“Girls weekend getaway.” No three words strike greater fear in the hearts of husbands/fathers than those. [A close second, for me, is “some assembly required,” chiefly at Christmas time.]
Where to start? How about this morning? It was a blast! My four year-old girl started camp today and I had to have her there by nine. Great. I got her up at 8:20, put on her current fave show (Captain Underpants), got her a baba (her word for a bottle of milk) and got her dressed.
My daughter the hair stylist
Then I woke up her eleven year-old sister. I needed her help. With what, you ask? My little one’s hair. I’ve tried. I suck. In my defense, I’ve been bald for the last 25 years so I’ve had zero practice.
Last time I tried the hair thing with her was a few months ago before taking her to school. I did the brushing and the ponytail…yada, yada, yada…she looked in the mirror when I was finished and started bawling:
I retired from the hair styling business right then and there.
So the two girls get the hair thing going upstairs while I assemble her backpack — two separate brown bags for AM and PM snack, a lunch, her water bottle and a change of clothes. [A confession: I didn’t make any of these. My eleven year-old did it all. Look again at the subtitle and its honest (pathetic) description of me as pathetic.]
Uh oh…the crying begins
Then, just when I think all is well, snafu one strikes. I hear little one crying upstairs. Seems her sister didn’t put her bow in perfectly. Then when she went to the bathroom to wet her hair I hear little one scream to her older sister,
“STOP FOLLOWING MEEEEE!!!!!!”
Five minutes of crying later my two girls and I (the 11 year old wanted to come to make sure little one made it okay — pretty awesome sister) make it out the door, off like a herd of turtles, as my mom used to say.
Five minutes after that we arrive at the camp. Correction: We arrive at the massive car lineup to drop off at the camp. I figured I’d bop over there, little one gets out and I’m on my way. Nope.
Five minutes go by and we’ve moved a few cars. Five more minutes, five more cars. And this is where that be-all, end-all mindfulness exercise saves me…
SAVIOR #1 — DEEP BREATHING
This one never fails me. See, the problem wasn’t just that we were stuck in a godawfully slow lineup. It’s that the extra minutes were killing my timing plan — I had to get my 13 year-old son to swimming by 9:30. So what did I do as the minutes ticked away?
I breathed. Deeply. Five breaths. Then we’d make a little progress, I’d look at my watch and, knowing I was getting more and more screwed on time, I did five more breaths. I kid you not I did this ten separate times.
Breathing — how I keep my head from exploding
Did I blow my stack a few times in the car? Guilty. But my head would have exploded had I not done the breathing. I’m telling you: The deep breathing thing, where you actually follow your breath all the way in and then out, is the most valuable arrow we all have in our quiver.
We finally get to the front of the line and I drop my precious little daughter who, unlike her dad way back when, never has trouble with first day jitters at school/camp/etc. I love the fact that my kids are so much tougher than I was.
Then we jet out of there and grab my son back at home…at 9:30…for our ten minute drive to swimming. Not too bad. Ten minutes behind schedule (can you tell I’m of German descent?).
Mind you, this is his second week of swimming and my first time dropping him off. So ten minutes later I drop him off at the pool. Three minutes after that, my phone rings, triggering my need to go to…
SAVIOR #2 — LAUGHING
The call was from my son:
“Dad, this is the wrong pool.”
One very loud expletive later, I do a u-turn, head back to the wrong pool and pick up my son. The following is a rough recreation of the dialogue that followed:
Me: “How could you not know that wasn’t the pool? You were there three times last week?”
Son: “I don’t know. It looked similar.”
Me: “So where’s the right pool?”
Son: “I don’t know.”
Me: “HOW CAN YOU NOT KNOW!? DO YOU PUT YOUR TOWEL OVER YOUR HEAD ON THE DRIVE THERE EVERY TIME!?”
Son: “I don’t know.”
Me: “WHERE’S THE GODDAMN POOL!?”
Son (with hint of a smile because I’ve lost it): I don’t know.
At which point my son and daughter start laughing hysterically at my lunacy. Which then makes me laugh.
This repeats for two more cycles of roughly the same dialogue, followed by more laughing. And it saved me.
My kids love it when I irrationally lose it. They always laugh. And then I laugh because they’re laughing.
Final note of irony/infuriation to button up this story. My wife, who knows where the pool is because she dropped him off the first few times, had informed me by text a few hours earlier that she would be out of pocket from 8:30 a.m. until 10. Why, you ask? Why was she out of pocket?
BECAUSE SHE WAS GETTING A MASSAGE!!!
The juxtaposition of me, blood pressure at 476/249, and my wife, oohing and aahing on the massage table was, let’s face it, pretty humorous…In retrospect!
When in doubt, laugh
The moral of this part of the story? When things get comically bad, laugh. See if you can laugh at the sheer absurdity life throws at us at times.
By the way, in case you were wondering, my sister lives in the same area as the pool and knew where the other one was. My son was twenty minutes late, but a full-blown fiasco was avoided.
I take half a dozen kids to the beach
The third and final story of my weekend with the kids occurred when my daughter asked if we could go to the beach. I said sure. “Can friend 1 come?” Sure. “Friend 2?” Sure. “Friend 3?” Sure. So me, my three kids and three eleven year old girls headed to Crystal Cove State Beach.
They swam for around two hours straight. All of them. Exhausted and hungry, the girls asked if I’d take them to get milkshakes at Ruby’s Diner.
Side note #1: These milkshakes cost five bucks a pop.
Side note #2: My eleven year old is on this streak of asking us to buy her fast food, clothes, Starbucks crap, etc., EVERY SINGLE DAY. Twenty bucks here. Thirty there. I’ve had it.
Kids need to hear the word “No”
Also, the kids in our town can be really spoiled and I don’t want that for my kids. Sometimes, oftentimes, these kids need to hear the word “No.” Which was exactly my response to their milkshake request.
Well, about five minutes later, I watch two of my daughter’s friends spelling out in the sand, in four foot long letters: ANGER ISSUES, presumably aimed at you-know-who. My son quickly came to my aid and erased it…Then proceeded to draw an obviously phallic figure in its place, which, after much laughing on his part, I had him erase as well.
My compromise offer to the girls was a trip to the supermarket where I’d get them an ice cream of some sort. As we pulled up to the Ralph’s, which has a Starbucks inside it, my four year-old yells out,
“Daddy! I want a cake pop. Chocolate!”
Well, cake pops are two bucks a pop, for a measly blob of chocolate cake on top of a stick.
So we go in, leaving my son in the car with the four year old. The girls get their ice creams and we get back to the car. It was then that I employed the third in my triumvirate of sanity saving acts that weekend…
SAVIOR #3 — I LIED
I get in the car and the first thing I hear is,
“Daddy, where’s my cake pop?”
Me: “Oh, I’m sorry, honey, but they ran out. They didn’t have any.”
What ensued was a mild storm of “But I want my cake pop.” “Sorry, but they ran out.”
The truth would have caused WW III
Had I told her the truth, that I didn’t get her a cake pop because they’re vastly overpriced and, more important, thoroughly unhealthy, all hell would have broken loose. Am I proud of this act of deceit and treachery? No. Was it the best thing for me and my daughter? Without a doubt.
If I’m being honest, there was a fourth savior that helped me through this past weekend, but just a teeny tiny bit. That of course being the FDA approved (not really) elixir of vodka mixed with half of a freshly squeezed grapefruit. Don’t judge, I really need the Vitamin C.
So what’s the takeaway from all this nuttiness? Breathe deeply, a lot, when you get stressed. Laugh, as much as possible, when the absurd becomes comical. Lie sparingly, if at all. And finally, have kids, if for no other reason than they provide the best field you’ll ever find for practicing mindfulness.
That and bring you a depth of joy that can’t be expressed in words.