i recently had to give a talk that had a humorous vein. i also realize that this really funny thing had happened in the past that i didn't talk about very well, or very fully here on the site, didn't do it justice at least. so in this talk i looked to fill in some of those holes and apply some texture to a funny moment in my family's past that didn't get it's due on the website. let's hope this transcript fixes that.
BUT THAT'S NOT WHAT HAPPENED.
my goal was to give my wife a few hours off. a few hours where she didn't have to be a wife or a mother or a problem-solver to a house-full of people. just a few waking hours of peace -- that was the goal. well that AND to demonstrate i was every bit as competent a parent as she was. but as you are about to learn, that is not what happened.
i was fresh off knee surgery and walking for the first time in months. as soon as i was off crutches i told my wife i was taking our kids out for the afternoon. shortly after making this declaration i loaded my 7 year old daughter, bella, and her 4 year old brother, alex, into a double stroller & we set out.
we visited a nearby park to climb trees, race the sidewalks and chase wiley squirrels. and by WE i mean THEY because i could barely walk to the bathroom let alone chase a darting rodent.
after several hours of play i told the kids it was time to go. i imagined a peaceful walk with satisfied and contented children. i imagined the stream of praise and gratitude that was about to bathe my every labored step. but that's not what happened.
"what? we're going home now? already? but we just got here."
"just got here! we've been up here for three hours! and look at my shirt. it's soaked through. and there's bugs out here. and anyway your brother has to go the bathroom."
to this alex removed his thumb from his mouth, a rare event, just long enough to say he did not have to go to the bathroom. bella observed that since he didn't have to go right now, my statement was false and asked if that made me a liar-face. so much for praise and gratitude.
as i was walking, the kids told me i was going too slow and i should run. i reminded them i could not run. i could barely walk. then they said i should make the stroller go in funny directions (like mom did). i told them i could not go in funny directions because it was a little like running. i was told, with counted fingers in the air, how going in funny directions was nothing like running.
here's a little known fact about toddler-aged strollers: this is why they are designed as they are, with the kids facing AWAY from the parents. this is so the kids can't see the parents rolling their eyes and making mocking, exaggerated faces while the children are speaking. baby strollers - facing the parent. babies are cute and not annoying. toddler strollers - facing away. less cute and way more annoying.
during bella's running dissertation, we started going down a long hill it was a ramp really. and built for walkers and bikers to cross a busy road. it had a long slow downward grade and was flanked on either side by a cement wall that came chest high.
"dad! let us go. let us ROLL down this hill!"
"let you go? i can't let you go."
"because you'd die."
"no we won't"
"i'm not letting you go bella."
"are you afraid?"
"i'm not afraid. i'm smart."
"you're not smart. you're afraid. i can tell."
in defense of what is about to happen, you have to admit this tiny, pig-tailed girl has a way of getting to a person as i digested her most recent comment bella began a chant with her brother of LET US GO! LET US GO! that got louder with each iteration. i like to think that if bella hadn't been poking at my parental inadequacies all morning i would have had the fortitude to ignore this petty chant. but that's not what happened.
about halfway down i started assessing things anew because there was an uphill grade at the bottom so it would slow them down almost as soon as they got there. if i let them go here, they would barely get going and then come to a slow and easy stop. but that's not what happened.
without another moment of thought i announced:
OH NO. THE HANDLE IS SWEATY. AND SLIPPERY. I CAN'T HOLD ON.
their chanting stopped.
I'M LOSING MY GRIP. OH NO. KIDS HOLD ON. THE STROLLER IS GETTING AWAY FROM ME.
i opened my fingers, and released my grip ready to watch their easy and gentle roll down the hill. but that's not what happened.
the moment my grip opened, it was as if the stroller was shot from a roman catapult. it was startling how fast it got going. i blinked and the stroller was ten feet ahead of me. another blink, thirty feet and gaining speed.
i'm not sure when i knew the stroller was going to flip over. it wasn't right when the wheel touched the wall because i thought that was going to be a good thing and it would slow the stroller down. but instead of killing the break-neck pace, the wheel began climbing the wall dukes of hazard style AND the stroller seemed to not only not go slower but actually go faster once it was balanced precariously on two wheels.
after the crash, when i finally hobbled to the stroller i wasn't exactly sure what i would find underneath
as i began flipping it over it was like opening the door to a noisy room because i could hear bella's chastising immediately.
"FATHER! HOW COULD YOU DO THAT. DO YOU KNOW HOW IRRESPONSIBLE WHAT YOU JUST DID WAS? WAIT UNTIL MOTHER LEARNS OF THIS."
as for alex, his thumb was still firmly lodged in his mouth but his eyes were three times their normal size.
when he saw me the tears came. i lifted him from the stroller and pulled him close. i left the stroller where it lay and began walking home. bella trailed me the entire way, going over the great number of mistakes i made this day and there were many promises of "wait until i tell mother." which she did in a very flamboyant and thorough fashion once we arrived home.
i sat sheepishly to the side during the re-telling. marty listening to her daughter's report with keen attention. when it was over, marty stood up and walked to where i sat she leaned into my ear and said "thank you for my day" and gave me a soft kiss on my cheek.
my intention was to offer my wife a relaxing and worry-free day away from her children. and that is exactly what happened.