The safe full of shoes - FamilyEducation

The safe full of shoes

April 20,2010
Professor Mom
Aliki McElreath

Aliki is a writer and college English teacher. She lives in North Carolina with her husband, two children (ages seven and ten), a dog, a cat, a rabbit, and too many fish.

You have to view the ups and downs of any trip with kids in an out-of-body-experience way, as if it's all happening to someone else; even huge diaper blowouts on a beach chair miles from a hotel room and with no public restroom in sight, or meltdowns at restaurants, or your child locking all your shoes into the hotel room safe and forgetting the combination, are happening to some other person—someone with a sense of humor, someone who will turn it all into a humorous tale to be retold years down the road--you, but the you in some type of television sitcom. The first morning in Atlanta, Scott left early to head out to conference workshops. I set the kids up in the room with their bowls of cereal, and the panoramic view of downtown Atlanta waking up that Friday morning. It was promising to be a beautiful day, and I jumped in the shower, so we could get out early and beat the crowds to the aquarium. I thought to myself, not for the first time, how wonderful it was to have older kids. Kids you could leave to feed themselves while you took a shower. Kids who could entertain themselves for a few minutes, without hurting themselves, or causing damage. Kids who could--most of the time--follow rules. Yes, it was great, having these older, responsible kids. When I got out of the shower, and dressed, the kids were dancing around to songs from my iTunes library, even though I'd actually made touching my computer off limits. Never mind, they were cute, dancing to Little Grey Girlfriend in the hotel room. I looked for my shoes. They weren't there! Actually one of them was there. And one of each pair of all our shoes, come to think of it. One flip-flop, one purple croc, one sneaker, one of Scott's Vans, and one of my comfortable walking around shoes. "Where are the rest of the shoes?" I asked, but I knew already. The night we checked in, L. had been drawn like a moth to a flame to the wall safe in the closet of our hotel room. He had pounced on it early on, punching in numbers, setting and resetting the combination. "Did you put the shoes in the safe?" I asked. Of course, he had. Every one shoe to every pair, stuffed into the wall safe. And the combination L. had punched in had been forgotten, in the middle of all the fun dancing around to jazzy songs from my off-limits laptop. And it was T.'s fault! According to L., that is, because she had told him to punch in different numbers--so many that he'd forgotten the original combination. Somehow L. had activated a delay feature on the safe, so we had to wait 25 minutes before we could try and open it. I watched the numbers on the digital display count down, like the timer you might see on an explosive-rigged device on some cheesy mystery show, while L. paced around offering explanations for why he wasn't to blame, and T. wailed about the injustice of it all. It also wasn't one of my finer parenting moments, either, and I think I yelled a lot. Eventually, after the digital clock had run out and nothing happened, I took the elevator down from the 38th floor to the fancy lobby of the hotel in my bare feet and waited in line at the front desk to tell the amused concierge that my son had locked our shoes in the wall safe. Was I mad? I was. But even as I stood there, my toes curling on the cold marble floor as I waited in the lobby, I began to see how this was all pretty funny. There was a good story in this, in that safe full of shoes, and the ridiculous wait for the timer, and L. punching numbers frantically into the key pad and listening, like a safe cracker, with his ear to the panel. I felt myself morphing into some other me, a mom with a better sense of humor, maybe someone in a sitcom, where the parents always meet such things with raised eyebrows and good humor. Where a safe full of shoes is too funny to be mad at for long, because life's just way too short, and there's a whole beautiful day waiting out there for you and your kids.