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How Quickly We Forget

This is the first weekend in several weeks that John hasn't been away for a wedding, and it will be the last one for a while, too. "Let's do something fun with the kids," we said as we realized earlier this week (um, Friday morning) that we'd have an entire Saturday to while away as we pleased. What could we do? We knew we'd take them to the zoo: since we have a membership and don't use it nearly enough, our fiscal guilt sets in on the four weekends a year that our schedules open up enough for it. But that would only take a couple of hours. How else could we expand our children's minds, open up their world views, mold their delicate, impressionable intellects?

Errands, of course. We'd make it fun, we'd make it something we'd be doing together! Anything can be fulfilling if we're interacting with the loving acceptance only a family can offer; this, this is what we'd use to teach our progenies with the precious gift of our time on an open Saturday. We needed shoes and shirts for Bryce, so we loaded up the double stroller, checked our sanity at the door, and headed for the mall. Now, we are logical, observant people. We'd like to think we don't live in some sort of fantasy land wherein our kids are angelic, pliable companions; we knew from past experience that taking our particular children to a place like The Mall with all the Crowds And Noise and the Lower Chance For Consequence Due To The Public Nature Of The Outing, gave us about a 50/50 chance for success (which for us is correlated directly with our blood pressure: low to normal range = successful; high to heart attack range accompanied by bulging eyeballs = the kids win, once again). Hmm, I just said we were logical, and then admitted that with our knowledge base, we still voluntarily took this trip. So, you be the judge.

I don't know what the hell has flipped Bryce's switch, but as John put it tonight after arriving home from a brief appointment, having missed the Mom's-In-Our-Clutches-Now-Dinner-Bath-Evening-From-Hell freak show I so wish I had recorded - you know, for evidence when the guys in white coats are trying to figure out exactly when I contracted Stark Raving Mad Disease - "Bryce was really on his game this weekend, wasn't he?" The kid was like a hyped up version of that old Mike Meyers SNL character, The Hyper Hypo, only Bryce was more like The Really Mischievous Hyper Hypo, constantly looking for situations in which a maniacal laugh would be appropriate. And holy hell, did he find them. Every time we walked out of the room and left him alone with Quinn for two minutes, we'd immediately hear Quinn protesting about something, and then hear Bryce literally laughing like an evil scientist, and he's perfected this laugh such that he uses every last molecule of oxygen saved up in his lungs, the capacity of which is starting to frighten me, and it sounds alarmingly...I don't know...accurate? Evil? Somehow not unnatural? Imagine the combination of a growl, several long "ah" sounds punctuated with sharp, breathless breaks, several decibel levels above Keep Your Hearing Through Adulthood. Imagine this silence-shattering sound coming from a 32-pound lanky four-year-old, and all of the physical exertion this forceful act of aggression must take: his muscles taut, his arms victoriously shaking above him in the air, his face purple, the space around his eyes clenching with all available force to keep his eyeballs from popping directly out of their sockets, the skin around his chest stretching to bursting point with the full lungs housed beneath providing all of that astounding, formidable noise.

But back to our fateful trip to The Mall. I think I've painted a clear picture of what volatile compounds we took into a public place with hundreds of other innocent victims simply trying to purchase items they'd wanted for days, weeks, or months. Bryce's growly evil emporer laugh surrounding us as we ducked our heads, avoiding the gaze of the Normal Families With Kids Who Don't Hold Their Parents Hostage, we still stupidly thought we could manage to spend more than five seconds in a store picking out a few decent shirts for the kid. Uh, no. The double stroller is really meant for two kids who are young enough that they haven't yet discovered how much joy life brings when you taunt your sibling. They took turns grabbing each other's hair, popping each other's foreheads and giggling uncontrollably when I would hiss at them for the 12th time in two minutes, "STOPITNOWORYOU'RE LOSING YOUR PRIVELEGES!" Here was their unspoken response: "Priveleges?? Who cares about that? So we lose a couple of bedtime stories or some chocolate milk - it's worth it, let's pull each other's hair again, that was SO MUCH FUN! Geez, did you see the color of mom's face when her head was spinning around and her fangs were snapping? Wow." We snatched two shirts from Baby Gap and I threw them at John while I stormed out of the store with the kids. Well, it wasn't so much the dramatic "storm" I'd hoped for, because The Gap really likes to put all manner of tables and shelves right in the middle of the walkways, and the 80-pound stroller I was pushing with two bouncing kids throwing off my already awkward trajectory kind of put a damper on the effect. I paid for it when we got out of the store, too, because I parked the stroller next to the shiny, clean glass walls lining the store, and the kids, in response to my asking them if they were babies because of their ludicrous behavior in the store, said that yes, they were, and proceeded to slap the glass with their sticky palms and say "ga ga goo ga" over and over, while I pretended their sarcastic victory hadn't pushed me right over the edge of sanity for the day. John joined me a few minutes later and said, "let's check The Children's Place now" and beneath the calm smiling surface I saw that he was just waiting for me to say what we both knew to be the best decision: "Let's just leave." He stopped mid-stroll, incredulous, rebellious even: "No! I will not let them win. We're going to finish what we came here for." I looked down at the blonde blurs of fury and hyperactivity in the stroller beneath me, and visualized the next 40 minutes of mind-numbing horror we would experience in our pointless quest. "John," I said, "it's over. They've already won. Look at us, we look like we've been in a war zone." His face fell. I'd been his last bastion of hope; my pretense of happy survival and ultimate success gone, he couldn't carry it alone. Tragic, really.

We went home, but not before stopping off at Chili's for some of these. That's why the kids are still alive and well today (although Quinn almost didn't make out of the restaurant with all of his limbs intact; helicopter arms + fork + John's head = disaster). I'm sure in a few weeks we'll make this attempt again. Idiots. That's what we are.