The past few months have been a little wild, what with giving birth to baby number three, starting my time as a stay-at-home mom, and trying to entertain all three kids while school is out. There have been moments, probably daily, when I feel like a mental patient. Or like I somehow mistakenly ended up in a mental hospital, and no one believes me when I try to reasonably explain the mix-up. Or like I would rather be in a mental hospital, because that would be a pretty nice vacation.
Picture this: It’s lunchtime. Ceci has finished her meal and is now pawing at my leg, fingers pasty with macaroni and cheese, yelling Mom-may! Get my milk! in this strange, deep two-year-old voice that she reserves for ordering me around. (Pay with me, mommy! Mom-may! Get my shoes on!) Maggie is shoving her plate off the table because she allegedly “doesn’t like” the meal that she begged me to prepare for her literally fifteen minutes ago. Alex, who is generally a good baby, usually chooses to begin howling just at this moment, apparently agreeing with me that this sucks and that crying is the correct response. I’m standing in the middle of the melee, trying to speak to these people as if they understand logic, my voice becoming more and more desperate as I plead, “Can’t I just finish unloading the dishwasher?”
No. I can’t.
At times like these, when I find myself screaming at everyone to calm down (because that’s effective), I need to stop and give myself a silent two-second pep talk. It goes a little like this:
1. Children are disgusting. If you can remember this simple fact, and if you are strong enough in mind and spirit to accept its perfect truth, you will have a significantly greater chance of maintaining your sanity. The macaroni and cheese residue on your clothes will most likely be the least disgusting thing with which you are soiled today. Changing your clothes or your children’s clothes every time something gets dirty will just become one more thing that makes your life difficult, your laundry pile bigger, one more reason to have to haul an infant or a struggling toddler up and down the stairs and pin them into submission while they express their displeasure at having to remove said clothing. And I mean, my God, what if the new pair of pants you choose for them is “not good”? Leave the mess for now. The mess isn’t going anywhere. And as for unloading the dishwasher, it’s actually kind of nice to let something in this house remain clean for more than five minutes.
2. If the thing stressing you out is the potential judgment of others about the state of your home, the cleanliness of your children, or your own physical appearance, stop. No one cares about these things as much as you do. If you don’t have a chance to shower because you’re dealing with your smaller fellow mental patients, guess what? In all likelihood, no one will notice. All the other parents at the YMCA or the grocery store or the playground (because let’s admit it, where else do parents go outside of working hours?) are probably wrapped up in their own worries: Is anyone is staring at the gap in my shirt that I just now realized I misbuttoned in my rush to get out of the confines of my house? Is there any conceivable way to fix it without drawing even more attention to myself? or Oh Lord, what is that on my shoe? Is it poop? or I’ll just explain to anyone who comes within twenty feet of me that we’re letting her pick her clothes out herself, because that’s cuter than the truth, which is that these are the only clean clothes remaining in her closet…
So, yeah, get over yourself. People are all way too self-absorbed to look that closely at you, your kids, or your kitchen floor.
3. There’s no point in fighting crazy. These irrational, impulsive, hyperactive small people with whom the Big Man has entrusted you are inevitably going to make you lose your mind. Embrace and accept. Instead of yelling or weeping or whatever you are on the verge of doing, make a conscious choice to be a happy lunatic rather than a raving one. React in a way that will surprise your kids into stopping what they are doing, kind of like how you spray a misbehaving dog in the face with a spray bottle. Bust out a spontaneous dance move, make up a song, pretend you’re the Wicked Witch of the West and chase them up the stairs and into their bedrooms. If you lose your cool, they win. Don’t let them win.
4. You’re actually doing fine. You don’t let them bring baby bottles of Fanta to bed with them. You feed them vegetables at least once a day. They are relatively healthy and happy (maybe not in this moment, but since they seem to have the memory of goldfish, this should blow over pretty quickly). You are not a total failure as a mother. Good job, you!
5. Maybe you are crazy, but you sure do love these little buttheads.