Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Two toddlers and a mom

Today Peanut had a “field trip” of sorts for school. The plan was to drive to a nearby train station, ride about 3 stops to a neighboring town, get off and walk to a park, have a picnic lunch and play for a bit, then take the train back. Simple enough, right?

For most mothers, who had only one child to manage, yes, yes it was. For me? Who had both Loaf and Peanut? It was fraught with challenges.

First, I had to bring a stroller. There was no getting around it. Even without having to cart a blanket to sit on, lunch for the three of us, and diapers and wipes, a stroller was a must. Because walking anywhere with an untethered Loaf is not for the faint of heart. It requires stamina and strength, eagle eyes and a lightning fast reflexes. As well as patience. Lots and lots of patience.

I brought the smallest stroller we have: an umbrella number, but it was still me, two children, a backpack bigger than me and the stroller.

We made it to the train station in plenty of time and easily found a parking spot (sounds easy, but it’s not) and made out way to the platform. About five minutes before the train was due to arrive, I decided to free Loaf and fold up the stroller in order not to hold up the rest of our party (I don’t know what I was thinking with that because do you know how long it takes for 41 adults and even more kids to board a train? Neither do I, but it’s a really long time. I don’t think the conductors liked us very much).

But I digress. The moment I freed Loaf, I stooped to fold the stroller and what did she do? Make a beeline for the tracks. Luckily, a parent with those lightning fast reflexes that I lack caught her by the arm and she spent the rest of our wait being held—firmly—in my arms.

So we finally get on the train and they are in heaven. Seriously, this was about the best thing ever. And that was really fun and cool.

On the train


Now it’s time to disembark, and because there is a huge gap between the train and the platform, two teachers are standing there to help everyone off the train (this will be important for later).

We get off, I set up the stroller, Loaf climbs in (excellent, because I was expecting a battle) and off we go. It turns out be a respectable walk to the park and when we get there the first thing I see is a gigantic duck pond full of waterfowl. And I instantly think, “Oh. Shit.” Because if there is one thing Loaf loves it’s ducks. And geese. And swans. (Which in fairness are all “ducks” to her; so far she does not share her mother's love for identifying birds).

I strategically place our blanket as far from this water hazard as possible and we eat our lunch. (Well, I eat and Loaf and Peanut drink their vanilla milk and pick at what I brought for them).

We are not done with lunch for even .0004 seconds when the two girls run off toward the pond. Peanut is fine. A bunch of kids are feeding the birds small pieces of bread and she’s happy to just watch. Not Loaf though. Oh no, she insists on going right up to the edge and leaning way over to dangle a stick in the water. Any attempt to hang on to her, or stand in front of her, or move her is met with shrieking at a pitch that probably had dogs all over town howling in pain.

The water is mucky and filled with goose poop and since the pond is manmade, it immediately goes to a depth of a couple of feet. I have images of having to jump in after her and then riding back on the train covered in muck and crap. This is not making me happy.

Fortunately, the school’s director comes to the rescue by picking that exact moment to hand out beach balls to all the kids. Perhaps the only thing Loaf loves more than ducks are balls, so it was easy to persuade her go back to the picnic area. La phew.

The girls play with their balls for a few minutes, then I spy a large playground across the way with slides, swings and other kid-friendly fun. Best of all, it’s gated, and at this point keeping them confined seems like a good plan. They are in the middle of the play area, and I turn back to walk 20 feet or so to get our blanket, bag and stroller.

As I’m packing up, Loaf makes a run for a nearby road. Heart in my throat, I run after her, but again another parent was faster than me and thwarts her. Good shit, I’m really not doing so great here, am I?

The rest of our time is spent in the play area, which is fine with me. Not soon enough, it’s time to walk back to the train, so I plop Loaf back in the stroller and we start walking. Peanut is tired and we’re moving slowly and fall to the back of the pack. As we approach the station, I see that the train is already there. We pick up the pace and make it to the station. I remove Loaf and fold the stroller and we climb the stairs to the platform.

The boarding process this time around is going even more slowly. As we approach the train, the gap between the platform and train starts to worry me. How do I manage this? I have no free hands and I can’t very well put Loaf down even for a second.

I begin the verbal warnings to Peanut. “I’m going to get on the train first and then stop to help you. Don’t try to go yourself. Stay on. Got it?”

Except, she doesn’t get it and tries to follow me onto the train. Fortunately, for the third time today another adult has my back. She grabs Peanut’s hand and helps her board as I stand straddling the train and platform, trying to balance Loaf and the stroller and the giant bag.

And as I step on, I hear some mother behind me mutter, “Did you see that? She almost fell through.”

Gah! I slink away not feeling very capable or confident. We get a seat in the back of the car and the girls, while tired, still enjoy the ride back.

So I survived, but had three close calls. And what’s even better? Tomorrow I’m driving them – just the two of them – to Massachusetts to visit my mom. Just me. And them. And the New York State Thruway. Kill me now.

But hey? At least Loaf didn’t fall in the duck pond.



Blogger Maureen said...

Ah, yes! I think you handled it extremely well. I couldn't imagine balancing 2 kiddos, my 1 gives me a run for my money. Who cares what the other mommies think - haven't they ever had a bad day?!

11:13 AM  

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