'Of Mice and Mothers...'

From the Farm:


Published in the Casper Journal March 13, 2012

“The best laid plans of mice and men ...” I’m not a mouse or a man, but I know full well what it means to have my plans — even my “best-laid-clearly-thought-out plans” — disrupted. From the moment I wake up until I go to bed at night, I’m at the beck and call of people who’re hungry, wet, tired or just need a hug. And when those little sirens go off, I drop whatever I’m doing and answer quickly.
Although I’m a very organized person, I can only reasonably accomplish one or two big tasks each day. A few weeks ago the big event on my list was a visit to the planetarium with my son’s preschool class. Using my well-honed motherhood skills, I set out the diaper bag the night before. I showered the night before. I planned breakfast the night before. At 6:15 a.m., I sent the first batch of people out the door to work and school. The second batch left at 7:15, and the third batch left at 7:40. I had just enough time to wash the breakfast dishes, brush my hair and care for the last four children: one preschooler, two toddlers and a baby. I buttoned up four coats, I tied four pairs of shoes, I loaded four children into the van, and I fastened four car seat buckles. By 9 a.m., we were all standing in the lobby of the planetarium, dressed, fed and (I thought) pottied. It was a miracle.
“Please use the restroom before the show starts,” instructed the planetarium employee. Several of the preschool moms sent students into the bathroom, but since we had all just gone, I took my four children into the theater and sat down. With one toddler sitting on each side of me, and my preschooler a few seats away, I lifted my baby onto my lap. As darkness filled the sky, I started nursing her quietly. But my well laid plans were soon to be thwarted.
Just as Big Bird appeared to tell us about the moon, my 2-year-old daughter began to dance in her chair. “I need to go!” she whispered frantically. “You just went,” I answered, puzzled. She was silent for two seconds before she started again. “I need to go.” The urgency in her voice went up a notch. I tried to ignore her. “I need to go,” she whispered, louder. “Look at the moon!” I pointed out, hoping to distract her. The stars appeared. “Look up there,” I urged again. She had just gone potty 20 minutes earlier.
There were 30 seconds of silence, but her pleading started again. “I need to go!” This time it was desperate. We had only been in the theater for five minutes! I had just paid for this show! I had woken up early to get all of us there! I had carefully planned each shoe lace and hair bow to ensure that we were all ready, and now this! Besides, I was in a dark room with four young children. Should we troop out together? Should I leave several alone in the darkness? I finished nursing the baby, but she continued to whisper urgencies.
Finally, I set my baby down and picked up my toddler, hoping to calm her. But it was too late. Her pants were soaked. “Just wait now,” I said, realizing the worst was over. “I still need to go!” she whispered. There was no chance of enjoying the planetarium, so I picked up my baby, took my toddler by the hand, and felt my way out of the darkness, leaving the other two children to fend for themselves.
In the restroom, I peeled her soaking pants and shoes off of her and set her on the potty. She still had a quart of liquid inside of her! “This is scientifically impossible!” I thought. Once she was calm, I wondered what to do. I now had a half-dressed girl, a pile of sopping clothes, and was juggling a baby in my arms. The show still had 20 minutes, but we had been instructed not to re-enter during the program. However, I had left my diaper bag and car keys in the theater, so there was no way to retrieve dry clothes from the car. “Am I a mouse or a man or a mother?” I thought, frustrated. Thankfully, I’m not a laboratory rat, and it was only reasonable (despite planetarium policy) to go back in and sit with my other two children. Leaving the pile of clothes in a discreet corner of the restroom, I wrapped my daughter’s jacket around her legs and led her barefoot back to the theater.
It was dark inside and I fumbled to my seat. Sitting down, I immediately realized my mistake as the wetness soaked into me; it was my daughter’s previous chair. But not wanting to make more of a scene, I sat quietly, holding my baby and my bare daughter.
Just as I scouted out my other two children (sitting on the laps of nearby friends), Big Bird announced that the show was ending. We had one more glimpse of the night sky and the lights came up. The best laid plans, the best paid for shows, the best moments of motherhood, it was over. We loaded back into the car, one mother, four children and a collection of soppy clothes. We drove home. It wasn’t quite 10 a.m., but I’d had enough excitement to last the rest of the day.
“The best laid plans of mice and mothers ...” Perhaps the best days are those in which I just let life plan me. Something is sure to be accomplished. Something exciting is certain to happen. I’m not a laboratory rat, I’m a mother. And some day I’ll look back and find out there was a plan, after all.

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