I’ve figured out a few tips and tricks along the way that have made the drives fairly smooth, dare I say even enjoyable. I won’t call my kids Road Warriors yet, but they’ve certainly earned some stripes these last few years. I hope one or two of these are new to you!
But the older I get (and the more children I have), the more tension I feel at Christmastime. How do I create the perfect Christmas without making it all about a mythical being and gifts? How do I strike a balance between nauseating consumerism and fun-sucking religion?
In a season that so easily overwhelms, how can I slow down, lower my expectations, and point to the manifestation of Grace and Love in a way that excites my kids and blesses others?
Motherhood is fraught with illusions of passing boats, convincing me that this is just a time of waiting: waiting for my boat, waiting for my turn, waiting for my next, like motherhood is just an in-between stage. I anticipate and prepare for the “after our kids…” instead of investing and digging into my NOW.
But then I think back to my education degree and remind myself that Hattie just turned THREE, and this pressure that has been created to have my kids literate by the age of 4 and performing long-division by 5 and composing symphonies by 6 WAS NOT created by teachers or child development researchers but by the pressures of a flawed system and competitive parents.
I am a prophet. We, we parents who dismissively mumble words out of weariness and exhaustion, we are prophets. We are piecing our children’s souls together, one irritated word at a time, creating a mosaic of phrases, remarks, and feelings. What do we want them to act like? Who do we want them to be?
Here are some activities that keep all three of my kids (4, 3 and 1) entertained for at least 30 straight (almost) uninterrupted minutes.
I’m sorry. I’m just sorry, okay? I didn’t mean to cut you off. I really was trying to focus on your face and your words and make eye contact and offer relevant, interesting responses. I promise I have a couple of social skills.
It’s just that I have these two little parasites (that I love insanely). They sometimes knock me off-balance while scaling my legs like rock walls. Sometimes they awkwardly hide under my skirt mid-conversation. They grunt and scream a lot and try to catch my tongue when I talk. They are constantly on the verge of either disaster or meltdown, and I need to be on Red Alert, lest “a scene” be made.
Honestly, having an adult conversation when they are with me makes me sweaty. I feel like a juggling clown. And I’m not tossing around oranges. But something entirely more horrific like flaming swords or small cats or feral monkeys. Multiple objects requiring my undivided attention are being hurled at my face, and I am just trying not to sweat through my unironed shirt or break my tired smile.
Listen. I don’t want to be the mom that is incapable of having conversations because I’m so utterly captivated by all the adorableness of my precious offspring. However, I also don’t want to be the mom that forgets her child exists while out in public and subsequently is ignorant to the fact that my kid just knocked another kid off a scooter and rode off with William Wallace-esque freedom, leaving in her wake a lonely, weeping child. No matter how tempting to let somebody else deal with that mess.
I’m teetering on this line between momma-bear/helicopter-parent and welcome-to-my-adult-time-feel-free-to-discipline-my-child. I don’t think I’ve quite found the balance yet, though.
So let me apologize for all past and future social infractions.
I’m sorry about that time I cut you off in mid let-me-tell-you-my-struggle-right-now when my 2-year-old ran up shouting, “I need to go potty!” We were still in the middle (of a looooong) training and I knew the dribbling had probably already begun. Or that time I forgot your name, even though we’re definitely more than acquaintances because, well, I have no brain cells left. And especially for all the times I said, “I gotta go get these girls down for a nap,” while we were talking because trust me. I was serious. There is no Hell like “it’s nap time, but they are still not asleep Hell.”
Please don’t hear these as excuses. I hate that you think I’m a jerk.
It’s tempting to totally shut myself off from the social world because, honestly, it’s easier when my attention isn’t divided. It’s easier to go to the park and not feel like I’m insulting anyone when I run off to catch my child that is jumping from the ten-foot playscape. I know most people, especially moms, understand. But I still feel guilty.
But here’s an inspired idea. Let’s make a baby-less date and have a REAL conversation, devoid of parasites OR sweet, compliant children. I promise I’m much better at listening when I’m not distracted by the crying and the yanking and the “I HAVE TO GO POO-POO” and the “What’s that smell?” and the “Okay, we really better go.” I know you’re busy and I’m tired and evenings with our husbands are important. But I might go even crazier if I don’t talk about something other than Thomas or Elmo.
So I promise I will make an effort to pay attention to what you are saying when I spot you in the grocery store, if you promise you will forgive me if you have to speak over the screams of the two in my cart that have a thing against stopping.
And in a few years, I’ll be all ears. I’ll have nothing but time to just chat and listen. Please wait for me. Because I like you.
And in the meantime, I promise. I’m not a b. I’m just a mom.