We, as a family of four, are flying to Florida in two weeks.
Let’s quickly recap what our family of four looks like: Mom (28), Dad (31), Jack (2), and Joe (1). Did anyone notice the last two members of the family are toddlers? They’re also what I would call “Free Range”. I don’t know how I got these “Free Range” kids but, alas they’re mine. I digress… Our family does not have any passports.
Seven months ago, the plane tickets from Vermont to Florida were so astronomically expensive that we shopped around for cheaper flights. Shopping around brought us to drastically cheaper flights that left from Montreal. Sure! Not a problem! We would drive up the night before, spend the morning in Montreal, and then hop on our non-stop flight to sunny Florida!
While checking off things I needed for the trip, one large item slipped my mind. Passports. Why would we need passports? Mom and Dad can use their enhanced IDs because our passports just expired and the boys could use their birth certificates to get through the border. 3 days ago, just to double check, I hopped online to confirm our plan. Wanna know what the first sentence was when I started scanning the website? “This license cannot be used for air travel.” WHAT?!?
Panic mode set in.
C’mon moms, you know exactly that feeling when you have to fix an enormous mistake and you have 30 seconds to MacGuyver your way to the solution. To get to the point of my story: I was able to make an appointment for the next day at the local Passport Agency, 1 hour and 10 minutes from my house. I collected all of our paperwork to renew ours and get new ones for the boys. The morning of our appointment, I double checked all of the necessary documents before we left the house at 7 am.
I was exhausted just getting through security in order to enter into the Passport Agency, and we were the only ones there. Phew! My kids could run free range without too many judging eyes. I stood at the podium with the very nice employee as she checked our required paperwork before sending us to the window where we would officially be processed.
As she kept checking off the requirements, I felt myself beginning to relax. Too soon, Momma…
Agency Employee: “So, you don’t seem to have the boys’ social security numbers written down. Do you have those?”
Me: Eyes bulging, heart racing, sweat dripping, “Oh, no! I forgot those at home and I don’t have them with me.”
Agency Employee: “Well, we will need those to process their paperwork.”
Me: “Okay, well, I guess, um, hmmm, we will come back another day with the correct paperwork.” Internally, I was kicking myself, calling myself ridiculous names, and wondering if I could bribe her with the Organic lollipops I keep in my backpack for the boys.
Head down, feeling like a failure, we approached the window for our renewal passports, because as the adults in the room, we at least knew our SS numbers. In order to renew our passports,, we needed different paperwork from the pages we had already filled out. Of course, we did.
While we hauled our stuff to the other side of the room to fill out the new paperwork for our passports, the free range toddlers began to start wandering through the now full room of people.
Joe began to sing, loudly, while looking for a reaction. Jack decided, for the first time in his young life, that Toy Story on the iPad was not going to pacify him. While trying to manhandle the toddlers and fill out the very important paperwork, we, as parents, began to question our sanity. I almost decided to pretend they weren’t my kids. As this thought was crossing my mind, I was also frantically searching for ways to find out my boys’ SS numbers.
Just as Joe began to eat a crayon, it dawned on me. My taxes! I could electronically access my taxes and see the numbers that way! Eureka! A small battle won in a war already lost. I headed back to the podium, now in line behind two families. Our paperwork was re-checked and this time we passed! Now, it was our turn to wait. The wait, while maybe only 5 minutes, lasted 6 hours in my mind. The boys were running laps between the chairs, hiding under the chairs, and trying to play peek-a-boo with unwilling fellow applicants. Why did we not try to keep them in their seats, or near our bodies, you ask? It came down to: Do these strangers want to see my kids act like lunatics, or do they want to lose hearing in the ear closest to their shrieks? I let the lunatics loose.
Parenting in public, for me, is hard.
My boys are sweet, loving, funny, and animated boys. They both will do anything for a laugh. They love to see others smile. While I am aware of this, I am also aware that Joe, at 1, does not accept spatial boundaries. He likes to walk around and play, and sitting still is hard for him. Is this age-related, or my own parenting failure? Am I not parenting correctly? Should I be stricter at home? My own questioning of my parenting techniques stabs me right in the gut every time my kids “act out” in public.
I so enjoy these sweet moments of toddler-hood, I don’t want my babies to grow up. I want their fat feet to stay that way. Their little arms wrap tightly around me in excitement when I come home from work, I am not ready for that to change. I also want well-behaved children. I want to not panic about my kids’ behavior during an already stressful situation! There are so many what-ifs in parenting. I don’t have any answers today. I do have the need for a nap, and perhaps a glass of wine. If any moms have any input, I am all ears. In the meantime, you can find me waiting anxiously for my mailman to deliver our passports!