Before I began blogging for the Huffington Post, I had been a mother for almost ten years and a blogger for almost five. Until this fall, the majority of my blogging was anonymous, because, quite frankly, anonymity was both comfortable and more liberating. Parenting is a very personal topic, and writing about my own parenting makes me feel naked and vulnerable.
But now the anonymity ship has not only sailed, it’s pretty much on a transatlantic cruise. In thinking about what I can write about now that I’m most definitely not anonymous, I thought I might start a series of posts about moments in the last ten years of parenting that I didn’t see coming… the good, the bad, and the (sometimes very, very) ugly. I need a whole series because there have been a lot of these unexpected, unanticipated, surreal snapshots; one post just couldn’t cover it all.
Without further ado, the first installment: “Why I Am Famous at the Gym, Part One” — because one post post isn’t even enough to cover all the memorable moments I have had at the gym, people.
When my older boys were little, life was both chaotic and simpler. It’s chaotic to parent two little boys under the age of two (and, later, two boys under the age of three), but toddlers are less complicated than grade school children to me, in a lot of ways. For one thing, at those ages, my children were not in a ton of preschool. This freed up my schedule and allowed me to take them to the gym with me every day, where they loved the childcare room and I loved the ability to watch non-toddler TV on the treadmill for an hour, followed up with an uninterrupted hot shower. I spent a lot of time at the gym back then. Subsequently, I was able to get into great shape… until boy number three came along later.
Because I did use the gym a lot back then, we invested in a membership to a really nice facility. There was even a sculpture in the lobby hallway, right outside the childcare door. The sculpture was made of metal and was vertical, with oval-shaped openings. The hallway was wide and long, and it ended in automatic sliding doors that led straight out to the parking lot. So, once I collected my children from the childcare each day or if I brought them upstairs after a swim lesson, it was always a challenge to make sure that they didn’t take off running down the oh-so-enticing hallway and bolt for the automatic doors, because if I couldn’t catch them: parking lot/toddler interface. Not good.
One evening, we were leaving from a swimming lesson when my younger son did manage to wrangle himself free from my grasp and take off down the hallway. However, he didn’t get all the way to the doors. Instead, he stopped at the sculpture. It was normal for me to stop my kids down from scrambling up the sculpture like monkeys — the oval openings made it an ideal faux-jungle gym. But for some reason, that evening, my then-toddler decided to kneel down on the ground instead and carefully, very slowly, deliberately… stick his head through one of the openings.
Almost immediately, like a trapped animal, he had a reflexive panic instinct to pull his head back out. But it wasn’t that easy. The openings were not completely smooth, and they weren’t completely toddler-head shaped. Because he couldn’t see the edges of the opening anymore now that his head was through the hole, he couldn’t figure out how to tilt his head to remove it. I came up behind him, arms outstretched, feeling mixed emotions of fear and incredulity because WHO DOES THIS?, but I was a little too late.
A toddler with his head stuck in a metal sculpture only has one recourse: to scream. And scream he most definitely did. My child began wailing at the top of his lungs in the freaked-out, hysterical, high-pitched kind of way that draws parents and dogs from every corner of the building. Within seconds, the entire staff of the childcare and the entire staff of the adjacent salon were in the lobby hallway, staring in disbelief at my child with his head trapped in the sculpture and his brother, who was helpfully scaling the sculpture, oblivious to the screams.
The other adults circling around us were frantically trying to help, but they had no idea what to do. Charlie’s face at that point was turning bright red — not because any blood supply was restricted, but because of how hard he was crying. I threw myself down on the ground and tried to keep him still so I could try to guide his head, but Charlie was flopping around like a fish on a hook from his head back. Finally, I was able to maneuver his ears through, and with them, his little head. We both fell back in a heap, exhausted from the effort.
I looked up at the faces staring down at us. The staffers could not believe what they had seen. Completely mortified, I brushed us off and plucked Mason from the sculpture rungs, threw Charlie under my arm, still breathless, and thanked everyone for their concern, but nothing to see here, carry on, as you were. As we walked the rest of that hallway as casually and confidently as I could muster, I heard the whispers behind me. They had never seen anyone stick his head through the sculpture before. I’m pretty sure they haven’t seen it since, either, because whenever we find ourselves back at that gym, someone always says, “Aren’t you the one whose kid got his head stuck in the lobby sculpture?”
I suppose there are worse things to be famous for, but I must admit… never saw that one coming.
Feel free to add your own stories, or to link to them, in the comments. I know you have them too.