Friday, August 31, 2012

Travelling with small children

So I was attempting to leave anywhere near the time I said I would to take my children to visit my in-aws today when Dizzy happened.  Dizzy being my mischievous, stubborn, crazy second child.  We had gone not one exit down the highway by our home when I hear-

Ugh.  I pull over to ascertain what tragedy has befallen my youngest in the 5 minutes since we left home and she has dropped the portable movie player, the movie has clattered out (under my seat, of course) and she is bereft.  I'm in a little dirt turn out off the first exit, top half of my body in the car stretching over blankets, feet, children's paraphernalia, etc. and my sarong-clad lower half is dangling out as I swear and get her situated.  I never even hear them approach.
I nearly jump out of my skin.  As I right myself out of the car, there are two motorcycle cops with lights on behind my vehicle and one of them has now approached me.
"Iiiiis everything okay?" he draws it out as though I'm armed with more than just  shitty attitude and a potty mouth.
"Yep," I counter, half light-hearted, half crazy-mommy impatient, "just travelling with small children."
He and his partner laugh heartily at this one. "oookay.  Just wanted to make sure you weren't in any kind of trouble."
"Nope, not yet," I sigh, "wanna 3 year old?"
He LITERALLY takes a step back while his partner laughs at me.  
"NO!" he snorts "I've got a sixteen year old."
"Shit," I say, mentally cursing myself for my continued profanity, "good luck."
They're really laughing now. 
 "Yeah," he laughs climbing back on his bike, "you too."

I climb back in, actually thankful for the heart-jumping nervousness I get around cops because it has at least stopped my seething.  Like the last few days, this morning with my daughter has been hell.  When I was about to leave and only 5 minutes later than I had planned, Elizabeth willingly did "one last potty" and I was thrilled that, for once that didn't cause a meltdown.  The joy didn't last long.  I realized, as I was asking William to get in the car, that she had been in there WAY too long.
"Uh...Diz?" I call, "Whatcha doing in there?"
THIS, any parent will tell you, is NOT the answer you want.  I open the door to water pooling on the counter, dripping down the cabinets and pooling on the floor.  Elizabeth is soaked as though she has showered with clothes on.
"I was thirsty..." she starts.
"YOU were? Or the whole bathroom was, Diz?!  JESUS CHRIST, we're trying to leave here and you just...AAAAAAGGGGHHH!". I'm carrying her out of the bathroom toward my room so I can mop up the mess and have her far enough from me that I won't be tempted to flush her down the toilet.

What is it about youngest children?  I've bee talking to a lot of fellow moms lately and, regardless of the number and gender of children we have, we all agree the youngest child is there to make you feel like a total idiot.  They will be the one to make you doubt that you have ANY business trying this parenting thing.

They make the messes and do the gross things that come straight out of books and movies.  You know the ones - entire rolls of toilet paper strewn around your bathroom, every shade of eye shadow you own painted on themselves and your bathroom, taking the lid off of your tiny, multi-colored, round cupcake sprinkles and letting them dance across your hardwood floor, shredding your mail to decorate the living room in confetti, using your powdered sugar as snow, swimming in mud puddles, picking up discarded Popsicle sticks and straws at the park and putting them IN THEIR MOUTH (eeeeek!), and my personal favorite from today after we finally made it to Mom Mom and Pop Pop's and went to the park, asking "what's this" as she squishes her finger into fresh bird or squirrel droppings.  Are you f@#!ing kidding me?  I was thankful my mother in law had her anti-bacterial wipes on her as mine were back at her house.

Seriously, she make s me feel incompetent.  Oh, and the other kicker today... As I'm hurriedly and angrily carrying her out to the car after the water fiasco, she wails right in front of the neighbor, 

We don't spank our kiddos.  But now our neighbors think we do.  

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Messy Car + Messy House = Happy Me?

I was looking at my car and house the other day and trying not to let my frustration build to the point where I'm impossible to live with.  (Yes, I know I'm difficult to live with... but I'm hoping not to graduate to "impossible."  I'm assuming even my patient hubby has his limits).  "I feel like I'm NEVER going to catch up," I said to no one in particular.  (I don't know if it's old age or motherhood, but I'm certainly talking to myself more these days).  And then I thought about it... what am I trying to catch up to?  Why am I so stressed out about this?

I think it's a matter of expectations.  Something my therapist said I needed to seriously revise because my expectations for myself are WAY too high and, in turn, I put impossibly high expectations on the people around me (my aforementioned patient hubby getting the worst of it). 

You see, I used to have that car and that house that was always ready for "guests."  My car never had wrappers or extra clothing or school/work items or shoes or sand or anything extra in it.  My house always had made beds and done dishes and gleaming counter-tops and uncluttered counters.  And now that I "don't work" (jesus, that phrase gets under my skin), I've been at a loss to figure out why I CANNOT, for the life of me, keep my car and house clean.  But today, I figured it out.

As I let our new lab Ellie (she of the over-active snot production) into the back of my Escape which already had a fine layer of Husky hair (courtesy of Yukon), I had a brief moment of worrying about her snotting up the back of my car and then thought,  "yeah, but it's better to have this fun crazy dog than a clean car."  And then it hit me... my stress level and happiness is up to ME.  It's a matter of re-framing the mess and altering the expectations.  Instead of worrying about the sand in my entry way, the breakfast dishes in my sink still at lunch time, the petrified goldfish in my back seat, the extra hoodies and kids' shoes on the floor of my car... I need to view them as evidence of a life well lived.  After all, when I had a clean house, it's because no one LIVED in it.  Mike and I worked, William was in day care and the dogs played outside.  When I had a clean car, it's because it carried only me.  And while I had a good life then, it's nothing compared to what I have now.  I wouldn't trade the cleanliness for the crazy, loud, messy, loving, fulfilling, growing life that is life with children.  Again, I need to see the changes... the mess, the noise, the clutter as evidence of a life well lived.

The sand is a celebration of spending more time with my kids at the park and less time sweeping and telling them "mommy can't play with you right now."  The dishes are because it was more important that they get the entire hour and a half of parent-child swim time at the local community pool than it was for me to have an empty sink.  The petrified goldfish are because I didn't want to cut our trip to the coast and aquarium short just so I could work around the breakfast-lunch-nap schedule.  The extra hoodies mean if we stay out playing way too late and it gets cold, my kiddos can throw them on instead of having to run home.  Life well lived.

That doesn't mean I'm going to let my car turn into "the pit of despair" or my house a cluttered, unsanitary mess.  That doesn't mean I won't continue to use nap time and late night as time to mop or vacuum or run laundry.  It's just not in me to let it go too far.  But I think I have to let go a little.  For my sanity's sake.  For my kids' sake.  For my hubby's sake.  If I keep stomping around, swearing about messes and telling the kids to "please find something to do I HAVE to clean up"... life's best moments will pass me by.  There will be no evidence of a life well lived.  No sand to stick to my feet and make me smile at the memory of Elizabeth coated HEAD-TO-TOE in mud at the park or William buried up to his neck in sand.  No wrappers to remind me of the impromptu driving adventure to some new park that resulted in having to "grab a quick lunch" on the go.

My Tante (aunt), at my Oma's (grandmother's) funeral had one bittersweet memory in her list of memories of Oma.  She said as a small child she often wished her mother would spend more time with her instead of cleaning so much.  Her memory was that of Oma caring more about a clean house than spending time with her kids.  And in the middle of all the sadness, the mourning, the family gathering... that moment stood out for me.  That moment I stopped and thought, "I don't ever want William and Elizabeth to say that about me."  I want them to remember when we used 5 sheets to make our entire playroom into a "tent city."  I want them to remember mom diving into their kiddie pool with them to have "family splash time."  I want them to remember taking a nature walk at the Delta Ponds on the way home from therapy instead of taking naps.  I want them to remember building sand castles as the park, baseball games at the local field, backyard splash days, marathon Lego or Play-doh sessions and summer nights staying up late having a cookie on the couch.

New expectations, new frame of mind.  I have my whole life to have a spotless house and car.  I only have a finite time to make the best memories with my kiddos.  Bring on the petrified goldfish and food wrappers.  Never mind the unmade beds and messy playroom.  I won't call it a mess anymore.  I'll just call them souvenirs.