Moms, you are allowed to say that it’s hard

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.

dishes in sink

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. 

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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.

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I’m Really Tired

Hello. My name is Mom. And I am really tired. 

It may sound as though I am just paying lip service to being tired. That I am trying to relate myself to you on some base level, from one mother to another. I can assure you that I am doing neither of those two things. 

As I walked down the stairs this morning and an army of dishes, waiting to be washed, called out to me from the kitchen, I realized that I would have given my left kidney (not the right one, for some reason) to have someone show up and play house for me today. 

Because I am really very, very tired. 

Some parents or people wear “tired” like some sort of badge of honor. They joke about wanting more coffee. They talk about needing “mom time.” They speak of how “frazzled” they are. But then you come to find out that they just ran a 5k marathon, baked 85 gluten free bagels for their kids fundraiser at school, and on occasion moonlight as an aerospace engineer. 

Yea. Tired. Sure you are. 

Then there are us. The very, very tired moms. 

We don’t go on and on about how tired we are. We don’t go on and on about how we feel like we are surely be bleeding from our eyeballs by now. About how we threw cereal bars at our children’s head the other morning, and basically let them fend for themselves for breakfast. 

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Because I am not proud of myself.

Because being tired really means you’re too tired to talk to someone else about how tired you are. 

So, when they ask you “how you are doing?” in an attempt at conversation, and you want to give them the true answer. That you woke up to find the baby’s diaper had leaked everywhere, and then had to rush the oldest child out the door for school because you both spent the morning finishing last night’s homework, and then you caught the dog chewing on your bra (again), you instead just give up and tell them, “fine. I’m fine.” 

I am not proud of myself for leaving the house last night to meet a friend for a bite to eat with food in my hair. Or that I left the house with food in my hair, and then carried on a twenty minute conversation before it was discovered.

I am not proud of the fact that I left my house in a pair of maternity pants last night because that was the most expedient option, though it actually made for a good decision since we were grabbing something to eat at Taco Bell. 

kitchen mess

I want to write a cute post about how tired I am, but that would be disingenuous to you moms (and dads) out there who are really tired. 

There is nothing cute about tired. There is nothing cute about leaning over the edge of the counter with your hands in your hair and just wishing to be somewhere, anywhere else. 

My toddler is feral. She drowned my phone in the bathtub a little over a week ago, and she believes anything that is on the floor is a mountain to be stood on, even at her own peril. I am sure now that she has an invisible third arm that she uses for evil instead of good, and that she believes the floor is lava, and her only hope is to be carried around all day. Carried when she isn’t trying to stand on my dining room table to swing from the chandelier, that is. 

We keep getting notices home from school, threatening the end of the world because children are popping up everywhere with lice. As I was scratching my head against the front door trim this morning, I suppressed a shutter and allowed myself to just not even go there. Because if I do have nits in my hair, my best option, the less painful one, is to just shave my head like Ripley in Alien 3. 

I hate that when I log onto Facebook, and I see people with photos of their vacation, their overnight stay at a Bed and Breakfast, or their Sunday spent playing video games because it’s raining outside, that I die a little on the inside. That I become incensed. 

I hate that sometimes, I think everyone else gets to have a life except for me. That is, a life free from the threat of lice, the perils of bra-chewing-dogs, and mornings spent only being obligated to wake yourself up and wrestle pants on to yourself.  

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There isn’t a way to make it all better. You don’t want anyone to say anything to you when you’re feeling this worn out. There is nothing they can actually say. 

You want someone to give you a blankey, a cup of warm milk and to send you off to bed. There is no way to talk yourself into feeling better when life is like this. There is only waiting for things to start to resemble a normal existence, the hope that one day, things will either change, or you will change and be able to cope better with what life is throwing at you. In this case, lice. 

The truth is that we are tired because we are fighting the good fight. We are doing work. 

This is not necessarily thrilling work, unless you count the thrill of discovering that your youngest child now knows how to unlock the back door. This is not luxurious work, unless you can sort of count that yogurt your toddler threw at your face as a facial. 

But this is good work. 

We are tired because we are doing good work. Kind of like Batman. He didn’t have the help of being a demi-god in a red cape. Sure, he had billions of dollars and a butler. But he is human. He bleeds just like us. 

So, we can rest a tiny bit easier know that we are sort of like Batman. 

Just whisper to yourself “I am the night,” when things get real, parents. 

Onward. 

 

You will never regret that you did

It was dark, but I could still see my daughter staring at me in the quiet of her room.

Her eyes beamed like silent question marks in the stillness, her toothy smile like sunshine. 

I could tell she was both surprised and delighted that I was in her room, rocking her. Normally, she would have long since been in her bed, listening to her glowing seahorse sing her to sleep.

Not that night.

Every once in a while, I get this urge to insert myself into my children’s bedtime routine.  Normally, I take the “give me a quick kiss and hug, and then please go up the stairs with your father because it’s after 9 p.m., and I’m ready to be done with this whole circus,” stance during the witching hour. 

Any other moms feel me?? I struggle with bedtime.

I struggle to be involved. I struggle to be loving. Mostly, I struggle to be patient. Oy, with the patience stuff.

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By the time the evening is through, I’m spent. My children, however, still have questions about the moon or speed walking (true story) or any other obscure and random topic that children might want to talk about in order to stave off going to bed. The tax code? Sure, anything but bedtime, mom.

At bedtime, all I see are the remains of the day, and the leftover dinner on the table, and dishes in the sink, and toys scattered in every corner of the house. I can’t rest until my house doesn’t look like the set of The Walking Dead. I’m ready to sit down with sugary snack and bathe in the neon glow of the television.

Only last night, I felt this tiny pull in my heart to slow down. To walk up the stairs with them, and be the one to pull the covers up to their chins. I felt like I needed to pause and make the time for them instead of running around trying to restore order to the house. 

No, it wasn’t carbon monoxide poisoning making me woozy. It was me feeling sentimental. Well, it was the sentimental pull and because the husband asked me to handle the last phase of bedtime so that he could go and take care of a few things.

So it was half out of heart, half out of necessity. Which, I’m ashamed to admit, is more than it usually is. 

I coaxed my still completely energetic children toward the stairs, trying to breathe in a bit of sanity as I encouraged myself to be patient, and, most importantly, not hurry this last part up. The baby was already in her bed; all that remained were the older two. I can do this, I told myself repeatedly

We three raced up the stairs together, and they both plunked excitedly down on their beds. They asked for books. For toys. They were doing better than they might normally have during this part. In a surprising turn of events, no one asked me to go back downstairs for a forgotten item. 

Dare I say it??: We had FUN.

My daughter and I began a game of peekaboo. My son soon joined in. Before long, they were both squealing with delight at my funny faces, and from my tickling and they were thinking that mom is actually okay at this fun stuff. This was all much to the displeasure of the toddler in the other room, who was unhappy to be left out of all the fun.

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I heard her cry for me through the wall, and I announced to my older children that the party was over. Before I left the room, and turned off the light, we prayed together. We smiled at one another one more time.

Bonne nuit,” they told me. 

J’taime,” I whispered back with a heart so full I thought it was going to bust.

It was the first time they had beaten me to the punch, and uttered goodnight to me before I closed the door.  

The baby had grown quiet again, and the temptation to head downstairs and slip into a pair of leggins and supplant myself in front of the tv with a bowl of cereal was high. So, so high.

Instead, I shifted to the left of their room and headed down the hallway toward the baby’s room.

I gently cracked open the door to my youngest daughter’s room, and quietly tiptoed over to the side of her bed.

She smiled when she saw me, but kept her head nuzzled down in her blankets. I sat beside her crib, and reached through the slats to stroke her hair. We stayed like that for a while, she with a sideways smirk and eyes that became heavy. Me, rocking on a squeaky ottoman, staring at her.

Every time this happens, I am amazed that I constantly forget. I forget that they make magic just by being children.

We ended up in the rocking chair together. Every few minutes, she would lift her head up off my chest to look me in the eyes and rub my face in quiet elation that I was in her room with her during one of her most precious hours.

Bedtime is such an important time for children. In fact, everything is important to them, if you didn’t already know (you totally did.)

From the artwork done at school that is now hanging on the fridge, to the lost toy they won at the carnival last year that you’re pretty sure you threw away, it’s all a big deal. Their little hearts make room for so many things. And all of those things are of the utmost importance.

Bedtime is an especially big deal for them.  

They lay there in the quiet and decompress from their day, just the same as we do. And  when that happens, the thoughts tumble out. Which is why my daughter and I were talking about speed walking the other day. Or why my son and I talk about dinosaurs or heaven or any other myriad of topics you could think of. 

The funny thing is that for as much as I struggle with bedtime and want to detach myself from it, each time I make a point to lay my children down to sleep and not hurry through, and instead to savor those last remains of the day, I never regret it. 

I do regret, though, that they don’t ask for me like they used to at bedtime. They used to ask their father to leave the door open for me in the hopes that I would come up one more time and say goodnight to them. They used to need me a lot more at bedtime than they do now. They actually used to need me for a lot more than they do now. And many times, I am so closed off and spent that they don’t get anywhere near the best of me. 

 How I forget, though, that not only are they, but I am blessed too when I choose to offer my children the largest portions of my time, my day and my heart. 

In fact, each time I make a conscious decision not to rush through the day or submit to a checklist, I am all the better for it. Every time I make my children a priority, every time I offer them my best, I am making the tiniest step towards choosing joy. I am showing them that they are mine and that I love them wholeheartedly, they way that they love everything and everyone in their lives. 

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We all know that this isn’t always practical. There are going to be a lot of things about parenting that you’re going to dislike. Heck, stuff you might even downright loathe. 

You may resent that you have to scrub poop out of the tiles of the bathtub every other day as your toddler goes through a phase of using treating the tub like a toilet. 

You may resent that your children come right behind you and make a mess, an entirely different mess, right after you have just cleaned. 

You may intensely dislike scraping play-doh out of the carpet, or wiping spaghetti strains off of the wall. 

You may always feel like you are struggling through math or spelling homework even more than your child with a bad attitude is. 

You may hurt beyond belief some days, but still have to put both feet on the floor and do the very best that you can. 

You may feel like no one sees you, no one appreciates you, no would cares about any of those ridiculous things that you have to do.

You may have a ton of feelings about parenting, some of them negative, at a hundred different times during the day. But you will never be able to say that you regret parenting. 

There is a lot in your life that you will regret.

Skinny jeans. Chunky blonde highlights. Platform shoes. That Spice Girls c.d. you bought in high school. Saying no when you could have said yes, or vice versa. Not putting yourself out there enough. Not stopping to do something kind for a stranger or a person you loved. Bitter words tumbling out of your mouth. 

There is a lot in my life that I regret. 

Parenting my children isn’t one of them. 

One day, my children are going to know that they were worth someone’s time. In fact, they were worth a lot of someone’s time. They were worth someone forgoing their personal time so that they could be there for the last fifteen minutes they were awake each day. They are going to know that they were worth packing a lunch for every day, and all of those notes on their napkins. 

They are going to know that someone drove them to Cub Scouts, or took the time to whittle wood with them and show them how to throw a baseball. They are going to know that they mattered greatly to someone, which is a gift that many don’t have. 

Parenting might be hard. Every choice that you make and follow through with might be excruciatingly difficult. Like home schooling. Or disciplining. Or coaching their softball league. Or volunteering to make cupcakes for their class at school. Or laying in their bed with them after a nightmare. 

It’s difficult work that requires basically everything you can give. 

And you will never regret that you did. 

 

 

p.s. I actually don’t regret that Spicegirls album. Can we still be friends?