It's lonely out in space."
--from Elton John's "Rocket Man"
I did me some parenting today.
I was in charge of my three oldest kids (ages 8 years, 6 years, and 18 months) on a road trip, train trip, and several hours at a large arena. By myself. Without The Wife. It was a bit daunting.
Two or three years ago, I don't think I could have done it. I would have been overwhelmed. But, time and experience have matured me a bit. A lot of one-on-one time with that 18 month-old force of nature has toughened me up. And so, I was able to face a daunting situation and become a little less daunted.
I'm a dad. I've never done "babysitting," I do "parenting." But, I don't do it as well as The Wife, and that's why I was just a bit nervous about today.
We had a high school graduation to attend. My lovely niece (Congrats, Ally-bug!!!) was graduating from high school, and we all wanted to attend. But, my wife, who gave birth just two weeks ago, couldn't sit through the whole graduation ceremony and the post-graduation celebratory dinner, so she had to choose one or the other. She chose the dinner. (Wise choice!) So, that left me taking the three oldest to the graduation by myself.
This involved an hour drive in the mini-van, a transfer to the commuter train, and several hours in a large basketball arena, wrangling three bored kids. The drive wasn't a problem at all. (I drive with the kids all the time, so I can do a big, long drive in my sleep.) (Figuratively speaking, of course.) The switch to the train wasn't a problem, either. We don't do a lot of train travel, so this was pretty exciting for the kids. (I just had to keep reminding them to stay behind the yellow line.)
No, it was the time in the arena that I was dreading. The train took us into downtown Salt Lake City, and dropped us off right at the doorstep of the Utah Jazz Arena. (The arena started out with the name Delta Center. Then, it was changed to EnergySolutions Arena. And then nine months ago they changed it again, officially, to Vivint Smart Home Arena. But, once they changed to a third name, I gave up. To me it'll be the "Utah Jazz Arena" from now on.)
Before arriving at the arena, two things gave me hope that I could make it through the graduation. A) I had a backpack full of toys, books, snacks, diapers, wipes, and a change of clothes that The Wife helped me pack. (The change of clothes was for the 18 month-old, not me.) And, 2) I knew that once we got to the arena, I could meet up with more family, including my brother and mother, and they could help me with the kids.
Well, by the time we got to the arena it was getting quite full. My brother was unable to save enough seats for the kids and I. So, I was left off on my own, just me, the three kids, and a loaded backpack.
Have you been to a high school graduation lately? After some opening ceremonies, they start by having some of the students give talks. And then, some more students give talks. And then, some more students give talks. And then, some more students give talks. And then, some more students give talks. And then, some more students give talks. And then, well, I think you get the idea. (Do you know what I think most graduation ceremonies need? More talks!)
|Are all these students graduating, or just waiting to give their speeches?|
After the students finish speaking, it's time for the administration. The principal has to give a speech, and then at least two or three members of the school board feel the need to drone on for several minutes (or hours) each. (Does anyone remember anything ever said by a school board member at a graduation ceremony? I don't think so.)
And then, of course, all of the graduating students have to walk across the stage, get their diploma, and pose for a picture. With a graduating class of well over 800 students, all those poses pose a lengthy endeavor.
Luckily for me, I have some good kids. (The Wife has done an amazing job raising them.) The books, toys, and snacks were able to keep them entertained just enough that they didn't go stark-raving bonkers. And, I was even able to get through the nerve-wracking process of getting the kids into and out of the restroom without incident. (Honestly, I don't worry at all about transgenders in the bathroom. What I do worry about are pedophiles in the bathroom.)
After the ceremony, a family friend left my brother's entourage to come help me with mine, and we made the train-ride back to the mini-van. We met up with The Wife and the new baby at the celebratory dinner, and immediately the mantle of sole responsibility was lifted.
I made it through the day with not a whiff of a problem, but that doesn't mean it wasn't nerve-wracking. Wrangling three kids out in public is not an easy thing. I don't know how single parents do it. I'm very glad I have the support of a wonderful wife and fantastic family. They all make parenting so much easier than babysitting.