– Column by Amie Jay
This morning I was up at 1 a.m. with a shrieking four-year-old in the throes of a monster-themed nightmare. Then 2 a.m. with the six-year-old, 3:15 when the three-year-old wet the bed, again at 4 and 5:45. And finally, up for the day at 6:30.
I’m exhausted and immediately bombarded by tiny, bopping balls of energy. There’s fighting, tantrums, screaming. And poop. So much freaking poop. Oh, and the demands.
“I don’t cereal! I want tooooooast! Get me apples! No! I meant apple juice!”
One thing at a time. Breakfast. Timeouts. Screaming toddler. Fighting brothers. More timeouts. More screaming. And coffee! Wait, I forget to hit the grocery store. Does tea have enough caffeine in it?
And then there is a moment of peace, where nobody is crying. It’s the perfect time to sneak off and pee. Alone.
Cue mid-mommy-pee meltdown. The shrieks are reverberating off the grubby tile walls. Can I wipe?
Shoving shirts over snotty faces and grubby feet into tiny socks. Taking a blow from a Lego block to the side of the head. Fighting off the urge to cry. Our day is progressing in varying degrees of craziness. Somehow I manage to scarf down icy (possibly snotty) leftover scrambled eggs and banana. How am I not skinny yet?
We have to get out of this house before I sell my children.
Two of them are shoved into the shopping cart. The 3-year-old won’t stop pulling the 4-year-old’s hair, who won’t stop shouting at the littlest in response. The 5-year-old starts lecturing about yelling, making the 4-year-old cry which in turn makes the toddler cry. It’s time for candy bribes – which I know will only make it all worse but I just need to get through the toilet paper aisle without caving in to the urge to crawl into the stacks of two-ply and disappear.
Candy bars in hand I take my opportunity. Rushing to the till, eyeing the lineup, knowing my window of Cadbury harmony is limited.
A kind looking woman in her mid-fifties is in line ahead of us. She winks at the 4-year-old and flirts with the youngest.
“Such sweet boys you have! Oh, and all so close together. It must be such fun! Enjoy these times, Mama. They pass by so quickly.” And with a twinkle in her eye, she turns and carries on with her peaceful day.
Enjoy it? Is she kidding me? How about I throat punch you and see if you enjoy it?
The pressure is relentless. Keep the house tidy, keep up with the laundry, cook healthy meals, stimulate growing brains. Nurture them, comfort them, care for them. Hold it all together, repair those separated abdominal muscles, keep it spicy for the hubby, call your friends back and shame on you for whining about it! And now I have to enjoy it?
Like I need another thing to feel guilty about.
Obviously, this wise grocery guardian is a mother and has grown children. No sane person with three small kids would ever insinuate enjoyment in my daily situation. Love? Absolutely. Sporadic moments of joy so intense that it feels like my entire chest is going to explode open? Every day.
But enjoyment, definitely not the word I would use.
My inner dialogue has gotten so intense that I don’t even notice the silence in my minivan. I peek at my rearview and see three, little blonde cherubs. Their chubby faces slumped against their car seats, their long lashes fanned across their cheeks.
How are they so perfect when they sleep?
The mom-guilt sets in. Why do I have to worry about the dishes, laundry and the stupid gluten-free, sugar-free muffins? Why can’t I just enjoy it?
The grocery store stranger knows what my day has been like. I’m almost positive she has lived many like it herself. She reflected in these quiet moments, just as I am, and wished for better. The next day she would ignore the jam smears, and roll around on the grubby floor instead. She would let the dishes pile high, leave the laundry crinkled in the corner and create new grass stains with her people. The people that mean more than any of the other things on a mother’s plate.
Dirt is patient, but time never slows.
She is me in five, 10, 15, 20 years. She is my reflection and my reminder.
I will miss the chaos. And I can only hope, when it comes down to it, that they know that I tried my best. I may not have always been the most patient, the most playful or the most present.
But when they had scraped knees or hurt feelings they got cuddles and kisses. At the end of the day, they got my heart and my dedication.
All of that being said, if I find myself wrinkly and rockin’ some old lady Pampers, these little stinkers better have my back!
Mommy’s Inside Voice is a weekly column by Amie Jay, a local mother of three.