I’m into this mothering thing five years deep now. I realize that’s not very long in the grand scheme of things, but it’s definitely long enough to realize someone really messed with me. There are days when I’m certain the cameras are rolling, the crew is just behind the corner, and at any minute I’m going to be presented with a surprise check of one billion dollars for being a unknowing contestant on Boiling Point: Mom Edition.
Ever seen that show? It’s a prank reality show where an unknowing bystander’s patience is tested in a situation that would make most people lose their minds: slow service, rude waiter, you get the idea. If the person doesn’t completely lose their cool and start spewing hate, they win money. I have those days—ahem, those moments, I mean. Those moments when you need to hide in the pantry and count to 10 while inhaling cookies because if you don’t, you might rip your clothes off and run down the street because…kids. Or, I pretend that I’ll win money if I don’t choose streaking through the neighborhood as a my coping mechanism. Win-win.
The obvious problem with this is that no one ever jumps out from behind the corner screaming, “YOU DID IT!” and my bank account still doesn’t overflow with my hard-earned cash winnings. So what gives? We moms are just supposed to be calm, cool, and collected for FREE? Well, that sucks.
Nobody told me it would be this challenging. Nobody warned me about these Boiling Point days when we announced our pregnancy, when we were unwrapping cute little onesies and burp cloths. Why? Why do we do this to poor, unsuspecting parents-to-be? It would be such a downer, amiright? It would look something like this…
“Hey, friend. Here are some burp cloths that you will use to clean vomit off the floor of your car and probably your hair. Don’t bother putting them on your shoulder while you rock that adorable little human to sleep because the vomit will completely miss the cloth and only hit the chair. Mmmkay, good luck.” Now THAT would be solid advice worth keeping, but that’s not mentioned. There’s truth and then there’s the real truth.
I have good kids. That’s the real truth. But, with a five- and two-year-old, there are definitely days that I swear I’ve been babysitting forever and their real mother should be here any minute. Take, for instance, lunch at Chipotle two weeks ago. My kids eat out a lot (they think it’s a treat when we eat at home), so this experience was not expected. But anyway, I decide to take both kids out to eat alone at noon on a Friday afternoon. OK, not my best work, I’ll admit, but I was craving Chipotle so off we went. I park the car, and my son instantly says, “No ‘Potle. NO. No out of car.” I ignore. I go to take my daughter out of the car and she says, “Yucko. I’m only eating chips.” Bam. Deflect. I don’t even care if you eat anything because I want some steak burrito bowl in my belly. So into the 12-person-deep line we go.
My son does the only sane thing possible while waiting in line and runs directly to the newspaper stand and knocks it completely down, literally in five seconds flat from entering the restaurant; his speed was kinda impressive. Beginning to realize my mistake, I know I should turn around and leave. Nope. I’m an idiot persistent. We pick up the magazines and wait for another few minutes to order. I order and have already gained a “bless your heart” and some help to the table from the staff. Ha! I think. No one else got their tray carried. Because, as a parent who wasn’t warned, you learn to take the small wins where you can.
We sit. My daughter drinks all of her milk in 7.2 seconds and then, cue a magical stomach ache that apparently does not allow her to swallow food. So she’s out. My son actually starts to eat. We eat. OMG, we’re eating like normal humans. But, just in case, I inhale my steak burrito bowl. This is another thing I wasn’t warned about: Forget about tasting your food—you must learn to actually inhale it. Even if your kids are totally behaved, you should always be prepared with a “just in case.” Otherwise, you might never eat again. So, there I am in Chipotle, with most of the work lunch crowd and two small gremlins: daughter pouting, son mostly chewing a quesadilla, and me, almost done, with guacamole in my hair from eating like a Tasmanian devil. Do they actually eat fast? I bet they do.
Aaaaand cue the meltdown. Apparently, my son forgot that he doesn’t like quesadillas after the seventh bite. He throws it at my daughter. She swings to swat it away, but he hits my water cup instead. This obviously goes all over me, and I jump. When I do, I accidentally hit my son’s arm. He starts to wail. And then obviously he needs to throw his entire plate of beans and rice on the ground and on the lady behind us.
This is when you would normally smile up at the hidden camera. Balloons would fall while you performed a funny little dance to prove you’re totally calm and then you’d receive your money. Yeah, no money for me, just black beans and guac in my hair. I sort of cleaned up because…kids screaming. I apologized to the kind lady sitting behind us, now completely covered in beans, and kindly accepted her pathetic half-pity smile. I left the restaurant with my mom tail between my legs. Nobody told me not to attempt a casual meal at a restaurant with a two-year-old. Or that it’s easier to just order something you absolutely hate—less disappointment when you don’t get to eat it. Yet another example of advice that would have been more helpful than “sleep when the baby sleeps.”
But then, during naptime that afternoon, I realized that there are days that don’t end with black beans on the floor. In fact, the bean-less days far outnumber the messy ones. Most days fly by and are spent loving life and making memories with my littles. And nobody warned me about those days, either. Nobody warned me that a five-year-old’s dance party would be the highlight of my day. Nobody told me how much fun I would have being the patient to a very skilled toddler doctor who likes to check my tongue with a plastic banana. Nobody warned me that I would fall in love with every stage of their little lives (except maybe the newborn one—it’s kind of boring, no?).
There are plenty of things to warn each other about as moms. Plenty. But, somewhere between the tantrums and the messy poop diapers and the homework you realize the list of mom-to-mom warnings is pretty long because it also includes these things:
Do assume you will never feel as complete as you do when your kids wrap their arms around your neck and tell you they love you. Do recognize all the feels that you get when your two-year-old is yelling “goodnight” and kissing at the monitor after you leave his room. Do stop what you’re doing to watch them play—it’s so magical to watch their little minds work. Do rock her a little bit longer because the moment she says she can put herself to sleep is a hard one on that mommy heart. Don’t think that you’re a bad mom when the only thing you can think about is that glass of wine waiting for you at the end of the day. In fact, don’t ever think you’re a bad mom, period. Do celebrate the moment you’re in—unless your covered in beans (duh). I’ve decided we have the good parenting moments so we can get through the bad. And we have the bad so we can appreciate the good.
I guess what I’ve come to realize is that, sure, most of this journey we have to figure out on our own. We could warn each other, but the truth is, I wouldn’t have believed you. “Hey Erin, one day you’re going to be sitting on the floor under your table at a Chipotle covered in black beans while shoveling rice off the ground.” Nope, still not believable. But the truth is, we can do a pretty darn good job of helping each other when we need it. How? By staying positive. With a “hang in there.” Some eye contact and an understanding smile in the grocery store amidst a toddler tantrum. We know it’s hard, but we know the rewards are much, much better. And some things are just easier to find out for yourself.
These kids are a mess, but what the in world would life be like without them? It doesn’t get easier, but it DOES just keep getting better. So, we continue to love on baby bumps and give monogrammed burp cloths because they’re adorable. In the meantime, let’s all just agree to smile and let the real purpose of burp cloths be our little secret. But…consider yourself warned: Kids are pure and utter happiness.