowpants when there’s only SNOW outside??), putting a binky in C’s mouth while grabbing socks, chasing Max and catching him again to put on said socks, asking him if he needs to go potty (“No”, of course), taking him potty anyway, sitting in the bathroom for ten minutes waiting for him to go potty (of course he doesn’t), fetching Catherine and starting the whole dressing process with her, stuffing her into her full body snowsuit and zipping it up, finding Max again and bundling on his coat, hat, and gloves while Catherine flails angrily (as best she can in about 30 layers of fleece) on the changing table, zipping Max up only to realize that he has pooped in the diaper I JUST PUT ON HIM AFTER TEN MINUTES ON THE POTTY, unzipping the coat, taking off the mittens, removing the hat, holding him under one arm to prevent his escape while moving C off of the changing table and depositing her onto the couch, putting Max on the changing table, wiggling off his jeans, changing him (while he incessantly turns the light on and off and on and off as the switch is right next to the table), getting the jeans back on, buckling his belt, putting on the coat, hat, mittens, and then trying to do The Shoes, which is a nightmare (about The Shoes: we recently got these boots for Max that resemble hiking boots but are slip-ons; when I say slip-ons, I mean that you put his toe into the shoe, pull the tongue out against the elastic laces as hard as you possibly can which if you are not actively sweating and panting is not hard enough, and then with all of your strength attempt to jam his foot into the boot, which involves pushing and yanking and maneuvering and bending legs at improbable angles while Max screams about the fact that he’s in minor pain but that, more importantly, you’re not letting him help, until the heel finally pops in and you can wiggle the child’s ankle back and forth to get the now-caved-in back of the boot free of itself. They’re a shining, ingenious example of convenience and comfort in the land of functional children’s fashion, those “slip-on” boots), finally getting the shoes and also some inadvertent kicks to the face, and then ignoring two sniveling, overheating children while trying to set up a Moby wrap, get the baby into it, and put on my own boots, mittens, hat, and gloves.
Piece of cake. I’m Supermom, remember?
We trudged outside . Max was definitely interested in the snowshoes, which I took to be a good sign. I got everyone down the flight of stairs leading from the house to the driveway, unlocked the cellar where my own snowshoes live, and awkwardly strapped them on while Baby C screeched from my chest, “You’re squishing me! I can’t breathe! I hate this! You suck! OW!” Then I waddled back over to the stairs, sat Max down, even more awkwardly sat/squatted (wearing snowshoes now, don’t forget) and attempted to strap *his* snowshoes on while Baby C again berated my treatment of her. There are a lot of little straps and buckles on showshoes, you guys. They kind of suck to put on. It was at this point that the thought “is this worth it?” flashed briefly through my head, but I quickly ousted it with a burst of Supermommian determination and then somehow managed to stand up, pick up Max (with Catherine still strapped to my chest), and place him on the ground with flipper-sized blocks of plastic now attached to his feet.
We stood. We had made it. We were outside.
“Ta da!” I crowed. “Look, Max, we’re SNOWSHOEING! How exciting!”
A small miracle: Max actually seemed to be enjoying it. He was uncertain at first, but also appeared to know what we were doing and why, and was stoked to be doing it for himself. My confidence in myself and my superhuman parenting ability grew severalfold. I held his hand and showed him how to scrape and heave his way forward and he did it. He was a natural! He started walking a little more comfortably. Baby C was still looking sulky but her crying had ceased. Things were looking up, and I just knew we were going to have a wonderful time.
…And then Max took a slight misstep, overlaying one snowshoe onto the other as we are all wont to do on occasion, and POP! His little socked foot was suddenly hovering uncertainly above the icy ground. It took me a second to register what had happened, which was that the boot had stayed firmly strapped into the snowshoe, and that it was his foot that had – wait for it - slipped out of the slip-on. (Hard to imagine, I know.) It took me about three seconds to register what this meant: that now, a good ten or fifteen yards from the stairs, I now had to figure out a way to get the boot back ON to his foot. While holding him upright and balanced on one leg. While keeping the enMobyed bundle on my chest free from the hysterics on which she bordered. While wearing snowshoes.
Remember when I told you how convenient and ingenious Max’s slip-on boots are? Um, yeah. In case you didn’t then detect the overflowing burst pipe of sarcasm in my virtual voice at the time, I’ll say it here: I was lying. Nothing about the boots are “slip-on” in the slightest (their ability to slip OFF, though, is apparently without equal). They are horrible to get on and nothing we’ve tried seems to make it any easier to do so and I would have returned them long ago if I hadn’t thrown away the receipt before becoming aware of my rapidly impending boot-thrusting doom.
So, this is what I did: I slowly splayed my feet apart enough for me to kind of sink down on one knee with my snowshoe flipped out behind me. I murmured soothing endearments into Catherine’s ear to keep her calm as I did so, which was about as helpful as suggesting demurely behind your hand to a thundering torrent of angry water buffalo that they keep it down a bit. I draped Max over my shoulder to keep him upright, grabbed his leg, said a little prayer, and jammed it down and wiggled and jammed and wiggled and jammed for all I was worth. Baby C was being legitimately squashed and was not shy in being vocal about it. Max was pretty sure he was about to lose his leg at the calf and was not shy in expressing his fear of such an occurrence, either.
Miraculously, though, the boot finally popped on. (That’s what they should call them – “pop-ons”. Instead of selling them as a helpful design of children’s shoe, they can market them as an upper-body-strength-building device. Slash instrument of torture.) I still don’t know how I did it, but we were back in business! Triumphantly, I lurched to a stand, bounced and shushed to comfort Catherine as best I could, took Max’s hand again, and we kept on going.
We decided that instead of hunting caribou we’d set our sights a little closer to home – the mailbox at the end of the driveway. Honestly, once we got going, we had a pretty good time. We walked mostly in the car tracks, but Max got brave and ventured into the deeper powder (“deeper” here meaning the two-three inches outside of the car tracks), and got at huge kick out of his giant footprints. We made it to the mailbox without further incident, collected a letter and a catalog (“One for me and one for you!” I cheerily told Max, handing him the catalog to carry), and turned around to head home.
This was great! Here I was, Supermom, snowshoeing with my kiddos, a picture of health and happiness and wholesome memories in the making. Life was good.
…And then Max tripped again.
He dropped his mail and fell forward into the snow – and his snowshoes, and BOTH boots, stayed pluckily upright behind him.
Hastily I grabbed the spilled mail, shoved it into the pocket of my peacoat, pulled the splay-kneel-prop-squish-the-infant move again and picked him up and stood him in the driveway in his socks – I had to get myself back upright, so I didn’t have a choice there. Then I picked him up and bundled him under my arm, took one look at the footless boots of evil, looked up at the impossibly-far-off staircase that was our ticket out of this whole mess, blatantly ignored the wailing, snot-spewing baby under my chin, sighed that sigh where you close your eyes for a second to steel yourself for whatever it is you’re about to do, and started a-shoein’.
I finally made it to the blessed stairs and set Max down, still in his socks, on the wooden planks. His eyes were brimming and he looked cold and sad and uncertain. Baby C had gone for broke by this time and was wailing and wailing. The mail wilted, damp and crumpled, in my coat pocket. I was exhausted from the sheer effort of existing through the past hour. I knew I would never get the shoes back on now, and Max had had enough, anyway; it was time to give up and go inside.
Have I mentioned that we had been outside for less than fifteen minutes?
And the fun wasn’t even over. I began trying to figure out the logistics of getting inside. I couldn’t go up the stairs because, don’t forget, I was still wearing my snowshoes. Catherine was hysterical and had a scratch on her face and I fully understood that she would never forgive me if I bent over on top of her even one more time. Max was on the precipice of a meltdown and I knew I needed to get him inside and warm if we were going to avoid the threatened thundercloud on his end of the line. What was I do? Thinking quickly, I looked around, trying to figure out where I could safely put Baby C while I de-shoed and took Max inside. Then it hit me – the van! The swagger wagon was parked right there in front of me. I whipped open the side door, took C out of the Moby wrap and sat her in Max’s car seat, buckling the buckles and pulling them tight so she wouldn’t topple over, apologized to her for putting her through all of this to begin with, then quickly extricated myself from my snowshoes and whisked Max up the stairs and inside. I hastily stripped off his coat, hat, mittens, pants and socks, told him that I needed to go get Baby C and I would be right back, and ran outside and down the stairs to fetch my poor baby girl, who amazingly had stopped crying but I’m sure only because she was so traumatized by the whole affair that she had gone into shock.
I scooped her up, shut the car door, ran to get Max’s snowshoes so they wouldn’t get run over if anyone returned home from work soon, threw them haphazardly onto the stairs, and then ran inside, leaving a wake of scattered gloves and boots in my path. Max was shivering pitifully on the chair and I set Baby C, who was beginning to get worked up again, on the changing table while I rushed to get him in some fleece jammies and dry socks and give him a hug and promise hot chocolate when this whole mess was over and things were settled down enough for me to actually go into the kitchen with two hands free for long enough to make it for him. Then I peeled the now-crying-again Catherine out of her fleecy purple straightjacket, kicked off my boots, rushed over to the couch, practically threw myself on it, attached her to my boob, and relaxed at last. Whew. We’d survived. I’d gone outside with two kids by myself for an entire fifteen minutes.
If there is one thing I need to get KNOCKED INTO MY BRAIN BY A FLYING SNOWSHOE MADE OF SOLID GRANITE, it is this:
I. Am. Not. Supermom.
Once I figure that out, I imagine that I and my poor children will be so much happier. We will exist in a state of pure PBS-watching, popcorn-bingeing, never-going-to-the-park-ever-unless-there-are-two-adults-available-per-child-and-everyone-is-wearing-helmets tranquility. There will be no hysterics. There will be no wet feet. There will be marathons of crayons and Dinosaur Train and… well, not much else, probably.
Sigh. Okay, so maybe that’s not the lesson I need to learn. Who knows – maybe there is no lesson to learn. Or no need to learn it. After all, I’ve got to give my children the gift of having a reason to drink when they grow up, right? And the bonding experience of having both survived the crazy ambitiousness and underestimation that was their mother and her brain, or lack thereof? And the book deal that one of them will inevitably acquire after writing their chaotic memoirs? The movie rights? Someday they’ll thank me for all of this, right?
Sometimes, it’s better to just not think too hard about these things, I suppose. You just go and do, and leave piles of arctic outerwear showered over the steps and the driveway, and drink hot chocolate afterward. You grin and bear the numb toes and the scratches, the glares and threatening fist-shakes from the four-month-old. And then you relax and nurse the baby and everything is well and good in the world, at least until the next Supermom-brained scheme comes along.
…The next scheme or the next inopportune Jehovah’s Witness, that is (why do my stories always end like this?):
So there I was, finally nursing and relaxing on the couch, when there came an unexpected knock at the door. I leapt up in bewilderment, pulling the babe from me just as let-down hit and yanking my shirt down and scurrying toward the door, tripping over Max as he attempted to bar my away, reminding me in an outraged voice of my promise of hot chocolate. I finally made it onto the sun porch and then to the door with a toddler wrapped around my leg like an angry gecko on a tree, a frantically hunting baby mouth grinding itself madly under my now-soaked-to-the-nines-in-spraying-milk t-shirt and reattaching itself to the offending teat, and maniacal hat hair. I put on my most welcoming and politely inquisitive smile and opened the door to reveal a perfectly-made up, proper-hat-and-leather-gloves-and-long-gray-peacoat-sporting Jehovah’s Witness. She had an equally welcoming and polite smile on her face for about an eighth of a second before it dissolved into a grimace, her surprised eyes growing enormous in alarm; shrinking back, her carefully rehearsed speech shrinking with her, she flashed me a weak smile. “Er – hi – here!” she said, hurriedly thrusting her magazines into my one free hand. “I’ll call again later; don’t want the baby to get cold! Heh heh!” And then quickly turned and scurried away, dodging the gloves and ski poles scattered on the stairs only to snag herself on a snowshoe at the bottom. I’ve never seen a JW run away from my door faster. The end.
Oh wait, I almost forgot: “And they all lived happily ever after.” (“By which I mean that they inevitably got smashed at every single family gathering ever held thereafter and, joyfully, never saw another Jehovah’s Witness at their door again as long as they lived.”)
That’s all she wrote, folks. Until the next attack of Supermom-brain, of course.