It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.
I'm referring to last night. Connor had his first swimming and diving practices of the season, with an hour window in between. Dad drove both boys to the club, and I met them up there after running by the house to change clothes. Arrived in time to catch the tail end of diving practice and even thought to grab a swimsuit for Parker, who I figured might be bored out of his mind by the hour-and-a-half mark - if nothing else, he could play in the little kid pool while the swim team tore up the big one.
So far, so good.
Ordered dinner with what we thought was plenty of time to spare before swim practice started for Connor and Dad had to depart for his doubles game. Clearly, the kitchen had other ideas. Dad left for the tennis courts without having gotten a bite to eat, and they called Connor's age group right around the time that the food arrived. He managed to wolf down a sandwich - and between bites, he informed me that his teacher had "reconsidered" her no-end-of-the-year-party stance.
Um, day late and a dollar short, kid.
"I KNOW, right? She said that if anyone wanted to bring anything, she would not get in their way, and I told her that it was kind of short notice, and she agreed."
Very much appreciated, kid, since as a practical matter your mom was the "anyone" in your teacher's scenario.
"I KNOW that, Mom. I was speaking on your behalf."
Okay, that's terribly sweet - and, because you're so sweet, I'll make the time to pick up some stuff on our way home. But food only - no crafts. And DEFINITELY no bead-related crafts - don't care to repeat last year's trip to the pediatrician to have a bead removed from your ear canal.
We actually shared a chuckle over that. Then he headed towards the pool, only to return a second later with the report that "Parker just got in trouble with Nick [the diving coach and the boys' favorite lifeguard] for hanging on the lane lines."
Wait, what? My youngest child is in the big pool? Where he might be expected to actually SWIM? An activity that he is actually quite good at, when he doesn't think anyone is looking, but when people are looking, he steadfastly maintains is beyond his capabilities?
"Well, yeah, he has to swim in the big pool now, because they just closed the little kid pool. Someone threw up in it. I think it was Parker."
I am processing this disturbing piece of news when the Vomit Comet himself comes running to the table.
"Mom, my stomach really hurts, and we need to go home RIGHT NOW. But can I eat my chicken first?"
Now, this is not my first mom rodeo. Let's consider the evidence: Child throws up, but is hungry immediately thereafter. It's hot outside, he's running around like a crazy person, and he's a little kid - he doesn't have the ability to stifle an urp like your or I would. Thus, it's entirely possible - even likely - that this bout of vomiting is an isolated incident. If it could even be called vomiting - didn't see it, so don't know what it entailed, but I suspect that it could have been a burp gone a little wrong. Yes, he's complaining of a stomachache, but is this an actual stomachache, or a "I'm embarrassed that the baby pool is closed because of me and also Nick yelled at me and I'm afraid that I'm in trouble" stomachache? My educated guess is that it's the latter - but, still, the sound parenting choice would be to withhold food for a half hour or so, to see if - um - anything new comes up. Don't want to provide him with additional ammo, you know?
So I tell him that he needs to wait to eat his food. And now I have a major crisis on my hands. In this corner: the big kid, who just started his first swim practice of the year, being his first swim practice in the senior division. It looks like they are covering a lot of ground, and he appears to be in the zone. Don't want to interrupt THAT.
Also in no hurry to have a possibly queasy child unleash Hades in my car. But, in corner #2, said child is pitching a wall-eyed fit: "I can't eat, and I can't swim, so you want me to just sit here? What happens if I throw up again, Mom? Will I miss my kindergarten graduation? WILL I MISS MY PARTY?"
Yeah, not his first rodeo, either. He gets that illness means staying home from school - a welcome complication any other day, but not on graduation party day.
Of course, there's Dad, over in corner #3. I could impose upon him to forfeit his game. Except it's DOUBLES. Don't really want to interrupt that, either. But I do - sort of. I leave the little one at our table poolside, jog around to the tennis courts, wait for my spouse to finish serving the ball, and - once the point has concluded - holler "TIME." Then I shout through the fencing the condensed version of our situation: "Connor's in the middle of practice, but Parker just threw up, and you're out here, and apparently the fifth grade party is back on." Dad gives me a look that says, "Yeah, um, good luck with that" - and I leave him to his own devices in corner #3.
Return to the table, and tell my darling youngest child that, basically, he needs to suck it up - please refrain from vomiting until we leave, and if you could refrain from doing so on the drive home, too, that would be appreciated. And, God bless the little kid, he does just that. I give him a notebook and a pen, and he draws dinosaurs in relative peace while his brother practices.
Then practice ends, and big brother is immediately back in the pool, this time purely for recreation. I advise him that he needs to get out RIGHT NOW, because we've been waiting for him to finish and we can't wait one minute longer. I fill him in on what he's missed. And, God bless the big kid, he gets out RIGHT THEN. Tells me that I could have pulled him out of practice, and he would not have minded, given the circumstances. And why, exactly, didn't I pull him out of practice?
Well, I guess I didn't want to disturb you, this being your first day back and all.
"Thanks, Mom, I appreciate that. And I'll understand if you can't get treats for my class."
No problem there - fairly sure that Dad picked up on the unspoken part about him running my errands for me after he's finished with tennis.
We drive home with Parker clutching an empty (and old) oilcloth tote bag in front of him - "just in case." The bag is not needed. Either he's only got a very mild case of something, or there was never any something to begin with, and my suspicions as to the nature of the upchucking are correct. Still, I err on the side of caution again and insist that he take it easy, and stay away from his brother - no wrestling, no germ-transmitting contact of any sort. And, God bless the little kid, he complies.
Meanwhile, the big kid offers to help me stuff his brother's treat bags - and sees the project through to completion, doing the lion's share of the work. Not long thereafter, he is catching flies, physical exertion having gotten the best of him. And I cannot help but notice how endearing it is when he sleeps that hard, with his mouth open and his limbs flopping. He bears a certain resemblance to the little boy who used to pass out, dead asleep, on his parent's bed, but there is something new there - a preview of what he will look like as a (frequently) slumbering teenager. Before he falls asleep, and while we are working on the treat bags together, I also take note of the fact that I am handling Mom crises with far more aplomb in my old age. The whole "Plan A just went out the window, dragging Plans B and C with it, and what the heck is Plan D?" thing would have thrown me for a major loop when Connor was the one in kindergarten. Now, I find myself rolling with the punches fairly effortlessly. Having two cooperative children doesn't hurt - but, I wonder, am I more chill because they are, or vice-versa? Which came first, the centered momma chicken or her with-the-program little eggs?
In the end, it doesn't matter - all I know is that I am enjoying my life, and my kids, at this stage. Especially when Parker comes running into the bedroom, with a look of alarm on his face, and answers my question, "Are you feeling sick again?" with a heartfelt, "No, I just wanted to come find you and tell you how much I love you, Momma. Thank you for taking care of me."
No problem, baby boy. Happy to do it. And please remember this day, and countless others like it, when the time comes to pick out my nursing home.