So tomorrow I get in the car with Kevin and his kids and we drive to Disneyworld for a week of Family Fun.
Week of Family Fun, in this case, involve his parents deciding they’re taking the grandkids to Disneyworld, damnit, and thus have to take said grandkids’ parents as well, and so they rented a condo, in which I will be staying for a week, with Kevin, his kids, his sister, his sister’s kids, and his brother-in-law.
For those doing math at home, this is four children under twelve, two adult Republicans, and two nurses, the latter of which might be required in the event of unfortunate interactions with either of the former.
I have never been to Disneyworld, and I’m looking forward to it. (I’ve done Disneyland multiple times, but they say it’s very different.) And I quite I like Kevin’s family. So that part should be good.
…I DO think his parents were very clever in renting their own separate condo, though. And I have never spent anything remotely like this long with children–while Kevin’s kids live with us on alternating weeks, five of those days are spent at school, and the actual time I have any chance of encountering them is a three hour window between getting home and bedtime, most of which I spend in my studio. Saturday is…long. Sunday is about a five hour window, during which most contact with kids involves all going out to brunch, during which the youngest generally cries about something, to the point where Kevin and I have taken to laying small wagers out of earshot as to likelihood and timing. (Presumably he will grow out of it someday.) Then we go to the comic book store or Target or do something together. Then I go hide in the studio until they leave.
I’m really not GOOD with kids. I have no idea what to do with them, I can’t understand a word they’re saying when they get excited, their miniature dramas annoy me and the fact that it’s easier to housebreak an incontinent coyote than to teach a child to pick his clothes off the floor makes me despair for the species. But that’s neither here nor there, and is largely a failing on my part rather than theirs, except maybe the bit about the clothes. The point is that my coping mechanism is retreat. Natives get restless, Ursula goes into the studio. (Occasionally there is even bonding over this very fact–if the younger is weeping in the bathroom because he is being cruelly forced to eat vegetables, the oldest and I will exchange "Right, we’re out of here…" glances and BOTH retreat, leaving Kevin, as the procreator, to deal with the fallout. Then we commiserate about it on the stairs.)
This is not actually the source of relationship tension you’d think it’d be, because Kevin is a smart man and realizes that I am not a parent, and never will be. There is a skillset involved with childcare, and I do not possess even the smallest piece of it. Life didn’t go that way.* I was an only child. I never babysat. I will ferry feral cats around to vets to be fixed with a song in my heart, I will rip up carpet and paint the walls, I will come and get you in the small hours of the night if your car breaks down on a deserted stretch of road, I will even help you bury a dead body if you convince me that he needed killin’–but you don’t ask me to look after kids or perform open heart surgery or change your oil. It’s not a matter of willingness. These aren’t things I know how to do.
(Ironically, this has no bearing on being a children’s book author. To be one, you don’t observe kids. I think that’d be death, in fact. You remember what it was like when YOU were a kid–or at least, that how I do it–and adults were baffling godlike authorities with no sense of what was really important. Adults know too much. Kids think you know everything because you have some kind of terrifying Adult Sense, and do not realize it is because they themselves cannot lie for wet shit, but that’s not something you write in a book FOR kids. Of course, then you also have to cut out or tone down all the bits that you recall that are true and accurate but which adults would balk at, but it comes together somehow.)
Anyway, coping mechanism = retreat. Coping mechanism is going to have an interesting time when one is spending the entire week, plus two twelve-hour car trips, in the company of small children. And frankly, I’m bloody terrified–less of them than that I’ll snap and go "Look, I can’t HANDLE this," after about three days, thereby revealing that I am, in fact, the irrational lunatic I have always suspected I am.
But, as they say, it’ll either be great, or great material, and either one is worthwhile. And dude, I get to ride the teacups.
K: "You may have to read your book aloud to a group of kids. You’ll need to do it like a picture book, because of the comic bits…"
U: "Okay. How do I do that?"
K: "…you’ve never read a picture book out loud?"
U: "WHEN IN MY LIFE WOULD THIS HAVE EVER COME UP?"