“Two people are better off than one, for they can help each other succeed. If one person falls, the other can reach out and help. But someone who falls alone is in real trouble.” Ecclesiastes 4:9-10
I am a mom with three kids all under the age of six. People always say, “Wow, three kids, how do you do it? The truth is, I don’t. I fall flat on my face, embarrassingly too many times to count. One of these times was on a morning two summers ago.
That morning, as per usual, the kids were bouncing through the house whining that they wanted to play with me. But the thought of playing blocks or playdough felt like a slow dying death. I’m not good at sitting around and playing with them. So I decided to take them to the park.
As we pulled up, the sun shined in through the window of the van and I basked in its glorious warmth for a few seconds. This was going to be a good morning, I thought. I had timed Nyah’s feeding so that she wouldn’t need to eat for at least a few hours and the kids were excited. They ran to the playground as I followed behind them pushing Nyah in the stroller. I sat down on the bench with a hot steamy cup of coffee and watched as Thea and Aven ran in excitement towards the slide. I thought, wow, this isn’t so bad being a mom of three young kids. I’ve got this. I took a picture of the kids having fun and sent it to my husband showing off how awesome things were going.
After I was sent the picture, Thea came up and sat down beside me on the bench. I thought, this is weird, why isn’t she playing. She just sat there and kept shifting from side to side. I said, “Thea do you have to go to the bathroom?” She said, “no”. So I said, “well what are you doing then?” She just shrugged her shoulders and kept shifting like there were ants in her pants.
I finally said, “Thea you have to go to the bathroom don’t you?” She looked up at me and slowly nodded. Oh great, I thought. We’re at a park with no bathroom in sight and we’ve only been here five minutes.
I called to Aven to come off the playground. He happily came over (thank goodness because he doesn’t always do that) and explained that we were going to have to go home because Thea had to go to the bathroom.
Immediately both Thea and Aven yelled, “No”, in protest. Aven ran back to the playground in defiance and Thea started hitting the bench with her fists and howling that she didn’t have to go to the bathroom anymore.
Trying to figure out how I was going to exit the park without creating a huge scene in front of the other moms, I spotted what looked like an outhouse.
Thank you, thank you, thank you I said in my head. I called Aven to come back off the playground, but after a few attempts of giving him the stink eye and yelling, “you better come on the count of three”, I realized there was no way he was going to come amiably. So I marched over and yanked him off the playground.
He wasn’t a happy kid after that. So while I held Aven in one arm, who was kicking and screaming, I pushed the stroller with the other and had Thea trailing behind me doing the potty dance. Sweating, and using all the strength I could muster, I walked past the other moms who were now gawking us.
Why couldn’t I be like those moms? Their kids were well behaved, playing nicely on the playground, as they sat on the bench chatting, sipping their hot cup of coffee and looking like they had just come from the hair salon. I was so envious.
We finally made it to the outhouse. I dropped Aven on the ground and grabbed the door handle. As I yanked on it, I held my breath and prepared for the worst. But the door didn’t open; it was locked. Are you kidding me? I thought. How is this happening?
Thea was now screaming at me that she really had to go. Nyah was getting fussy and Aven was throwing a full out temper tantrum because we wanted to go back to the playground.
In desperation I said, “Ok Thea we’re going to pull your pants down and you can pee on the grass.” As I grabbed the top of her pants to pull them down, I felt something warm squish through my fingers. I ripped my hands out and saw poo. My hands were covered in it.
All of my patience and reason left me. I snapped. “Why would you poo your pants?” I shrieked at Thea. “You are potty trained, why wouldn’t you tell me you had to go to the bathroom? I asked if you had to go and you said no.” My face red from yelling, I realized I had to do something to clean off the poo that was all over my hands.
So I moved towards the stroller to get the diaper bag with the wipes in it. I bent over to grab the bag, and came up with nothing. It was empty. That’s when I realized I had left it in the van.
It was the definition of insanity; there I was standing in the park, hands covered in poo, Thea wailing because she had poopy pants, Aven throwing a temper tantrum because he wanted to go back to the playground, and Nyah crying in the stroller because who knows why.
I wiped my hands the best I could on the grass, grabbed Aven in one arm, pushed Nyah in the other and yelled at Thea to walk to the van NOW!
By the time we got to the van, I didn’t trust myself with what I was going to do next. Shaking and infuriated I threw the kids in the car, put their seat belts on and started the van. As I drove, I screamed and cried uncontrollably the entire way home right along with all three of my kids.
After we got home, I threw Thea’s clothes in the garbage, cleaned her up, and put on a movie. I felt defeated. Why didn’t I just stay home? I thought. I should have just played blocks or playdough with them.
So, what did I learn from that day that could save you?
To state the obvious, always bring the diaper bag and put it in the stroller!
But the biggest thing I learned is that on days like the one I had, you need the support of others to talk you off the ledge. To remind you that it’s just one bad day, and tomorrow will be better. You need community. Friends who are going through the same things you are to commensurate with, family who can babysit your kids to give you a break, and mom mentors who have gone before you who can answer your questions and give you advice.
We CAN’T do it by ourselves and God didn’t intend for that either. We need help; a lot of help and you need to be OK to ask for it. I still struggle with that, but I continue to work on it.
Oh and one more thing, throw your pride right out the window, because if you don’t, your kids will do it for you as I found out that day. It is a humbling experience raising kids.