For those of you who saw the three-way meltdown that happened today as I tried to get my kids from the school playground to the car: I apologize. We did survive.
Despite the whole house having a terrible night’s sleep due to my daughter’s several budding molars, I tried to be the fun parent. I smiled as my 3 ½-year-old ran through calf-deep muddy water in the playground’s sandbox. My 1 ½-year-old was content to go up and down the steps a thousand times and I was happy to let them play and explore. But when a fine rain began to fall, I decided I had had enough.
Call it my fault for not giving two toddlers the five-minute countdown, but I announced we were leaving and started moving toward the car. I know: amateur move.
After finally getting them both off the playground, every mud puddle between the playground and the car called my son’s name. At least two of those puddles claimed his backpack as well. My strong-willed daughter was insistently moving me in the opposite direction and refusing to be picked up. I felt outmanned and frustrated and fed up.
I hate to be the yelling parent. I hate to be the mom whose kids are blatantly not listening. No matter how many times I tell myself that everyone’s been there, it’s still embarrassing and humbling.
By the time we made it to the parking lot, I realized we had a diaper crisis on top of a mud crisis. When they still wouldn’t cooperate, the last straw broke. I covered the remaining twenty yards with a screaming kid under each arm. Both were stripped clean of their clothes and wrestled into a car seat. By the time I tore out of the parking lot, all three of us were in tears.
Yes, in a moment of weakness, humanity and exhaustion, I cried right alongside my children, all the way home.
There are days when I don’t want to be the mom. Days when I just don’t have the energy to answer questions like, “why is that baby a baby?” and “why won’t my arm come off?” I don’t want to cut grapes in half or make sure the car seat straps are adjusted just right or read one more book or put on shoes or wipe butts. (Oh, the wiping of butts.)
Some days I just want to throw my hands in the air and quit.
In the throes of our family meltdown, as we collectively sobbed our way home, my son — my little empath — quietly talked to himself in the back seat.
“You has to calm yourself down. Just keep trying and don’t give up. You has to just calm yourself down.”
“You’re just the best mommy ever. You has to calm yourself down because I love you and you’re the best mommy. Can I give you a hug when we get home?”
It’s just not possible to be “the best mommy ever” every single day. But I don’t think I failed them completely today. I believe it’s good for kids to see their parents having emotions. In our house, we talk about our feelings and let our kids see that we’re human.
Some of my best moments with my kids have come from me talking to them honestly and telling them that I make mistakes.
Now, just a couple hours after our little Armageddon, both kids are sleeping peacefully in their rooms. Although my son has “quiet time” every day, he only naps sporadically, so this is a rare treat.
Somehow, it makes everything better. Just a couple hours off is enough to make the question answering and grape cutting and seat belt adjusting and book reading and shoe installing and butt wiping — yes, even the butt wiping — amenable.
It certainly has its challenges, but I love having young children. I love being the center of their universe, the kisser of their boo-boos, the person with the answers to life’s questions. I love their little bed heads in the morning; their sleepy hugs at night. I love watching them play and seeing how much they’re learning every single day. And when they play together? My heart positively melts.
Parenting broke me today. But my kids fixed me. Maybe that’s what it’s all about.