Friday, September 9, 2011

Guest Post from Stern ~ Flashback to Labor Day at the Theater Alone with Six Children

Last Monday was Labor Day. I figured that was a perfect reason to labor. I decided to tackle the huge pile of birch tree logs that has been decorating my front yard for the past two summers (my wife informed me the log d├ęcor was a bit too redneck for her taste). I started cutting logs with my new Husquavarna chain saw and stacking them by the fence. I could tell that was going to take months to complete. So I recruited my kids to help…after a promise that I'd take them to a movie when we got done.

The movie started at 1:20 pm, so we worked like crazy and about 12:30 the 14-year-old began to poke her head out the front door to give us reminders every 5 minutes that it was time to go. At about 12:55 we finally chopped up the last tree. We dashed in the house, changed clothes, and bolted to the door to leave. That's when my wife informed me that the 2-year-old was going with us. Wait a second…that wasn't in the contract. I tried to protest but she gave me one of her Mother-Mandate looks and I knew resistance was futile.

So off we drove in a cloud of dust. I thought about dropping off a load of cardboard at the recycling center on the way but that drew serious threats of mutiny by the crew. They were not to be deterred from an on-time arrival to watch Kung Fu Panda 2. As we pulled up to the theater, we noticed a long line of people winding for miles. Fear struck as the children realized the movie was about to start and they would still be stuck in line…worse yet, maybe it was sold out. I dropped them off to get a spot in line and went to park the truck.

As I was walking to the theater I noticed a very short line of people at what looked like an ATM. I approached and asked if the machine sold tickets. Yes, was the answer, if you have a credit card. I had one, so I stood in line for a short while and purchased 7 tickets for the show. I waved my kids out of the line and we ran in to watch the show… that is, most of us did.

The 13-year-old and the 7-year-old stealthily lagged behind to purchase candy and other goodies while the rest of us found a seat. The seats were low to the ground and C shaped…a killer for bad backs. "That's OK," I thought, "I can survive."

As the show began, the 4-year-old began to cry that she was scared. I brought her over to sit next to me so I could comfort her. The 2-year-old was crawling onto my lap. The show started and all was well. Everyone was focused on the movie. Then the 13-year-old and 7-year-old entered and found us in the dark.

"Daddy, I'm hungry," sang the 4-year-old.

"I don't have any food," was my reply.

"How come they get candy?"

"Because they bought it."

"I want some."


Then the treks to the aisle seats where the 13-year-old and 7-year-old were sitting started. In the dark I could hear, "can I have some"…"No"…"I want some"…"It's mine, I bought it"…crying and whining…

So I lean over and whisper-shout…"can you just give her a little please?"

"But Dad, it's mine!"

"I don't care…she's making everyone miserable!"

The 4-year-old got some candy, came back to her seat, and went back for more candy. There was a scuffle and a short argument. She got more candy and came back to her seat. Then the 2-year-old realized the 4-year-old was eating candy.

"Daddy, I sum?"

It was useless to argue at this point. The 2-year-old went to the aisle seats and asked for some candy. There was another scuffle and a short argument. She came back with candy and climbed on my lap. Then the 4-year-old went to the aisle seats and asked for some candy. There was another scuffle and a short argument. She came back and sat down. Suddenly, the 2-year-old and the 4-year-old began to argue over who had what candy and who needed to share what with whom.

I tried to distract both of them…"look at the Panda and the wolves punching each other," I said. That worked for about 2 minutes. Finally the candy ran out. Thanks goodness!

"Daddy, I need to go to the bathroom," Right. We gotta take care of that. Do you take a 4-year-old girl into the men's bathroom and help her or do you send her into the women's room by herself?

Back to the movie. Everyone there must hate me by now. The 2-year-old has totally lost interest at this point. She keeps trying to make aisle escapes. I whisper/shout at the 13-year-old to stop her because he is so into the movie he doesn't notice the 2-year-old pushing past his knees and heading for the aisle. Finally the 2-year-old realizes we won’t let her escape and run up and down the aisle in the dark. She starts to cry. I again try to distract. "Look at all the Peacock and the Panda beating up on each other." That works for a few minutes. Then the 2-year-old loses interest again and swipes the 7-year-old's wallet. I hear coins hit the floor. At least she's occupied and stayed occupied for nearly the rest of the movie.

My back is killing me.

As the movie finally ends, the 7-year-old realizes the 2-year-old has her wallet and her coins are all over the floor. She breaks into a million emotional pieces…tears, puffy eyes, flushed cheeks. I get down on the floor and start picking up coins. As we leave the theatre and the 7-year-old counts the coins, her emotional outburst elevates. "Dad, she lost thirty-nine cents!"

"I'll pay you the dang 39 cents, just stop crying!" That created even more tears. We head out to the car.

It still wasn’t over.

The 14-year-old on crutches is now racing her 13-year-old brother for the front seat. Of course the 13-year-old gets there first and jumps in and locks the door. The 14-year-old begins to beat on the window, yelling at the 13-year-old. I ignore and load the wailing 7-year-old in and buckle the 4-year-old and 2-year-old in their seats as one cries she's hungry and the other cries she's cold. The 14-year-old jumps in behind her brother and decks him in the side of the head. I know I should say something but it was such and good hit I let it go.

As I drive home I think to myself…how in the world does my wife deal with these people all day long?