We interrupt our regularly scheduled programming for an unusual sighting of Cool Mama who took her five bunchkins to the Carolina Panthers' 2016 training camp at Wofford College in South Carolina (see here).
Four of our local homeschooling families met at the camp, about an hour and twenty minutes' drive away. (I had exacted from my children that they did some of their schoolwork the day before and would make up the rest afterward. See, Cool Mama makes an appearance only when Dutiful Mama allows her.)
I had never been to the training camp before and was worried about crowd size when Chris told me he'd searched on the Internet and learned that 20,000 fans showed up on the first day. I had already told the children about our exciting plans, so, at that point, I decided just to be brave. As I was driving there, playing through my mind all the things that could go wrong--bathroom incidents, vomit, kidnappings, getting lost--with no second adult to help me (doesn't everyone do that?), I kept reminding myself, "Katherine, you've traveled to something like 25 countries, you've hiked through grizzly bear country, you've camped alone: you can do this thing!"
The training session lasts only two hours so, after arriving and registering for Panther Pals, we gathered along the fencing to watch the players practice for a while.
|Cam Newton in the background|
Then we headed to the Kid Zone, which is a wonderful concept: a large playing field fenced off with only one exit, so a parent can hang out near the exit and feel pretty confident no children have escaped. A large group of boys of all ages were playing an enthusiastic game of football, which was so fun for my boy.
Then Josey befriended another three-year-old, Lee, whose Daddy started a preschooler football game.
|I could die from the cuteness!|
|John playing (No. 1)|
After a while, Margaret joined in the preschoolers' game and then, with a shy smile, even Mary asked to join in.
|Girls tossing a football|
Finally came the 10:45 announcement of who the Panther Pals would be for the day: five lucky children would get to go down on the field and be paired with an actual Carolinas' Panthers player for the final forty-five minutes of practice. None of our children won the honor, but it sure was fun anticipating the possibility! (Dutiful Mama made a brief appearance to give an exposition about how, if any one of my children were selected, he or she needed to make us proud, set a good example, and be a witness for homeschoolers: 'Look adults in the eye! Say, 'yes, sir'! Thank them for everything! Listen to instruction!')
|Mary and Joseph waiting to hear the names called|
There our pictures end, and most of our fun ended too. At that point, we headed back to the fence line to watch some more practice and, in retrospect, Joseph had suffered some disappointments that his three-and-a-half-year-old self just couldn't handle.
First, he had wanted to play in the big kids' football game, and had even sat himself down on their playing field in peaceful protest until I hauled him off before he got run over.
Second, when he heard that "names were being called," he felt really disappointed that his wasn't among them (even though I had explained it was only for those ages seven and up).
Third and lastly, when we gathered anew at the fence line, there was quite a crowd and Josey wanted to be in a particular spot, namely, anywhere that his sister was already standing. So, even when I found him a spot adjacent that was empty, it wasn't her spot, so he'd hit her, shove, and kick, and I'd remove him.
This continued until his little self just couldn't take the Big Day with all its stimulus anymore and a monster, diabolical tantrum ensued. (And just to add color, I will share that a couple of weeks ago, our babysitter--who has raised eight children and used to work in the three-year-old room of a daycare center--texted me while I was away to report that Joseph was having the worst tantrum she'd ever witnessed in her life.)
I ended up using all my strength to get Josey buckled into the stroller, which I then backed up against a chain link fence (or his thrashing would surely have toppled the stroller to the ground).
I was in a real pickle, friends: Right at that moment, Cam Newton himself (the quarterback and one of the top two most popular players on the team) had wandered over to the fence line to talk--not ten feet away from my children! Crowds of other people began running over with cameras pointed and papers ready to collect autographs.
Meanwhile, I had a three-year-old thrashing and screaming very loudly, drawing much attention. Literally, many, many people in the crowd were turning to stare unabashedly. I remained cool as a cucumber, stepped away from Joseph (who was kicking me if I stood within reach) and quietly reminded him every so often that he would not be released from the stroller until he was calm and quiet. I was weighing what Joseph needed (discipline, mercy, solitude) versus what my other four children needed (their fun time at this event) versus what the crowd of fans needed.
Once Cam Newton left our area, I checked the time and decided that, since it was only ten minutes until the end of practice, we were going to leave early, since Joseph's screaming was disturbing so many other visitors. As we marched out stolidly, Joseph was still screaming and thrashing in a tantrum so big, his head was soaked with sweat, his face was read, he was spitting on any unfortunate person who got too close.
We were truly a spectacle.
As we walked through parking lots, along paths, ever closer to our van, many, many passersby stared at us openly, even pointing fingers.
After about twenty minutes (Joseph was still screaming), his little body began to tucker out and his screaming would pause for him to yawn a few times, oxygenating his brain so he could renew his tantrum efforts.
We finally got to the van, Joseph spotted a "digger" doing construction nearby, and his body was just about limp with fatigue. I was able to unbuckle him and was grateful that he flopped his subdued head on my shoulder and asked sadly if could drive by the construction sight and watch the digger for a few minutes before going home . . . which we did.
Being three is hard. Being the parent of a three-year-old is hard. As the joke goes, anyone who talks much about the 'terrible twos' hasn't raised a three-year-old yet.