My latest source of guilt was our town's annual holiday parade. I didn't want to go. I mean - it was supposed to be less than twenty degrees outside. Less than twenty degrees, people. But then that little voice kicked in: this is a tradition. The kids would love it. Going to the parade every year is something they'll always remember. If you were a good mom, you'd suck it up and go.
And because I'm nothing if not well-meaning, we went. Colin, being the only intelligent one in the family, opted to stay home with my mom - along with the baby, who we forced to stay home because, well, he's a baby. Babies never come in handy at parades.
I learned my lesson at the parade a few years ago: if you want to go, you'd better be prepared. So I was. I put the kids in snowsuits. SNOWSUITS! I brought a blanket! I made hot cocoa - real cocoa, not even from a mix! Triumphantly, we packed all this crap in the car and headed downtown. I figured as much planning ahead as I'd done, and with only two kids instead of four, this was going to be a cinch.
It didn't take long for my optimism to start going downhill - about 2.5 seconds after we got out of the car, to be precise. Because y'all? It was cold. Like, finger-and-toe-numbing, nose-running, eye-watering cold. A really good mom would have sacrificed tradition for the sake of keeping her kids from getting pneumonia, my inner voice nagged. But we were there. And we were as bundled as we could be.
While we were walking from our parking place to the parade route, a gust of wind came up. And Cameron shrieked, as though someone were stabbing him, "MY APPLE!!!"
Let me explain. You know that cocoa I made? The kids wanted to drink it out of their plastic apples. They're these cheap lightweight things we bought at a fall festival about a month ago:
And now Cameron's was rolling down the road in the middle of traffic. And he was standing there bawling at the top of his lungs (did I mention Cameron has an extra-loud voice?) so that people were probably thinking we were either abusing or kidnapping him.
So Curtis did what any
We got to the parade route and chose our spot. There were still a few minutes until the parade began, so we were just standing around
"Heeeey, cotton candy!" he bellowed as he walked past. Which struck me as kind of a weird thing to say, but it obviously was effective because right away the boys were all, "Weee-eee-eee want cotton candy! Pleeeeeease?"
So Curtis did what any
Only, y'all? Cotton candy is a mess when you're not wearing gloves. And when you don't have a snotty nose that dissolves the sugar. Consequently, the dudes' gloves were matted with tufts of stickiness. Their faces were blue from noses to chins. And I had brought absolutely nothing to wipe them off with, so they just had to stay that way. Cameron's fell off the stick and into the mulch surrounding a sidewalk tree, and he ate it anyway - tiny pieces of bark and all. I pretended I didn't see. Coby decided he didn't want the rest of his, so he was like, "Here!" and thrust a big bunch of blue fluff into my frozen hands. Somebody dropped some of theirs and I was horrified to see a kid tracking through it, walking away with it stuck to his shoe. All I could think about was how much his mother was going to freak out when he tromped all over her carpet with cotton candy feet.
While Curtis went to find a trash can for the cotton candy sticks, I turned to the kids to fill their apples with hot chocolate. And nearly got crowded out by a very well-dressed couple, their friends, and their kids. The lady had one of those cute woolen peacoats and nice leather boots and a knit hat and matching scarf and curled blonde hair and a messenger bag that was probably more expensive than my minivan. (For the record: I was rocking some glamorous style in a faded, thirteen-year-old college sweatshirt, jeans, tennis shoes, a ponytail, and glasses.) But she was so concerned with doling out chocolate-covered espresso beans and amaretto-flavored almonds (yes, seriously) to her friends that she failed to watch her kids. So there was this huge swarm of kids all around me and I felt that primal, motherly pull to keep an eye out for all of them. In the confusion, I saw my four-year-old, Coby, give one of our apples a swift kick, sending it flying (again). And I yelled, "HEY! Stop that!" in my typical stern reprimanding voice.
... But as it turns out, it wasn't Coby. And Preppy Mom didn't seem too thrilled that I'd yelled at her kid. Oops. Although I wasn't too thrilled that he'd launched one of our apples, so whatever.
My hands were numb because I'd forgotten gloves. I spilled hot chocolate on myself. The kids bickered over the blanket which was too small to efficiently cover all of them. They whined because they were cold. They whined because they were bored. They whined to hear themselves whining. They whined to whittle away at the last remaining shreds of my sanity.
Finally the parade started. I was disappointed that there were no marching bands - my favorite part - because they'd withdrawn from the festivities due to the cold. We saw a couple of police motorcycles, and this:
I don't know about you, but I'm from the Midwest and we always preface every parade with some sort of farm equipment. Even in urban areas.
Then came a troupe of clowns. And suddenly Cameron yelped and hid behind my husband. I had no idea he was afraid of clowns, but apparently he's petrified. So can you guess what he did for the next fifteen minutes or so?
You got it: he hid. Didn't watch anything but the backs of Curtis's legs. And since Coby is never far from his brothers, he hung back, too. He only peeped out occasionally when some cheering or a music-blasting float came by and caught his attention.
So we decided to call it good and leave the parade early. We gathered up our apples and Thermos and blanket and trash and wearily schlepped everything back to the car a few blocks away, trudging along the pavement in whipping wind, trying to ignore our numb legs and near-frostbitten toes. The kids whined, of course. I ended up carrying Coby the last block or so.
Did I mention that this was a televised parade, and we could have watched it from the warm comfort of our living room in our PJs?
Tradition is for the birds. I'm not going to suggest the holiday parade to the kids again until they're old enough to haul their own crap. And drive themselves there.