Sam had just jogged into the grocery store to resupply our provisions for our ravenous children (my kids literally never stop eating). We were on our way back home from a day at Zions National Park. As custom suggests, I waited in the car with the kids while Sam collected milk, eggs and bread for the following morning. I like to drive around and investigate any new area I find myself in and lined up against the side of Smiths Grocery store in Saint George Utah was a long line of boring, utilitarian shopping carts.
Sprinkled in the mix were three exciting cars that kids drive while mom picks out the family grocery selection.
I chuckled and dug my Rolleiflex out from under the pile of baby diapers, wet clothing in plastic grocery bags and random food remnants between the drivers and passenger seat. I thought about the times before I had my kids. I used to drive around casually with my Rolleiflex. I’d slowly drive and carefully contemplate my photographic options. My car was clean and quiet. It was relaxing.
While I dug my camera bag out from the pile Grace was asleep with a mouthful of crackers still in her mouth. Kimi, our 2 month old baby was crying. Jack and Bailey were torturing Lily in the back seat. Lily bit one of them. And through all that chaos I saw an opportunity for a photo and I took it.
My thought was this: There is a thriving subculture that exists right beneath our noses and until you have a child you may not see it. Adults without children may never see it. But it’s presence is strong and persistent. It’s the kids world. That’s what it is.
Those of you who have children have seen this world. I’m talking about the “playplace” at the mall, the baby aisle in the grocery store, the massive wall of diapers and wipes at Costco, the kids clothing section at Target, Chuck-E-Cheese, kids movies at the theatre, the petting zoo at the county fair, little bicycles around the neighborhood and so on.
Kids are too small to exist in the adult world so we had to construct one that fit their unique size. Of course, it’s necessary. We love our kids. We want them to be comfortable. But it’s painfully cumbersome and expensive. The back of our van is completely filled up with two gigantic strollers. They take up all the cargo space in the van. Have you ever had the pleasure of folding up and transporting a “port-a-crib”? Just the word makes me shudder. Anywhere we go we need a bundle of diapers, wipes, bibs, extra clothing, strollers, snacks and on and on. It’s exhausting.
My first encounter with this world was when I was in college. My buddy Christian had a son. I was uninitiated in the world of kids. I was always shocked at the preparation to keep this little dude going. One time Christian was alone and in charge. He didn’t want to carry a diaper bag so he stuffed a diaper in each of his back pockets and a ziplock bag full of wipes in his front pocket. I remember thinking that he was enduring so much. I laugh about it now. That was a good idea to put the diapers in his pockets.
I was one of the innocently ignorant who was easily appalled with how noisy and needy children were. I felt like people look like when they see my gaggle of kids in public: shocked. There are two groups out there. Adults living as adults and adults living with kids. They can’t coexist. It doesn’t work.
“Hey Frank, do you and Fran want to go with Judy and I on a road trip to the beach?”
“No, sorry, we can’t leave the kids for more than a few hours”
“Hey Frank, do you and Fran want to come over to watch the game?”
“Can we bring our 5 children? Ages 4 months, 2 years, 6 years, 9 years and 12?”
“Maybe next time”
I always enjoy when were at a restaurant and I see the appalled faces of adults living as adults. They swirl their wine and smell it with their eyes closed calmly. Then their organized, calm world interfaces with mine. Thats when they hear a brain melting screech from one of my kids. They look so disgusted, like I just threw a dirty diaper at them. It’s funny.