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August 11, 2008

Peace, Love and a Portable Potty

Peace7 I took my kids to see a Justin Roberts concert this morning. He's one of those "for kids" performers who sings about waiting for the school bus, blaming everything on your brother and hanging out with an imaginary friend. But he's actually cool and somehow not annoying at all. His songs are zippy with a pop beat that keeps you humming them all day. His show was at an amphitheater in the middle of rustic Topanga Canyon -- a hippie haven full of peace, love and lots of "go green" bumper stickers. Maybe the idealism is catchy because from the moment I parked the car, I began to see things a little differently. The world felt somehow peaceful and cooperative. It all started with a family of four, a minivan and a portable potty seat.

The noise level in my car rivaled a thunderstorm. My son, in the way back, was shouting out the names of every Star Wars character he could think of. My daughter was whining, "I want milk," and my niece (always having my daughter's back) was telling me that her cousin desperately wanted milk. And yet, through it all, my sister and I, in the front seat, were having a real conversation, able to block out all the commotion. We approached the theater and found a place on the street to park. As we pulled over, we realized the spot was pretty tight but we waited to pull up closer to the car in front of us because a mom was unloading her troops. She motioned to us that it might take a minute. We waved back instinctively. We watched as she took out the portable potty in the back of her mini-van for her toddler to do her business. While the mom attended to her daughter's potty needs, the father took the young son to the side of the road for his potty break. The boy was in plain view of all of our kids and yet, they never said a word. We waited a few minutes more as the family in front of us collected their stuff--strollers, snack bags, hats, sunblock. When they were fully armed, they closed the trunk and we moved into our spot, our patience completely in tact.

As my sister and I unloaded our own kids complete with a sippy cup spillage, a lost shoe and a bee sting, another car patiently waited for us. Behind them, another car and another car and well, it went on and on (without a single horn being honked).

Once inside the venue, I watched a mom walk her wobbly one-year old up and down the narrow row of stairs over and over again. A father wheeled his severly disabled daughter to the front row and lovingly showed her how to clap to the music. Another mother nursed her baby while singing Justin Roberts tunes to her antsy toddler. And that was all before the concert even started.

When Justin took the stage, the parents erupted into applause with genuine excitement. We all danced in the aisles abandoing inhibition and embarrassment. Anything to bring a smile to our children's faces. There were tantrums and tears throughout the show. It was hot. There were bugs. But no matter. We all got it. We were all parents and here was this collective feeling that we are all in this together.

My sister and I suddenly felt in awe of parents--of all we deal with, of our amazing abilities to cope, of our patience, our resourcefulness and our unwaivering love of our children. We got back in the car, did up everyone's car seats, handed out snacks and created a "fair" radio playlist. Then, we waited for the family in front of us to do their own version of the same. We began to pull out of our spot but stopped when a rogue toddler dashed out into the road. We finally returned home with a car full of tired, hungry, complaining kids. And somehow, it all didn't seem that peaceful anymore.

Maybe it was the Topanga air?

Original LA Moms blog post.

Amanda Rudolph Schwartz is usually a stressed out mom who runs out of patience quickly.

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