When I (for sure knew) I wasn’t failing as a mother by Carly

We all have those moments/days/weeks or hell, maybe years, as a parent where most things go wrong. Where it feels like your child is having an endless meltdown or maybe if you have multiple kids like me, and you are constantly soothing or getting something for one child, only to run to the next who is having a huge crisis (maybe you gave them green apple slices instead of their preferred red, I know, what the hell was I thinking??).

Not that long ago I was having one of those days. It started with my youngest curled up sweetly in my arms in bed, only to scream as loud as she possibly could the minute I moved an inch. She proceeded to follow me, screaming into the bathroom, only to be comforted by sitting on my lap as I, you know, used the bathroom. Next few hours are a blur as I wake up our other two kids, dress and feed them a somewhat nutritious breakfast then rush out the door to catch the school bus and head the younger two off to preschool. “Did I put mascara on both eyes or just one? I am 72% sure I put deodorant on”, I think to myself as we dart to preschool. After work I rush back to preschool to be greeted by the two running into my arms and immediately asking/demanding for a snack. Good thing I work for grocery stores, otherwise I’d never remember that part.

I hurry home because I realize, it’s a school night for my husband and his online lecture started exactly 15 minutes ago. I come home to get dinner started for the kids, thankfully a pot roast was thrown in the crockpot that morning (thanks love). Our youngest is going through a very clingy stage, okay she’s been that way since birth, but in the last few weeks it’s been really intense. So much that I’ve learned how to do most things one-armed or with a toddler on my hip or lap. I refuse to bend to her will near a hot oven though. So in a Hail-mary attempt at keeping her occupied, I gave her some small plastic bowls and a handful of pretty beads to organize. She’s a sorter by nature and will stay occupied long enough for me to take dinner out of the oven. After a minute, she spots the entire bag of beads that I tried hiding from her and realizing I was holding out on her, demands the entire thing. I say no and go back to what I’m doing which then sets off an array of emotions. Most of them in the screaming department. Completely not thinking about anything but getting dinner on the table and having her not near the hot oven door, I foolishly gave her the entire bag of beads. She was happily content and went back to sorting. My gut told me I was an idiot but the sight in front of me felt like a win. Several minutes later as I’m dishing up three small plates, of course with all the basic food groups represented, I hear it. She dumps the entire bag and it spills out all over the bowls, down the chair she was on and all over the dining room floor to places unknown. Immediately, I regret the risk I took trusting her with the bag and chastised myself heavily. I sighed and tried to think of a moment when I could get to picking up all those damn, pretty beads. My oldest two were already at the table, commenting on how hungry they were when they turned and saw the giant mess their sister made. I continued putting food on the table, chalking the whole thing up to another chore we needed to get to like the never-freaking-ending laundry or the dishes that were now piled high in the sink.

And then something happened. Without a word being said, our oldest got up from the table and went over and started picking up the beads. After a minute of watching his older brother with just as much curiosity as I did, our middle child got up from the table too and started picking up the beads. I didn’t whisper a sound but watched as they made a game out of how many they could pick up and began putting them all back in the bag. I must have stood there with my mouth wide open for a solid minute as I felt a rush of some feeling pass over me. It wasn’t exasperation, or defeat or even a “what the…” moment. It was a tidal wave of accomplishment, of rare but nonetheless true success.

My boys, who were just starving and slightly demanding as they wanted to know where dinner was, did a completely selfless act without even being coaxed to do so. There was no bleading, no negotiating, no promises of dessert. I could have wept, I felt so damn proud. In a job that is so demanding and sometimes, down right demoralizing, that small win as a mother was huge. Maybe, I thought, we were doing something right.

Now our three are sweet and kind but like most young kids under 7, the thought of others is not high on their radar. Some days being a parent feels like you’re failing at even the simplest tasks like getting out the door in a timely manner with coordinating socks. Things don’t always get accomplished, whines and tantrums are part of the job, patiences are lost, your youngest son may someday decide to pull his pants down and pee outdoors at another kids birthday party in front of EVERY SINGLE GUEST (true story btw) but small victories like the epic bead-palooza will make you feel like you’ve just summited the Everest of parenting.

To the weary parent who feels like nothing is going right at all, look for those small but glorious wins because they are there. If you blink or close your eyes too long (sleep deprivation is REAL), you may miss them and never be able to fully appreciate or celebrate those fragments in time where everything feels right in your world. 

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