Today I was a frazzled mother.
Before motherhood I used to really judge certain mothers when I saw them out with their children. I’d think to myself, gosh, that lady is frazzled. She should just calm down and change out of those sweat pants! You know what I’m talking about, right? The mom whose hair is falling out of a messy ponytail, has one squirmy baby clutched to her hip, another one, slightly older, being pulled by the sleeve of his coat, both with runny noses and grubby faces. Add a bit of crazy to the eyes and a dirty diaper bag thrown over my shoulder, and that was me, lugging both of the kids with me into mass this morning.
With my husband traveling I was doing mass by myself with the kids. I knew it was going to be bad, but it was so much worse. At one point my son was literally running laps round the cry room while my daughter did everything she could to wriggle out of my arms so she could crawl under the pews. From what I could catch the homily was about heaven…which at that moment felt very, very far away.
Does this happen to you? In those really bad parenting moments, I somehow walk away with one really clear snapshot of a memory. Here’s that snap shot from this morning. My daughter has thrown herself backward and is doing that wet-noodle/back-bend thing that infants do that make it impossible to hold them. She’s screaming. I’m standing in the back of the cry room and in about a second flat my son has left my side and is at the front, facing everyone. He has his tongue hanging out of his month, as if in deep concentration, as he works on pulling his clothes off.
If I could have, I would have just checked out mentally at that point. But, instead I hurried to the front, baby still flopping and screaming, grabbed my son by his now empty sleeve and drug him to the back. The whole way to the back he is swinging at me with his naked arm. When we reached the back I told my son he was being a bad boy, which set off a major fit and round of self-loathing. Now I had two crying kids, and frankly, I wasn’t far from tears myself.
I spent the rest of mass crouched on floor, allowing my daughter to crawl in and out of a candle stand, and my son to play with the button that automatically opened the door.
Along with being a frazzled mother, I’m also a mother that (in vain) likes to find explanations.
Why were my kids the only kids going nuts in there? What’ wrong with them–or what’s wrong with me? How could I have avoided this? Are my kids monsters?
Years ago, before children, when I thought it was okay to judge those frazzled moms I saw, I would have easily come up with answers to these questions. Not enough discipline. She’s too strict. Yes, those kids are monsters.
But now, I just don’t know.
All I know is that I’m tired.
And, that as I tucked my son into bed tonight he asked me if he was a good boy.
“Yes,” I said, “you are a good boy”.
He smiled and gave me a hug. Then, as I was turning out the light he yelled from his bed, “Good boys get candy!” and snuggled around in an excited little way.
He really is a sweet boy, and she is a beautiful, wonderful baby–and all of our little mishaps, and adventures and moments of total chaos are worth it, in the end. I just need to remember that!