Are we escaping with our children or from our children? Welcome to ParentalGrit, where we are figuratively going to build a nightmareish house of horrors that must be conquered. For those unfamiliar with the phenomenon of escape rooms, an escape room is a trendy little business offered in most larger cities across the World. The premise, exactly as it sounds, is to escape a room. What an ingenious name. Anyway, you and a group of your friends (most are designed for 2-8 people) get ‘locked’ in a room and have 1 hour to get out. The room, most often themed, contains hidden keys, messages, puzzles, word games, and challenging mysteries all leading to an exit. Each puzzle leads you to the next and on and on until you finally work your way out. I was skeptical before my first Escape Room venture, but it’s actually a heck of a challenge and a good time; it also led me to wonder what an Escape Room might look like parenting-style, so here we are.
First item up is a poopy diaper on the infant that’s given way to a blowout to the outfit. You are down to your last two wipes. Good luck. This is probably the point in the game where I immediately bow out in sheer horror, but how might you conquer this challenge? Use the diaper to clean as much as possible, use the clothes for the second run-through, and hope the final two wipes manage to clean the rest? Perhaps so…or perhaps you have a more creative solution in your mind. Regardless, let’s assume you pass the first challenge.
The next parenting puzzle you need to conquer to escape turns out to be a raging public tantrum. You have no snacks or toys to negotiate with, do you attack the tantrum with honey or vinegar? Sound verbal logic or irritated threats? The choice is yours, but time is ticking on whether you make it out of this escape room in time. You need to squelch the tantrum quickly. Did you make it? Great, now you move into the kitchen area of the room, where you’re met with your children demanding snacks. The drawers and cupboards, however, are bare. It’s nothing but canned and boxed items. If you have a snack-obsessed child like mine, you’re used to the constant whining of I want something else…but here your options are limited. Scrounge through the tuna cans and Hamburger Helper boxes (sans hamburger of course) and see if you can maneuver yourself out of this jam.
You made it? Excellent. Time is running low but it’s off to the next challenge. You have a desperately important presentation at your corporate job in the morning, but a monstrous little teether has kept you up for the duration of the night. You’re running on 40 minutes of sleep and must somehow muster the energy and thoughtfulness to sound somewhat coherent for a professional presentation. Do you meet the demands or forget what you’re talking about halfway through? Do you deliver your speech with fervor or start to drool in a dazed state when someone else is talking? Again, let’s assume you pass this test and continue your journey out.
Time for rapid fire challenges as we near the exit. Next, you’ve got a teenage girl who doesn’t have anything to wear for a special Saturday night out. You’re left with 4 dollars and a teenager who doesn’t do thrift or garage sale items. Where do you go? Next, your youngest child poops in the bathtub with an older sibling…you have 90 seconds to clear the kids and the tub. Finally, it’s puberty time. And the next 17 challenges arise from all the lovely experiences that are possible to endure during this phase.
Did you make it out? Trick question! Nobody ever makes it out of the parenting escape room. No matter how successful we elude one situation, it is quickly replaced with something even more daunting. The Parenting Escape Room is a room within a room within a room within a room. I sometimes feel invincible when overcoming the insanity of one phase of parenthood, only to be immediately humbled shortly thereafter. It is an absolute maze we navigate through as parents and there truly isn’t any ‘escape’; there are, however, plenty of victories along the way and the overwhelming joy that coincides with walking that journey alongside your children.