I get a real kick out of my kids. Sometimes I figure if I multiplied the kids, I'd multiply the fun. And then the husband and I convince ourselves to do something fun for the kids, and I'm quickly brought back to reality.
Kid-fun is hard. Especially when you're outnumbered. And you live in the middle of nowhere.
My sister gave us tickets to the Ringling Bros. circus for Christmas. J's been to several circuses, and H has been to one, but was too young to remember. So, not only did it count as a big first for most of the kids, but it was also the first time the husband and I have taken all 4 to any sort of arena activity.
Yesterday's 2-hour show was a 9-hour event for our family. And that's if you don't count getting everyone (and everything) ready to go. 3 baths, 3 showers, 1 french braid, 2 ponytails (on one head), 1 diaper bag with 2 changes of clothes, diapers and wipes, and a lunch/snack bag of sandwiches, granola bars, yogurt drinks, water bottles, sippy cup, bananas and grapes take a little time.
In order to get to the Meadowlands Arena/Brendan Byrne Arena/Continental Airline Arena/Izod Center (located behind Giants Stadium, which is located... behind Giants Stadium) in time for 2:00 bathroom trips and the 3:00 show, we left the house at 11:30 (ish).
The kids thought parking garage was so cool, I wasn't sure the circus could top it. Seriously, they were so excited it was embarrassing. I'm truly considering going out of my way to give them more experience with parking options. Maybe we'll go play with parking meters this week.
After the long drive, I discovered that C has grown way too tall for a front seat diaper change. When I write my parenting book (ha!) I will list that as one of the first signs it's time to start potty training.
There will also be a chapter on searching your children before leaving the house. There is no need for a dozen Littlest Pet Shop Pets at the circus.
Getting into the arena was interesting. 2 parents have 4 hands, so it should be easy. But when you factor in hip shifts, pants hikes, finger repositioning, sweaty palms, and hundreds of other little people milling about, I did find myself repeatedly looking down to make sure I grabbed the correct little person's hand. Forget losing one of my own. All I could think was that I'd be on the news, accused of trying to abduct someone else's fidgety little kid. Or worse, some parent would knowingly exchange a brattier kid for one of mine.
We had 2nd level seats. It never occurred to me to find out if any of my kids might be afraid of heights. I guess it's best that I didn't know I would need to carry my 5yo up and down the stairs in advance. Or that she would need 3 bathroom trips (and H would need 2).
Never mind that C would soak through his jeans within 30 minutes of his awkward diaper change.
Watching the kids watching the show was awesome. C loved the "Dumbos" and the clowns jumping through "kuckles, kares and kangles" (circles, squares and triangles). M now wants to ride elephants for a living and H may be headed for clown college. J loved the chance to clap in time with thousands of other people. He hasn't been able to pick a favorite part yet.
Demanding courteous behavior from children while everyone around them is being rude is exhausting. The fact that the grown woman behind you keeps putting her feet on the top of your seat does not make it okay for you keep poking the woman in front of you with the tip of your wizard hat. The fact that there's a 4yo climbing his large mother, screaming in your mother's ear does not make it okay to stare and loudly ask "What's the matter with him?"
I'm beginning to understand why so many people think I'm a hard ass. They don't believe in respecting other people (or at least pretending to respect other people, which is actually enough for me.)
Also, it is not okay to leave your cotton candy bag, empty cups, or popcorn box on the floor, no matter how many other people do. Just because we spent a good chunk of your college savings on circus food does not mean we purchased the right to be slobs.
Children, this does not mean that Mommy was a bad person when she dumped the leftover sno cones in the grass on the way to the car. Ice melts and colored high-fructose corn syrup can't do any damage to the dead bird I did a great job of keeping you from seeing even after you noticed all of the loose feathers lying around. On the other hand, it could have been a hazard to your health if it had melted into my minivan seats.
All of Ringling Bros. souvenirs (and food) are outrageously priced. That said, I would have paid a pretty penny for one of those whips that the tiger trainer had, just to assist in herding my cats to the car. 2 parents leaving the circus with 4 children no longer have 4 free hands! I'm sure I looked like Mother of the Year, literally using my feet on the behinds of my highly distracted brood in order to keep them in relatively close proximity to each other. I swear, I wasn't kicking them so much as guiding them, but still.
Oh, and for all you people who think going out with a cloth diapered child must be such a pita- at least I'm never tempted to leave a dirty diaper under my car in a parking garage. Talk about gross! Do people not realize they don't just magically disappear under there?
Once everyone was buckled in the car, the husband and I looked at each other and laughed. Like always, we somehow managed to survive taking the kids outside of our little bubble. Little did we know we'd have to stop twice on the way home for even more bathroom breaks, or that we'd work so hard to cool drive-thru food for C, only to have him stuff it all in his carseat, or that H would laugh uncontrollably for most of the ride, or that we'd make the stupid decision to let the children eat sushi in the back seat so I will be left forever sniffing the car for any signs of rotting fish. But we did survive.
And I bet we could do it with 16 children. But I would never want to.