Two days ago, in some sort of unnecessary frenzy to get out to consume the fresh, warm (hot) air of spring, we hatched a plot to take our son to the petting zoo. The petting zoo, no longer a deemed a ‘petting zoo’ (a relief for moms who don’t want their children’s delicate digits nipped off by ill-tempered donkeys), was more of a ‘farm’, where animals could be observed, from behind the safety of wire fencing, in their ‘natural’ habitats.
The sun was high in the sky. The temperature was about eighty degrees. My makeup lay on my face like a chamois, strangling my pores. My hair was still wet from being washed, but had become sweaty across my neck. I was admittedly ill-prepared for this weather.
We strolled around with the babies for a bit, identifying the animals, taking pictures, and making animal sounds. We allowed Matthew to run free for a few moments to see some tractors and meet some kids, and then we packed up to leave. We weren’t ready to head home, but had trouble deciding on a next destination, for fear we’d get caught in afternoon traffic.
We bantered back and forth about dinner, as my husband had voiced a desire for Indian early in the day. I wanted Indian as well. That plan, however, would require babysitting (because there’s nothing more tragically hilarious than a child eating spicy food), and we hadn’t been able to find anyone available.
We were heading south on the highway, towards home, when my phone rang. It was my mother. She was, in the same breath, both willing and unwilling to watch the children because she was tired. We told her this was fine, that we would find a family-friendly place and take the babies with us, and I hung up. Not a moment later, Michael started to fuss for what I assumed to be a bottle. We immediately called her back and asked her if we could take a pit stop at her house for a round of bottles and to change everyone’s diaper, and then continue on our way. She agreed.
While we rested, the normal indecision about dinner overtook us. We couldn’t decide whether to bring takeout back to my parents’, go to a restaurant ourselves, take the babies and continue to find a restaurant, etc…This conversation takes place far more frequently than I’d like.
Ultimately, our decision was made by my mother, who started cooking macaroni and cheese for the babies as she fed them snacks of Italian bread and fruit.
It looked like my husband and I were going to dinner alone. We chose The Cheesecake Factory because it was nearby and had an extensive menu. On the drive there, I started talking about what-ifs. What if I didn’t get pregnant two weeks before our wedding? Where would we be? Would we have left this state that I’m, again, in hate with? Would he have found a more challenging, professionally fulfilling position? Would we have chosen a more appropriate place to live?
“I didn’t mean to get pregnant again right away after Matthew, you know,” I said, apologetically.
“I know. I know. Things happen,” my husband responded.
“I mean, if we didn’t have all these kids at once, we may have been able to make some better decisions,” I said as I eyed a spot in the parking garage.
“It’s just that…” I started, again, as I always do, without a complete thought to convey.
“Well, at least they’re healthy,” my husband responded as I shifted the car into park.
I leaned down slowly to take the key out of the ignition. It was like a sock in the stomach. I blinked and took a breath. His words dangled heavily around my head, like a beam on a crane.
Hearing no response, he continued by explaining the developmental and physical challenges faced by the children of two of his coworkers, the hospital trips, the prognoses, and the marital difficulties experienced as a result of the stress.
I swallowed. I couldn’t speak.
I snapped up the keys, opened the driver’s side door, and exited the car.
“I know,” I sighed, saying nothing else. I stopped for a moment to lock the car and set the alarm, and we continued inside.
My embarrassment had the consistency of lead. My feet dragged wearily on the concrete. Have I always been like this? I wondered silently.
If I’d taken something so precious as my childrens’ health for granted, have I taken other things for granted as well? More so, if I bring light to these other things, will they crumble and collapse before my eyes? Superstitious much?
We continued inside, for not-quite-as-ethnic, yet still delicious, dishes, and brought takeout and cheesecake home for my parents.
It was that night I decided, in the unseasonable heat of a New England March, to whine a little less, and take more comfort and joy in our childrens’ coos and smiles and shrieks, my daughter’s yelling, “Hi!” at the top of her lungs until you answer, and all the wayward, painful bites and pinches we lovingly (and frequently) receive.
And to take them along with us for more outings. And more dinners.
Because three little ones are what we have, for better or worse – whether we planned it or not – and they’re smart, active, curious, and healthy, even if they don’t sleep or listen as well as we’d like.
And because you never know what can happen tomorrow. Like realizing that you must drink in every bit of today, because you don’t what can happen tomorrow.