Well, I’ve had a week to recuperate from the ordeal. I think that it’s time to share my experience with the interwebs.
If I had to sum up the experience with one word, it would be: exhaust-ifying. (Yes, this experience requires that I make up an entirely new word).
It started the evening before at m’s apartment. I was pumped, a was already condemning the children to Hades and m was super nervous.
We arrived to the school and the children began to arrive. Some of them noticed our presence right away, some didn’t give a flying fig who we were. Suffice it to say, my sister has her hands full. It wasn’t even 9am and we had kids ignoring the adults, ripping apart the classroom and a tantrum. When class started m went into full French teacher mode. She was speaking French, re-directing children and getting 18 little heads to turn the same way at the same time (I suspect some of her tricks could even be used to reprimand the most irritating and distracted adults).
After a stern discussion about the day, including safety planning for our journey to the museum (what if a stranger tries to steal us?…my internal response was “don’t worry, they’ll probably give you back after 10 minutes of your meltdowns and multiple questions”) we started to break up into our groups.
My group consisted of 4 little ones (count them 1, 2, 3, 4), the tiniest one immediately held my hand and didn’t let go the entire day. Another stuck so close I almost tripped over her, and then two other ones were, for lack of a better word can be described as “challenging”. These two challenging kids were nice kids, they just REFUSED to listen (or were trying very hard to ignore mlle. j). Fortunately, it takes a touch more to phase me.
Before we left the school each of my kids was assigned a number (which they used to count themselves off with) and we had a team name (after some Pixar movie).
Then we were off. First stop, bus stop for a quick ride on the Red Rocket (or just a city bus?). Highlight? The homeless man that got on after us and started swearing at the top of his lungs before being kicked off. It’s ok kiddies! Sometimes people get upset and use bad words!
18 heads on the bus, 18 heads off the bus. Now for our most nerve wracking moment: The Toronto Subway. We arrived at the subway station and ALL I did was stare at my four kids. And counted them (this was Monday’s theme). 18 little heads on the subway. One thing that I didn’t think of when being far too nonchalant about the subway was forgetting that there would be other passengers riding. Now we were all mixed up. Great. And by the way, what is wrong with people? Perhaps you could give up your seat for the tiny person that I’m trying to corral on the subway car? Maybe you don’t have to stand right in front of me as I am furiously counting the children for the 88th time?
Arrive at the correct subway station, 18 little heads off. Count again. Arrive at the ROM. Along with 76 other schools at the exact same time. Yes, did we mention that this was a ROM education day? Dozens of other schools also received free admission. But the ROM knows what they’re doing, right? This is their business, they would never over book like an airline, right? Wrong. We final gained entrance (after being told by museum staff to use our “indoor” voices, yeah, good luck with that one). The coat/lunch room was packed, wall to wall with little people. Shoulder to shoulder. Ridiculous. It was all I could do not to freak the fuck out. 1, 2, 3, 4.
After depositing coats and lunch boxes we sat in the lunch room for 15 minutes (with 18 little heads). Then we were corralled into a hallway, where one little kid started to have a meltdown, cue m diverting said child away. Then we entered the auditorium where were were given “The Three Ws” (watch, whisper and walk). And we were told by museum staff that if we were caught “being good” we would get a token, get five tokens get a book for your school. Spoiler alert: we received no tokens.
After that we were off. The sisters had planned to keep our groups together, but the chaos of the over crowded museum and antsy children didn’t let us. First gallery, the stuffed animals. We zoomed through. 1, 2, 3, 4. 1, 2, 3, 4. We were on a mission: visit the Bat Cave (for those of you who are unaware, the bat cave is a simulated bat cave with no actual bats. Very exciting when you are 6). First dilemma, one of my four was NOT going to enter the bat cave (she was too scared). After some fancy arranging I was able to get the 3 who did want to go into the bat cave, and the other one safely ensconced with mlle. m.
Lunch time. Half the battle was getting them back downstairs without them touching EVERYTHING IN SIGHT. We arrived, got our lunch bags and were told to sit on the floor of the lunch room. Apparently, their timing was off (obvs) and too many schools were taking their lunch late. Ever told a hungry 6 year old to hang on to their lunch and wait to eat it? Doesn’t happen. M finally got a staff member and laid down the smack. “Where are we going to eat?”. We were then led to a carpeted area not meant for eating. “Just be sure to keep it clean”. Yeah, about 30 seconds in one of my kids spilled a Capri Sun. 1, 2, 3, 4.
Lunch was consumed and one parent had bailed. “You will take my kids for the rest of the day” she said to m. Ok.
Dinos. One of the most famous exhibits at the ROM. Cue insanity. At this point I was done with trying to herd them. 1, 2, 3, 4.
By the end of the dinos we had 15 kids running in 15 different directions. We, once again herded them. Got them downstairs and waited. Again.
Cue the mosh pit of tiny people in the coat room. 1, 2, 3, 4. Hats, scarves, mittens, coats, zippers, boots, socks (yes, why are we taking off our socks?). Herd all children, (including a and her group…where have they been all day?). Last count…17…what? 17?!? Count again….at the same time…18! Out the door. Subway tickets in hand we back down to the station. It’s a bit later now, rush hour is upon us…eeeee. 18 little heads (who are DONE)…18 on the subway. The car starts to depart, count again. Ok. 1, 2, 3, 4. Mine are all here. We only have 17. 17 heads on the subway. 17?! M running through the subway car. A child had run to the opposite end of the subway car. 18 heads. We have 18 heads. Calm. 1, 2, 3, 4.
Off the subway, onto a bus. 18 heads. Then came the questions: “are you older than madame?” “how old are you?” “are you married?” “are you a mom?”. Followed by a: I’m married to Sidney Crosby. Off the bus. Walk the 4 minute walk to the school. Almost back.
Into the school. Into the classroom. Sit down.
If feel like I’m going to throw up.
The children had a great time. Very happy. Wonderful.
The car ride home is a flurry of exhaustion. Then it struck me, we hadn’t seen a all day.
j: where were you all day?
a: with my kids.
j: i didn’t see you at the bat cave or the dinos, which exhibits did you see?
a: all of them.
a: yeah, we saw it all. Bat cave, dinos, bird room, crystal room, the china exhibit…
j: you saw the china exhibit???
a: yeah. and we made up a game in the crystal room.
j: i hate you.
m: i gave her all the gifted kids, i knew she couldn’t handle the rougher ones.