I herd children. Mostly my own. Sometimes other people's. It is shameful really.
I once told my husband that since we'd brought three children into this world, it didn't really matter how many more we had because we'd run out of hands after two anyway. Whether we had three, four, five...it didn't matter. We couldn't hang onto them anyway. For practical reasons, we had to stop at five. We couldn't fit any more in the mini-van.
As soon as the third child began to walk, I began to develop my herding tendencies. I couldn't effectively hold onto my children, but I could at least herd them into a small, mobile group. I learned to keep them close by and moving in a generally desirable direction by constantly guiding, pushing, poking, and prodding.
The problem is, sometimes other children inadvertently get drawn into my herd. And sometimes I don't notice. I just carry on absentmindedly herding them along with my own children.
So this week, we were at the elementary school for an art show and it happened. I was exhausted and I was ready to leave. We had already looked at all of the art exhibits at least once and we had visited the gym for fun art-related activities. I won't lie. I wanted out of the school. I just wanted to get home, get dinner, and get everyone to bed.
As is always the case, my kids had a totally different agenda. They wanted to look at every single piece of art on the way out. They wanted to show me which pieces their friends had made. And which pieces their friend's friends made. And which pieces their friend's friend's first cousin made. We were moving at a snail's pace in a crowded hallway.
That's when I started herding. I pushed them along. Occasionally I tugged on Little Bean's hood to guide her in the right direction. I poked Rough Stuff in the shoulder. I patted Fish's back. I uttered rude commands. "C'mon." "Let's move, Ladies." "Momma's tired. We need to go." "Yes, I saw that. It's lovely. You've got to MOVE IT, MOVE IT."
The Boy was telling me something and I was trying to listen over my shoulder and the girls were all trying to show me things and the line was no longer moving in front of me as my brain tried to multi-task the herding and the listening and the art watching and the line WAS NOT MOVING so I pushed harder. I poked the girl in the shoulder and I put my hand on her back and forcefully nudged her forward. When that didn't work and I was about to actually trip over her, I grabbed her shirt at the shoulder and pulled her ahead of me. "We need to move, ladies!" I said as I compelled her forward.
And that is when another mother reached in and rescued her child from my herd. I was so embarrassed. I looked for something to crawl under but there were no tables anywhere. No lockers. Nothing. Just these paintings on the wall.
They were everywhere.
Fat, squatty ones.
I couldn't escape and I couldn't hide behind the camels.
I apologized profusely to the mother. She gave me an understanding smile. I offered an apology to the herded child but she just looked at me in terror. I looked at all of the very interesting camels as we made our way to the exit.
The Big Guy says he is just waiting for the day I actually get a stray child herded all the way to the car.