Every morning starts with good intentions. And many promises. Today, I will be patient. Poop stained underwater on the floor will not be punishable by certain death. I will encourage my children to be creative. I will help them problem solve. I will not lose my cool, or my sh*t. I will let Ryan climb into his car seat all by himself even if it takes seven minutes (and I'm standing in the rain). We will go on child-led adventures. I will see the world through their eyes. I will not scream when Ryan asks me to turn up the radio for the fifth consecutive time. I will not condemn all the toys in the house to the garbage.
But no matter how many times I wake up with the same exact promises, each day ends up like a shit-sandwich on organic whole wheat bread: it starts off with a delicious crust, which turns quickly into shit filling, and then we transition once more to the deliciously organic. Yep. A shit-sandwich.
Today was a perfect example. It started out wonderful. We momentarily suspended reason and lived in a moment of playful freefall. The kids' cousin had spent the night last night and after a breakfast of pancakes, the kids wanted to play outside. I thought "what the heck?!" and pulled out a package of water balloons I had been saving for summer. At 9:30 a.m. in 50 degree weather, we had a full-on water balloon fight. It was almost magical.
But just an hour later, the magic had already been forgotten. Ryan was cranky but refusing a nap, Jacob was not sharing his V-tech tablet, they were yelling and hitting each other, and it was like pulling teeth to get either of them to make a walkable path through their room. When I finally got Ryan to sleep after an hour of trying, I had just started my own nap when Jacob began sobbing at the top of his lungs. I rushed out to prevent him from waking Ryan up only to find out he was crying because he "couldn't beat level 3" of his video game. Oh, I lost it. Human volcano.
When I was younger, I babysat. A lot. As in every weekend for eight years and then some. I was an awesome babysitter. My name passed around the neighborhoods like wildfire. In those eight years, I had dealt with everything: picky eaters, kids locking me out of the house, difficult personalities, babies that cry non-stop, girls lathering an entire can of vaseline in their hair, sickness, injuries, broken dishes, boys putting their cats in the dryer (and turning them on), disobedience, toddlers pooping on my leg, you name it.
With all my experience, I thought I was going to be a killer mom. I thought I had this whole parenting thing in the bag. I knew how to make pizza from scratch. I knew how to make any pile of junk into a creative masterpiece. And I had artfully learned the skill of bribery. I never once doubted my ability to manage children. Then I became a parent. And I learned a crucial lesson. While babysitters manage children, the hardest thing about being a mom is managing YOURSELF. Remaining patient. Keeping perspective. Letting go. Will not get angry. Ok, REALLY will not get angry. Seriously, next time I won't get angry.
Dealing with little people is so much harder than dealing with adults. Kids don't understand things like being timely, and clean, and doing one thing first before starting something else, and its-not-acceptable-to-put-your-tongue-on-other-people's-arm, and this-cup-of-soup-cost-$5-I-don't-care-if-you-think-it's-too-"slimy." Children have absolutely very little understanding of social norms. Constantly having to remind them of these norms can be so freaking exhausting. Dear God, for the next version of children, can you just program this stuff into their brains right next to the instinct to pee as soon as the diaper is removed? Thanks!
The entire middle of today was a nightmare. I yelled a lot. I swore at least once. I nagged. And nagged some more. While I was simultaneously trying to get Devil Ryan to nap AND make dinner, Jacob asked me if he could do a craft. I threw my hands in the air and yelled, "I'm BUSY. Figure something out." I was emotionally drained and couldn't handle one more task. Then Jacob kept asking me where everything was. "Where's the paper?" "I can't find the scissors." "Can I used this pen." Annoyance was added to my list of emotional burdens.
And right when I was about to explode again, I heard Jacob call from the other room, "Mom, come see what I made for you." With hands covered in four and tomato sauce on my cheek, I took a brief break to see what was going on. Jacob handed me this picture and said, "I made this for you. I wanted to make sure you had a present for mother's day." A tiny reward that instantly filled my tank.
My gosh. I instantly melted and swelled with pride. What a sweet, selfless thing for my little boy to do, especially when I'd been so impatient all day. I praised him and enjoyed that touching moment, a moment I wished I could press into the pages of a scrapbook (who am I kidding- who has time to scrapbook!)...and that's exactly when Ryan decided to cut his nap short and started crying from the other room for me to hold him.
I tried to make dinner and soothe an over-tired Ryan while running on mommy fumes. The kids found sticks (that I SWEAR I threw in the trash months ago) and wanted to play golf but kept accidentally hitting themselves, each other, and furniture. I was yelling at the kids to stop while they kept THWACKING things. I swear it must have sounded like I was beating them. I was just about to call in my husband as a reinforcement when Ryan ran over to my legs, smiled up at me, and gave me a giant hug.
And this is exactly what being a mom is like. So much hard stuff mixed in with moments that surpass all expectation. Like being a drug addict who is constantly getting high and then crashing.
Despite Ryan's continued crankiness, I somehow got a meal on the table. Actually, it was a pretty amazing meal-- one of my favorite Indian dinners (too easy to be authentic but delicious nonetheless)--with coconut chicken curry, homemade naan bread, rice, and curried potatoes. And somehow my husband and I endured 30 minutes of the kids refusing to sit in their chairs or eat any of the yummy food over which I had slaved.
Then finally, after the table was cleared, teeth were brushed, and pullups were on, we reached that delicious crust again. We all settled in the living room for a round of family board games. We chatted and laughed and teased and tickled and enjoyed being together. Of course, this was all cut short by a looming and over-due bedtime. The good moments always come when they are least convenient.
I tucked my kids into bed, gave them kisses and blessings and sighed deeply. Once again, I had definitely NOT kept my promises from the morning. I had probably fallen short more times than I had met expectations. Ending each day with a full heart is both satisfying and disappointing. But by now, I'm convinced that motherhood is simply a mixed bag. Good things with the hard things. Satisfaction with the displeasure. Having a full heart but nothing left to give. And the most amazing thing of all is that we know we will fall short of our own high expectations every day and yet we continue to face each new day with hope. We continue to strive for betterment. Because we love our children so much that we do anything to make their world a little better. We aren't afraid of failure. We face it every day and yet we still bravely press onward. We try and try and try. We give and give and give. We succeed and fail and scrape by. But we will never stop making those promises. And we will never stop eating shit-sandwiches.