Harper was a little mother hen, watching over the other children so carefully. Any time someone wandered a foot out of her comfort zone, she'd tsk at them and herd them back to the fold. Four kids under the age of three was a freaking handful, but that little drill sergeant was doing a fine job.
Alice was pregnant and due at any time, and she wanted a girls' day. They were doing girly spa treatments and things I didn't understand before getting some Christmas gift wrapping done. That left Jasper, Emmett, and me taking the kids for the day, and Dad volunteered to come with us and give us a hand, since the adults were otherwise outnumbered.
There was a play area that we were heading to so the kids could run around and get out some of the squirming. It was insane how much wiggling a two year old and one year old could do, but they were practically desperate to get out of the stroller at this point. It was cold, so I wanted to move indoors for coffees and hot chocolates, but this needed to come first.
"Day! Day!" Lucy shouted, kicking her legs against the stroller in her excitement. She hadn't yet mastered the word daddy.
"Hold on there, princess. Let me unbuckle you both." I got them both out of their mobile prison and made sure they were steady on their feet before standing back and watching them toddle off to the small plastic slide.
"All right, big man. Let's go." I watched Emmett set his son down, and Garrett clapped his hands and bounced on his knees but didn't go anywhere. He wasn't entirely steady on his little feet yet, so Emmett took his hand and led him to the other kids.
"How in the hell do you do it, man?"
I looked over at Jasper as he stood next to me. "Do what?"
"Wrangle two of them? I'm so nervous about having a baby again, much less a fast three year old and a baby."
"There's no FM 6-22, soldier. You figure it out as you go along." He merely raised his eyebrow at me. "That's a leadership training manual for the United States Army."
"Well, there should be a goddamn manual. I've probably already ruined Harper for life. She's gonna need therapy, man." He shook his head. "I've seen her female bits more times than I'd care to count. Maybe I'm the one that needs therapy," he muttered.
"I guarantee you helping her in the bathroom will not cause long-lasting damage to either of you." I tried not to laugh. "Alice still doesn't want to know if this one's a boy or a girl?"
"No, and she's still determined to name a boy Jasper, Jr." He rolled his eyes and looked at me. "I don't want to saddle a kid with this ancient name, man."
I rolled my eyes right back. "Yeah, 'cause Edward is such a modern name."
"That's exactly why you named your boy Jack. Easy to spell and pronounce."
I barked out a laugh. "He's Jackson Charles, which is slightly more complicated. We named our firstborn after Jack Daniels, since that's what Bella called me when she didn't know my name. That's not exactly classy."
"I don't think I knew that," he mused. "Well, we covered a writer and a fictional character in one go."
"Day!" my princess called. I headed over to help Lucy down the slide, followed by Garrett. Emmett was at the bottom of the short slide in case they couldn't stand up without help.
"Good job, guys!" Emmett cheered. He was hands-down the best father I'd ever known. He was fully engaged, he applauded every small success, and he was the first to crawl around on the floor with the little ones. Rose was a lucky lady.
"So, Christmas at your house this year?" Emmett commented.
"Come one, come all. Bella is determined to cook and decorate like we're on the movie set of White Christmas. I've tried to help, but she just about slaps my hand away. I'm relegated to toddler duty instead, which is for the best if we're being honest. Renée is going to help."
"Harper!" my dad yelled, and I turned around in time to see her jump off the top of a springy dinosaur.
Jasper took her aside and spoke to her in undertones while Dad joined me and Emmett. "That one is going to give her parents apoplexy before kindergarten."
"Maybe it's time for milk and cookies for them, and strong coffee for us."
"I want the milk and cookies!" Emmett shouted.
I shook my head at him and we rounded up our ragtag lot to get them indoors. Pink noses and cheeks warmed up and evened out, and we agreed it was pretty much time to head out. It was exhausting to wrangle all of our children on an outing, but it was worth it. Especially when they all went down for naps as soon as we got home and we earned major points with our grateful wives.