For as long as I have lived in this little Prairie Village home, I have taken regular walks to Starbucks. In the beginning, there were no children. I can hardly remember that time. I don't remember that time. I imagine the walk was relaxing, enjoyable, and easy, but obviously it was meaningless. I have no memory of walking alone to Starbucks. Now, four children later, these walks give me a sense of joy, pride and love. It may seem silly, that such a simple, mundane routine could provoke these emotions, but trust me, there is no such thing as "simple" or "mundane" with four children under age 6.
As we depart from the house, the boys race off ahead, stopping at our next door neighbor's bushes. For some reason, this has become a boundary, past which they know not to go without approval from a watching or accompanying adult. We continue on. Brock and Curtis stop at every street. If George has strayed from the stroller to pick a dandelion, or examine a bug, he searches for my hand before crossing the road. The walk proceeds smoothly, yet with multiple interruptions, distractions, discoveries and lots of coaxing and redirection. Like snowflakes or fingerprints, no two morning walks to Starbucks are alike.
When we encounter neighbors, at least one boy waves, if not all, sometimes they even say, "hi". They politely ask to pet every dog. Or, at least, I remind them to politely ask before petting the dog. George usually thinks he wants to pet it as well, but chickens out, every time. We need a big dog. As we approach the destination, I give the boys a pep talk. I tell them to behave, which means, not touching all the merchandise, or people, waiting with me in line, and, above all, listening to me...or else they get no treat of any sort.
We finally make it through the long, nearly out-the-door line. No porcelain mugs have been broken, to date. No back of coffee opened and spilled. A plastic straw may have had a little mouth on it once or twice, and "secretly" placed back on the shelf...but people wash these before use, right!? When we get close to the front cooler full of snacks and beverages, the boys all cut in line to grab their chocolate milks. People usually smile, and find this to be cute. Sometimes I hear an "excuse me" - we need to work on that one. I open each wrapper, put in the straw, and seat the 3 boys at the high table, facing the register, all while still holding the baby. They sit and enjoy the milk. I order my drink, and their snack. I divide the cookie or pound cake into 3's, and head over to the counter to get my drink. Normally, I return to find my three boys still happily sitting, and eating. Sometimes they've made a huge mess. Sometimes they've discovered that if you blow hard into the straw, milk squirts back into your face. Mostly, they just want more cookie.
On this particular day, I returned and a middle-aged woman was standing beside them, smiling. I had taken a little longer to return because I made a detour to grab napkins to wipe up some milk off the floor. I stoop down to wipe the milk, and stand back up, again, all while holding the 23 and 1/2 pound baby. This woman looks at me and says (as she points to a table with a man and another woman), "We have just been absolutely charmed by your little family. We have been watching them, and you since you walked through the door. They are so well-behaved, and adorable. They 3 of them just sat there while you ordered and paid. Then you squatted down to wipe up that milk, while holding the baby, as if it were effortless. You seem to have everything under control. I am amazed. And you must have the strongest thighs."