When taking toddlers out in public, you have a choice: you can have people laughing at you, or you can have them staring at you in annoyance. I choose the former, as often as I can. It’s been many months since I’ve been allowed anonymity anywhere. Twins tend to attract attention, but even one toddler in an unlikely place will draw curious eyes.
People always start out enamoured (unless we’re getting onto an airplane). It’s then my job to keep them that way, and not to let the situation devolve into one where shocked onlookers, unused to toddler antics, are forced to witness two babies being strongarmed out of a place in the football hold. I’d rather people laugh at me than silently shoot mental daggers at me, so I look absurd a lot of the time.
One morning, the babies and I took a walk to the dumpsters where everyone in the condo complex is to deposit their garbage. Getting there was easy enough, but the babies knew that naptime awaited them back home, and they were determined not to go back inside. I walked a bit away, as if I would leave without them. They laughed at me in their baby way. I hid behind a truck. Nothing doing. Finally, I was able to get them engaged in a game where we had short races.
“Ready? Set? GOOOOOOOOOO!” We all ran and yelled go at the top of our lungs for a few paces, then stopped.
“Ready? Set? GOOOOOOOOOO!” We did this over and over again all the way back to our townhouse. We were loud. We were funny. My neighbor saw us and laughed at me. It did not matter. We got back inside the house.
Later that day, the babies and I went to the community pool. As we were leaving, two young men sauntered in and laid out on the plastic sunning chairs. I had already done the dragging-a-screaming-and-writhing-toddler-out-of-the-pool-area the week before, so I was determined to try a new approach. I tried “ready, set, go” again. It didn’t work, and I have a feeling nothing looks more hilarious than an adult woman making exaggerated running motions while yelling go at the top of her lungs all by herself. I changed tactics and tried to get them to come with me to the mailboxes. One of them tentatively started walking toward me, and I lavished her with loud garrish praise. But when she saw her sister showing no interest, she tottered back to the bushes where they were picking berries. I was defeated yet again. I tried making their pool toys extremely interesting. One took a look, grabbed a toy, and threw it to the ground. At this point, the men sunning themselves were dissolving into giggles. Exasperated, I walked across the lot, and to my surprise, the bushes there also had berries.
“Babies, look! Berries!”
“Balls?” they asked.
“Yes, babies. Balls. Lots of balls. Come over here. Play with these balls. My balls are better than your balls, just look!”
I was babbling; I looked ludicrous, but after 30 minutes of trying everything to get those babies to move, I wasn’t about to let this golden opportunity slide away – even if it meant I had to loudly praise the glorious attributes of my balls.
I can only imagine the reaction of onlookers because by this time my entire focus was on the twins. It worked. They came over. Each new bush had better balls. And we made our way back to the house where the best balls of all were waiting. Acorns.
Before I had children, I would have shuddered at this reality. I would have considered it a loss of dignity. I would have said that children of mine would be well-behaved enough to simply listen to me when out in public. I know now how naive that is. I consider playing games like these as saving my dignity, in fact. If people are laughing, they’re not judging. If people are laughing, then my babies’ existence is not disrupting their lives in a negative way. And when a parent is brave enough to go out in public, really, that’s all they can hope for. I’d rather look foolish than desperate.