This incredible weather, so late in the year, left me feeling like a total jerk for having not made it outside for more than a few minutes all day (the kids were colluding against me, when one would stop crying, the other would start, and I couldn’t break the cycle). So around 3:30, with both kids napping, I began frantically preparing a picnic basket (read: diaper bag) in hopes of surprising Nat on her walk home from work.
I cut apples, sliced cheese, and Loren woke up. No matter. I slid a chair into the kitchen where he would “work” along side me (read: eat everything as I prepared it). I cut another apple (Loren ate the first one), whipped up some chicken salad, grabbed some hummus and a few mandarin oranges and tossed it all in the bag.
I even remembered to bring a few forks and plates (and diapers and wipes). More surprisingly, I managed to remember to pack a picnic blanket.
If you’re waiting for a twist – that moment where Ruthie wakes up and barfs all over the everything or Loren deteriorates into full-blown tantrum mode and we fail to make it out of the house despite our best efforts – well, it didn’t happen. I had to wake up Ruthie from her nap when we were ready to go. Loren voluntarily climbed into his stroller and buckled himself in. I walked out of the house with everyone accounted for and with all our picnic wares packed neatly in the diaper bag.
The plan worked. We caught Natalie as she emerged from the metro tunnel and directed her down the sidewalk to Rock Creek Park at the southwest corner of Connecticut and Calvert, where we picked a little spot for a family picnic.
Ruthie’s little dress just kills me. It needs a close-up:
Something else from that picture deserves a close-up. These big plastic containers (from a previous Pho takeout) are great for transporting drinks. Sturdy, secure, and huge.
Loren ate all the mandarins. All of them.
Then he ran around the park like Cornholio.
The whole excursion was a great success.
When I started this stay-at-home parenting thing, this is the type of afternoon I imagined would be made possible on a daily basis. We’d be out and about all the time, I’d have all day to cook and teach and cherish. When Natalie came home we’d have these wonderful evenings, and everything would go so smoothly. At night, all the children would sing and dance their way up the stairs to the bedrooms, “Goodniiiiight, goodniiiiiiiight!”
Then I learned that the demands of the job often leave me doing little more than treading water, just trying to stay afloat. So sometimes you just have to leave the house covered in barf. Sometimes you have to push forward blindly, doing your best to ignore the toddler melt-down that is threatening to derail the afternoon.
Every once in a while, with the planets aligned just so, the preparations and follow-through unfold exactly as planned and without adversity, and we end up with a memorable Indian Summer afternoon in late October, sitting on a picnic blanket while stuffing our bellies with homemade chicken salad.
It’s these perfectly unrealistic expectations that I plan to pass on to my kids one day as they become parents. ”Oh, when you were little we had the most charming evenings…” …and you never once slapped me in the face as I lifted you kicking and screaming from the bath tub.