Sunday, June 19, 2011

The Baby Pool Balance of Power

A few weeks ago we went on our annual Smith family vacation to Watercolor, located 30 minutes from Destin, Florida. We LOVE it there. It’s basically a great neighborhood with bike rides, several community pools to choose from, Camp Watercolor where the kids can make crafts, and of course, the glorious, white sandy beaches of the Gulf.

We’ve been making the trip for years, even before the grandkids came along. These days, the sounds of excited kids can be heard for miles around as you approach our beach house. With eight grandkids ages 11 years to 16 months, it’s a little chaotic, but we wouldn’t have it any other way.

This is the first year in a LONG time the little Webber crew didn’t lug all the baby gear with us. No more pack ‘n plays, swim diapers, baby food, bottles, pacifiers, or naptimes to deal with. It was fantastic. The ride down to the beach was peaceful and quiet as we played some games or watched DVDs. Everyone slept all night. Nobody ate sand. I’m telling you, it was amazing.

This year was actually more fun than work.

We may be out of the little baby stage, but we are definitely not out of the baby pool stage.

Each day, our youngest made a beeline for the sparkling waters of that magical place. My job for the most part was to sit on the edge with my feet in the cool water and observe, intervening only when necessary.

My time observing got me thinking about the power structure at the baby pool, because there most definitely is one if you’re watching closely enough.

At the top of the food chain at the baby pool are the big kids. Anyone old enough and coordinated enough to not be at immediate risk of drowning without a parent most definitely has the advantage.


Because, readers, if you don’t have a parent with you at all times, you are much more free to exert your ideology upon those around you, however oppressive it may be.

I watched with interest the scene unfolding before me. A child who we shall name Harper (to protect even the not so innocent) was terrorizing the fellow baby pool goers. Snatching toys, splashing babies in the face, pouncing on chubby little hands reaching for one of his water guns…this kid was dominating. Showing no mercy to the feeble. You can’t walk? Excellent – you won’t be able to chase me down when I steal your favorite Dora squirt toy. Not old enough to speak clearly? Jackpot. You won’t be able to communicate to your old lady that you’re crying because I just poured an entire bucket full of chlorine water directly into your bloodshot eyes.

I also observed with great interest the parents around me. Most were chatting amicably with each other, sipping on fruity drinks, and making conversation about how cute each other’s babies were. “I love her little swimsuit!” or “oh my gosh, he is the most adorable little guy I’ve ever seen.” Or my favorite, the LONG stories about the latest cute thing little junior had done. Most of these grown ups were only vaguely aware that they were still on parent duty at all.

Meanwhile, little Harper is going ballistic, causing havoc and weeping and wailing and gnashing of teeth (seriously, there was some biting going on) everywhere he went. Babies everywhere were freaking out as toys were plucked from their personal space. The most unfortunate were run down and plunged headfirst into the warm water.

(About this time I realized that the water really was extremely warm and casually removed my feet.)

I also realized another even more disturbing trend going on. MY daughter was teaming up with little Harper.

Partners in crime, imposing their will on all who dared challenge their authority. They were like a couple of miniature Marxists, teaching everyone by example about the bourgeoisie and proletariat classes.

But as all good things must come to an end, my sweet daughter eventually noticed that just a few feet away, the dangerous waters of the big pool were calling her name. Laughing in the face of potential death, she took off running for the deep end, tossing aside random floaties, torpedos, balls, and water toys she had confiscated with the help of Harper, and I took off after her.

I’m pretty sure I heard a big sigh of relief coming from the remaining baby pool dwellers. The balance of power had just shifted again, but sadly for those too young to get in the rat rate, they were still the unlucky proletariat peasants.

“…with liberty and justice for all…” doesn’t apply in the baby pool. Survival of the fittest is the government program of choice.

Friday, June 17, 2011

Vacation Bible School

This week was VBS at our church. For those of you who don’t know, VBS stands for ‘vacation Bible school’. Next to Christmas, this is one of the most anticipated four days of the year to a lot of kiddos. Not to brag, but our church pretty much blows it out when it comes to fun, and I hope they learn a little about Jesus while we’re at it.

Anyway, this year I taught the Bible lesson to four groups of kids ages 1st-4th grades each day. Because I didn’t want to be the schmuck who totally blows it and makes the kids dread Bible time each day (and consequently be eaten alive by 4th grade boys who are bored), it took a little time to study and prepare. And this is generally how it went each evening…

First item to understand about my week: my husband was out of town for most of it. He was hard at work visiting agents and handling the details of his job. This left me solely responsible for everything regarding the children and the dog and the home.

Second item to understand: I have an almost 3-year-old living in my home. She is beautiful. She is hilarious. She is energetic and sweet and entertaining. And as I believe I’ve mentioned in previous blogs, she is a maniac. I really, truly believe that something happens to children around their third birthday. I don’t want to go so far as to say demon possession occurs, but sometimes it seems pretty close. It’s as if kids become self-appointed dictators and we exist merely to please them in their every whim and desire, no matter how small and no matter how quickly they change their minds.

So anyway, back to the week of VBS. I failed to grasp how observant a 2-yr-old can be. I chose not to order her the $10 lime green t-shirt her sisters and I would be wearing each day. She won’t notice, I thought, and really, how often are we ever going to wear a lime green t-shirt after this?

This was a mistake of gargantuan proportions.

The moment Leighanne entered the kitchen for breakfast and saw all of us in there, she began crying. And not just crying, sobbing. And not just sobbing, wailing. Commence rolling around on the floor, angrily and pitifully at the same time, making her indignation known.

Fade in to frantic mommy making a beeline for the registration table at church as soon as we arrive, desperate for the last extra small t-shirt they had for sale. And that was Monday.

Let’s pick up at Tuesday morning. I got up an hour earlier than the girls so I could do some last minute studying, get ready in peace, and get the house in some kind of working order so I wouldn’t have to return to a disaster. I get the older two up and ready and marvel at how easy some days with them are becoming. Then, because I cannot put it off any longer, it is time to awaken the more “spirited” child.

Some would say this was mistake #2.

I’m telling you, it was like a scene out of nanny 911. The instant Leighanne opened her eyes she commenced screaming angrily about anything and everything. I let her choose her underwear and shorts (throwing fashion rules to the wind…but really, there’s not a whole lot that actually looks good with lime green anyway) and helped her put them on. However, the instant we finished she threw herself on the floor and began screaming and ripping them off. Keep in mind these clothes were HER choice.

We went through this about three times before I gave up. Because I could not be late and have 50 kids waiting on me to teach, Leighanne rode to church with no pants. I finally convinced her, rather reluctantly, to put on her shorts in the parking lot.

Tuesday night. 8pm. Glorious bedtime. I bathe her, read to her, sing to her, pray with her, kiss her, get her a drink, arrange her pillow pet so it’s facing just so, snuggle and love on her, and say good night.

9pm. My husband receives a call from me and all he hears on the other end is, “TALK TO YOUR CHILD.” For the last 60 minutes, Leighanne and I have been engaged in a major battle of wills, in part due to the fact that I cannot find this blanket ANYWHERE

. It was not unlike the sword fighting scene in Monty Python, where the guy is injured and without arms and still ready to fight to the death. We are both exhausted, frustrated, and slightly less than happy, shall we say.

Eventually she collapses in exhaustion and I head back to my room. I find it rather difficult to switch gears and study about Elijah and the prophets of Baal and quickly give up and call it a night.

Wednesday morning. I am actually fairly certain we have done the impossible and are running AHEAD of schedule. Kids are fed, dressed, tantrums over having to wear clothing are over, hair is brushed, and all feet have shoes on them. Smiling triumphantly at my watch, I relish the feeling of not being in a hurry.

Ha. In swoops Murphy’s Law.

Just as Leighanne announces she needs to use the restroom and begins getting down from her bar chair, Olivia explodes into the kitchen from outside, red-faced, crying, and panic striken.

“Hank’s gone forever!” she yells. “He ran past the stop sign (which the girls know is forbidden with the threat of spending the next year in their room if they’re caught beyond that point).”

At that very moment I look back to find that Leighanne has not exactly made it to the bathroom in time. There is a less than pleasant substance making itself at home on my kitchen floor.

So much for running ahead of schedule.

There were moments this week where I really almost yelled to my kids, “STOP IT! DON’T YOU REALIZE I HAVE TO TEACH KIDS ABOUT JESUS THIS WEEK? FOR PETE’S SAKE!” I wondered if I would disqualify myself as a VBS teacher if I walked in with all three on a leash.

And so, that was most of our week; fantastic, fun, exciting, and busy. Also a little exasperating at times, but isn’t that what motherhood is all about? The good with the bad, the fun with the frenzy, the sweet with the sour. VBS comes but once a year….and it’s a good thing because mothers might not make it thru any more than that.

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