When Bebo, my younger brother, proposed to his girlfriend Anna, they asked my 4-year-old and my 2-year-old to be flower girls. The girls were as thrilled as I was terrified.
Eight flower girls were in the wedding. Bebo and Anna had asked all of their nieces (who were capable of walking) to participate. With that many kids involved, someone was bound to make a spectacle of themselves, and I had 50 bucks riding on one of mine.
My brother and his fiancée assured me that if my children decided to bail at the last minute, it would be fine. This was kind of them, but I wasn't worried about my children deciding not to walk down the aisle. I was paralyzed with fear to think about what they would do as they walked.
In the weeks before the wedding, I spent hours covering proper flower-girl etiquette: Keep your hands to yourself; walk slowly; don't throw your flowers or your basket at anyone; and stand quietly beside Mommy. On our way to the rehearsal, we reviewed flower-girl protocol, and Aubrey and Emma recited the rules. I soon learned I hadn't taken into account a few gray areas.
The wedding was held at Children's Harbor on Lake Martin (Alexander City, Ala., 334-857-2133). The wedding party was standing at a point overlooking the lake and facing the cutest little chapel you've ever seen. As we began our first run-through, I braced myself for unprecedented flower-girl behavior.
Aubrey, my 4-year-old, walked down the aisle keeping her hands to herself and her head up. She walked right past the wedding party and the minister to the shore of the lake. She began picking up boulders and throwing them into the lake. I don't mean small stones. I mean she had to use both hands and lift with her legs to throw them in the lake with a loud "kerplunk."
My 2-year-old, Emma, walked down the aisle holding her crotch a la Michael Jackson the entire way. She did not follow her sister to the water's edge at first, but came and stood beside me just as she had been instructed—for 30 seconds. Just long enough to lift my knee-length dress over her head and up to my bra line. I grabbed my dress, shoved it down in a panic, and looked up just in time to see the father of the bride doubled over with laughter and pointing me out to a few other family members.
As I scolded Emma, I heard my sister yell, "Oh, Aubrey! No!" I turned around just as Aubrey picked a piece of neon-green chewing gum off a rock. It had already been chewed and had melted in the summer sun.
She stretched it up toward her, and the gum turned into a long, stringy, sticky comet. I rushed to her side to help her, before it wrapped itself around her in the wind. As I picked the threads of gum off her hand, Aubrey decided to "help" me by biting and licking off stray spots of someone else's gum.
The bridesmaids, bless their young and childless hearts, kept saying over and over: "They are so cute! Aw, how precious!" If seeing my children at the wedding rehearsal wasn't good birth control for these girls, I'm pretty sure they are beyond all help.
We spent the evening vigorously cramming for the next day's events.
"Emma, are you going to play in the lake tomorrow?" I asked in my best "you'd-better-act-right" Mommy voice.
"No, Momma. I not."
"Are you going to throw rocks in the lake?"
"Yip, I will, Momma."
"What did you say?"
She giggled and covered her hand with her mouth: "I jest kidding, Momma! I not frow wocks. I not. I dwop my petals and stand wichu, and dat's all, Momma."
I turned to Aubrey and asked, "What are you going to do tomorrow?"
"I'll walk down the aisle veeerrry slow-ly and drop my petals veeeeerry gent-el-ly."
We went through our game plan repeatedly. My nursing bra was all but hanging out of my bridesmaid's dress, and my Spanx was cutting off my circulation. It was going to be all I could do at the wedding to keep my bra inside my dress, suck it in and stand on a grassy incline in heels—the last thing I needed was to have to fish one of my kids out of the lake.
We had brunch the day of the wedding. As we walked to the clubhouse, I once again admonished the girls to be on their very best behavior.
"What is brunch, Momma?" Aubrey asked.
"It's a very fancy breakfast.
"Ooooo, like Fancy Nancy?"
"Just like that! We have to use our fanciest manners. OK, girls?"
They were perfect—angels in seersucker and hair bows. They put their linen napkins in their laps, said please and thank you, and Aubrey even admonished my mother once, saying: "Shuggie! Don't talk with food in your mouth."
I was impressed and terrified. I knew these were not my children, and at any minute, we could begin a downward spiral that would end in certain death—or at least in me having to leave the wedding in the middle of the ceremony.
Inevitably, one of the girls had to use the potty, so I rounded up my herd and headed to the ladies room. There were two stalls. I sent Aubrey into one and Emma into the other and waited. When Aubrey was finished, I went in to use the restroom myself, leaving the stall door cracked so I could keep an eye on them.
Aubrey was washing her hands when Emma finished. Emma could reach the soap, but she was too short to reach the sink.
"Aubrey," I said. "Pick Emma up and help her wash her hands."
Aubrey reached around Emma's waist to give her a boost and Emma freaked out.
"Nooooooooo! I do it by myself!" she screamed.
"Put her down, Aubrey," I said with a sigh. "I'll help her in a second."
Aubrey curled up into a fetal-position ball at the base of the sink, looked up at Emma and said: "Here you go, Emma. You can just step on my back. Go ahead, step on me."
I watched as Emma giggled and stepped onto Aubrey's seersuckered back to rinse her hands. I took this display of sisterly love and teamwork as a good omen. Maybe I wasn't going to be completely humiliated at the wedding.
I was close to a full-on panic attack before the wedding. I continued to review our rules with a few additions: No doing the pee-pee dance down the aisle; no playing with someone else's chewing gum; no throwing boulders into the lake; and please, please, for the love of everything that is good and holy, no showing the wedding guests Mommy's underwear.
I wondered if a member of the bride's family might have slipped a sedative into their orange juice at brunch, because their wedding performance went off without a hitch. No rocks, no gum, and (there is a God in heaven) no flashing my Britney at the wedding guests.