On Mother’s Day, my darlings woke me up with hugs and kisses and adorable handmade cards and gifts. The only thing I really wanted to do was go to a garden center and pick out some plants that I could nurture together with my children, and watch them frolic joyfully on the grounds. Well…after those precious few minutes of being surrounded by two bundles of Mama love, they pretty much behaved like complete assholes to each other for the rest of the day. The fighting and screaming was off the hook. Most of the way to the garden center, I was sitting there with my hands pressed against my temples, willing them to stop arguing. This was, by no means, a typical Sunday. My children get along fairly well, but some days, oooooh, they are just awful. And Mother’s Day was especially, enormously, epically awful.
I was going to dedicate a whole piece to how much my Mother’s Day sucked, because I really could write pages about it. Then, I reconsidered it. I really don’t want to have a pity party about it, and I don’t want the world to think my children are monsters, because most of the time, they’re really awesome. It’s funny how we can get so hung up on the negatives, and how easy it can be to make the bad moments the main part of our narrative. So I decided, instead, to create a list of the things, obvious as well as unexpected, that children bring into your life (and in some cases, bring BACK into your life). I decided, instead, to focus on positivity and fun. So here goes:
- Kid food. This is going to contradict something further down in the list, but when you’re trying to keep your super taster picky eater alive, grilled cheese sandwiches and macaroni and cheese and ice cream happen. Some of this stuff I haven’t eaten since I was in single digits…and I totally sneak a few bites. Sometimes more.
- The perfect excuse for being late to everything. Now, more often than not, if I’m late and I blame my kids, I’m telling the truth. Okay, well, maybe half the time. I don’t know why it takes so long to get out of the house; oh wait, yes I do. Between the refusal to turn off the TV until “Girl Meets World” is over, the I don’t wanna go whining, the I’m starving and need a snack, then I need a drink, I hate these shoes, I can’t find my shoes, I’m not going to wear a jacket, I’m cold I need my jacket, I have to bring my book, it is amazing that we manage to get out the door. And then, of course, as I’m backing out of the driveway, there’s the inevitable I have to go potty! NOW! But sometimes…it’s me. But I’ll blame the kids anyway. Because I can.
- When my kids were infants, I took the advice to sleep when the baby sleeps very seriously. I’m not a person who functions well when sleep deprived, which I guess might explain my perpetual state of Not Having My Shit Together. But the difference between that and being completely and permanently catatonic except for when I’m screaming at my children is naps. I used to sleep when the baby slept, now I’ll sleep when their dad takes the babies to the grocery store. Or sometimes right next to them when they’re watching a movie.
- I LOVE COLORING!!! I now have coloring books for adults. Like, at least 6 of them. And an expensive set of colored pencils that my children, under threat of Mommy ripping the heads off their Barbies, are not allowed to even breathe on. They asked me if they could have pictures from my coloring books…I paged through them and found the ones I liked the least. Please don’t tell them that.
- Breakfast for dinner. Sure, cooking up a full dinner every night is ideal. But sometimes, especially when things are hectic, it’s waffles and bacon.
- Outside activities. Before kids, when winter came, I would hibernate inside. I’m not a winter sports kind of gal. Now, when it snows, we throw ourselves down and make snow angels and go sledding. Before kids, when it was summer, I would stay in air conditioning as much as possible. Now, we run around outside and go to the pool.
- Kid activities. As an adult without children, I did adult things, like going out to dinner late, museums, pro sporting events, and bars. Now I do things that I would have thought of as exactly how I would not want to spend my time. But I’ve discovered so many things that I really enjoy, like visiting butterfly sanctuaries, farms, playing mini golf, and going to Disney.
- The perfect excuse for clothing mishaps. When someone says, you have something on your shirt, you can roll your eyes and say, ugh, my kid was eating chocolate and it’s understood. You don’t have to own up to dropping that cupcake crumb while you were shoving it in your mouth, and you don’t have to wonder aloud if that IS actually chocolate.
- They function as little human shields. That coworker that you run into in the grocery store, that weird relative, that parent that you just can’t stand, you know what I’m talking about. When they’re babies, you can just sniff, make a face and say that you have to change a diaper. When they’re older, you can pretend there’s a bathroom emergency or that you have some destination that you just HAVE to get to. Or let them wander off and then you have to chase after them.
- Dollhouses and Barbies. I don’t actually “play” with them, like making them talk or anything. I just like dressing the Barbies up and rearranging the dollhouse. So what?
- Movies! Watching favorites from my childhood, like ET, The Sandlot, and STAR WARS! And the perfect reason to watch kid or kid-ish movies. Before kids, I would have never, ever, elected to watch “Guardians of the Galaxy” or “The Lego Movie” or “Frozen”. Now? I think I love those movies more than my kids do.
- Throwing shit away and they won’t know it. Oh, under cover of the night or when they’ve been elsewhere during the day, I’ve purged their rooms and other areas of the house where their crap accumulates and seems to multiply. Why do kids have so much crap anyway? When I get the opportunity, out go the dry markers, those little parachute guys, plastic necklaces, that little plastic dog, the unidentifiable things. Out!
- Excuse for your messy home/why you won’t allow anyone to come over unannounced. Don’t decide to drop by, ever. Because I may or may not be showered, you might trip over all the shoes immediately inside the door, I haven’t run a vacuum in well over a week, and yes, that is my bra hanging over a kitchen chair. So just don’t, m’kay?
- Familiarity with all public bathrooms in the vicinity of wherever you are. Before kids, I was not a regular user of public facilities. Because yuck. Now? Well, my bladder just ain’t what it used to be. And with kids, unless they have gone the bathroom in the previous 15 minutes, you’d better not be more than 10 minutes away from a bathroom that you know isn’t totally disgusting.
- Reading your favorite childhood books and discovering new books. Reading “The House at Pooh Corner” and “The Velveteen Rabbit” and Dr. Seuss with my children has been delightful. I wouldn’t have ever picked up those books again if it weren’t for them. I wouldn’t have ever picked up the “Harry Potter” books in the first place if it weren’t for my kids. And I’d be so much less of a person if I were unacquainted with the works of J.K. Rowling.
- Music made for kids by bands you listened to. There is SO MUCH shitty kids music out there. But, as I discovered, The Barenaked Ladies, They Might Be Giants and Ziggy Marley all made kids’ music that is enjoyable. I also discovered that I kinda like Raffi, and Elizabeth Mitchell makes music that has a place on my non-kids playlists.
- Getting to know your community and other people. Because of daycare, school, sports, dance and guitar lessons, I have met some really fantastic people that I may have never encountered otherwise.
- Becoming more flexible and more scheduled simultaneously. Because of school, sports, dance and guitar lessons, plus school events, birthday parties and playdates, I’ve become much more organized with the family schedule. Otherwise, everything would fall apart. But at the same time, I’ve had to learn that snow days, illness, tantrums and other things that are completely out of my control happen, and I need to be agile and accepting of those things.
- Renewed focus on health and nutrition. In contrast to sneaking bites of mac and cheese and napping as much as I possibly can, having kids has caused me to reflect on my job as a role model and caretaker. And while, with the picky eater, the objective is often to get her to consume enough calories, overall, my family eats simple, healthy foods. Lots of protein and vegetables and fruit. And over the past several years, I’ve taken my fitness level up several notches. Because it makes me feel good, makes me a better, more patient parent, and it’s kinda cool when your kids are at the finish line when you run a 10K or admire your strength or ask to go running or biking with you.
- Hyper awareness of the passing of time. Oh, this one hits me in so many ways. Like, watching a movie with my kids and we check to see the year it came out, and it’s 2002. Which doesn’t seem that long ago to me for a moment. And then I realize how long ago that actually is! And it’s so bittersweet. I celebrate the milestones and the growth of my children; I would never want them to stay babies forever. But dang, if I don’t come across pictures sometimes that give me pause and make me think, where the hell did the last decade go? But I have the memories, I can recall how they sounded, looked and smelled as babies and I look at these beautiful children of mine now. How they are growing, how smart and funny and strong they are, and there it is, coming straight out of my heart. Gratitude.
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