This past Friday night I took my four youngest kids to the park. We had to take my teenage daughter to work for her evening shift, so we dropped her off and then picked up some McDonalds and went over to Fountain City Park.
We hadn’t been to this park in quite a while as it’s in a different part of town and I rarely venture that way. As we walked into the park and I was looking for a table where we could eat, there didn’t seem to be too many people around. We walked down a little path and suddenly there were people. Two couples and a guy by himself, they were all standing within fifteen feet of each other. Just standing there, every single one of them staring at their smart phones intently and pressing the screens frantically as if they were playing some exciting action game. It kind of took me by surprise. Like, am I interrupting some kind of group therapy where everyone stands around and texts each other? None of them seemed to have any children with them (which is my primary reason for visiting parks). They had just come to the park (For exercise? Fresh air? A change of scenery?) so they could stand in the great outdoors and stare intently at their phone.
Ok. That’s weird.
I edged around the group of phone zombies and we settled at a picnic table right next to a little man-made wading creek. The kids were torn by two opposing treats. Eating McDonalds or playing in the creek. The creek finally won out and they left half their meal behind as they ran for the water. Everything was good. Cute kids frolicking in the water. Then, about two minutes later, the six year old runs up to me. I NEED TO USE THE BATHROOM!
Let me just tell you, this park has public restrooms, but they are on the opposite side of the park. It is too far away to leave children alone playing while you accompany someone to the bathroom, and they are too far away to just let a child go there by themselves.
Uh..No.. We can’t go to the bathroom. It’s too far away. (I cringed as I said this, I’m pretty sure it breaks some international treaty laws to deny a child access to the bathroom). She looked at me, thought about it for a minute, and then said, Ok, I can hold it for a while.
Five minutes later, the four year old ran up to me. I NEED TO USE THE BATHROOM! Ok. Fine. I give up. I grabbed my purse, yelled for all my kids to come cause we were going to the bathroom. I pointed in the direction we were heading and the eight and six year old took off at a full run. The four year old was about 20 feet behind them and then came me and about twenty feet behind me was the two year old. He had decided that he wanted to climb over a rock, a stump, say hi to a butterfly, inspect the grass, and all the other things two year olds do when you are in a hurry. I was stuck in the middle, yelling for the girls to not get too far ahead, trying to encourage the two year old to hurry up.
Too late, the three kids ahead of me disappeared into an opening that lead to the bathrooms. WAIT! Don’t go so far ahead!…They were obviously out of ear shot. I urged the two year old on and started walking faster. The two year old and I finally got to the doorway where they had disappeared. There was a Men’s Restroom Door propped open and I heard child voices inside. Oh no. Did my girls accidentally go into the Men’s Room?? I stood at the doorway, not wanting to cross that sacred threshold unless I absolutely had to. I scanned the room. No men in sight. Good. ARE YOU GUYS IN HERE?? My little boy piped up from the one stall in the bathroom, the stall door swinging wide open. Yeah, I’m here! Ok. My son is in the Mens’ Restroom. Not the girls. All is well, though I would have preferred he had gone to the Women’s Room as he is still little. I stood at the doorway waiting for him to finish, then his little voice piped up. Where’s the toilet paper? …There isn’t any toilet paper! I yanked open my purse and started looking for tissues. Wait! I’ve got some, I’ll bring it to you. Just a minute! I finally found the tissue and headed into the bathroom. Again, too late. Sound of flushing. He had skipped the toilet paper part of the routine. I peaked into the stall. Yep. I now had a mess to clean up.
Fortunately Mom is always prepared (except when she isn’t, and then it’s bad). Out came the wipes from the bottomless handbag. Clean up the mess. Wash hands. Quickly exit the Mens’ Room and go hunt down my girls. I could hear them before I even entered the Women’s Room. They were chattering away to each other as they washed their hands. The entire building is made of concrete block. That, combined with a vaulted ceiling and a concrete floor, made the whole room an echo chamber. My two little boys followed me into the restroom and instantly noticed the noise level was about one hundred percent MORE in this room. They started shrieking just so they could hear the sound bounce off the walls a million times. I told them to be quiet and stand by the wall while I used the bathroom. More shrieking. BE QUIET! Lots of muffled sounds, then more shrieking. Almost like yodelling. Of course, I usually ignore this kind of behavior. Making noise at the park isn’t going to hurt anything. But, a glimpse under the stalls showed that some other poor woman was having to share this restroom with my noisy brood. QUIET!! The older girls decided to be helpful and started shushing their brothers. Then they discovered that the shushing sound also echoed off the walls, and if they shushed to a rhymic beat it also had a fun feel to it. The two year old decided to practice his hooting skills. I was rendered helpless, stuck in a toilet stall, unable to back up my hissed commands of BE QUIET with any action.
Fortunately, I saw the shoes of the unknown woman leave her stall, and shortly after, heard the outer door close. We were alone. I came out. Glared at my children who were still making their own version of music. I washed my hands and then shooed them back towards the playground and the creek. Several minutes later we were all settled in, me at the picnic table, the kids splashing in the water again. The eight year old walks up to me. Uh Mom, when we were in the bathroom, I didn’t have to go, so I didn’t go. But, Now I gotta go to the bathroom.
Taking kids to the park is so relaxing.