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Terrible Two Hours

boots 2I am not much of a planner. I do not have a calendar. I do not make lists. No, I am the more chill, what-happens-happens, kind of girl. Right. But when I do make plans, I prefer that they are perfect. Given that I am the perfect mother and I have a perfect Husband and two perfect girls, and that the world is a perfect place that hums with machine-like perfection, this usually isn't a problem. Usually. Yesterday was no exception. I had the perfect plan. Music class. Walk. Visit cute new cousin. Perfect.

At approximately 4:13pm, Nanny and I took Toddler and Baby to Little Maestros. (Yes, of course, I could have taken them on my own, but we all know that man-on-man always works better than zone and Nanny just adores playing with parachutes and puppets, and who am I to deny her?) After the last song was played and the last bubble was popped, we fetched the Bugaboo and started our stroll North to visit Sister C and her impossibly studly newborn Bulldog. Baby was strapped into the seat facing us and lucky Toddler got to ride the little skateboard deal (genius). All good.

We had only ten or so blocks to go. And we only made about ten stops along the way. The first? The lovely ice cream truck, so thoughtfully parked three feet from Kidville at 5pm (a.k.a. Dinner Time for Toddlers Who Eat). Promptly, and with Pavlovian precision, Toddler hopped off her board and made a very athletic dash toward the waiting white truck. And after admiring her running posture and wondering if she will cut it in D1 athletics, I had no choice but to follow. Without even a hint of bargaining, I was suddenly paying a man $2.50 for a SpongeBob popsicle that Toddler would ingest instead of her usual three course meal of organic fare nothing. Oh, yes, worth noting she would savor said pop while riding on a skateboard. But I had the utmost faith. I told you she was athletic.

So we made it a few blocks at which point we approached a store I used to frequent in the days when I just wandered from store to store on the Upper West Side hoping to find the meaning of life (or at least a pair of Seven jeans with a new design on the pockets). Anyway, I saw the store and said, "Let's stop for a second." Nanny skillfully brought that stroller to a screeching halt. Toddler pleaded with me about something gravely important, but I ignored her. "He's drippy! Mom, he's drippy!" But no. I ignored this SpongeBob S.O.S. I had other plans. I was the picture of focus. "One minute, girls! Jean shorts!" Jean shorts? Yes. Don't worry. Not for me. I'm not that selfish. For Toddler. Because we have at least five whole weeks of summer left. Because God forbid she go to her last week of summer camp in something she's already worn.

Within moments, I honed in on a pair designer cut-offs in a size 3T. On sale! In the meantime, Toddler ran in and out of the little boutique (very athletically), wielding her diminishing pop, scaling shelves of clothes. And then while I was paying and the nice lady who made lovely small talk (by asking me "Are you going to have more of them?" and, no, she was not talking about jean shorts) something tragic happened. SpongeBob slithered off his stick and bit the dust pavement. Not good. Beginning of the end. For Spongie. For us all.

But, alas, we persevered. Baby began to fuss. Perhaps she was sad about Spongie, or envious of her sister's new cut-offs or maybe she wanted some sustenance. Toddler periodically emitted a dramatic moan for she was still in mourning. My right shoulder was about to pop a socket from carrying my ruthlessly vast and clingy computer bag.

But we made it. We walked into Sister C's museum exceedingly well baby-proofed home. And I released Baby from her seat. Toddler ran wild. Cool, calm, collected, carrying a hungry infant with a diaper the size of Texas on my hip, I strolled into the den, where Baby Bulldog slumbered on my Mom's lap. I looked at him - tiny, pink, perfect, quiet - and then at Baby and the blur of Toddler in the background and for a minute I thought of asking C if we could trade.

I told Nanny to head home. That I obviously had it all under control. Yup. For the next hour, it was just the portrait of civilization. Baby choked down her bottle and then pulled up and spit up on that glorious Ikat ottoman. (I kid, C! I kid!) Toddler escaped to the kitchen where she helped herself to a box of Frosted Mini-Wheats and then demanded milk in a glass cup. Because she's so over sippy cups. And so over standing still to take sips. No, it's much more fun to run around and swing glass cups you don't own. And why stop there? Let's catch our cute little leggings on some mystery "nail" (that seemed to disappear after the fact) and cry very hard about it. And then poop. Yes, it was high time for my Toddler who is 91% potty-trained (when we are home and she sees her pink potty and there are jelly beans on standby) to poop in her princess pull-up. A diaper change? Easy as pie. On it!

I handed Baby to my Mom. And, Baby, happy Baby, decided to rekindle that stranger anyone-other-than-her-mother anxiety because, well, that was a very fun stage and why not revisit it? So while I wrestled a fresh diaper on my athletic, feisty, Toddler, Baby watched me and screamed. And through this all, perfect Baby Bulldog slept and hiccuped occasionally, presumably to remind me how cute he is. And I sat there waiting for Elaine, my gem of a baby nurse, to emerge from the nursery and wave her wand because this was loud and if my memory serves me, she goes where she's needed.

Standing there, cradling my two girls, who harmonized their screeches with artful perfection, clutching a poopy pull-up, I had an epiphany: it was time to leave. But no. Toddler didn't want to go home. In her ear, I promised her a lollipop. But maybe she was suddenly repulsed by the idea of bribery because this made her cry harder. And Baby does whatever her big sister does, so the volume was up. Mom approached me gingerly, presumably to avoid being kicked or covered in the snot that was then flowing. She wanted to help. But I was proud. And I had it all under control. Of course.

I grabbed my computer bag, piled my little maestros back in the stroller. Shockingly, Toddler was no longer in the mood to perch on that suddenly not-so-genius skateboard. But I wrestled them out of the apartment, sweating. Oh, before I left, like the good house guest I am, I surreptitiously dumped that dirty diaper in my sister's kitchen garbage. On the way down in the elevator and on the street, I called Husband. About six times.

And seemingly within moments, I saw a silhouette on the corner. Husband My Prince. He scooped up Toddler who was suddenly all smiles. Baby sucked her pacifier peacefully, eyes sparkling. We walked home. Block by block. Behind my awesome tortoiseshell shades, as the panic lifted like fog, the tears came. We stopped for a lollipop. An orange one. Because it's now her favorite color.

At home, I put Baby to sleep while Husband whipped up some macaroni and cheese which Toddler actually consumed. I sat there at the kitchen table, quiet, stunned. Staring at a picture Toddler drew that morning. Of a little girl. And it was not just scribbles. No, it looked like a little girl. There was a hair bow. Hair. A face. Eyes. A nose. Legs. (Torsos and arms are way overrated.) This was all it took. I looked at the picture and smiled and thought: She's an artist too. A brilliant creature. Drawing hair bows at age 2.556 years old. Positively gifted. Ivy League, here she comes.

Before climbing into bed, I was struck with another wave of panic. An aftershock. I called Sister C and left an absolutely incomprehensible voicemail apologizing for my wayward progeny and for the diaper in her kitchen garbage. Before I hung up, I think I said something terrible like: See what you have to look forward to?

And this morning, I am able to laugh about those terrible two hours. Because those two hours were but a bittersweet blip on that radar screen of my life. And theirs. Because this is really what it is to be a parent. Parenthood isn't a photo shoot. It isn't a set of fine-tuned plans. No. It's often a wrestling match. A tear-and-snot-soaked, screech-filled, laughter-laden, wrestling match. Where there are infinite rounds and somehow everyone ends up a winner.

Okay. Apologies for the long post. But I wanted to give you a taste of just how long those two hours were. And I wanted to get it all down. The dirty details of just another day in my life as a mom. So I can remember. Now, it's back to business. Off to wrangle Toddler into those fabulous new cut-offs. And, yes, it's pouring! We can wear our matching mommy-daughter rainboots! Off to begin another new and perfect day.

Lip Service?

On Forks & Fears