Writing about it won't do that day justice. I am sure of that. Only me, Aaron, Clark, and any other innocent bystander at the Neshoba County Fair can truly understand what went down. But I will try my best to describe the day through the eyes of a mom who will never judge another parent whose child is acting a fool again.
Let me start by saying that we shouldn't have even considered taking Clark to the fair. The week had been pretty rough on him because Aaron was taking the Bar and life pretty much flip flopped upside down as a result. But I am a selfish human being, I love the Neshoba County Fair, and I convinced myself that Clark would defy nature and be a good boy against all odds. I even went to Kroger the night before and bought a Melmo (Elmo) backpack and stuffed it with little distractions that I could disperse throughout the day, like stickers, little cars, snacks, etc. I patted myself on the shoulder at my own brilliance.
Why did I not just listen to the little voice in my head that was repeatedly shouting, "DON'T DO IT, KELLY. JUST DON'T DO IT!" Hindsight is 20/20.
We had to be at the fair by 9:30 which meant we had to leave our house no later than 7:30 to make it on time. The reason we had to be there so early was because one of our friends is running for state treasurer and we desperately wanted to support him while he gave a political speech. I was optimistic throughout the morning because Clark was being his charming little self and going with the flow while Aaron and I got ready. Even the hour and a half drive to the fair was quite nice thanks to Melmo and friends. But not even 12 seconds after we parked in the muddy slush of a parking lot in Neshoba County, Clark freaked out on us and didn't stop freaking out until approximately 2:29 in the afternoon when we left.
I don't know what happened, honestly. My first of many mistakes was bringing his little umbrella stroller. I thought he would enjoy the stroll and it would make life a tad bit easier on everybody. WRONG. He wanted nothing to do with riding in it, but everything to do with pushing it himself. This probably seems harmless, right? Well the first 15 minutes of letting him steer was annoying but we tolerated it just fine. Until we got to the very crowded stage area where all of the political candidates were giving their speeches. It was there that Clark started uncontrollably steering the stroller straight into everyone's ankles, and every time I tried to redirect him, he would throw the most obnoxious tempter tantrum I had ever seen in the history of Clark Rice. It was horrible. Not to mention that at some point in the middle of it all, Aaron and I lost each other, so I was dealing with Clark, the runaway stroller, carrying an Elmo backpack and another huge backpack that must have had bricks in it because it progressively got heavier and heavier with every step I took.
And the weather...oh my. Neshoba County Fair weather deserves an honorable mention because not only is it 104,000 degrees in the shade, but it drizzles a very annoying rain every 10 minutes. And unless you have the hair of a greek goddess (and somehow there were quite a few there and I wanted to punch them all in the face), there is no chance for a decent appearance after you've been there for even five minutes.
So anyway, Aaron and I got separated and somehow Clark and I ended up behind the stage area where all of the candidates were preparing to give their big speeches. You can imagine where I am going with this. It was not embarrassing at all when Clark had a rather unfortunate encounter with Sec. of State Delbert Hoseman. He tried to push his stroller up a steep hill where the Secretary was standing and Clark refused to go around him, so he just tried to plow straight through him. The Secretary was polite and gave him a little smile but Clark could not have been a bigger turd about it. He started screaming at a painfully high decibel and when I tried to pick him up and remove him from the situation, he stiffened his entire body and threw himself on the dirt ground and started screaming some more. Repeat this scenario with two gubernatorial candidates and at least two Sec. of State candidates and you can imagine how that hour at the fair went. What I should have done at this point was take him straight to the car and drive at a very fast pace back home but it didn't even cross my mind. I finally found Aaron after what seemed like 12 hours and made it clear to him that if he left our side again, I would punch him in the face. There was a lot of figurative punching of faces at the NCF that day.
There is a very long standing tradition of going to a friends' cabin and having a fabulous lunch after the governor gives his speech. I was sure that food would be the solution to all of Clark's problems and maybe after a big meal, he would snap out of it and go back to being his sweet, happy little self. The lunch experience was about as pleasant as chewing on glass. I had packed a lunchable for Clark and he wanted nothing to do with it, and not only did he refuse anything in it, but he would scream "NO NO NO NO" and throw a fit every time we tried to reintroduce food. So basically at this point, he had gone almost six hours without food and zero naps and it was the hottest temps Clark had ever experienced. All of those things do not make for a happy 18 month old.
We decided to call it quits when it started pouring rain and we had had enough of all the nonsense that Clark was throwing at us. There was not even a three minute period throughout the entire day that Clark was happy and that made it impossible for me, Aaron, or anybody who came in contact with us to have a good time. Aaron and I were both completely exhausted after dealing with the little crank all day, and it didn't help that near the end of our adventures, I slipped on some mud and maybe/possibly/probably broke my thumb. Then about 30 seconds after that I got really lightheaded and almost fainted. So that was the cherry on the crap sundae that was our day. The half mile walk back to the car was the longest and most cumbersome thing I might have ever had to do. It was pouring rain. Clark was screaming uncontrollably and refused to walk. He hit whoever was holding him. I was carrying the stroller and the two backpacks and holding back tears. When we got to the car, I rummaged through my trunk to scrounge up any dry clothes I could find so Clark could be comfortable on the ride home, and even though the process of undressing him and changing his diaper in the rain was perhaps the most horrifying thing anyone has ever experienced, it was worth it, because he passed out within 15 seconds of starting the car.
Unfortunately life didn't get better when we got home. The only good thing that happened that entire day was the three hour nap Clark took in the car and at home, but he woke up in the same grouchy mood as before the nap and stayed that way until I put him to bed. I closed his door, walked into my room, closed my door, turned off my phone, and laid in my bed in dead silence for about an hour until I fell asleep.
Clark's first and last Neshoba County Fair was not one of those things that I will look back on and laugh one day. Nothing about it was funny, only horrible. Upon reflection, I have realized that I am not as upset with Clark as I am myself. When I think about yesterday, I feel like I failed as a parent. I was one of those moms with one of those kids who could not control her child. I lost my temper a few times, not in front of anyone, but I am still ashamed of it. I blamed Aaron on things that were not his fault. I didn't do the only thing that would have completely remedied the entire situation, which was to just leave when things started going sour. This was the first time in motherhood that I honestly questioned everything I've ever done regarding raising a child and finally, and most importantly, I felt like I failed Clark. Yes, I was and still am hyperemotional because of the little human being growing in my belly, but yesterday was definitely one to reflect on and figure out what went wrong. And a lot went wrong, my friends. I didn't go into more detail because most of it is just embarrassing and ridiculous, but to put it simply, it was a living nightmare.
Every time I feel the sharp pain in my almost/probably broken thumb, I think about yesterday and how I wish I could just make it all go away. Even today has been difficult with Clark and I believe it is just the after effects of yesterday because it really was that bad.
Or maybe he's teething. That's always an easy way out. I should have just punched somebody in the face. I am confident that would have made me feel better.