The girls melted into the couch. A late night at Grammy's house plus running themselves ragged at the splashpad sapped the very last of their energy reserves, leaving them with glazed eyes and limp limbs.
Natalie poked at the bandaids on her knees. She'd fought a battle with the pavement and the pavement won handily. The scrapes hadn't bothered her at all while we were at the splashpad, but her beyond-tired state elevated her roadrash from minor annoyance to a full-blown medical emergency.
"Mama, I'm so soooooooooooore," she moaned pitifully. "I can't even waaaaaaaaalk."
I made some sympathetic noises and invited her to come to the table for dinner.
"But MAMA," she repeated, louder and more deliberately, "I can't waaaaaaaaalk. Carry meeeeeee."
She stretched out her noodle arms and waited.
Will and I exchanged a glance and stifled a laugh behind our hands. I lifted Natalie up and started to walk towards the table.
"OW OW OW OW OWWWWW!!! YOU'RE HURTING ME!!"
She thrashed wildly so I all but dropped her into the chair. For the five minutes she was at the table she picked at her food, glancing up at us to gauge our reaction after every dramatic sigh and heave of her shoulders.
"I'm too sore to eat, Mama. Carry me to the couch." And again with the noodle arms and huge, expectant eyes.
"You can walk, Natalie. Dad and I are finishing dinner right now." The couch is LITERALLY seven steps from the dinner table, COME ON, CHILD.
Her mouth parted in a little "O" of surprise and her face crumpled in on itself, tears spilling from her eyes. She threw back her head and howled, "NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!"
A hysterical laugh-snort forced its way out before I could stop it. You have got to be kidding me.
Her tears continued as she slid off her chair and started hobbling towards the couch.
"Natawee SAD," Olivia said solemnly, stuffing a handful of cheese into her mouth.
For the rest of the evening, through brushing teeth and putting on pjs and reading books, Natalie never broke character. She never straightened her legs, shuffling around like Dobby the house-elf and moaning about how sore she was. I was half-tempted to give her a sock and see if that would put her out of her misery.
When we finally closed the door to her room and crept back downstairs, Will and I looked at each other and started giggling, the laughter finally bursting from us like an geyser of soda from a fiercely shaken can.
No one tells you this about parenting, that one of your hardest jobs will be keeping a straight face. That your children will bounce wildly back and forth between incredibly sweet and so incredibly ridiculous and frustrating that you have to laugh to stop yourself from just getting in the car and driving away.
As for last night's performance, there's no question: Natalie won the Oscar for Most Convincing Portrayal of Person Whose Legs Are About to Fall Off. I'm still hopeful I have a shot at Most Empathetic Mom Despite Child Clearly Faking It.
Or, barring that, Best Use of Props to Hide Face While Laughing Uncontrollably.