I was with my three kids the other day, en route to a favorite public water park. As I saw the bus pulling up, I remembered—suddenly, viscerally, and more than a little bit painfully—the first time I took all three of them to this same park.
My littlest was about 6-weeks-old, and I was feeling my oats. Maybe even strutting a little at that bus stop, so proud was I of myself: packing the picnic, gathering the various water paraphernalia, and getting us all—me, my almost 4-year-old, my almost 2-year-old, and the wee little one—to the bus stop. Look at me! I wanted to shout to passers-by. I’m totally pulling this off!
I maybe expected some applause. I sure as hell was applauding myself.
The bus took forever to arrive.
In the meantime, my oldest decided she had to pee. Terrified that the bus would arrive at the exact second that we turned home to go to the bathroom (because obviously it would), I had her pee by a tree. No big deal. Except that my middle daughter, who had been attempting to toilet train herself for a couple of weeks at this point (which we were, frankly, kind of ignoring, just until we’d all settled in with the newest addition), decided that she also wanted to pee. Suddenly she was completely naked.
The bus pulled up.
She still hadn’t peed. Or put her clothes back on. (Which—how could she? She wasn’t even 2 yet. But at that moment, I was seriously wishing she’d miraculously developed some new skills in the last few seconds.)
So there I was, with a totally naked about-to-pee toddler, an infant, and a just-having-peed preschooler, frantically trying to get us on all on the bus. I wasn’t really sure what to do first: put a diaper on the middle one? Help them climb the stairs and go back for the snap-and-go? (I generally wore the little ones, but I had a lot to transport, what with the food and the towels.) Sit down and laugh until I cried?
I directed the oldest to help her sister on the bus, while I schlepped the snap-and-go up the stairs. But I forgot about the bottle of wine—the previously opened bottle of wine—underneath. The wine (obviously) spilled all over the snap-and-go. I won’t swear that some didn’t end up somehow on the baby. (And by some, I mean a little more than some.)
So here I am, with a naked toddler in the charge of her slightly older sister and an infant reeking of wine.
I didn’t expect applause anymore.
I didn’t expect much of anything, except maybe to be kicked off the bus. Instead, someone reached out and caught the back of the stroller, helping me up and helping me to set it down. And really, just overall helping me. I safely got a diaper on my toddler, amidst a lot of knowing glances and nods that said, “I’ve been there. I’ve got your back.” I still was on the edge, barely holding it together (and seriously bummed that I didn’t even have a small glass of wine to look forward to, what with it being all over the stroller and the baby), but already starting to see the funny side. Already imagining the story I would tell my friends when we got there.
Already seeing past my own situation to be grateful for the generosity of others.
And yeah, already expecting applause, again, having (more or less) gotten us safely en route. Until I caught a whiff of my wine-soaked baby. The upside? At least we were going to a water park, and I could rinse him and the stroller off.