It was another one of those nights when I couldn’t sleep. By 2am, one kid had woken up once, another twice, and I was wide awake from my efforts to get everyone back to sleep again. So, as I usually do, I just laid there in bed thinking. Sometimes I think about what to pack the kids for snacks for camp. Or I wonder if I forgot to put the laundry in the dryer. Sometimes I think about the long list of things I haven’t been able to get to. This was one of those nights.
But instead of the thoughts leading towards my inability to empty the dishwasher, or put the kids’ clothes away in their bureaus, or the fact that the house hasn’t been vacuumed in a week, I started thinking about all the activities I haven’t been able to do with the kids. We don’t go to the playground, or play groups, or museums, zoos, or mini-golf. Or even the library. The kids ask, especially Gerry, but the answer is almost always “not today”.
I laid there thinking of how I got to this place of being so paralyzed by fear or worry about going out with all three boys. Maybe it was just laziness. When Gerry was little, we did everything. We did an infant play group that morphed into a group of friends that continued to meet for a year after. I took him to gymnastics classes, music classes, playgrounds, day trips, the beach. Gerry was a “good kid”, meaning of course that he clung to me and was hesitant to join in any rough-and-tumble activity until he warmed up to the situation. That meant that he was never the one to instigate any battles or throw sand at other kids. He would share his toys, almost to a fault. It was never me as the parent doing the apologizing for my kid, the “I’m so sorry he pushed your kid down the slide into the dirt” statements.
I closed my eyes and remembered when that all ended. Howie was a cranky, colicky baby. He never napped well, and when he did it was only on my lap or my bed. That completely restricted our ability to do much of anything when he was very little. And as he got older, his sensory issues really started to flare up. Movies and museums became very difficult adventures. And don’t even get me started about the zoo. We took him when he was about 2 years old, and one loud squak from the peacock and we were done. I ended up having to carry him through the rest of the zoo while his face was buried in my shoulder. Even storytime at the library became an impossible outing. Howie couldn’t sit still in the circle to hear the story or listen to the music, so he’d run off. I’d chase him, Gerry would follow me out, and that was the end of that. When Lewis came along, I was finished. I couldn’t chase Howie, listen to Gerry complain about what he’d missed, and try to keep a baby asleep through his nap time. So we just stopped.
I opened my eyes again and got very sad. What was it that was keeping me from doing these things with the boys now? Was it the fear that something might happen? What could that something be? A tantrum? Screaming and yelling? From me or the boys? Was it the fear that we’d see someone we knew while this was going on? Was it the kids that I was worried about, or was it my own pride? I finally settled myself back to sleep, wondering if the schedule for the next day would include more than just a trip to Target.
The next morning, I got the kids their juice and checked my e-mail as I usually do. In my inbox was this blog post from a mother who is a lot like me. Like me, she had spent the night planning the week for her kid, knowing he needed routine and a schedule. And like me she’s not a planner. In her post, she writes about realizing there were things she hadn’t done yet with her youngest that she used to do with her older one. So she put it on the schedule. It was the push I needed to get us out again.
So “library” went on the Monday schedule.
The boys had been good all day so after Lewis woke up from his nap we got in the hot car and headed to the library. I chose the one in the next town over – telling the kids that it had better books for their age, but really it was because I figured we’d have less chance seeing someone we knew. We pulled into the parking lot and a big “Sorry We’re Closed” sign hung on the door (you’d think they’d update their website with their summer hours!!). So with a deep breath, and with moans from the backseat of “But we wanted to go to the LIBRARY!!!”, I turned around and headed back to our town’s little library.
Luckily for us, and the other people in our town, the children’s part of the library was empty. I could see the surprise on the face of the librarian when we came in – she recognized me, but not the kids. Gerry wandered around looking for the one book he hadn’t read yet. Howie climbed onto the stool, pulled out three random books and proclaimed that “these are the ones I want to buy!”. Lewis spotted the crayons, climbed up into a chair, and proceeded to draw all over the table. I felt like I was herding cats.
But we survived. Not sure the library did. Somehow we managed to leave with two books for Gerry and three for Howie before Lewis turned off every computer in there. We even signed up for the summer reading program which I may try to actually do this year. With Lewis squirming under my arm, we gathered up our books and climbed back into the now screaming hot car. I was beaming with pride. Hurray for us! We went to the library! And even better, that must have killed an hour or so of the afternoon! It must be almost dinnertime!
Fifteen minutes. We were only in there fifteen minutes.
But we did it and that’s all that mattered. While I’m still wary of going out with all three boys alone, I know that I have to try. I owe it to my kids to give them the experiences they deserve, and not get wrapped up in my own fears.
I’m now planning our schedule for the rest of the week and thinking of what we could do. Dare I say, maybe the zoo will be on that list?
“But what do you say to taking chances,
What do you say to jumping off the edge?
Never knowing if there’s solid ground below
Or hand to hold, or hell to pay,
What do you say?” – Taking Chance by Celine Dion