Somewhere, around 9 a.m. this morning, I decided that I wanted to give up.
Or rather, I couldn’t decide if I wanted to give up so much as I didn’t know if it was even worth the effort to actually try today.
I had forgotten about my son’s weekly club meeting that he went into school early for on Thursdays, and he sat crumpled on my lap with tears running down his face because he would be missing out.
Even though he was over it and laughing and shouting, “after a while, crocodile!” to my, “see you later, alligator!!” as he boarded the school bus a half an hour later, I couldn’t shake my guilt.
Shortly after his departure both of his sisters were bustling about downstairs. The imminent approach of turning two has turned my toddler into a brash little person as of late. She screams if she isn’t allowed to sit on our dining room table and take bites out of every single shining red gala apple in the fruit bowl. Even if that supposed apple is actually an onion.
I never thought that produce would be the bane of my existence.
Before long, my dear children had turned the dining room (that I had just cleaned for company the night before) into a kinetic sand desert. Meanwhile, I stood in the kitchen and struggled to keep my eyes open and my wits about me despite the unfolding chaos.
Later, I loaded my children into the van under the pretense of going to the grocery store…which was conveniently located across the way from a Dunkin Donuts. The car smelled like old yogurt, and it wasn’t long before a saw a purple sippy cup poking out from beneath the seat with what I was sure was filled with verifiable toxic waste.
Our trip to town probably looked like an incredibly normal sight to any passersby. A mom, out at the store with her children on a spring day.
I reluctantly let my four year old push a child-sized shopping cart around the store. Don’t get me wrong, such an invention is adorable and gives my children something fun to do while shopping with me. It’s just that now, the shins of everyone else in the store are in imminent risk of a severe bruising.
As we navigated around the turns around the end of each aisle, she almost unintentionally plowed into an elderly lady pushing a cart full of fig newtons. Because of course she did.
We excused ourselves, and thankfully, the lady was gracious and friendly about it. She even thought the scene was funny, and went on about her business. In the meantime, I thought I was going to have a stroke at the thought of my daughter with windswept hair potentially maiming the ankles of every adult in close proximity.
We arrived at Dunkin Donuts, and I am not going to lie, my donut was gone in under a minute. I waited for my coffee to cool while my thoughts knocked back and forth loudly in my skull.
I feel so alone in all that I do sometimes.
My kids sure as heck don’t see me. I mean really see me.
They don’t see that it takes three or four trips to load everyone and everything into the car when they ask me to about face and go back inside to fetch the toy they have forgotten.
They don’t see that I’m carrying a toddler strapped into a carseat, a purse and a diaper bag strung across the front of me when they ask me if I can carry their bottle of gatorade.
They don’t see my face as I wince when they tell me that they don’t like the dinner that I spent the last hour making.
Nobody sees that sometimes, this just isn’t what I want to do.
Nobody sees how thankless, frustrating and degrading being a stay at home parent is. I mean really is.
The little old ladies at the store, bless their hearts, don’t see me either. This morning looked mundane to them as I plastered a patient smile across my face and sucked it up in a devout effort to keep my cool, all while keeping thoughts of coffee in the back of my mind the way that a rat keeps the wedge of cheese in the back of his mind as he navigates around the corners of a maze.
This all feels like a maze, with no wedge of cheese. It doesn’t end.
And it’s ridiculous.
Sometimes, I think I make myself lonelier because I’m reticent to talk about how difficult it is, or because I don’t think that someone else will understand. Because when I do, I’m sometimes invariably met with similar responses.
Of how I should just enjoy myself.
Of how I should breathe in every single moment as if it could be my last.
Of how I should hang in there, have faith and choose joy.
Of how lucky I am to be doing what I am doing.
Let me just tell you that sometimes? There is no “just” anything when you are a parent.
There is no choosing joy when the dog has done number two on the carpet in the dining room (again), and the baby has found it with the bottom of her feet and tracked it everywhere.
Sometimes, there is no enjoying myself when I am scraping bits of old food out of the corners of tupperware containers that were left for too long in the back of the fridge.
Sometimes, I don’t feel so lucky when I forget about my son’s Lego club meeting, and he’s crying in my lap as I try to tell him how sorry I am, but daddy and I were so tired that we both just…forgot.
A lot of the time, parenting is getting the rawest end of the deal imaginable. Because you can’t automatically fix it, or get over it or deal with it and move on. Those long days wear on you like a weight on your shoulders.
Sometimes, the best we can do is make the choice to choose joy afterwards.
Like, when I’m sitting in my white rocking chair on the front porch, processing the day and trying to remember that there is still so much good in what I do, even if I didn’t notice it while it was happening.
Sometimes, I feel joy when they are finally tucked into bed and the dishwasher is humming out in the kitchen, and I remember that I am doing all of this for very noble reasons.
Until then, we have to be honest with ourselves.
We cannot choose joy, I mean really choose joy, without acknowledging how flipping hard all of this is. The difficulty makes the joy taste that much sweeter. We have to remove the feelings of guilt when we finally admit to ourselves just how terrible the terrible two’s are, or how awful cold and flu season is, and believe that it actually is okay to label them as such.
Sometimes, we need to give ourselves, and other parents, the breathing room to have crappy days. We need to stop treating mothers like the anti-Christ when she’s miserable because her Thursday isn’t going so hot.
There are days that this calling is difficult because my children are crazy, donut-obsessed tiny people who want what they want, when they want it and will scream or cry or whine or ask a thousand and one times until they get it.
You could also say that this task is so, so difficult because I’m not always worthy or conscious of this sacred calling, and I don’t see it for how beautiful and incredible it is.
Neither answer is wrong.
And neither answer is entirely correct, either.
And yet somehow, even though there are days when the sky is falling, everything turns out okay in the end.
At least, that’s what I’m guessing. Kids don’t turn into adults who carry the remote control around in their underpants, right?
Gosh, I hope not.