I deserve the Mother of the Year Award today.
I know, lots of women casually say this in an “Oh, I’m such a great mother for ignoring my kids that deserve an award” kind of way. But I mean it. I deserve. The Mother. Of the year award.
Today I took five children, ranging in ages from three to nine, swimming at the Manchester YMCA. Which, coincidentally, is positioned directly in the heart of its namesake; the city of Manchester. As in “I need to park in a parking garage and maneuver these short people across a street” kind of city of Manchester. It occurs to me, as I steer and clutch and direct them across the double yellow line, the exact activity I signed up for in the name of summer safety may very well get one of us run over.
How do those Duggars do it?
At last we arrive at the steps of the YMCA and burst into the lobby. The lovely young woman behind the reception desk does a quick scan of the situation and proceeds to ask the question I hear whenever I take my spawn out of the basement and into public; “Are they all yours?” I answer with my well-worn joke that I’m not really sure if they all belong to me, but by golly I’m going to demand a maternity test sometime soon and find out the truth. Mwah ha ha. She buzzes us in.
We troop loudly down a long hallway and into the co-ed locker room. Remembering my instructions from earlier in the afternoon that we will go into separate changing rooms to maintain our privacy, my son Jack leaps up onto a bench and brays directly into the face of an unsuspecting mother and her two small children. “You go in THERE to change! So we don’t see your PRIVATES! I don’t want to see your PRIVATES!” She barely glances at me as I try to explain how his autism sometimes gets in the way of his manners.
All six of us cram into one changing room and swap out clothes for bathing suits, while each boy giggles loudly about how I’m naked and take turns threatening to open the door before I’m done. At long last we file into the pool area and are greeted warmly by our swim instructor, aptly nicknamed “Pools”. Pools is an energetic woman with an impressive track record of teaching children to swim for twenty years, and she claims to be unfazed by her afternoon challenge of showing all five Cariello children how to navigate the murky waters of the YMCA pool. She continues to keep her cool after three-year old Henry declares her tattoo “Scawy. I afwaid of you.”
My daughter keeps reassuring everyone around us that I am indeed her mother, not her grandmother. So much for scoring points with the kind of cute lifeguard.
Meanwhile, I alternate playing “motorboat” with my 45-pound toddler, keeping half an eye on my four-year old, and listening to my six-year old frantically shriek “I’m drowning! Help, I’m drowning!” all while shooting the two older boys dirty looks when they cannonball on top of Pools. I feel faint.
At the end of our allotted half-hour session, the three older boys emerge dripping from the pool. Charlie is tearstained and clutching his floating bubble like it’s the last lifeboat on the Titanic. Pools looks shaken. On our way back to the locker room Henry tosses one last insult over his shoulder in her direction. “I no yike you! You face yike a stinky bum!” I whisk him away, explaining that he, too, has autism. (He doesn’t. Just bad manners.)
After shuffling them all back to the car in the now-darkened parking garage, the ride home commences similarly to the journey downtown. They alternate between demanding I find LMFAO’s Party Rock on the radio station and begging to stop at various taco stands for dinner. My daughter requests, in her endearing I-drank a-case-of-Jack-Daniels-and-it’s-time-for-another-cigarette voice, that I use my phone to “Text my fadder. To tell him how much I love him.” Uh huh, I’ll get right on that.
At last we’re home, and the kids explode out of the minivan and into the backyard. I trudge upstairs, weighed down by the bag holding six wet bathing suits, five soaked towels (care to guess who had to air dry?), and assorted pairs of underwear left behind by those who chose to ride home commando. I throw it all in the wash so it will be ready for our lesson next week.
I hope my award comes before then.