First day of summer vacation and I’m already crying Uncle. And so are my kids.

There’s a very pretty woman in my neighborhood who takes her 6 or 7 children on a structured walk every morning around 9:30 AM, rain or shine. The kids appear to range in age from about 10 to newborn. The older ones are usually on bikes or scooters, the younger ones are often in an industrial grade stroller. And the baby is usually strapped to the mom’s front in a very elaborately wrapped organic cotton sling. She homeschools all 6 or 7 of those kids and I’m pretty sure she gave birth to each of them with her back pressed up against a tree in her yard.

Our paths cross all the time when I’m walking Ike. They look like a preschool on a field trip. She always seems so completely unruffled by all those kids…even the older ones who are up way too far ahead and doing figure eights on their bikes while cars are zooming by, or the littler ones who have dawdled and are way behind. She just smiles and keeps on trucking. I’ve never heard her raise her voice or snap at any of those kids. She just seems so at peace and happy. And her kids seem equally happy just doing their thing, day in, day out.

One time a few years ago, I was in my front yard doing some gardening when she walked by. My kids were in the yard with me and they struck up a conversation with some of her kids. One thing led to another and then next thing I knew, we had a total of 8 or 9 kids in our backyard for an impromptu playdate. It was sheer chaos.

There we were, two very different moms trying to make small talk while our vajillion kids did the human equivalent of two dogs sniffing each others’ butts. And you know me, I’m sure I made some wise crack like “Damn, how much wine do you drink to tolerate all those kids all the time?” or “Shoot, if you ever want another kid, I’ll just give you one o’ mine!” I don’t think I need to tell you that she didn’t find me very amusing. And frankly, the feeling was mutual.

One of the toddler-ish looking ones came up to that mom with a dangerously full diaper full of fresh news. He wanted to jump on my trampoline and Mega Mom said, “Sure honey… go for it.” But I was like (in my head), Aw hell no! That load is already creeping up that kid’s back. Don’t you see or smell it? WTF! I don’t even want this kid in my yard, let alone bouncing that ticking time bomb on my trampoline!

Instead, I kindly suggested: “Why don’t you change his diaper and then he can get on the trampoline.” She looked at me like I was wearing an Abortion ROCKS! t-shirt. Fine, she would change the diaper (reluctantly), but she wanted to use my powder room because they were potty training and little Mr. Stinky Pants needed to actually see his poop go into the potty or it would totally mess up his training process. Whatever.

I was on the spot so I let her go inside while I stayed out and supervised the rest of the mob (just shoot me.) Longest five minutes of my life. What was she doing in there? Why was it taking so long? Ugh, was my bathroom semi-clean? Was there toilet paper? Who was crying and why?

When she finally came out, she was carrying the dirty diaper in a grocery bag she must have rooted through my kitchen to find. And she was very complimentary about my decor. It was weird. Really weird.

It’s even weirder now because every time I pass her on the street and say hello, she always acts like it is the first time she’s ever seen me in her life. I reeeeeeally fucking hate that. Clearly she doesn’t watch Oprah or she’d know that the one thing we ALL have in common is the desire to be loved and validated. Acting like you’ve never seen me before or flushed your kid’s shit into my septic tank makes me feel bad, lady. Damn, I already feel like an invisible vessel for grandchildren and PTA donations most days. Throw me a bone and just pretend you remember me, k?

I want to give her the benefit of the doubt. I think maybe she just has a severe case of Mommy Brain, with all those kids and all. Or maybe she’s vision impaired and can’t see me. Maybe it’s not about me being so forgettable and more about her not having a great memory, or social skills, or enough energy to do anything more than walk around the block and pretend to be so calm and composed. Maybe she’s doing everything she can to hold it together and make the rest of us think she’s so together so she doesn’t break into a million little pieces or drive her Econovan into the Chattahoochee. God only knows. But I desperately want to believe that she knows something I don’t know.

So there we were this morning, the first day of summer: Cartoon Network blaring, dog pacing, kids fighting, and I found myself thinking about Mega Mom and her peaceful daily walks. Maybe that daily walk is THE KEY to parenting like it is with Dog Whispering. Shit, if Ms. Mommy Brain can do it every day with her umpteen spawn and that sweet smile on her face, I should surely be able to do it with my three kidlets and a mildly psychotic dog.

Famous last words.

“Saddle up, Ankle Biters. We are walking the dog as a pack today.” (Groans all around.)

TV off.

Teeth brushed.

Sneakers, check. Poop bags, check. House keys, check. And we’re off!

Not ten minutes in and 4 year old Bucket Head is whining. “My feet hurt. I hungry. I want to go home.” Now I don’t know about you, but there is nothing that makes me want to stick my head in the oven quicker than the sound of a kid whining. It’s torture. I’d rather have papercuts on my eyeballs than listen to that. Honest to Pete.

Then 8 year old Mini-Me starts teasing the Whiner by telling him she is faster than he is. He’s going through a phase where he absolutely HAS TO BE first at everything. She knows this and loves to get his goat by saying “Yay! I’m FIRST! I win! I’m the WINNER!” Naturally, Bucket Head begins to cry. He can’t go on. He just can’t.

All the while, Ike is trying to pull my arm out of the socket and I’m doing my damnedest to channel my inner Cesar Millan and be the pack leader I’m called to be. I’m yanking his choke chain, giving the signature little side foot pop, and making the “Ch!” sound all at the same time, hoping he’ll get the message to focus and stop pulling. Frankly, I think he just wanted to get the hell away from the Teaser and the Whiner. Can’t blame him, really.

Yeah, he’s pretty excitable. And that’s just what he looks like when he sees a squirrel. (Or a delivery truck.)

At one point a rogue Chihuahua charged us to challenge my leadership and I thought for sure someone was going down. And we were only halfway around the neighborhood. Not good. Not good at all.

Finally, Ike pooped. I scooped it up, double bagged it, and handed the bundle to my 11 year old, Nature Boy to carry so I could focus on leading my pack home. Without missing a beat, he turned to me and said “This job is crap.”

I couldn’t agree more.

And only 77 more days of summer vacation to go. Yes. I’m counting.

dreadfully yours, and now without my daily dose of Oprah,

-Iris

© Copyright 2011, The Bearded Iris.