Here’s the song reference.
Our kitchen is slightly less orderly than usual at the moment, perhaps because our dishwasher decided to resign a bare two months before we’re supposed to be moving. I have no particular objection to washing dishes by hand; truth be told, I have many vivid and cheerful memories of drying dishes in Granny’s kitchen, and am somewhat looking forward to passing that experience along to my own children. Even Baby Guy can dry and stow the spoons. However, it does disrupt our morning timing somewhat, and while the tiny people are not exactly enslaved to their routine, they will take advantage of distractions and diversions to skitter off to Lego-land instead of working on their morning seatwork.
Nonetheless, we headed for the park to take advantage of a warm, sunny day, the second-to-last Wednesday of summer, and a day on which the less time I spend in front of any electronic media, the happier our entire household is. Since we were running low on what we call “portable food,” and because we are trying not to generate more dishes than are necessary, we stopped at the nearby grocery store to acquire grapes, cheese, and carrots to eat for lunch. Augmented by the blueberry biscuits I’d found in the pantry, we had the makings of a warm day’s feast.
As I was loading Baby Guy into the shopping cart seat, and his siblings were scrambling into their accustomed positions around the cart, our youngest set up a pitiable cry of, “Cuppy! Cuppy! Where cuppy?”
I had asked Beanie to locate and carry Baby Guy’s sippy cup. Mr. Man clung to his blankie, Bugaboo carried a stuffed penguin whithersoever she went, and had her pancake bunny when they still had to have a security object in their travels, but for Baby Guy, it has been a sippy cup since he learned to use one. Fortunately, the color and style of sippy cup matter not to him, as long as he has one. “Hey, Beanie, do you remember where you put Baby Guy’s cuppy?”
“I think I forgot it.”
Those who have raised toddlers just winced a little.
After a quick reminder to Beanie that Baby Guy was likely to be quite unhappy for the duration of our trip to the store, I mentally added a cup for the little fellow to our shopping list. Baby Guy continued wailing unhappily about the absence of Cuppy, and I exhorted the tribe to set as brisk a pace as possible without running, which would be unseemly and unsafe in a grocery store. Shepherding the older children as we trotted, I awkwardly rubbed Baby Guy’s back while pushing the cart upon which he sat and trying to murmur soothing words in between reminders to Beanie and Mr. Man that trying to step on the backs of one another’s shoes is not an approved game.
Few other customers were in the store at the time of our arrival, so we were able to acquire our few items largely unimpeded. With four small children, I’ve developed a knack for snagging and carting things in stores without breaking stride. When we arrived at the baby supplies aisle, however, I had to come to a full stop to select an appropriate cup. The price of sippy cups at a grocery store has become genuinely ridiculous, and I was taken aback at the thought of spending seven dollars on a single drinking vessel.
We’d been meaning to transition Baby Guy from sippy cups to straw cups anyway, so I tossed a package of them into the cart and headed for the checkout. To Baby Guy’s very great delight, these particular cups featured characters from the movie Cars. He’s never seen the movie, but he loves cars. He did not, however, love that the cups were in the cart instead of his hands, and proceeded to express his displeasure the way all of his siblings did at the same age, to wit: by pounding his head vigorously upon the nearest available surface, which in this instance happened to be the handle of the shopping cart.
We made our way back to the van without serious damage to Baby Guy’s cranium (my pediatrician’s advice has been to ignore this behavior strenuously, and only give reinforcement of any kind when the behavior changes to something that does not involve head-banging, and he’s been right so far – this stage only lasts a couple of weeks if the child doesn’t get what she or he wants from it, because it really doesn’t feel very good). After a light-speed load-in, I reassured Baby Guy that upon our arrival at the park, he would be presented with a snazzy new cup full of his beverage of choice (he’s a milk junkie). That changed his wail from one desirous of a cup to one pleading for the playground, which I counted as progress as we hit the road.
Once I’d settled our cooler on our base of operations, a picnic table in the shade of the pavilion next to the playground and helped Baby Guy drink deeply from his new cup, the tiny people scattered in all directions to swing, slide, climb, and make friends with the other children cavorting through the play equipment. I stayed by the cooler to hand out drinks and food, as Mr. Man is in the habit of staging raids which result in edibles flying in all directions as he seeks his snack of choice. Baby Guy, while somewhat put out by my denial of his request to carry his new “Cuppy” around the playground with him, was quickly lost in his quest to see exactly how fast he can descend a sliding board. Bugaboo and Beanie cheerfully set about making friends with the other homeschooled kids who were already there, and I introduced myself to the ladies at the other table, who were meeting there to talk about setting up a new American Heritage Girls troop. After sharing our overabundance of grapes with them, since they were the mothers of the rest of the children at the playground, I retired to our base camp to continue my rolling head count of my own crew.
We passed a pleasant hour at the park, with the tribe careening between the cooler and the playground. Once Mr. Man and Beanie started a mulch-throwing party, however, it was time for us to depart. The day was hot; all four children were red-faced and sweaty, so it seemed an opportune time to head home, get Baby Guy a nap, do a little schoolwork, and maybe catch an episode of “How It’s Made,” which is Bugaboo’s current obsession.
I called to the tiny people, “Bugaboo! Beanie! Mr. Man! Baby Guy! It’s time to go now!”
The predictable protest ensued. Baby Guy attempted to flee up the steps of one of the slides, having not yet watched enough horror movies to know that when one is being pursued, one should never run up the stairs. I tucked him onto my hip and waded back through the playground, trailing a line of little kids, each of whom had his or her own reason why we should stay at the park for ten more minutes, or even another hour. Bugaboo and Beanie quickly remembered that Mommy is something of a Borg about park departure times; resistance is futile, and possibly counterproductive. Mr. Man, however, would live at the playground if we would allow it.
Our three-year-old son, ruddy-faced from the heat and exertion, stomped and shuffled his way across the playground to the pavilion where I was retrieving our cooler, whining as he went, paying far more attention to his lament than he was to the tree roots that protruded from the ground. With the grace typical for his age, he tripped over a tree root and landed, forehead first, on the corner of the concrete pad that forms the floor of the pavilion.
With Baby Guy still riding on my hip, I ran and scooped up my wailing child in my free arm. The sound of a full-throated scream from a child who has just hit his head with a great deal of force is authentically beautiful – it means he’s conscious. As I clutched him to my chest and made my way to a bench to survey the damage, I suddenly found myself surrounded by the ladies who had been meeting at the other table.
“Is he okay? Are you okay?”
“I’m fine, I think he’s okay, but there’s a lot of dirt on his forehead, do any of you happen to have a wipe I could use, please?”
One lady produced a wipe, another grabbed a ziplock bag and an ice cube from her cooler. After we had applied both to Mr. Man’s head, we discovered that while he had an impressive goose egg and abrasion, the swelling was all directed outwards. I thanked the ladies profusely, and in response to their inquiry regarding whether we needed any further assistance, I replied, “Let me see. Mr. Man, will you be okay if we can get home and find you some chocolate?”
“Ye- (hiccup) e- (hiccup) e- (hiccup) sh. I need some chocolate for medicine, and chocolate will make me feel all better.”
We four moms chuckled discreetly. Having calmed both boys (Baby Guy cries when Mr. Man does), I explained the story of a high school friend’s father’s method of determining the severity of his many children’s claimed illnesses and injuries. If a child complained of being sick or hurt, he would produce a bowl of ice cream, give it to the complaining child, and watch for results. If the child was still sick or hurt after eating the ice cream, a trip to the doctor was probably warranted; if not, the child was sent off to school.
For the record, Mr. Man is in fine fettle this morning, and currently quite put out that Mommy is focusing on her laptop instead of her son.
Today’s prayer: Lord, thank You for reminding me that the thick skulls You gave Your blessings are a gift; I forget that sometimes. Thank You for the kindness of strangers, for the love they showed Your blessings and I at the park yesterday, for the reminder that sometimes “I love you” is said best by having the humility to accept assistance from people we don’t know. Thank You for enough grapes to share, and for a bright, peaceful, and sunny day, where the only heat we encountered was from the late summer sun. Please help us teach Your blessings to love without fear; empty me of my doubts and suspicions, and fill that space with trust in Your providence. We would raise children who live in joyful anticipation of Your kingdom, and who see a glimmer of You in every face, even if that face is twisted with rage, or malice, or a pain we cannot fathom. Grant us the grace of hearts that do what You made them to do, which is to love and serve You by loving and serving all of our neighbors, and by humbly thanking You for blessing us with them.