Last Wednesday, I discovered that advanced parenting classes were being held at my local McDonald’s. Who knew that hidden among the greasy fried food, sugary fountain drinks, and cheap happy meal toys, was an opportunity to develop some parenting skills?
The morning started early as I planned to meet a cleaning crew at our rental property at 8:00 A.M. However, before the cleaning crew could start working, I needed to clear out trash left from the previous tenants, empty the refrigerator, and strip the sheets from the beds.
I woke my three children at 7:00 am. I dressed them quickly, passed out sippy cups of juice, and strapped them into their car seats with promises that after a quick stop at the condo, we would have breakfast at McDonald’s.
Once at the condo, I performed my Speedy Gonzalez routine throwing sheets, towels, and small area rugs into a clothes hamper. I chucked old food from the refrigerator into the trash can, and ran bags of trash out to the dumpster. My boys, Jack (3) and Rock (2), entertained themselves by pressing buttons on the television and DVD player, swatting the plastic vertical blinds, and opening and shutting the accordion closet doors. I knew time was running out before something valuable was damaged. After completing my tasks, I loaded everyone into the minivan, put on the music from The Lion King and waited for the cleaning crew to arrive.
By 8:15, the cleaning crew still had not come. My two year old fussed in his car seat while throwing all objects within his reach. My daughter, Kate (5), watched the parking lot and with each approaching car asked me, “Is that them?” A smarter mom would have taken her kids for a walk rather than remain quarantined in the car, but my mind kept chanting, “They’ll be here in a minute.”
The cleaning crew arrived at 8:50 am. Rock had been crying at fever pitch for the last 10 minutes and we were all tired of being trapped in the minivan. I quickly gave instructions to the crew and drove onto McDonald’s feeling somewhat relieved to be moving on with our day.
As I stood at the cash register to order our breakfast, Jack started whining, stamping his feet in a strange dance, and wanted to be held. Unable to carry him, my purse, and our trays of food to a table, he grabbed onto the fabric of my jeans and followed me, still whining. My problem solving skills kicked in and I determined this was not just basic whining, it was the potty dance. My other two children are too young to be left alone in the McDonald’s play area, so we left our food unattended and paraded off to the bathroom.
I packed everyone into the handicap stall and hoisted Jack onto the toilet. He immediately exploded – diarrhea! I then understood the unusual variation on his potty dance. Jack yelled and cried during the explosion, but seemed relieved when it ended. My daughter commented on the nasty smell and peered into the toilet to see what came out of Jack. Rock touched every contaminated surface in the stall. I wiped Jack and moved the entourage over to the sink for a good scrub down.
Mission accomplished, we headed back to our table to eat cold eggs, sausage, pancakes, and hash browns. We were finally eating, and the tension in my shoulders subsided. Jack whimpered and climbed onto my lap with his butt cheeks clenching. Code Red.
I walked the troops back into the bathroom, performed the same routine in the same handicap stall, and Jack relieved himself once more. Kate complained about the smell. Rock investigated the trash can overflowing with paper towels. I flushed, scrubbed all hands like a surgeon, and marched back out to the table for another attempt at breakfast. A few more minutes passed and Jack started squirming again.
Completely stunned, all I could think was, “Wow Kim, this situation requires advanced parenting skills—dig deep.” We repeated our same trek to the bathroom, complete with bodily explosions, more crime scene investigations by Kate and Rock, and vigorous hand scrubbing. I then made an executive wartime decision: abandon the food and go home.
While the short drive home was accompanied by screams and complaints, I felt surprisingly…peaceful. My experience at McDonald’s helped me discover some advanced parenting skills—a calmness that takes effect in extremely challenging situations. It’s like a back-up generator when the power goes out, but this one hums, “Mom, hang in there, you can do this.”
QUESTION: Where have you had parenting epiphanies?
CHALLENGE: We give our kids teaching moments. Take a couple of LEARNING moments for yourself.
Image by ABMJG / Flickr.com