As a parenting blogger, part of my job is to make you feel better about your own parenting skills. Anyone skilled in competitive mothering will tell you that the best place to feel superior to others is a playgroup, especially one that involves going to a public playground. This is a fantastic source for children more ill-behaved, poorly supervised and clearly inferior to your own.
Add in the fast-food playground factor and it is pure parenting gold.
So last Friday, my playgroup meets at 10:30 at the newest Chick-Fil-A in the area. By 10:30, of course, I mean that one mother and chickadees actually arrives at that time, gives up, and leaves. I arrive second, at around 11:15 to find the playground deserted. I settle in the corner with my book and enjoy the smell of rubber matting while my children play. Children dressed like cattle begin to filter into the area, as it is dress like a cow and get free stuff day.
A friend arrives. As the shrieking of the bovines is becoming a bit overwhelming in that echoing cavern of a playground, we decide to move to the table nearest the door, still in full view, but outside the enclosed glass.
The population of the cattle pen has reached nearly thirty. There are still no other parents in sight.
A wobbling not-yet-two-year-old begins to wail and we look around in vain for a maternal source. After a few minutes, a brother emerges from the back of the eating area to shepherd him to his mother. Not two minutes latter, an even-younger toddler stretches his arms in the pick-me-up pose as his head turns red and his tears fly.
After a decent pause, I go pick the kid up to help him find mama. Before I get too far, she appears to rescue him from my kidnapping arms, glaring at me for daring to touch her precious offspring.
At this point I realize that there are at least fifty more junior bovines in the feeding trough section. Friend number three comes in, mentioning that three buses daycare buses just arrived.
We decide on a relocation plan: McDonald's it is. We get our food, we feed our children, we distribute plastic toys and then herd our little rodents out to the sweltering, unsheltered over-sized hamster tubes.
Ah, that's better.
After about an hour of refilling drinks and mopping off sweaty foreheads, consistently doing the 1-2-3 head checks, an employee rushes out to ask who the mom is of the little blond boy sitting in the tree. I claim him and wonder what the fuss is until I realize that my child has lost his pants. And underpants. And, oh yeah, shoes. He is sitting bare-penised on the playground.
As we scramble to find the boy's wayward garments, some kid declares that there is poop in the slide. Superior Mothers everywhere rush their precious and perfect non-pooping children out the door, pausing only to make certain I have seen the looks they give me. My saintly friend Laura climbs into the tube to declare that it is merely a skidmark from a dark-soled shoe that has gotten a bit gooey in the heat and is definitively NOT poop.
I head out to the parking lot for alternative pants, making sure to loudly tell the friend who is leaving, "It's not poop! It was just shoe goo," well within earshot of the other mothers. Armed with pants, I return to cover that boy up.
Another hour goes by and Meltdown Boy replaces Regular Charlie. We decide that, from the looks of what is on the horizon, it is high time we high-tailed it out of there. The first sprinkles hit the windshield right as I shut PennyVann's door.
I'm doing 65 on the tollway when the torrential downpour hits. My vehicle is wobbling side to side with the winds and the hurricane-sent storm drops grey water faster than I knew possible. I can barely see the black of my wipers moving back and forth, leaving no evidence that water was moved. I can't see the road ahead of me. I'm on one of those high up roadways with no idea where the other cars are, where the lane is, where the edge is. I don't dare stop completely, but slow to about 20 miles an hour.
It slows just enough for me to make out lanes and get off the roadway. At this point, I'm a half-mile from home, so I keep on truckin'. I get out of my car and am instantly as soaked as I would have been had I hopped, fully clothed, into a swimming pool. I go inside for a towel, then return for one girl. I wish we had a garage. I take her inside and get another towel for the other girl. Dixie, wearing shorts and weighing 12 pounds more, is hard to carry in. Her wet legs are slippery and I'm too wet to get a hold of.
After I half-carry, half-drag her in, I shut the door and begin to soak up the bucket of water that made it in the door with us. I change while the shivering girl children huddle under blankets on the couch. Since Charlie is asleep and exhausted, I leave him out until a pause in the storm allows me to go get him without having him wake up to a face full of spray.
All this to get back to my original point: whatever you did last Friday was better than this. However you spent those hours from 11 am to 2:30 pm, at least your child was not naked on a public playground. It almost makes this morning in the gymnastics waiting area when Dixie held up her middle finger and said, "Mama, does this really mean the same as 'f*ck'?" seem positively endearing.