Thanks to a dose of nostalgia, and a desire late at night to return to the days when I didn't have four teenagers, I’ve been going through old files and rereading essays I’ve written about the kids. When you have three in a single calendar year and a fourth who is just four years older, there is much to be observed and chronicled.
So much of those early years are such a blur that it’s been good to look at what I wrote then, largely because I have no idea how we survived.
Here is one from the summer of 1999 that was published in the Greensboro News & Record:
Taking trips with my family makes me appreciate how the Allied leaders felt when they planned the invasion of Normandy.
My wife and I have an 18-month-old daughter and 6 1/2 month-old twins, making even the most innocuous of errands an exercise in organizational management. But after a full week of playing solo mom, my wife has such a bad case of cabin fever that she would do anything short of dropping napalm on the surrounding area to get out of the house.
So we take trips. Little trips. Long trips. Side jaunts. We even go out to dinner, leaving patrons to do the math — “Two and one, that poor mother” — and waitresses dreading our arrival at their stations.
Of course, this takes preparation. We need to rent a U-Haul so we can take half the house with us, but we can’t afford it. So we jam everything into the van and my wife goes over the checklist.
“Diapers — check.”
“Bottles — check.”
“Change of clothes for babies — check.”
“Two changes of clothes for mom and dad — check.”
“Toys — check.”
“12 pack of Valium — check.”
And so we go, hoping against hope that the children will fall asleep at the start of the trip, rather than waiting until we are almost at our destination before nodding off. My wife and I take bets on how many people will come up, shake their heads and say, “My, you’ve got your hands full.”
Most of these longer trips so far have involved holidays, which require modified planning because there are even more things to take along. At Easter, we drove 2 1/2 hours to Boone, and I am still finding plastic green grass in places that I never thought possible.
On the Fourth of July, we took the kids out to watch the fireworks.
The 5-year-old, who visits on alternate weekends, was fine. The 18-month-old jumped up and down and squealed with excitement. The twins just sat there, bug-eyed and thinking: “OK, Mom and Dad have us up past our bedtime, and they’re forcing us to watch 2001: A Space Odyssey.”
As we returned home that night, children finally to sleep three hours past their bedtime, I took a minute to look at each of them and wondered if they were dreaming about their day.
Even though they won’t remember these excursions with mom and dad, we will. And our lives — though hectic — are greatly enriched by these gifts that are these children.
It makes me think of all the times we pass parents with one child in a stroller, seeing that look in their eyes that says, “Good grief, that could be us.”
And I strain to remember what it was like — just a few short months ago — to be them.