On Mother’s Day weekend, we packed up the tots and made a highway excursion towards southern Illinois to attend my niece’s commencement ceremony. The road trip with Jrue and Jai wasn’t particularly eventful the six hours going or the six returning, but this instance was one of the first hotel experiences for Jai and the first of the two of them together.
And, likely, the last until they are much older.
I learned that my kids have no class.
Yes, they are active toddlers, one and three. No, they are not the level of barbaric at home that we encountered, surprisingly, not at the commencement itself.
Their place of tomfoolery was our hotel suite.
As a point of reference, there are some popularly-recognized guidelines of etiquette that are encouraged, to a greater or lesser degree, at most high school and college graduation ceremonies. These can parallel those understood standards of staying overnight in a hotel room. My children broke all of the normal conditions as soon as they padded into the suite.
Graduation Rule 1. “Minimize prolonged cheering or applause so that the conferring of degrees is not delayed due to waiting for hysterical screaming to cease.” Most academic convocations can resemble a pep rally; this is true. So can the inside of a hotel room, apparently.
As soon as my children embraced that we were going to be inhabiting the space for some time, out emerged all kinds of comfort-seeking behaviors. Jrue removed his shoes and socks, then took quite some time to “boo boo,” as he so eloquently announced to anyone listening. This meant emerging from the soon-aromatic bathroom wearing only a t-shirt and subsequently attempting to get both legs up the side of the tall, king-sized, crispy white bed.
The bed was all white for 20 minutes.
Jai strolled back and forth excitedly, as in a hunt, and stopped in front of the television with a dazed wonderment once daddy cut it on. She then found it absolutely necessary to alert the neighbors to our arrival by screeching like a car alarm and banging on the wall with both hands. When placed hastily on the bed to halt the behavior, she stood up and administered the same warning song and dance on the opposite wall against a piece of art over the bed.
Graduation Rule 2. “No beach balls/balloons/noisemakers allowed.” This instruction works to mitigate disturbances that can distract from or lengthen the ceremony, much like verbal human fervor. It makes sense in the grand scheme. However, I will admit that a little mischief is spontaneously delightful in a ceremony that lasts for hours.
This was the case at my own high school graduation in 2002 when, upon officially announcing our graduation’s end, confetti, “crazy string,” and an inflated beach ball exploded from the middle of the graduate floor (much to the chagrin of the administration). At my niece’s ceremony, a singular balloon found its way mid-air across the hands of several undergraduates for about ten minutes before magically disappearing into the sea of black caps and gowns.
My children interpreted our frequent shushes and encouragement to “pipe down” an incentive to make more racket as vigorously as possible. Unfounded screaming commenced from one, then the other, for fun. They took the remote and the customary desk ink pen and knocked on the walls. They elicited loud, insane laughter at one another’s expense, prompting me to sit and watch in disbelief that this much cacophony could exist from two really short people.
Our poor next-door neighbors.
Jai’s unexpected 2 a.m. screaming should have been enough to prompt the neighbors to complain on us at the front desk, but I’m assuming they were gracious and empathetic parents themselves. Our other neighbor was the third floor elevator. Directly beneath us were my sister-in-law and niece.
As if these specific pageantry of theatrics weren’t enough, keeping clothing on also became a problem.
Graduation Rule 3. “Attire by all attendees, including graduates, should be that for a formal ceremony.” Even under their gowns, graduates are encouraged to wear semi-formal, but comfortable clothing. There have been so many viral Internet clips that caution what could go wrong with flip flops at graduation and the like, including ones of young women who stumble while wearing brand-new, not-quite-broken-in, high heels.
The cautionary tale of my toddlers is that they are, for lack of better term, exhibitionists. They will flash anyone. They both love to be in just a diaper, or less, when at home. Jrue demands that his shoes are removed as soon as we walk in our house, followed by clothing he deems too restrictive for activity. Jai follows.
This habit did not adjust at all while at the hotel.
When my sister-in-law knocked at the suite door to visit, Jrue ran towards it as if he was paying the bill, nudity and all. Jai curiously rolled over, mid-diaper change, to exercise her speculative right. If mommy or daddy was in the bathroom or taking a shower on Saturday, Jrue made sure to keep up a schedule of checks to make sure, I assume, that we hadn’t flushed ourselves or drowned. But, go into the bathroom when he was sitting on the toilet? He screamed and threatened to “get down.” Then we were back violating rule 1.
I still don’t know how to survive this thing called parenthood. I don’t know what is in-bounds versus out. I don’t know where my children are going, or if they are traveling in a circle. I’m confused most of the time.
But they sure can keep themselves entertained. That must be good for something.