Tuesday, June 23, 2015

When the meltdown is yours

The other day, after a very botched shopping trip with one too many kids, I showed up at our gate covered in sweat with two large shopping bags, one awkward plastic pushing bike, and a heavy, squirmy toddler all hanging from my arms.  The look of sheer horror on Joel's face was reflection enough of my own mental and physical state at the time.

I dropped bags, bike and child right there on the grass and stormed up the stairs where I shut the door, curled up on my bed and quietly sobbed, "I hate my life."

The sad thing is, the whole time I laid there crying I kept thinking, but I don't.  I don't hate my life.  I love my life.  And on top of that, I kept thinking of all the people who would give anything for my life.  Well, maybe not my life exactly, but to have happy, healthy kids literally dripping from their arms.

But these rational thoughts didn't matter.  I couldn't stop.  All the stress and frustration of trying to do life with three small children, of wanting nothing more than to pick up some bananas from the market and make it back with my sanity in tact, but failing miserably, was finally catching up.

Some days it feels like the big ones fight constantly.  Constantly.  Some days it feels like I'll never get Finn's emotions under control.  Some days it feels like Benjamin will be two forever.  For all of eternity.  Which is a thought both thrilling and horrifying.

Because Benjamin at two is a little of everything to me.  He is equal parts exhausting and exhilarating, terrible and wonderful.  He makes me happy to wake up in the morning and even happier to go to sleep at night.  The same wide smile can signal sweetness and terror, neither of which I can ever see coming.

He makes life exciting and satisfying and truly wonderful, but he does not, I repeat, does not make life easy.

When I finally came downstairs the boys flocked to my side.  Benjamin chanted, "Mama cryin'," and nuzzled his way into my lap and I couldn't have felt anything but sheer joy if I tried.

Later that night Benjamin went to bed early and the boys had a campout in the back yard, complete with grilled pizzas, roasted marshmallows, and scary stories.  And as I watched them in the lantern light telling animated, confusing, fairly senseless stories, my heart that felt so tired just hours earlier was incredibly full.

It's a confusing thing.  Parenthood.  It's all frustration one minute and all joy the next.  And sometimes the frustration and joy overlap and you're left deliriously exhausted and deliriously happy all at once.  It makes no sense, but I suppose that happens when you throw a bunch of wild, unpredictable children in a house with two adults who are just finally getting their stuff together.

Kids wipe the slate clean, a bit.  All of the patience you spent years cultivating can be swept out from under you like a rug.  They can shake you to the bone, and reveal things you'd much rather not see.  Things better stuffed deep down inside.  Right?

I feel a lot of pressure for my kids to see me at my best.  From articles mostly.  Don't ever yell, they say, or show your kids how incredibly frustrating you find them.  Be the perfect, sweet, softened version of you.  After all, your child's future depends on it.

I don't know about that.  I say let them shake you up a bit.  Better they see there's a real you, with ugly sides and beautiful sides, with confident sides and incredibly insecure ones, than to strive for something as silly as perfection.

Better to see you make real mistakes and offer real apologies.  Better for them to see you need grace than to hear you tell them they need it.

Better to hold them at the end of the day feeling raw and vulnerable than shiny and distant.

Parenthood is hard.  It's kind of like running a marathon, which I know absolutely nothing about.  But I assume that marathons are quite difficult.  And also rewarding.  But no one would expect you to smile through the whole thing, and, likely, no one would blame you for sobbing a little along the way.

And so you take the tears with the smiles, because, really, doesn't one make the other much sweeter?


  1. This is one of my favorite posts yet, because it so aptly describes my experience with parenting. Thanks for putting my feelings into words, Kim!

  2. You've hit the nail on the head, Kim! But you're doing an amazing job, Mama, rest asssured - you have three sweet, charming, caring boys!