Thursday, May 10, 2007

SuperDad to the Rescue

Okay, so I’m not really a SuperDad, that’s probably evident; even the slack-jawed yokels in the back row can see that. I do have my flaws when it comes to parenting—sure, let them play on the rocks, what bad could happen?—but never let it be said that I’m not resourceful and quick on my feet during a crisis… not to mention the fact that I possess dashing supermodel good looks and marvelous charm.

Oh, yeah and modesty too.

I took the kids to Disneyland today, flying solo. I was a little nervous at how it was all going to turn out. If you remember my last attempt ended in utter defeat because the park was no-appointment-to-the-DMV crowded, and we were lucky to get out of there with our lives. And you may recall a couple of days ago, when an attempt was aborted because Natalie was in a rotten mood and didn’t deserve such luxuries as a trip to the Magic Kingdom. Lucky for us, though, as my friend Tris said it was a zoo (and not the good kind).

We got there just before 11pm, met above-mentioned-friend Tris for lunch and then only went on four rides before leaving a little after 3pm. The four rides we did go on were a mixed lot of experiences: two good, one bad, and one ugly. The day seemed promising when the three of us were able to park the stroller in the sea of strollers and literally walk right on to It’s a Small World. That was good. As usual, we enjoyed the ride—well, I should say that the kids enjoyed it. Me, I spaced out for 14 minutes, happy to be out of the sun.

After lunch, we hit the strangely psychedelic Winnie the Pooh ride and then the Casey Jr. Train, where the wait is always horrendous: one train, seven minute ride, 20 people per train, 100 people in line… bleck! When we finally made it up to the gate, this dumb family and their three dumb kids edged their way in front of the whole line to stand by the entrance. I fumed and then realized the best revenge would be a perfectly timed flat tire as soon as the gate opened up. The kid whined, “Mom… my shoe!” as we skirted around him with glee.

Natalie insisted on sitting in one of the animal cages, so I folded up my six-foot-frame and wrinkled my spine to fit inside the small caged train car. An older mother (grandma maybe) and her daughter were already in there, so I took the opposite corner with Matthew on my knee and Natalie beside me. Then, an entire family piled in… and then they waved in more relatives so we were packed in there like it was the last Chevy headed north. Ten people in a six-by-three-foot cage, five adults and five kids, and it was all I could do to not jump out the window as soon as they shut the door. Then someone’s diaper went south, deep south…and it wasn’t Matthew’s, which made it all the worse. And when the wind was right (which it always was), it became strikingly clear that the shower of the guy across from me had broken and his deodorant had finally given up.

The ride was not over soon enough, and then off to Peter Pan, a staple of our visit to Disneyland. Matthew was getting rambunctious, and it seems that the Matty Corollary was in full effect: The longer the line, the shorter the fuse. He wasn’t angry, just sick of standing around. I don’t know how many times I said sorry to the people around us, as he grabbed someone’s leg or tried to get by them. The couple in front of us were nice—on a business trip from Juan Valdez coffee… I told them that I don’t like coffee which pretty much ended the conversation. I guess that was rather insensitive of me. “What’s that? You work for a coffee maker? Interesting. I don’t like coffee. Hello?”

After nearly 30 minutes, we get to the front of the line and hop in our boat for the ride. Everything is going smoothly… right up until everything stopped going smoothly. Actually, everything stopped going at all. Peter Pan broke down. Not only did it break down, but they turned on the lights, got on the PA and instructed us that someone will soon be with us. Natalie’s face flashed a worried look and Matthew buried his face in my chest and held on tight. I laughed to show the kids that it was still fun and that the odds of us plunging to our deaths was nearly slight. In fact, I was quite curious as to how they were going to get us down, as we were at the highest point of the ride and it was quite a long drop.

I kept kicking myself for not bringing the camera, and I told Natalie that in the 30 years I have been coming to Disneyland, this is he first time this has ever happened to me. She replied: “In the one year I’ve been coming here, this is my first too!” We played games like point out the spotlights that are purple, drum on the retaining bar, rock the boat and count to 20… and 10 minutes later, after they announced a series of strange commands, the ride restarted (with the lights on and no music) and we were whisked to the exit.

What bugged me most was not that the ride broke down, but that there wasn’t anyone at the exit to explain it to us or offer some kind of condolence for having some of the magic ripped from our impressionable minds (yeah, me too). Oh well. Instead, I made one of my typically asinine comments to the one attendant who was directing us to the exit, by saying: “I couldn’t put my finger on it, but the ride seemed different today.” She didn’t so much as crack a smile. Perhaps it wasn’t funny.

After that it was time to go. Now, mind you, Natalie went to the bathroom twice during the day, once at lunch (thanks Tris for watching Matthew while I took her) and once before we got in line for Peter Pan.

As was typical, there was traffic on the freeway home, but it was especially thick. Both kids zonked out soon after hitting the road, but about 45 minutes later, Natalie wakes up abruptly and announces: “Daddy, I have to go potty, real bad.” She starts to kick her feet up and down, and I could have put a Thighmaster between her knees and she would have had quite a workout.

“You what?”

“I have to go.”

“You can’t go,” I argued. “There’s no place to stop here!” It was true. I was at the one and only part of the whole freeway, from Disneyland to my house, where there is five miles between off-ramps and we were right in the middle of it. Not to mention traffic was stopped dead… it would have taken me a good 10 minutes to squeeze over to the shoulder, and then what? Here, Natalie, pee on the side of the road like a horse… what’s that, officer? A big ticket just for me? Thanks!

No way was that going to happen. I didn’t have any ideas.

“I’m sorry honey. If you’ve got to go, you’ve got to go… just go.” Her face twisted. The last thing she wanted to do was go to the bathroom in her pants. Heaven knows she’s done it a hundred times, but never on purpose.

I thought for a second, and then the mental powers of SuperDad—those that are able to surface from deep in the synapses of my brain—exploded forth in a great triumph of music and flashes of starry light. Eureka! I’ve got an idea! It's so brilliant it just can't fail!

All the while, Matthew’s happily sleeping, unaware of the drama that is unfolding in the next seat. I had Gnat unbuckle her seatbelt (we weren’t moving so it was safe), take off her shorts and underwear and sit on one of Matthew’s diapers. Presto, insta-potty! Then Natalie dashes all hopes of making this a truly defining moment in my parenting skills by saying, “Oh, I have to pee a lot!”

She did too, but there is something to be said about Huggies is that they really do hold an obscene amount of liquid. So, Natalie was happy that she got to relieve herself; I was relieved that Natalie was happy; and Matthew had no idea what was going on.

Oh, damn, that reminds me: I left that diaper in my truck…. excuse me for a second…

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