You know that scene in spy thrillers where the hero is trying to lose his “tail” and so he takes the craziest, most random routes possible? If he’s driving he goes down one-way alleys and circles the block three or four times. And if he’s on foot he ducks inside strange, obscure little shops (Ray’s Exotic Dancewear! Jeff’s Custom Luthiers! Ted’s House of Glue!) and then runs out again through the back door, clutching some odd purchase. It’s all so crazy, right? So wacky. So utterly random. And also, so very, very much like a typical day in my current life.
Except, in my case, there’s no international spy ring I’m trying to avoid, no hero (or heroine) I’m trying to rescue, no world to be saved from a fiendish madman. No, there’s just two children with very, very different interests and activities and a mountain of errands that need to be run in between them. Some days one will need styrofoam balls and red duct tape for a biology project on the octopus while the other will need black pants and a bow tie for a school play. Or one will need bass rosin and a new “E” string while the other will need potting soil and quinoa seeds.
Usually, since I am not informed of these needs (which are always desperate and immediate) until I am on the other side of town from where these objects are being sold, this necessitates a mad, cross-town dash to get to the store I need before it closes. (I know, I know: supposedly there are 24-hour “super” stores that carry absolutely everything; however, it is my experience that by the time I have located all of the disparate items I need within these cavernous places—or rather, the empty shelves where the items should be—I might as well have driven to the stores I knew for sure had what I needed in the first place).
And even supposing there was such a thing as a well-stocked Rosin/Quinoa/Octopus/Bow Tie Superstore, that still wouldn’t solve the problem of having not just to pick up simple objects, which can usually be found in several places, but rather picking up children, which tend to be found in only one specific place. (Specific children, that is: if you’re not picky about what child you bring home—and I must confess that sometimes the idea seems quite appealing—then you can pick up a child just about anywhere. If, however, you want to bring home the same child you dropped off, then you really have no choice but to go back to the place you left them.)
And the places my children need to be picked up from are even more diverse than quinoa seeds and bow ties. One might be at a soccer game, while the other is at band practice. Or one might be rollerskating, while the other is at ballet. Wherever they are, you can be assured that there will be at least twenty minutes of traffic in between them—both ways.
I confess that I am a little bit in awe of the parents who do it with either more children than my family has, or with less parents—or both. It makes me understand those families where everyone—whether boy or girl, seventeen or seven, athletic or bookish—is signed up for the same activities. And it also makes me understand those families where no one gets signed up for anything, ever.
Understand, perhaps, but still not quite agree with. After all, unless our kids are going to be moving to a small island when they turn eighteen, it’s almost guaranteed that their adult lives will have a similar degree of “spy game”-like craziness to them as well. And just like finances and nutrition, some lessons are best learned young.
Especially those lessons involving bow ties and quinoa seeds.