The term to “MacGyver-ize” was first popularized in a Boy Scout training manual by a contributor named George Shockley; following the popularity of the1980’s television series MacGyver. In the series, Angus MacGyver was a troubleshooter that was known for his resourcefulness and knowledge in the fields of chemistry, physics, technology, and outdoorsmanship. MacGyver, along with his ever present Swiss Army knife and duct tape, sought non-violent resolutions whenever possible in the face of life or death circumstances.
One late April morning; the Mother had planned to take the Brunette and the Baby to meet some friends at a park once they had dropped the Blonde off at preschool. Even as the Mother readied the little girls for the day’s outing, it felt utterly absurd that she was having to dress them in fleece jackets. Glancing at the weather app on her phone, the Mother simply frowned as she saw the mid-forties temperatures predicted for that day. Spring was not springing nearly enough this year…..in the Mother’s opinion.
When it comes to playdates involving children under the age of three, it quickly becomes obvious that coordinated attempts at toddler interaction are simply crowd management exercises for their parents. Most children in the toddler-sphere often choose to play next to and not actually with their companions. This behavior is referred to as parallel play. Arguably, playdates for small children…..really are about 64% for their parent’s benefit.
The Mother and her friend, who also had a toddler and a baby, had determined to try and meet first at the park, despite the cooler temperatures. Should their ambitions be met by toddler resistance, they would simply embrace their play date contingency plan, and move their party to a nearby coffee house.
Sadly, in rather short order, the biting winds did unfortunately put a damper on the four little girl’s desires to be outside. Additionally, despite some rather confident proclamations on the part of the Brunette in regards to being a “very good slider” (the criterion for which the Mother is still not entirely clear on), the little girl did encounter a rather impressive launch off the end of the slide….courtesy of her poorly selected and rather shockingly aerodynamic fleece jacket and cotton leggings. The launch seemed to be the straw that broke the camel’s back, so to speak.
The unplanned, airborne launch essentially ended the Brunette’s spirit of cooperation. As the Mother crouched down in the play yard mulch, in an effort to comfort the slightly winded and stunned Brunette, the decision to relocate their outing was pretty much made for them.
Once the new plan had been given the green light, the two women quickly loaded their little girls back into their vehicles, as they made their way over to the coffee shop. At only 10:00 a.m., the Mother was hoping such an establishment would be relatively empty.
The Mother quickly realized this was an absurd wish.
Walking into the coffee shop, it did not escape the Mother’s notice; that the majority of the individuals in the the room collectively appeared to hold their breath, as the two mothers made their way towards the barista bar. It was that same default response a mother of small children often receives from fellow airplane passengers when walking down the aisle of an aircraft. While no one deny’s the cuteness of little children, the truth is…. in confined spaces…..some children can morph into less agreeable versions of themselves.
As they walked, the Mother began making some assessments of the other patrons in the room in an effort to formulate the next steps of her plan. The coffee shop was ripe with profiling fodder for the Mother to observe.
At the front of the coffee shop, there were two older women lounging in oversized chairs, clearly planning on remaining in a conversational exchange for quite some time….. based upon the size of their enormous coffee selections.
Next, there was a pair of middle-aged women, who cast a sympathetic glance at the mothers as they paused from their conversation just long enough to wave at the Baby. The Baby rather diplomatically offered a smile in return.
There was a young couple swirling in the pools of love and the intoxication of caffeine, evidently discussing the relationship book they had been reading….together…..during the previous week, based upon the paperback that sat near their table’s edge.
There was a pair of gentlemen in matching polo shirts….. evidently on something of a break….as they never fully sat back in their chairs. Almost as they were ready to spring into action at any moment.
There was a he/she coworker pairing engrossed in a deep discussion about company direction and strategy. They were being pulled in so many directions that their personal affects were spilling over onto a nearby unused chair.
At the back of the coffee shop, there was a pair of women who sat in silence, staring at their smart phones, for much of the time. While the Mother found this lack of interaction to be rather tragic, it did not escape her notice that they were the same women that had also come to a coffee shop…..and chosen to order some kind of fruity blended drinks, which just felt wrong on a whole other level.
Finally, there was a solo lap-topper….clearly doing something she deemed very important….based on the fact that she had claimed the largest table in the entire room….most likely in an effort to maximize her creative energy.
As the mothers placed their beverage orders, the Mother had already observed that the only table left for them to occupy was rather…. lack-luster. The open table, which was currently pressed up against a display unit on one of its sides, had only one chair, and in general felt a tad like the runt of the litter.
A scout-like spirit of MacGyverization overtook the Mother…..just moments before she sprung into action.
The Mother had determined this playdate was going to be a success.
The fact that they were two women, two toddlers, and two babies staring at a three sided table with one place to sit…..was simply a hiccup in the Mother’s mind.
This was going to happen.
The Mother immediately walked over to their lack-luster table, and deposited her beverage and pastry purchases. Next, she placed the Brunette in the solitary chair. Before the Mother had even made her first chair request, the two middle-aged women nudged an empty chair from their table towards the Mother’s direction. The Mother appreciated their awareness of the circumstances and smiled, as she mouthed thank you.
On her way to retrieve some napkins, the Mother walked past the solo lap-topper, who was arguably taking up entirely too much coffee house real estate….based upon the economics of her minimalist, drip coffee investment. The Mother paused, and asked if she could use one of her two…unused chairs.
The woman looked up, and then glanced around the room. The solo lap-topper involuntarily flinched as if realizing for the first time, since arriving at the empty coffee shop, that the room was now packed. “Oh, of course,” the solo lap-topper replied…..almost as if she were a little embarrassed that the Mother even had to ask.
The Mother dragged the second chair acquisition over to her table in her right hand as she balanced the baby on her left hip. The Mother then interrupted the he/she co-workers to inquire if she might utilize their overflow chair. “Do you mind if I use this chair?” the Mother asked. The chair in question was presently serving as a little more than an island oasis for their jackets.
“Oh boy, looks like your hands are full,” the she co-worker replied, tipping her head in the direction of the girls. “Yes, totally, let me grab my coat,” the she co-worker stated before immediately returning to her work-related dialogue….. without even pretending she desired an actual response from the Mother.
Throughout the entire chair gathering process, the Mother had observed the two polo-shirt wearing gentlemen, hovering slightly above their chairs each time the Mother had approached the table with a new chair conquest. It was if the men were conflicted as to wether or not they should offer to assist the Mother in her chaotic chair shuffling efforts, or if it might be perceived as an insult to the Mother’s capabilities.
The Mother actually found it a little sad that these particular men appeared to be confused by the concept that helpfulness and empathy might in some way be offensive to a woman with small children. (The Mother made a mental note to remind her son that chivalry at its core places no judgment on the recipient, but in its purest form…. will ultimately reveal the bestowing individual’s degree of emotional intelligence. Chivalry in the Mother’s opinion….was clearly becoming a dying and misunderstood courtesy.)
Finally, the Other Mother appeared at the table with her girls, goodies, and the Barista carrying a high chair for her baby. The Barista, in a virtual light bulb moment, sprung to relocate the display table that was currently pressed up against the mother’s table. This adjustment would allow the mother’s access to all four sides of their table.
Sadly, though the Barista’s re-arranging notion was admirable, his execution was fairly shoddy, as he had neglected to notice the rows of metal thermoses resting on the lower shelf of the display. As if the entire rearranging of the chairs effort wasn’t disruptive enough, the clanging of a dozen metal canisters bouncing across the concrete floor, definitely drew every eye in the room. The Mother smiled nervously, as if to say, “Don’t mind us…..we are just trying to salvage the last threads of an ill-fated play-date effort.”
After all was said and done, and they were finally enjoying their over-priced pastries, the Brunette turned to the Mother and said, “That was kind of a lot of work for a snack mommy.”
The Mother threw her head back in uproarious laughter.
“Well honey, this is a good lesson for you to learn early. Motherhood isn’t always easy, but when everything comes together it’s very rewarding,” the Mother replied knowing that her entire point was likely going completely over the little girl’s head.
The Brunette replied, “Sounds good, mommy.”
The Mother smiled.
Despite the fact that their area looked like a pastry bomb had exploded beneath their table, causing the Mother to question what percentage of the bread had even ended up in the girl’s actual mouths, in the end the Mother felt the outing had been a success.
As she readied the girls to leave the coffee shop, she overheard someone behind her say, “Good for you for pressing on, and making this coffee date happen.” Turning to look over her shoulder, the Mother saw one of the older women leaning against the counter.
The Mother just smiled and said, “Well, we certainly got an A for effort.”
The older woman laughed and said, “That’s just life, my dear….you never know the cards you might be dealt…..but you work with what you have.”
The Motherhood in Technicolor Memo: The Scouts of America programs focus on the following three guiding principles: the value of resourcefulness, the importance of character, and the call for a single act of daily kindness. I have always loved the idea that these programs challenge our youth to live lives of honor; to become physically strong, mentally awake, and morally straight.
It could be a rewarding exercise to ponder what your personal scout code of parenting might entail. Motherhood lived in technicolor reminds us of the value of living by a guiding set of principles as we navigate the years ahead.
At the end of my parenting journey, I certainly hope my children will remember me as someone who was resourceful, placed a value on character, performed a daily act of kindness, and understood that the most rewarding moments in life….rarely come easy.
Summer Smith is a speaker, writer, and motherhood blogger. She and her family are currently navigating the suburbs of Northern Virginia. As the mother to four young children, Summer maintains her sanity thanks to her sense of humor, copious amounts of coffee, and Amazon Prime. Maya Angelou once said, when reflecting on her childhood, that her mother left an impression like technicolor stars in the midnight sky. Influenced by these words, Summer blogs at her website Motherhood in Technicolor, and can also be found on her Motherhood in Technicolor Facebook page.