I have literally been trying to write this post for about a month. Seriously. And, even as my fingers fly across the keys right now, I am ignoring the screaming (no… screeching) insistence of my three year old daughter to “HOLD THIS, HOLD THIS!!!” as she crams a plastic stethoscope into my right nipple and shoves her rigid baby’s-first-otoscope down my ear canal. I think the tip just touched an ossicle.
I might have a nervous breakdown tonight. People really do that, right? Sometimes I think about what would happen if I locked myself up in the posh psychiatric hospital for which my husband is the librarian. They have peace and quiet there.. and free Odwalla bars. Also, arts and crafts.
Chloe(the three year old) has now moved onto pasting (no…punching) stickers onto my boobs. What is the fascination with my right nipple tonight?
Over dinner, I witnessed Chloe’s twin, Ben (who is also three, in case you are not familiar with the science of twins) simultaneously spill his full cup of water across the entire span of the kitchen floor, while wiping his face with a ketchup smeared lettuce leaf… you know, “to clean it.” He then realized that A) his entire body was saturated of his own doing, and B) his face was covered in ketchup. These realizations caused, quite possibly, the most blood curdling whine he’s had yet, and he’s had some doozies. As you may (or really, may not) know, a well placed whine can have even more of an impact on a mother’s state of mind than even the loudest of screams. Such was the case with this one.
It was at this moment that I had a relatively out of body experience.
I’m. Going. To. Lose. My. Shit.
I teach full time, and most nights (like tonight), I am exhausted. But… MOST nights, I am capable of maintaining some semblance of sanity amongst the chaos. I can see the forest for the trees. I can seize the moments as they go swirling by. Every once in a while, like tonight, I find myself on the brink of a serious Mommy Meltdown resulting in impure thoughts about children’s Benadryl, deserted islands and/or (very) alcoholic beverages.
Back to the moment. In slow motion…my voice becomes shrill. I am yelling, screaming really, and storming around, and acting altogether like an asshole. “BENJAMIN, THAT NEVER WOULD HAVE HAPPENED IF YOU WERE SITTING THE RIGHT WAY AT THE DINNER TABLE AND WHY AREN’T YOU USING YOUR FORK AND JESUS, THAT LETTUCE IS NOT A NAPKIN!!!” This may seem like a 0-60 reaction, and it sort of is, because, really, this is every night in our household. There is always erroneous liquid on the floor (and, ask Rob, water [or milk, juice, urine] goes EVERYWHERE), there is always a huge mess involving ketchup, broccoli, or smeared meat, and somebody always, always has to have a bowel movement as soon as we sit down. In other words, there is no such thing as a nice, quiet dinner.
What do I have to do to have one dinner go by peacefully? I know the answer almost as soon as I think the thought (I’ve got this one on repeat in my brain)… I would need to not have three year old twins and a seven year old. I’d need to be living a parallel life to the one I chose, a sister life that I can barely even fathom. The guilt is immediate.
“I can tell you’re frantic”, Madeline tells me. She’s seven, and very wise. Her words soothe my hyper accelerated heart beat, and , almost involuntarily, I take a deep breath and cool air fills my lungs. Almost immediately, I feel better. There is something so very humbling about being called out by your kids. They’re just as capable of recognizing a ridiculous parent tantrum as we are of nipping one of theirs in the bud. And, inevitably, our tantrums are pretty ridiculous. “Calm down, Mommy.” More wise words from Maddie. My heart feels achy.
Here’s the thing. We are teachers as much as we are parents. They’re one and the same. And, sometimes, we teach our kids some pretty shitty lessons. Like tonight… when instead of teaching all about coping mechanisms and calm responses to stressful stimuli, I taught all about how sometimes Mommy goes batshit in a blink of an eye. I take that lesson to heart. It’s my default setting to feel guilty for failing, to get down on myself for what I should have, could have, but ultimately didn’t do. BUT… what if the lesson learned tonight was about my own humanity? About how sometimes even Mommy loses control? What if the lesson had everything to do with making the mistake, as much as it was about recovering from it?
I just went upstairs to tuck the twins in. I held them both, and humbly whispered that I was sorry for the way I acted tonight. Chloe held me even tighter, and whispered in my ear, “You mean for when you were crazy? You should have time, Momma.” I’m sure that her words didn’t have the significance that I assigned to them… but I couldn’t help but think, as I stroked her ever-thinning baby cheek, that TIME was the one thing I don’t have enough of.