I spent a day this weekend down south at a children’s museum with a friend of mine and her two kids. The place was in this wonderful historic building, and the area itself was done up in clean, bright colors, not unlike a café or an art gallery. There were stations for a large pirate ship, a pizzeria, “mission control”, a veterinary office, and a variety of other structures that would appeal to the average three year-old boy or girl. And really, if I’d been there alone, you would have caught me swinging from the ship’s anchor and jamming random objects into the rocket launcher. With such a high level of maturity, I’m sure you’re shocked to know that I don’t have any children of my own. Don’t get me wrong – I’m very satisfied without kids – but sometimes they're just too cute, you know?
these two are like a double shot of cuteness with a giggle on top.
They also look even better when they’re surrounded by monsters.
Ninety-nine percent of the children clawing around the play areas that day were incredibly well behaved – it was astounding – but there was still that one percent out there in the madness that were, how do I put this…. exceptional. These strong few make the idea of parenthood look both extremely challenging and veeeerrrry unattractive. Yes, I imagine that nursing one of these tiny disasters into a success story could be deeply satisfying, and pretty miraculous too. Nonetheless, I can’t shake the feeling that this perfect storm of emotions is exactly the same kind that could convince you to do the Badwater ultramarathon because just surviving the thing would be an achievement. You respect the race, but fail to comprehend the real chance that your body might break down in the desert.
And they won’t find you underneath all that sand.
photo credit: www.badwater.com
This is Al Arnold, the race's pioneer, running in his what seem to be his underpants.
Now, I know that at any given point, under any and all circumstances, every child, no matter how angelic or beastly they normally are, has the power to instantly become a cheerio-throwing weapon of mass destruction. Predicting a child’s temper must be like speculating the trade price of unicorn meat or trying to spot a gumball in a sea of marbles.
Parents out there – two things: 1) I am awed by your skill and steady presence of mind, and 2) Please do not misunderstand me as describing your specific child as this kind of special phenomenon. I’m positive that you have ample stories to both confirm and deny the benevolence of their miniature intellect. I am only reaffirming the truth that every child is an embodiment of all that is good and pure and beautiful in this world. And it is probably equally true that every child simultaneously has the potential to wield unmatched terror and bring about irreparable damage.
Thinking of these particular museum children in action makes parenting look like a gratuitously unsafe obstacle course with rusty, swinging axes and rivers of boiling hot lava. And if scalding your body wasn't enough - when you finish the race, you don’t even get a medal. You get tetanus.
But there is still hope. Tomorrow will bring a new course to run, a new challenge to embrace, and this could be the one that wins it all. So to my good friends out there who are about to welcome their first tiny teardrop of heaven, or are on their third – don’t let my words upset you, or my images overwhelm you. After all, I’m still that woman cramming crayons into the rocket launcher.
And twenty-five years ago, I was just a smaller woman doing the same thing.