I am not a betting man, at least not on football or horses or raindrops sliding down a window. But I am a betting man on a day like Sunday, a gray damp autumn day in Stockholm, a day when I venture to take a toddler and a baby downtown to the national museum to expose them to art.
I was inspired by Olivia’s mother. Olivia, if you don’t know, is a sassy storybook pig. My sister gave NK the first Olivia book for her birthday. We now have four more from the library (for the first time, NK actually missed a returned library book too – “The library is not allowed to borrow our book!”)
In the first Olivia book, Olivia goes to the museum on rainy days and appreciates art. Her little brother Ian stands around and looks at the paintings too. Hmmm, I thought. NK is not as old as Olivia. But she is probably older than Ian. We can go look at big landscapes. She’ll think it is fun!
This is probably partially compensating for the fact that I had big aspirations for exploring Stockholm when I was on parental leave with NK for six months around her second birthday. And we never left town – park, pool, open preschool, park, pool, balcony.
Anyway, there I am with the baby tucked in the sibling stroller and NK sauntering happily beside me. I did little thinking at all until down at the subway stop (under the “big walls!”) I went to feed the baby and realized I left our food bag at home. I am not sure, but I think my decision making is a bit more dad than mom, always calculating the odds that I will avoid major meltdown.
Calculation one. Can I get by without the food bag? And the diapers? Can I buy emergency food for the baby? What are the chances I need a diaper? How low is the toddler’s blood sugar?
A big sigh. No gamble. We walk back home. The toddler refuses to ride in the stroller. We walk back to the subway stop. The toddler still walks. My patience wears thin, but the whole thing is my fault, so I keep mostly, though not completely, quiet. (I am mad at myself, NK. You are mad? At myself? You are mad? At myself. At yourself?)
Calculation two. Do we have time for the museum? Running late now, the window closing, I decide to push for the museum. It can’t work, but we are downtown, dammit.
Calculation three. Should we pay? We wander the gift shop, hungry, a little panicked. Then I spot the one free exhibition. So the eight contemporary takes on Caspar Weinrichcasdfhadf whatever his name is will be our test. The big Olivia moment. NK glances at the first painting and walks as fast as possible back to the main hall. We go to the children’s room and play with toys of food for half an hour. NK then draws her first ever picture of an actual face.
Calculation four. How far can we push lunch? And the baby’s sleep? Not enough to stay downtown. We hustle for the subway.
Calculation five. Can we skip lunch altogether? The baby is losing it. There is no way he will last the line at McDonald’s (a rare “treat”). But his sister will not accept skipping her hamburger now. I sacrifice the baby. We go into the mall.
And NK falls asleep. I turn around and hustle home. Studying at the library, E offers to bring food home later. Yay! I won!
And sometimes your luck just runs out. I come home and get the baby to sleep. I lay down. Nap, blessed nap. Then 25 minutes later, he wakes up. While I am rocking him to sleep, his big sister wakes up. She is despondent we are not at McDonald’s. Now, even if I had cold, soggy fries in a bag, it would not have saved me. For the baby woke up. And NK woke up. And then I faced a long afternoon with two tired, grumpy children.
It went fine.