On Tuesday (or was it Wednesday? I can't remember), Liz kindly invited us to join her at their neighborhood pool, which is a great one for kids. It has a very shallow beach area that Lily loves because she can touch the bottom while bravely putting her face in the water and I can sit and hold my hands out for her to glide to me - which involves her getting so close to me that she sort of just jumps into my hands rather than actually gliding. It also has a deep side that Ella loves because she can throw her diving rings and swim down to get them. We spent a lot of afternoons at that pool last summer and had a lot of fun. So I figured we'd do just fine on Tuesday.
Not so much.
I've taken all three kids swimming by myself once before, but it was at Shelly's in-law's house, not a public, crowded pool. Things went ok that day because it was easy to keep an eye on Ella as she swam all over the place and because Shelly's mother-in-law was there helping with the little ones.
Tuesday, or maybe it was Wednesday, was a disaster. It took forever to get everyone sunblocked and in the water. And just as I got Campbell's floaty-boat blown up and him in it, the lifeguards blew the whistle for their ten-minute break. So I dragged everyone out and plied them with snacks.
When we got back in, I put Campbell in his boat, which he decided he didn't like after about five minutes. Then Ella wanted me to go in the deep end with her, but Lily decided she needed to cling to me while we were in the deep water. I had Campbell in his boat, but the only way he wouldn't cry was if I had my arm around him from underneath, which sort of defeated the point of the boat. After five minutes I dragged everyone back to the shallow end, with much protesting from Ella.
I put Campbell in the stroller in the shade and let him have rice cakes, even though they had caramel on them, just to keep him happy. I played with Lily, clapping when she glided to me. Then we went back to the deep end with Ella for a while. Things went ok like that until Ella and Lily discovered that they could a. fit in Campbell's boat, and b. actually float in it. Sharing the boat quickly turned into arguing over who had the longer turn in the boat.
That's when I decided to call it a day. It was just too hard, even with Liz and Shannon there for support. I spent the drive home trying not to cry in frustration. I've gotten quite adept at going places with three kids, so it's hard when I find myself in a situation where I can't cope. I descend into a pity party, thinking about how I'll never be able to go the pool, or the park, or breakfast with friends ever, ever again. I know that's not really the case, but it's hard to remember that in the midst of great chaos and fighting.
Today I decided that I needed to get back on the horse and try again to take all three kids someplace. I heard through the running grapevine that Nordstrom had running shorts on sale.
I had a Nordstrom gift card left from my birthday, so I became determined to brave the mall. I promised the girls cookies if they behaved. And miracle of miracles, they did. I was able to get running shorts and a shirt from Nordstrom. Then we bought cookies to eat on the ride home. We also went to Bath & Body Works to get shampoo for the girls. We have nightly fights over shampooing, and I figured that maybe we'd have fewer fights if Ella and Lily got to pick out their own shampoo. We now have apple-scented American Girl brand shampoo. We'll see how tonight's bath goes.
Things went great until we pulled onto our street, then all hell broke loose. Ella was doing something that Lily didn't like, so Lily bit Ella's finger, hard enough to almost draw blood. So Ella started screaming in pain. Lily started screaming when I told her she had to go into the "time out" corner as soon as we got in the house. Campbell started screaming because his sisters were screaming. Sigh.
Despite the bad end to the trip, I felt much better about my life as a mother of three when we got home. I proved to myself that I really am capable of taking all three kids out in the world successfully. I'm not destined to be a shut-in until all three kids are in school full time.