When I wrote this post last Friday, I asked Jax what words he would use to describe our day that day and he said, “Happy and Bad.” True that, little guy.
As I write this, I am sitting amid a toy graveyard: blocks, tools, books, babies, plastic food, Powerwheels, and dollhouse furniture that has been cast aside during this never-ending morning, surrounding me like a halo of weariness. All the energy I had for today has already been sucked out due to a magically-refilling laundry basket that seems to never get any emptier, no matter how many loads I do, and a craft that left my nerves raw and my fuse very short.
Oh, excuse me for a moment. Bleeding child. Must tend to his wounds.
And I’m back, and oh, isn’t that just the perfect example of how this day is going? Jax came over to show me his makeshift pinata that he made out of a plastic nail and a not-so-plastic toy measuring tape, when I saw some red smears on his hands. Please let that be from the craft, please let that be from the craft… Nope. Not one but two cuts on his hands from his little metal measuring tape (now in the trash). I had to chase him back to the scene of the crime before he’d let me examine his cuts, and it was then that I realized that these wounds have been flowing freely for a little while and that Em’s new dollhouse now looks like the whole Miniature Killer bit on CSI. Bloody point of entry (the side window), smears on the furniture, leading to two victims–the dad and the son. The daughter probably would have been next, but I interrupted the massacre with band-aids and bacitration. Only tetanus could make this day any more exhausting. Sigh. And this is supposed to be his “quiet time.”
Day started off strong with a visit from my parents mid-day on the menu, so I knew I only had to entertain them for four hours or so. I know that sounds terrible, but I was looking forward to some company. Breakfast was uneventful, then I put on Cinderella, started to tackle the laundry and was about to empty the dishwasher when my mother called to say that my dad has a stomach bug and they can’t make it. Sigh. There’s nothing worse than the tease of grandparental supervision (meaning I could shower, put the laundry away, etc. while my kids were happily engaged downstairs without me), only to have it whisked away at the last second. I totally understood that they couldn’t possibly come now, but the first thought in my head was, “Oh, crap, I used up all our TV time already.” Now it’s only 9:30 and I have hours upon hours of quality time with my kiddos with no digital distraction in sight. Damn this Waldorf mentality! I try to keep it to an hour and a half a day (most of it during Em’s naptime), which sounds like a lot, but when you’re planning to be home all day with no break in sight, it’s gone in a flash, believe me.
Okay, so it’s 9:30 and I decide to tackle a craft I discovered on Pinterest–a new time-sucking hobby of mine; feel free to follow me–which was such a headache from start to finish that I instantly regretted the whole thing and wished I had picked PlayDough instead (which says a lot because PlayDough and I get along about as well as PlayDough and our dog-hair-laden rug). It’s a good craft, and it came out pretty in the end, but the process was really dicey and my blood pressure was through the roof. Usually I’m a happy-go-lucky crafter, but today I was being the Craft Nazi and no one was having any fun. Poor Em doesn’t even know what the hell watercolors are for, and I’m trying to give her little 20-month-old brain explicit instructions. Even in the moment I knew I was being unreasonable, but like the Crafty Car Wreck that I can sometimes be, I couldn’t stop. I just kept on getting more and more frustrated and sucking more and more fun out of our morning. At least the kids seemed unfazed, but I could tell that I was being unreasonably grouchy for something I put them up to, not the other way around.
After that, the kids played nicely and independently while I cleaned up craft #1; then to add salt to my wounds, Jax asked if they could play with the stamps and construction paper. I knew I wasn’t in the mood and I should have said no, but I had now two loads of laundry to fold and two antsy little children at my heels. Em is notoriously intolerant of laundry and all its forms–dirty, clean, needing to be folded, needing to be put away. She seeks and destroys my work like its a personal affront to her that I have something to do other than hold her. So I opted for Here’s a snack, here’s some stamps, please let me do something other than entertain you for 20 minutes. No such luck. Dog eats snack, screaming ensues, child climbs on craft table to look out the window, child tries to climb inside the fireplace, child stamps all over any exposed skin. But, laundry gets folded and put away, and I only had to raise my voice forty times. Worth the trade-off? Sure, why not.
Then a five-minute frenzy where I realize Em has diaper rash, I hear a thud then a crash, followed by, “Hey, Mom! I did a pop-a-wheelie and I crashed!” “Are you okay?” I yell back, my hands covered in Desitin. “Yeah, I’m okay but my Power Wheels is broken. That’s okay, I’ll fix it with my tackle box.” Running footsteps, toy box opens, running footsteps, then an explosion of sound as a toy tool box (known as a tackle box around here; who can explain why?) is emptied with enthusiasm all over my kitchen floor. My back stiffens and my shoulders tighten up to my ears as I picture the mess now littering the kitchen, only to be rivaled by the disaster on the living room floor. “Everything okay?” I holler. More footsteps, then my son arrives brandishing a stick I recognize as being part of my drying rack–which is covered in wet towels, mind you. I sigh, go to check out said drying rack, find it bent in half like a little old woman, and just am grateful he didn’t cut off one of his fingers extricating it in the first place. He would rip off another one later that day, but who’s counting? Who needs a drying rack anyway?
By now it’s nearly lunchtime, but not quite yet. Still some time to kill. Upstairs for a bit, where my grumpy heart of stone cracked a little as the kids played so beautifully together: Jax put clips and bows in Em’s hair, they put puzzles together as a team, he showed her how to use the toy cash register. It was all very wonderful. Then lunchtime came and they were wonderful still. I was starting to feel guilty for my grouchy behavior in the morning and vowed to make it up to them. The craft’s finished product actually looked great, after all, and they really have been well behaved, just messy. I apologized to them for having yelled at them before. I explained that sometimes Mommy needs her space, and sometimes Mommy is grouchy, just like anyone else. And Jax’s sweet little face turned to me with an understanding smile and an arms-all-the-way-around hug and said, “It’s all right, Mom. But you can’t yell again. You have to talk and I’ll say, ‘What’s the matter?’ and you say what’s the matter.” Yeah, my son was telling me to use my words and not let my emotions get the best of me. Now, don’t I feel like a total ass.
I brought Em upstairs for nap while Jax continued to “work on” his PowerWheels (it was fine; he just likes to play auto mechanic), and I promised myself I would be a rockstar mom for the rest of the day. I snuggled my little girl as we walked up the stairs, then plopped into her armchair to cuddle together and read. But what did she do? Began hitting me and squirming, saying “No Mama. No chair” and pushed me with all her little strength. Get off my chair, woman. I’m sitting here. Really, Em? Right when I’m trying to make up for a crappy morning, you are relegating me to the floor during story time? I guess I deserved it. She sat there smugly, sucking on her binkie and loving her blankie as I sighed and began to read her a story from my spot on the ground. Then wiggle wiggle plop, she scooted off her chair and plopped herself into my lap to read. And I smiled and was grateful that she loves me no matter how undeserving of that unconditional love I may be.
Back downstairs, checked on Jax who was playing quietly alone (and was about to cut his fingers open on his measuring tape–you see how this comes full circle?), and went to check my Facebook, where I had grumbled about crafting and made a sarcastic comment about being a stay-at-home mom earlier, to find a very smart friend of mine had left me this link with no explanation: Don’t Carpe Diem from the Momastery. I couldn’t have asked for more; you have to read it. It put my day in perspective, and surprisingly, I didn’t feel so guilty about being short-fused earlier in the day. It was like she validated my mommy mania and reminded me that along with being a mom, I’m also human. That being a mother is a privilege but it’s also a lot of work. I was also reminded of the many times today that my kids made my heart smile, and felt like my drama was put into perspective. I was glad that it’s not just me who has her bad days, and thinks that being home with the kids isn’t all roses and fairytales, but just like her, I wouldn’t trade it for anything else. Even with all the potty training and pouting that comes with it.
We all survived the day and just in case you’re wondering, yeah, Jax watched one more half hour of TV during Em’s nap. Girl’s gotta blog out her feelings, right? And you know what? I think we were all better for it, wouldn’t you agree? Tomorrow’s another day and I know that I will be a better mom for having taken the time today to reflect on what I could have done better, and for knowing that I’m not the only one who sometimes feels inadequate and overwhelmed. Thank God for blogging, and for being part of a community that helps me understand myself, and helps me be a better parent. And lets me know I’m not alone.