On the rare occasion that we run errands as a whole family, sharing the “burden” of who takes who has never been difficult. Until he hit 6, Devan has been a Mamma’s boy and opted for my hand, while Neels came out of the womb asking for daddy – or any man with tools for that matter. Now that Devan is entering adolescence (oh yes, according to him he is on the brink of being a teenager and his attitude reflects this non-reality), giving him over is no struggle.
So when the family took a trip to the hardware store and the adjacent hobby store last week, splitting up the boys seemed like a no-brainer: Scott gets the vocal #1&2, while I get the mostly non-verbal #3&4. Except that #3 became very suddenly very vocal when he realized that he was being separated from “The Men”. In an unexpectedly clear: “I go with Daddy” he declared a new arrangement in the “family-errand-structure.”
I, of course, was smiling on the outside and chuckling on the inside – the testosterone scales were shifting in favor of The Queen’s freedom.
So I proceeded to take Martin out of his car seat. Well, little Scott-Clone #4 realized that something was going on and proclaimed that he was not about to miss out on siding with the majority vote. He flung his body into rigor status and added a determined ear-piercing: “Da-ddy! Daaa-ddyyy!!”
At this point my inner chuckle erupted in loud self-satisfied external belly-bouncing laughter. Wonderful! Absolutely marvelous! Not only will I have alone time in the hobby store, my dear husband will also taste the realities of taking 4 squirmy boys into a store – alone.
(Dear Husband was too flattered by the unanimous vote to argue. Or maybe he was composing a letter to the Child Development Guru’s who declare that children shake “mother-attachment-and-identity” around 10-12 and then the “father attachment/identity” take over. These well-learned individuals need to know that in an all-boy home those statistics radically change: #1 will attach to dad at age 6. #2 will follow at age 5 (except if #2 has the name of Neels and then he will attach at birth). #3 will declare independence from mom at age3, #4 will do so at 20 months and #5, well that remains to be seen.)
So I had a stunningly unattached half hour to myself, but did allow a moment of pity to think of Scott struggling through the isles with 2 boys tied down in the buggy and two wildly running around, touching and dropping merchandise – probably a whole gallon of paint, a glass something-or-another and maybe a gaudy blown-up Christmas display will come tumbling to the floor with a boy excitedly tangled in the fabric. Poor guy. But you know, that’s my life and insight into my reality will just bring greater understanding and harmony into the marriage.
It must have been guilt that made me exit Hobby-Paradise to walk over to the hardware store to find them. Or, ahem, maybe I just wanted to witness Scott’s quandary – to empathize with him of course! Finding them would be no problem: I would just listen for the noise, the crying, the commotion.
Well… well... well...
I walked into the store with my smug smile, ears wide open. To my surprise it was actually very quiet in the store. Not only that: the first picture that met my eyes was that of this cute guy somewhere in his mid-twenties with 4 little boys calmly crowding around him. No buggy. No crying. No arguing. No mess. No disaster. I looked twice (for the man was really worth looking at) and admired his effortless skill with his tribe. They all seemed faintly familiar, but I did not know them. They actually mildly resembled the hooligans occupying my house… except that this unusual group was self-controlled, serene, civilized and gracious in their manners.
It was only when one of them gave a polite little hop and sang: “Oh, there’s Mamma!” that I fully recognized the litter (and man) as mine.
I was dumbfounded. Gone the self-satisfied smile and conceited inner joy. I managed a (defeated?) smile, complimented the (my) man on his well-behaved children and then blurted out: “How do you do this?” He gave me this blank look as if to say: “Do what? Isn’t this normal?”
Sensing my quiet pouting (actually it was very obvious) Scott endeavored to gently encourage me in the car: “Just think, in a few years you can have a whole weekend to yourself and I will take all of them backpacking!” As I was weighing the pro’s and con’s of missing out on a backpacking trip and having a self-indulgent weekend to myself, one of the backseat boys (they have unbelievable hearing when it suits them) piped up: “Oh no, Mamma needs to go backpacking with us! She needs to cook for us!” Before I could fully process the insinuation of that comment, another tribal member offered: “Yes, we have room for her - she can sleep in the vestibule of the tent. The men and the boys will sleep inside.”
I crawled inside myself – deep there inside where no one knows that I am really actually a Queen - and stayed there for a day, pondering whether “dethroned” and “freedom” could indeed be synonymous...