“What was so bad?” Greg asked. “Remember when we went to Play-it-again-Sports? Miles was just like that…only at the library.” I said. That helped it sink in. Greg and I were both then picturing Miles as he was on that day, running quickly down every aisle, not looking back to see if we were following him, almost getting lost multiple times and molesting all of the sporting goods. “Miles,” Greg said to his little bobbing head as it passed, “You gotta chill, brother.” Greg and I are always telling our kids to chill. It’s sort of a joke because, well, they can’t chill and we know that and when we say it to them, they are all but clueless as to what we are even talking about anyways. It’s just one of the ways that we ease some of the tension with each other during our day to day life with them. Trust me, without an in tact sense of humor, we would all be mired in misery and stress with no one near to throw us a line.
I wasn’t thinking. That’s why I took them to the library. When it looked like it was going to solidly rain all day, I thought the library would be a good place to go as we needed books and I had some serious fines to take care of. Plus, we’re a homeschooling family. The library should be like our home away from home, right? The last time we went to the library (maybe three months ago?) it was ok. Miles was different back then. He hadn’t yet become the quick-walking devil-may-care version of himself that stealthily loses people without looking back. He hadn’t yet become super squirrely when you tried to restrain him and balk and writhe and scream until he was released again.
I knew all of this…sorta. But I wasn’t really taking the understanding of his new nature and mentally transferring it to the library setting like I should have done if I was smart. It only took a few seconds, though, for me to realize my mistake after we got there. I pushed him out of the elevator to the children’s book section thinking, like last time, he might just be content to ride in the stroller, when suddenly and violently it became clear that he was not going to be sitting for another instant in the stroller. Then when his feet hit the ground, the look on his face and the glint in his eye were what finally brought the message home. The thought finally broke through loud and clear, “This was a mistake” shortly followed by another thought, “We need to leave quickly.”
Just as I thought it, though, I saw Ruth and Joel heading for the computer area and pulling on headphones to start up some of the games they carry. I got some books as best I could, keeping my peripheral vision on Miles at all times and every few seconds stopping what I was doing to dart after him. Meanwhile, the older two started having issues with the computers and started asking, loudly, for my help. That was when the cold sweating started. It was one of those situations that, as a parent, you learn to avoid but sometimes find yourself in anyway. Those impossible situations where you are in way over your head and you need to leave as quickly as possible but are somehow trapped by circumstances. The exit and the car at that moment seemed so far away. In this case, I had to convince Ruth and Joel to walk away from the computers which, I could tell by the zombie-fied way that they were starring at their screens was not going to be easy and somehow check out the books I had grabbed with Miles running all over the place.
I finally convinced the older two (was it the desperation in my eyes? the pleading in my voice?) that we indeed needed to leave NOW. All we had to do then was make it to the desk and check out. “Joel, can you push the stroller while I carry Miles?” This was my solution. At least to getting to the check out desk. Standing there and actually checking out would be the hard part.
We pulled up to the desk and as soon as I stopped walking, Miles demanded, through body language that couldn’t be ignored, to be put down and he again took off like a shot. Ruth started cackling and running along after him with Joel not far behind. I glanced nervously around at the librarians and other library patrons to see their reactions to my kids carnival-esque behavior. No one reacted at all. That’s how you know it’s really bad. But I was thankful anyway at not having to confront any scowls or eye rolls. I kept my eyes on them tackling each other near the dollhouse as the librarian, bless her heart, checked out my books as slowly as possible. I swear. Every time I am there struggling with my kids to just leave as quickly as possible, they need to write down every scuff and tear in the book or something isn’t working on the computer or they have to go into the back room to check on something or something. It’s so painful. I stood there sweating in earnest now all over my body. “It’s hot in here,” I said as I watched Ruth pick Miles up by the waist and carry him away from a plant he was trying to manhandle. “Let me get something from the back room,” the librarian said. I took the opportunity to run over and grab Miles in an attempt to keep him on my hip for the rest of the exchange. No such luck. As the lady came back, he writhed to break free again and ran across the room, cutting off an older lady as she made for the entrance. There’s a scowl. I grimaced and hunched my shoulders as the librarian presented me with a water-damaged book and explained that I now own it and have to pay for it. I nodded quickly, like “Yeah, yeah, whatever! Just hurry up!” “It happens with little ones,” she said. Really? I thought sarcastically as I watched my kids cutting off more people as they chased each other around. I know this lady was trying to be nice and throw me a bone but the cold sweat was seriously getting to me at this point. My coat felt like it weighed about thirty pounds.
We finally finished up and burst out into the grey, unseasonably warm January afternoon and I at last breathed a huge sigh of relief but also of awe. Not at myself for making it out of the library alive. I breathed a huge sigh of awe at how impossible that situation had been, at how ridiculous my life is with three young kids sometimes. At how much, though we are a normal family (for all rights and purposes), there doesn’t seem to be space for us, at how much like a sore thumb we stick out. Often. Maybe, as I’ve come to ponder to myself rather frequently, this points at a societal ill, or a few (the place of children, the value of families and women, the break-neck competitive pace we all exist at, etc.)
I sighed once more as life started revving up again, that moment passed, and the kids, perpetual motion machines, started racing each other towards the car. Social activism aside, I made a mental note: no more library for Miles. At least not for another year or so. Maybe he’ll be more socially acceptable by then.