If you're going to have a bad day as a parent, it might as well be while you're out with close friends so they can remind you of it as needed, right? Just in case there was any doubt, Michael and I have been soundly disqualified for any 2009 Parent of the Year awards. Perhaps I'd gotten a little too cocky in my mothering abilities and the good Lord saw fit to remove my self created pedestal. Or maybe we just needed a scare so that when we add number three, we'll pay more attention. Whatever the case, I'm glad not to be reliving Wednesday.
Our Spring Break plans this year included a day with our friends Robb and Belinda, and their two kids Leah and Evan. Robb was taking a little time off work so we decided our families should do something fun together. We settled on the Virginia Living Museum in Newport News - highly recommended by their neighbor and Michael's former college professor, Dr. Montgomery.
We got off to a bit of a slow start because Robb had gone into work for a 30 minute meeting that lasted 90. All was quickly forgiven, though, because he closed a deal, which ultimately helps protect my job. In a round about sort of way. Anyway, he and Michael took our car, while the rest of us piled into their van.
An hour and a half later we exited the interstate in search of lunch. With kids cheering wildly, we pulled into a very crowded Chick-Fil-A. There was a line to enter the parking lot, so we parked across the road and grabbed hands 'Red Rover' style to cross back over. Inside, Brenna and Leah had their own table, while the rest of us sat together. It was a fun, enjoyable way to start the day together.
Just before we started clean up, Belinda excused herself to go to the restroom. Two or three minutes later Evan looked up and said, "Where's Daniel?" He had been sitting right beside me but he was gone. Michael stood up and walked quickly toward the front of the restaurant and the play area. Robb followed, taking the other side. I stayed at the table with the other three kids. There was no sign of Daniel at the front and no one had seen a little boy, so Michael and Robb took opposite doors and fanned out to the parking lot. It was then that the very beginnings of panic started to ease into my heart. I grabbed Belinda's purse and told the kids to stay put. After scanning the restaurant one more time, I decided to go get Belinda.
I yanked the bathroom door open with a good deal of adrenaline flowing through my arms and immediately saw Daniel. "Hi Mom!", he said, drying his hands on a brown paper towel. Belinda stepped back from the sink as I quickly filled her in. She thought I'd seen Daniel follow her into the bathroom. I, however had been running my mouth at the table and hadn't noticed a thing. With much relief, I called the guys back in from the parking lot and we cleaned up our tables and started back to the cars. As we walked through the drive-through line, Belinda hoped she'd locked the van, as she couldn't remember doing it.
Robb reached the van first and he turned to holler back at Belinda..."Did you mean to leave the van running with the keys inside and the doors unlocked?" Sure enough, the entire time we'd been in Chick-Fil-A, her van had been running and the doors were unlocked. I laughed so hard I nearly couldn't stand up. Many a blonde joke followed, but we were all grateful that we weren't stranded at the Chick-Fil-A.
When Robb and Michael got into the car, their GPS wouldn't start up. That put Belinda and I in the lead car. I heard her mumble with a grin, "If they'd have left their car running, their GPS would be working just fine..." We began to follow the directions of the GPS in their van...which took us right when we needed to go left, turned us onto HQ Way - which is a "road" that goes behind a strip mall, and took us through the intersection for the museum - preferring instead to send us up the road a half mile - UTurn, and come back to make a right into the facility. By the time we parked, we'd had enough excitement for one day. Everyone was looking forward to a relaxing afternoon with the fish and the trees.
But, oh, that was not to be. Not to be at all. For you see, I overestimated the stamina of my 2 year old. Within minutes of arriving, he was determined to tour the museum all by himself and in record speed. Any restraints upon that declaration were met with full body temper tantrums and attention grabbing screams. And so it was. I somehow forgot that his nap might be important. Or that he might become overstimulated by all the exhibits and people. Or that maybe his little two year old legs couldn't walk that far??!!
About ten minutes into the first exhibit hall, we discovered that Daniel was scared to death of the fish. All of the tanks were glass from floor level up so the fish swam directly toward him. His body would tighten up in sheer terror as he backed away and let out fear filled screams. It was quite comical. He told us that the fish were going to eat him.
Just before we went out to the boardwalk for the outdoor exhibits, we descended a large spiral staircase surrounded by smaller, educational - informational type exhibits. Gathering the group together, someone said, "Where's Brenna?"
Yep. We lost 'em both in the same day.
Belinda took off back upstairs - two at at time. I stayed with the kids again and the guys fanned out in opposite directions, calling for her. Not five feet away, she leaned around a wood framed exhibit and said, "Guys, I'm right here! Look at this frog thing! It's really cool. You spin this wheel...." No one gave her a chance to explain. Robb ran up to get Belinda back while Michael and I chewed Brenna out, up one side and down the other.
Really, though, I should've known she wouldn't wander away. If she was missing in a museum, it's because something caught her attention and she was reading all about it.
We spent the rest of the afternoon chasing Daniel and trying to curb the tantrums. By the end, he was carried out kicking and screaming, against his will. I don't think I relaxed until long after he'd fallen asleep in the car.
I don't know if Robb and Belinda will go anywhere with us again. Maybe if we promise to bring leashes for our kids....
In the meantime, we'll be a little more cautious as parents. I'll do a better job of keeping my expectations in check. And we'll probably avoid the Virginia Living Museum for the foreseeable future.