I’ve jokingly said in the past that getting our children from A to B is like herding cats.
Today, having spent 10 minutes trying to get Mini and Motormouth the few hundred yards from the car to the house, it struck me again how true this was.
If I can take the liberty of describing the scenario?
I get the kids out of the car and persuade them to stay on the path, roughly in the vicinity of the vehicle, as I get their bags out. Toddlers, of course, never carry their own bags.
Apparently it’s in the rules.
Laden down with everybody’s bags, plus any supermarket shopping I might have done, I get the children across the road safely. Motormouth is very good about stop, look, listen and even Mini is fairly reliable about the stop and look. I’m not convinced she would do, or rather not do, anything if she saw something, but at least we’ve made progress.
So, we get across the road and that’s where things start to get a little complicated, or rather random.
First of all, there’s a slope up to our house. A very long slope with its length being exponentially proportional to the weight of your bags and how badly you need to go to the loo.
There are two paths leading from the road with houses on the outside of the path and a stretch of grass between them. Our house is at the top of one of the paths. Normal people walk up the path to our house. (I’ve drawn a map, just in case I’ve confused you already.)
That’s when it gets interesting.
Toddlers aren’t normal people.
First of all they spend time deciding which path to take.
Then they have to do a gate check for every house they pass. If the gate is open, they have to make a door knocker check.
Then they have to check the garden walls of each house, either by running their hands along them, sampling the lichen or any other vegetation clinging to it. Where appropriate, they lean on the wall far enough to a visual check on the plants growing in the gardens.
Slowly, they will work their way up the path (past 4 houses which always feels like more than it is).
This would be simple if it were the only thing, but no, they are far too diligent for that.
Because we can’t forget the examination of flowers, clumps of cut grass, weeds, trees, sticks, stones, dried up earthworms, dead frogs, live snails and and anything else even remotely interesting that must take place at random.
All of this necessitates a path that would challenge the most talented trackers.
And they take separate paths.
Motormouth tends to move faster.
Mini tends to move downhill more.
And all the time the shopping bags get heavier.
I have had to take emergency measures and send Motormouth to fetch Mini whilst I try to extricate myself from shopping bags that have suddenly developed a serious case of separation anxiety.
Sometimes this is more successful than others. I’m not quite sure how to rate Motormouth dragging Mini across the grass by the foot. I mean, it achieved the objective of getting her closer to the house and she was able to stand up when he let go.
And she’d stopped laughing.
All this means that a simple straight-line walk from A to B that should take 2 minutes can take 20 on a bad day. Bad for us grown ups that is. The kids think it’s great, all that exploring.
If I was being really analytical and had my psychology brain plugged it, I would say that it’s a good metaphor for the track our kids will take in life. It won’t be the one we want them to take and they may take diversions we rather they didn’t, as well as a few backwards steps or downhill runs, but if they get to B safely then that’s all that matters.
But since the shopping bags are heavy, and I really, really need to go to the loo, I’ll just think of it as herding cats.
Now, what’s the toddler equivalent of a tin of tuna?