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Hi Princess!

Every time I see a parent struggling with a child in public, I want to help. I never do because I've been there and during those moments, I just want everyone to look away and ignore the scene my kid(s) and I are making. Kindly ignore the lady in aisle five trying to maneuver the gargantuan shopping cart with car attachment while two of her kids (who are suspiciously not in the car attachment) attempt to load the cart with Apple Jacks and Lucky Charms and another one takes off her pants (Cynthia). They never stay in those carts. (Drink) Or stay fully clothed in public.

While I know I can't help parents as they navigate similar situations, I at least try to shoot them a look of camaraderie. I've been there, I try to (drink) communicate, don't cave and let him get those Oreo's. You're doing the right thing. I know he's kicking you right now, but the bruises will heel. Stay strong.

Such was the case yesterday when I passed a mom on the sidewalk having just exited a toy store. Her son was tucked firmly under her arm even though his arms and legs were flailing in all directions nearly knocking the sunglasses right off her face. "I want that water gun!!!" he said over and over through heaving sobs. The mom said nothing. Just marched in long, angry strides, bee-lining it, I assumed to the nearest haven of privacy so she could cry right along with water gun boy. She was so focused on keeping a firm hold on her son and (drink) getting the hell out of there that I couldn't make eye contact to send her the unspoken message, You've got this, girl! Focus on the finish line! This scene may haunt you for life, but he'll forget about it in five minutes. Stick to your guns! (get it?)

As I watched her stalk away, I was suddenly transported (drink) back to 2018. James's parents took the whole family on a Disney cruise to celebrate their 50th wedding anniversary and 75th birthdays.

The twins were just shy of their third birthday, at that horrible in-between stage in which they still needed assistance with most basic needs but were realizing their ability to say no, testing the word frequently in response to just about every directive given. They were weaning off naps, but still needed 20 minutes to power through the day which is where I found myself one afternoon when we took all five kids to the on-board, super crowded pool.

We scored one seat in a sea of a couple hundred, where (drink) we stashed all the supplies we had hauled on a seemingly never-ending trek from our stateroom. All I wanted to do was kick back and fall asleep on it. Obviously that was not happening. Instead, James joined Kaleb on a very long line for the water slide while Abigail and Paige ran off to the free ice cream kiosk, leaving me with two toddlers in Little Swimmer diapers who wanted nothing to do with the pool that was teaming with over-stimulated kids playing "Goofy Says" directed by an over-enthusiastic DJ pumping deafening music and game instructions simultaneously.

It wasn't long before they were both clinging to me in tears as I looked around helplessly for a patch of quiet shade where I could calm them down. But there was no quiet oasis to be found at Donald's Pool and I knew this was not going to work. With a twin wrapped around each leg, I limped (drink) back to the ship's interior and started the long journey back to the stateroom. Eleanor was crying and wanted to be held, Cynthia inched along at snail's pace, easily distracted by the staff members who merrily skipped by chirping "Hi Princesses!" to us. "F-You!" I wanted to say.

It honestly felt like miles before we reached the elevator. Cynthia had removed her diaper and was dragging it behind her like a puppy, oblivious to the ramifications of indecent exposure. Eleanor was still screaming her head off, digging her teeth into my shoulder and kicking so (drink) furiously she almost whacked Cynthia in the head. They fought over who would push the elevator button until I finally pressed it, invoking an even louder chorus of wails, this time from both girls. "Hi Princesses!" I glared at the suspender-clad deckhand passing by and willed the elevator to hurry the f*ck up.

It was then that a happy young couple sidled up beside us, pressing the "up" button even though it was clearly already lit up. Why do people do that? They were all nuzzled up together, engrossed in their own little world of young, childless love. I remembered vacations with James pre-kids when we would sleep late, go on long, quiet hikes, drink Mai Tais in a poolside cabana, and scoff at children who encroached on our serenity.

Meanwhile, the kids (not mine, the couple) were getting frisky. He was just shy of second base and I was starting to worry what would happen once we got in the elevator with them. Get a room, I wanted to say. Instead, Cynthia (drink) managed to hit the girl in the butt with her diaper which she was spinning like a lasso through the air. That got their attention. They toned down their porn scene and I took the opportunity to rain on their parade. Whipping the diaper out of Cynthia's clenched fists while still trying to balance a squirming Eleanor, I sized them up and down, narrowed my eyes at them, and preached, "this is excellent birth control."

There was an uncomfortable silence (aside from Eleanor's screaming) before the elevator finally arrived. They did not join us for the ride. And just (drink) before the doors met to close, I heard them burst into laughter, their snorts of hilarity echoing in the elevator as we ascended the ship to safety.

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