Ethan and I had just barely made the double decker London bus. Standing in a crowd of commuters, I wasn’t able to climb to the second level where Ethan loved to watch passing buses. I balanced myself with him and his folded up stroller, biding my time until we reached the Underground stop where seats would open up.
We had big plans to visit St. James Park with its fearless ducks, delightful sand area, and sprawling lawns. I had a ball, snacks, and several diapers in my backpack. Out of all our days in London, I had prepared the best for this one.
While waiting through the first few stops, I started to smell something that was a little bit… off. In a crowded bus with all sorts of people, you expect to smell all kinds of things. Besides, Ethan’s “epic” diapers had been primarily confined to the evening. I just needed to get to the second floor so he could have a better view of the passing buses and trucks.
A few stops later we ventured upstairs and a kind man moved so we could sit together by a window. The smell got stronger. I feared the worst.
A quick peak confirmed it, and I needed to take immediate action with a diaper wipe. Unfortunately, I forgot to pack the diaper wipes. I didn’t even have any napkins or tissues on hand.
I needed to get off this bus immediately.
But if I got off in the wrong neighborhood, I wouldn’t be able to find a store to buy wipes. I couldn’t put him in his stroller because that would be an even bigger mess. I couldn’t hold him the usual way because that would just make the leak worse. I couldn’t count on Ethan walking for more than a block. I had to play this just right to avoid an even more epic disaster.
Using Google Maps on my phone, I found a store near a stop that was five minutes away. We made it off the bus at that stop while I held Ethan up by the legs—a bit like a toddler torch. It looked ridiculous. The folded up stroller didn’t help.
However, when I consulted my map, I realized that I’d gotten off one stop too late. I ran four blocks instead of one with my toddler torch. Ethan can hardly walk a block in a straight line. He has to stop and point at water and gas caps in the sidewalk. He has to point at buses, trees, and traffic lights. He may sit down and resist walking. He may wander toward the road and cry if I try to stop him.
I had to keep moving. I had a diaper to change.
Sweating and dreading the state of Ethan’s diaper and clothing, I bought wipes and slipped into a nearby Pret a Manger to make the diaper change. Thankfully his outfit was untouched.
My sudden influx of urgency paid off.
Later that day Ethan and I took a walk around a park. There weren’t many people around. He pushed his stroller by my side, often turning around, going in circles, or venturing onto the grass.
I kept prodding him to walk forward, to keep moving, to “come on.”
As I entered my tenth minute of prodding, I finally asked myself, “Why am I doing this?”
It made sense earlier in the day that I needed to rush with a messy diaper on the line. A ruined outfit meant we would have to go home and lose our day at the park.
Without a diaper to worry about, I was simply coaxing Ethan along for the sake of efficiency. We had to get somewhere, I wasn’t sure where, but we had to do it fast. We were in a rush to walk from one end of the park to the other I suppose. I was rushing just for the sake of rushing.
Rushing is a lifestyle.
I had turned an occasional fast pace into a way of living where I frantically run from one thing to another.
On the following day we visited another park. Ethan wanted to walk across the grass with the stroller. It’s the most excruciatingly slow way to travel anywhere. I walked ahead and settled on a bench.
He eventually made it across the grass and started to cross a courtyard. However, something about the straps on his stroller caught his attention. He had to stop and snap them together.
It took a long time to get them snapped just right.
By the time he finished snapping them together, he wanted them unsnapped and began calling out to me for help. I told him to bring the stroller to me. Rather than pushing the stroller by its handles, he pushed it from the seat straps. It took an eternity to cross the courtyard, but Ethan wasn’t in a hurry.
Wandering London with a toddler was inconvenient and exhausting at times. I’d never sweated so much in all my life as I did during our three weeks in London. Every single thing required so much energy.
However, there were moments when Ethan forced me to slow, to adapt my pace to his own. He have been pointing at the 115th bus or the 32nd duck of the day, but that was fine. I didn’t need to rush him along while walking through the park.
The interruptions of a toddler can create their own sacred space. They put the brakes on our constant rushing from one thing to another.
They say that you can make God laugh if you tell him your plans.
God may laugh at our plans, but I say that God laughs even harder when we tell our toddlers our plans.