A few weeks ago, I was standing on my front porch at just about 11 AM in my short little not-so-decent robe having a meltdown.
I had been busy working on something that needed to get done when the kids had tumbled into the room, one after the other. They were running around and I was telling them to give me five minutes when all of a sudden Eva tripped and crashed her face into the edge of our bed frame. It had been one of those mornings where it’s just a series of me begging them to do things: hold still, finish your breakfast, stop yelling, clean that up, don’t spill your juice. I had run from one end of the house to the other getting laundry started and making beds and clearing plates and sweeping up toys so to have made it to the computer to collect my thoughts for a minute was not a small thing. As Eva howled and the cut above her eye started to bleed, I could feel myself gritting my teeth and forcing myself to be soothing while I rocked her and tried to calm her down.
In this fuss, Calvin started pulling on my shirt to get my attention, but I told him to hush a second since his sister was the one who had nearly put her eye out on our hand-me-down bed. He started yelling himself and I heard him leave the room and cruise through the house yelling “MAMA” and “YUCK” and “NO NO NO”. After a few minutes, Eva had settled a bit and Calvin rushed back in with his hand out to give me something. I took it from him and for some reason it took longer than it should to realize that he had just handed me poop. Carefully-rolled-into-a-ball poop.
I yelled, he took off running, Eva started howling again, and in the midst of panicking and jumping up to chase the baby, I spiked that little turd ball into the bedroom carpet and stepped on it. As I followed Cal out of the room, I realized that he had smeared poop everywhere in a grand circle around our house. It was on the carpet, on toys, on our dining table, on the walls, on doorknobs, in their bedding. And for a split second, I just lost it. I ran onto the porch, slammed the door behind me, and stood there having no idea what to do with my screaming kids locked inside in the poop wonderland.
Hours and hours later, after bleach baths and Clorox wipes and more vinegar than you’d even believe, the kids fell asleep and I finally got dressed and put myself together for the day. It was after lunch and most people had been going about their orderly adult days since sunrise, but I had only just managed to put a brush through my hair. I looked at myself in the mirror and suddenly I just looked so much older and more tired than I had ever looked in my life and I thought, “This is it. This is the low point of being pretty damn bad at this parenting thing.”
Strange as it is, that was wildly comforting. It had been an awful day. I had yelled, I had scrubbed, I had let one child get injured and another run amuck like a little feces flinging monkey. I had worked myself to exhaustion and all I had accomplished was to maintain the status quo that Kyle had left when he went to work: reasonably clean house, reasonably clean children, reasonably sane wife. This was everything that had terrified me about ever becoming a mother. I was a walking, breathing newspaper comic about how sad it is to be a housewife.
If that was the low point, it wasn’t that bad. The kids make me crazy, but we manage and I am more in love with them than ever. Our house is small and it’s never completely clean but it’s warm all the way to its corners. And even on a day when there’s been blood and poop and screaming and nothing of any real significance got done, there’s nothing better than creeping in on their naptime, crawling into bed with them, and breathing in that dirty puppy smell. So I crawled in, I snuggled them up without waking anyone, and I thought about the fact that I’m the luckiest person I know. Honest to earth, I think that’s what it really is to be a mom most of the time. True love among lots of poop.