Four days babysitting grandkids recalled memories of earlier parenting episodes. This is one such incident.
Managing one harried Mom - me, an equally overwrought Dad, a toddler and a baby was challenging, exhausting, time consuming and never-ending.
The laundry, the meals, the snacks, the baths, the play-with-me Mommy time, read to me time - it is all a blur now, decades later. We - parents - maneuver our way through the baby years and eventually emerge on the other side, sometimes somewhat scathed, wiser, older - definitely looking older, and still tired.
But we move on, enjoying, more or less, each phase of our children's lives. These stages pass quickly, although at the time it seems as if they will remain a (put in whatever adjective and age you want) kid forever.
Weekends turned out to be a test of wills and schedules. Mom has her agenda, Dad his, and the cute little ones have no say choosing activities - until they reach the scary age when they prove uncooperative unless having input into the day's adventures.
Mom and Dad work out a schedule worthy of an Excel spreadsheet.
One Saturday afternoon when Mike and Jake are about 3 years old and 6 months, Mom and Dad decide Mom will go food shopping, with a couple of additional errands added on. Jake tags along because, not yet walking, he can be restrained in a stroller or shopping cart. Mike, on the other hand, barrels through the store grabbing everything in sight, throwing boxes and cans into the shopping cart at the same time Mom, one step behind, returns the item previously tossed in the cart.
Mike stays home with Dad, bonding, hanging out, having lunch together, and doing whatever.
Mom does not care. One child home, only one to handle at the grocery store.
She can do this.
Hours later Mom returns home with a car full of groceries, baby Jake happily chomping on a usually forbidden snack, tired but temporarily content and quiet.
Mom untangles Jake from his car seat and carries him into the house.
"Hi, we're home!" No response.
All is quiet.
They walk through the hall, past the living room and dining room. Still no signs of human activity.
Reaching the entrance to the family room, Mom quickly looks around and gasps.
She stares and almost drops Jake.
Mike is sitting in the middle of the room surrounded by every single toy owned. Game pieces - game boards, play money, tokens, dice, boxes, spinners - encircle him, along with stuffed animals, Legos, blocks, books, puzzles, and other indeterminate objects. The entire floor is covered with his possessions.
Mike looks up, sees Mom and Jake, and puts his finger to his lips.
"Shshsh," he says in a loud whisper, pointing to the couch.
And so he was. Snoring away, ignorant of his son's activities.
"We had fun," he says, smiling delightedly.
It was time to wake Daddy.