So, I knew it was coming. The Payback. After carousing in NYC with my fellow nerds for a few days, it was only fair that Mrs. Owl get a chance away from the kids, in Vegas. Yes, Vegas. It's lucky for me that both of us have the gambling habits of a Siberian ermine in hibernation, that is, none at all. Or it's lucky that she's hid her gambling addiction and the second mortgage we are now carrying. Either way, you know, I'm a happy camper.
She went down with some of her fellow mommy friends and they had a grand old time in heat that made NYC seem like a spacious Frigidaire. Killing heat. The kind of heat that's too hot for sand. But hey, who am I to judge if her idea of a good time is to gawp at the living proof, the soaring edifices proclaiming that often-repeated but rarely heeded motto "The House Always Wins"?
By all accounts she had a good time and whatnot and I haven't noticed any undue garnishing of my wages, so it was a success.
But enough about her. This is about me! Me taking care of a 1.5 year old and a 4 year old and a small, furry dog given to frequent, enviable naps.
On Saturday I take them to a free live kids performance of a cartoon. Yeah. I know. They dress up two poor schlubs in gigantic costumes of two popular cartoon characters. The schlubs thenv gesture as the pre-recorded audio shouts out their lines.
That's not where the suffering happens though. No, the suffering happens when you arrive an hour early for a 'free fun playtime' to see only a teeming mass of stoic parents and already squirming kids waiting as patiently as they can for an animated character to come to life on a stage that bears a striking resemblance to the loading pallets you usually see out back. Toddlers and babies waiting are like live rounds in a camp fire. It's a peace with the understanding that Things Aren't Going To Be Altogether Fun In A Little while. Unless the idea of unpredictable munitions excites you.
So we wait. I have Owlet on one knee, Owl Jr. on the other, and Molly in a doggie bag by my side, with a smaller bag on whatever side of me I have left to carry diapers, wet wipes, snacks and water. Closest parent-child combo? About 2 inches. On every side. It was brick wall and a bit of gothic architecture away from being the Cask of Amontillado.
Free kids shows are really something that parents should avoid if at all possible. The 10 dollars or whatever you woulda paid is well worth the peace of mind. What peace of mind you ask? Well, waiting an HOUR with small children, for one. Trying ones best to be polite yet not giving a single goddamn millimeter to any blasted parent and their snivelling toddler if they think they can hem in on your territory, for another.
You see? It doesn't bring the best out in parents. Well, it brings the best out in parents, in that all parents want to give their children the bestest, mostest, everythingest they want. At least til a certain age. I call this the Years When Civility Goes By The Wayside, or the Mad Maxx Years. For some parents, it's a very long time. Up until, say, 30. For others, it's until they're kids are in elementary. I have no doubt this dark and uncouth time will take the better part of my adult life.
It's unnerving and humiliating to find yourself in a tooth and nail fight, albeit surreptiously, albeit covertly with the grand airs of civility. All that high-minded idealistic youth is gone when you're defending your 2 square feet of rubber mat hoping against hope that one kid doesn't meltdown, the other kid doesn't evacuate his bowels, and your dog doesn't start whining because What THE HELL Are All These Kids Doign So Close To ME?!
We survive, there are minor meltdowns, small compromises, but Owlet gets to see the characters gesture about and I try not to imagine what impressive resumes those poor folks in the suits had to build to get there (3 years modern dance, 5 years ballet, 2 years tap, BA teaching, Primary School, CPR 1 and 2).
When we pile back into the car, my shirt is nearly soaked in sweat. The cold sweat of stress, the real sweat of carrying a 1.5 year old and a small dog and pack, the bonus sweat of being a desk jockey who's idea of exercise is moving the mouse enough so the screen saver doesn't engage.
Oh yes, the Payback has just begun.