One of the many things nobody warned me about parenting is how much time I would spend standing around doing nothing while watching my child live his best life.
A recent weekend was spent doing just that.
Mikey went to a birthday party for a fellow 5-year-old at a nearby entertainment facility, where I found myself lined up against a wall in a party room with all the other parents as our kids chased each other around, ate pizza, colored Spiderman pictures and then had cake.
It was close quarters in there and I was wearing a hoodie, and holding Mikey’s hoodie… and his water bottle, goodie bag and Spiderman picture. Needless to say, I was uncomfortable.
This got me thinking about my childhood, and how my dad’s entire purpose when we went to a carnival, festival, amusement park or pretty much anywhere, was to be the holder of all things. The poor guy was weighed down with coats, drinks, backpacks, prizes that were won, uneaten cotton candy, towels if the excursion included some sort of water activity, sunscreen, bags of any purchases that might have been made… you name it.
Funny how things come full circle.
After about an hour in the party room it was time for the youthful attendant to lead the children to the ball pit/obstacle course area, with us parents following behind like a line of ducklings. The kids proceeded to run and frolic and have the time of their lives, all while the adults hovered around a crowded area and made awkward small talk.
Finally came the tail end of the party, when the kids were all given an arcade card and let loose. Of course, the card only held enough points for approximately two games so, being the schmuck that I am, I loaded some more money on it.
I swear, arcades are like casinos – but that’s a column for another day.
Well, Mikey wanted to waste all the points trying for a “stuffy” in one of the grabber machines, despite me telling him that I could buy the darn thing for less money at Wal-Mart. But, what’s the fun in that?
Anyway, $35 later I dragged Mikey out of there, without a stuffy because those machines are rigged.
This made me think of all the times my mother would chastise my sister and me at the end of an aforementioned outing when we would whine and complain that we were too tired to walk to the car, or we wanted one last treat, or we didn’t get what we wanted – all the while she would tell us how ungrateful we were because they just spent a small fortune watching us have fun.
After leaving the party it was only early afternoon and it was a beautiful day, so I told the child we could stop at a playground on the way home. Luckily, he found a little pal to play with so I didn’t have to drag myself up the metal bars on the side of the structure, or wedge my behind in a slide.
Instead, I found myself, once again, standing around holding Mikey’s water cup while he had the time of his life. As I stood there, shifting from foot to foot, all I could think about was all the stuff at home that needed to be done… Laundry, cleaning, even some spring yard work.
Yet, there I was, just standing around for hours.
Once my back started hurting, and after about 20 minutes of the “2 minute warning,” I dragged Mikey out of the playground.
The next day he had swim lessons, which meant more time just hanging around. At least then I was able to sit. I brought my Kindle so I could do some reading while Mikey swam, but I noticed that all the other moms sitting around the poolside were watching their children the whole time and appeared to be completely engaged, so I felt like I was going to be judged if I read, so I put the Kindle away and just sat there.
While I tried to act like I was completely engaged in watching Mikey splash and sputter in the water, I was actually committing to memory the grocery list I was compiling in my mind. And I knew I was going to be at the grocery store with wet hair because he would insist that I join him for open swim time after his lesson.
Now, I cannot emphasis this enough: The last thing I wanted to do was wedge myself into a bathing suit during the off-season and strut around in front of all the other moms. But, because I love my child, I did.
While we were in the water he proceeded to “teach” me all the swimming techniques he just learned from his instructor, including making me lean back into him while he held me up so I could learn to float on my back.
Then, as he brushed my wet bangs away from my forehead and said, “Momma, you’re doing a good job!” I suddenly wasn’t so upset about all the “wasted time” over the weekend.
Funny how things can change on a dime.
Holly Crocco is editor of the Putnam County Times/Press and mother of a 5-year-old. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.