If you give a boy a bag of chips, he will slam it into every possible object on the way to the potluck at the park.
And when you get to the park, he’ll want to give the bag one final slam onto the concrete slab under the shelter before running off to play with his friends.
And when he runs off to play with his friends, your toddler will squawk and whine and cry and follow behind because he wants to run and play with the big kids too.
And when he makes it there to play with the big kids, he’s going to want to climb the big steel ladder and try to stretch his small legs far enough to make it across to the opening at the top of the ladder.
On the spot, you’ll decide to go ahead and let him try.
You’ll stand beneath him with your arms stretched above your head in anxious wait, and your toddler will surprise you and make it to the top and onto the platform just as the older kids decide they want to run to a completely different section of the park to climb a rope tower.
Your little one’s eyes will light up, but you won’t think you can stomach the rope tower and a toddler, so you’ll redirect him to the swings and push him, feigning guilt as you watch the other moms set up the food, hoping they don’t notice the chip bits you brought.
Your toddler will now have a clear view of the food, and remember there are chips and start squawking for food since it’s his dinnertime and he hasn’t eaten yet. You let him nibble on a few chips and distract him with a drink as more people arrive.
The drink will work temporarily, but now it’s time for the older kids to gather across the parking lot in the grassy field for a Boy Scout awards ceremony.
And since every toddler on Earth would rather die than patiently wait through an awards ceremony, you will buy as much time as you can and let him roll around in the grass before he melts down just before big brother gets his award.
You’ll stall for a few minutes so you can see big brother get the award, and slowly head to the shelter to give the toddler more chip bits and juice while the hot dogs are being cooked.
And when the toddler finishes his chip bits and juice, he’s going to want to grab cookies out of the cookie bin sitting a few feet away after everyone gets to the shelter.
Your toddler will reach as far as he can to grab a cookie and you’ll grab his arm to try and prevent him from tipping the bowl over, and in the process accidentally drag him onto the concrete floor as the man starts the blessing before the meal.
You’ll hold your toddler and try to quiet his screams during the prayer as everyone bows their heads and tries to hear the blessing.
The end of the blessing will signal the green light for the feast, and before long all of the kids will act crazy and run around on the playground again.
Big brother will run straight for the rope tower, so you will wolf whatever food you can and follow the toddler to the rope tower.
You will stand beneath the rope tower in your usual stance, and be impressed with your toddler’s climbing skills despite the mild heart attacks they regularly give you.
You’ll try to redirect your kids back to the car to “get some water” after it turns dark, and they will stop and want to play in the sandbox right next to the rope tower.
You will give them five minutes to play in the sand, and their sweaty feet, hands and toes will collect as much sand as humanly possible to make the final departure quite messy.
Your toddler will squabble with another kid in the sandbox over a toy, and since you didn’t see who had it first, you’ll try to be as diplomatic and fair as possible, though you are so over it and would do anything in the world to leave the park at that moment.
You will soon make another case for “water in the car” and “it’s dark now”, and start heading to the car in the nick of time because you feel a toddler meltdown brewing.
You’ll be immediately grateful that you left a movie in the DVD player in the car, and successfully get everyone strapped into the car with water and no tears.
You’ll pull out of the parking lot and let out a deep breath, driving home with the windows down, feeling the cool night air on your face, proud that you made it out of there in one piece.
And on the way home, your oldest will ask if we can please stop by the gas station on the way home… for a bag of chips.
*Inspired by Laura Numeroff’s “If You Give…” series.