I could have mothered better yesterday.
It’s been a long weird week of small stressful events, none of which have been overwhelming, but all of which contributed to a headache that started yesterday afternoon. We made it through school pickup and then took a trip to the bookstore where my head got just worse enough to result in the kids being banished to their bedroom while I made dinner. They tried to be quiet while we ate but it’s pretty exciting to see Dad when he’s been gone all day and it wasn’t really their fault that my head was trying to explode itself so I excused myself to sneak off with the baby for some quiet time.
A half hour later, a bath exchange had happened where Eva had hopped out of the bath and Calvin had hopped in. He had been told to hang out quietly but he needed something and yelled for Kyle and when the yelling did nothing (Kyle was helping Eva), he yelled louder and Louder and LOUDER and then he just screamed at the top of his lungs over and over. Honestly, I think he was enchanted with the sound of his screaming bouncing off the tile because when I stormed into the bathroom he had his ears underwater and a smile on his face mid-scream. That is, until I unceremoniously dragged him out and plunked him naked, dripping, and still screaming in the middle of his bedroom for his father to deal with and went back to bed.
There are about 400 other ways I could have handled that, the most obvious being that I could have reminded him that he needed to be quiet and also my throbbing brain was about to push out my eyeballs so shhhhhhh. I could have gone in and yelled but let him stay in the tub since it’s one of his favorite parts of the day. I could have pulled him out but at least dried him off and wrapped him up in a towel. I could have asked Kyle to handle it since he’s nicer than I am and also his brain and eyeballs weren’t doing anything unusual at all. But I didn’t. And yes, I felt bad, but not until about five hours later when I woke up in the middle of the night to feed the baby and my head had finally stopped exploding and I actually thought about it. And then I felt really bad.
I was talking to a friend of mine earlier in the week about the fact that she’s leaning toward not ever having kids and I agreed that it’s a bad idea if you aren’t 100% both-feet-in. Even though I believe she’d be a great mom and she’d love the hell out of any child she produced, this grinding day-to-day is not for everyone. I wouldn’t make different choices but I will also never be someone who says they didn’t know happy until they had kids. I remember pre-kids happy. It slept more and went to brunch.
Kids do not care if they are well fed, clean, rested, and loved until they are not one of those things which means you can absolutely break your back getting them well fed, clean, rested, and loved and they will then look at you and ask you what you’re going to do for them that day. That is base zero. That’s the bare minimum. That’s the point you have to reach before you can even think about cutting their fruit into amusing animal shapes or getting on Pinterest to plan their custom mermaid birthday party with handmade pearl invites.
So, sure, burn out. Frustration. Yelling. Loss of grace. We all get there.
Now though, before the sun has come up and it’s just me and my coffee and the baby and a world full of winter fog, I’m trying to gather all that scattered grace back before another day starts. I was on Instagram reading Lindsay Ostrom’s latest posts and crying for her sweet boy who left at the beginning of the month. She and I have the same story where we went in pregnant with baby boys at 23 weeks for a routine check and suddenly we were 4cm dilated and everything turned into lay down and hold still. The difference is that I was flat and terrified for four months before bringing a beautiful son home and she was flat and terrified for six days before delivering a beautiful son who didn’t make it through the night.
It’s terrible, but if you want to find grace there is no surer place to look than a grieving mother. Talk about appreciating what you have. I don’t know how we got lucky enough to have one child, let alone three, and even though screaming at the top of one’s lungs is never ever ever allowed in the bathtub I can tell you that if it was happening right now it would be a whole different story. I would remind him of the rules and then take a minute to help him with his hair, scrubbing that big puppy head, tickling his ears, and thinking that he is just my joy even when he makes my brains hurt.
And the wonderful thing is, in about an hour or so we start again.