Then I started taking my kids out in public. I realized they can quickly rain on any joy parade I have laid out, through all sorts of strategic sabotage, and that despite my best efforts I don't really like lattes, it's failure all over the place.
Since my realization that outings, by myself, with my kids are, more often than not, excruciatingly painful, we don't do much. There is school, a periodic trip to the grocery or friends house, and just recently there are lessons and practices to attend, otherwise I am going to need back up to make an attempt at "enjoying" the outside world with my kids.
Thursday afternoon though I received an email from the Austin Children's Museum about things happening around town for the kids. One of the highlighted events was the Architects of Air exhibit at the downtown performing arts center. The picture intrigued me and the description about stimulating your child's imagination and enhancing their sense of wonder had me yearning to do just that for my children. This could be the outing that changed all of their lives.
Check these photos out from the architects of air website. You can see the whole site here.
I was going to be the BEST MOTHER EVER!
I still had my reservations though. Taking three kids in to the city for a large art exhibit, by myself, made my stomach get a little nervous. A good portion of me is simply...chicken.
I couldn't get it off my mind though. That pre-kid optimism could not be beat down. I am capable. I can handle anything. I've changed explode-up-your-back poop diapers in tiny airplane bathrooms over the ocean while sweating and comforting a toddler crying at my legs. I am a bad ass.
I decided to leave it up to fate. If Stella woke up from her nap in time for me to pick Aiden up early from school before I got Cole, we were heading to cultured enlightenment and all around exciting living. If she slept until when I had to pick up Cole, we would ride bikes and eat popcorn on the driveway and draw our own art in chalk.
Stella took a horrible nap and woke up crazy early, which was sort of a mixed signal but I decided to go for it.
I raced to get Aiden, calling school the school on the way to have him in the office and ready to go. It was a mere hour before school ended, but the MaryAnn in me was shaking in my boots over the idea of taking him out early for a cultural experience.
I got Aiden through the door of the school and he immediately burst in to tears. I couldn't quite understand what he was saying through his sobs, making it impossible to comprehend why he was so upset. Surely he was going to be elated once I told him we were going to an art exhibit!
I soon found out that I was forcing him to miss recess. He was devastated. He informed me that he wasn't going to have recess again for...days!!!!!!!!! The sobbing continued all the way to Cole's preschool. He didn't even stop long enough to ask me what an exhibit was, he really was traumatized.
After picking up Cole though, he was able to focus on the bigger picture. He stopped crying and turned his attention to Cole's claims of being the tallest person on Earth. Cole repeated this claim over and over again while Aiden grew more and more frustrated with the absurdity of it all. More tears.
Once Aiden admitted defeat to Cole's determination to be the tallest person on Earth, both boys bored of that argument and began to fight about whether or not you HAD to sit down to pee when you have a penis. These types of arguments occur with great regularity in our family, Cole claims to read minds, Cole insists he can fly, Cole can read, etc., and I do my best to stay out of it because it only fuels the insanity when I chime in.
(By the way, Cole has a serious future as the top bullshitter of something. He is fierce.)
I think my fears about the huge undertaking I had embarked on were rising to the surface as the sit versus stand debate ensued in the back of the van. Why did I think I could take these kids in to the city by self....for culture? I couldn't resist and found myself shouting things like, "It's OK for some boys to wipe when they pee!" OR "If you have a penis you ARE a boy. No one with a penis is a girl, even if they sit down!" OR "It's a vagina, not pagina and NO, it wasn't ever a penis."
This is how they are damaging my brain.
People were all over the front lawn of the center, and the huge Architects of Air display was prominently featured right next to the building. Signs for the exhibit were everywhere, each containing the words, "TODAY'S EXHIBIT SOLD OUT."
I was crushed. The boys...not so much. Their only concern was that they both had to go to the bathroom immediately, probably spurred by their sit vs. stand argument.
I quickly regrouped and made peace with their lack of culture, this situation called for ice cream. I navigated to the ice cream shop, waited five minutes for a Mini Cooper to vacate their spot so I could squeeze in my minivan and my envy at their cool car, and then all held hands while walking to get our ice cream and bathroom break.
As we walked in to the empty ice cream shop, the employees immediately wanted to help us. I let them know we'd be right back to order, smiling and pointing to the boys, "we need to make a quick restroom stop first."
"Oh.....lady that is NOT happening. Our toilet has been clogged for the last week. I could try to fix it, but it would take me forever. I think the closest restroom is down the street at the diner next to the tattoo place. Why are you looking at me like I'm crazy? I'm totally serious."
Why am I looking at you like you're crazy?!?!?! This is a freakin' ice cream shop. Kids flock here. You serve food and drinks, how could you have an inoperable toilet for a week? If it's going to take you forever to fix it, then call someone else that will take less than a week asshole!!!!
"No, not crazy, just a little frustrating. Where is that diner?" I am so polite.
I hike it around the corner to the hippest diner I have been in....ever. No one is over 40 or under 25 and there could basically be a photo shoot that day for my InStyle Magazine. The entire restaurant could fit in my living room because it's so tight and the hostess is intimidatingly beautiful, with tattoos and a nose ring.
I am not often this intimidated asking to use the restroom, but I find myself shocked and so out of place it's ridiculous. I fumble over my words, "Hi! We were supposed to be at the Long Center, but the exhibit is sold out and well, I have all these kids, so we came to get ice cream and my boys have to go to the bathroom and the ice cream place has a clogged toilet."
Seriously, I'm just happy I resisted telling her I too once had a nose ring....and my pride.
She was very kind and pointed me back to the restrooms. Wait. She showed me to the restroom, singular. One stall with a little sink outside in an excruciatingly small waiting area. Yep, Aiden, Cole, Stella, myself, and a stroller shoved ourselves in to the single restroom for this cool establishment in which we had no right to be.
I did my death whisper to the boys, making them swear they only had to pee. Aiden went first and wasn't in there two minutes before I heard him ask me for wipes through the door. "Are you POOPING Aiden?"
"I have to Mommy."
I attempted to muster my best Mom self and cheerfully told him to try to hurry...which is simply absurd because Aiden might be able to shower in less than three minutes, but pooping is going to take no less than 10.
The first stranger opens the door, hits Stella's stroller, sees all of us, and promptly leaves.
Cole begins crying because he really has to pee. Stella has started to crab her crotch and pull on her diaper so that she too can participate in the fun of sitting on the public toilet. I suddenly feel that I have to pee and feel unsure about my ability to hold it with all the chaos around me.
Cole begins singing American Pie.
Second stranger opens the door, hits Stella's stroller, sees all of us, gasps, and promptly leaves.
I gently urge Aiden to hurry and he reassures me that he has just started wiping, only five more minutes! He's having trouble folding the wipes in to perfect squares after each wipe and he's concerned that there isn't a full length mirror in the actual stall that he can bend over in front of to confirm that he's gotten it all. Yep, this is what I'm dealing with here.
Stella is attempting to kiss the full length mirror and Cole is copying her while confusing the lyrics and singing mostly about whiskey now. I now have one child compulsively wiping and two making out with themselves in the mirror. I'm sweating.
Third stranger opens the door, hits Stella's stroller, sees all of us, tells her daughter they are going to have to think of something else, and promptly leaves.
Aiden is done!
Cole heads in to the stall and Aiden washes his hands while Stella freaks out that I'm not lifting her up to wash hers as well. I'm a really bad Mom.
Cole finishes quickly, though takes five minutes to pull up his underwear and shorts and then figure out how to open the door.
Cole washes his hands while Aiden tries to climb over the stroller, because he is incapable of acting sane unless strapped to a chair these days, and Stella is attempting to shove Cole out of the way so she can be closer to the water he is dripping on the floor.
I curse my desire for culture and a city experience, decide I would rather pee my pants than wait another moment in that bathroom, and we all stumble out, sweaty and frustrated.
We make it back through the restaurant, down the street, and successfully order ice cream....which they surprisingly did actually have in stock and ready for us. The ice cream eating went very well. Everyone sat down. Everyone was happy. No one needed anything. It was a fantastic five minutes.
I decided we needed to head home immediately to avoid traffic. Unfortunately, Stella was devastated to be leaving the electric meters she had been playing with and threw a massive tantrum. I carried her under my arm, pushed the stroller and yelled at the boys all the way to the parking area, where two other cars were waiting for me to move my giant minivan.
There was honestly no end to the uncool moments during all of this.
Stella squirmed out of my arms, attempted to climb on the stroller while I was getting my key, and fell to the concrete, on her head, creating a giant mark on her forehead. Awesome. I picked her up and tried for ten minutes to strap her in to her car seat without success. Aiden was finally able to convince her to sit down and my ego was once again deflated when my six year old out-parented me.
All I wanted was a few minutes of cultural enlightenment for myself and my kids and instead we had potty talk, potty time, and a head injury.
We pulled on to the highway to head home and were immediately in stand still traffic. When we hadn't moved more than a few miles after about fifteen minutes, I exited and decided we were going to a park that we used to frequent before our move to the burbs.
We stayed for two hours.
The boys ran off and fought boys in school uniforms with large sticks. (I really just didn't want to know.) Stella was content to swing, until she met a one year old boy and his really annoying Dad and then she mostly just wanted to be with them...and I was OK with that.
Well, I was OK with that until I ran in to a sorority sister from Purdue, so joyfully random, and forced Stella to pretend to want to be with me again and swing some more. We talked and it was relaxing. The boys moved on to peeing on the public restroom because the toilets were clogged (Austin might have a serious problem here,) and fighting only one another with big sticks.
I had such expectations of what fun the entire art exhibit was going to be. I was excited to see my children experience something different and outside of our normal world. I was so disappointed when most of our day revolved around tears and bathrooms and being uncomfortable....but the park?
Well, it was 70 degrees and no one cried the whole time we were there. We'd been there a million times and it felt very low on the scale of cultural impact, particularly when my boys dropped their pants to urinate on a building, but it ended up pretty great.
Will I be making great efforts to take them on another outing by myself soon?
Hell no....but I sure am grateful we had a peaceful car ride home instead of another trip filled with fights about whether the word is rhyme or rhine, or if Aiden can actually run faster at night than he can during the day.
Seriously, when do these types of arguments stop and when am I going to be mature enough to not participate? I should try go to more cultural events, maybe that would help.