The First Moment I Was Parenting Three Children
All of this happened within 10 minutes.
Right after dinner, I was too exhausted to put the kids to bed, so I flopped down on the sofa. Big mistake.
As you might predict, the children came over and poked me and giggled, then dissolved into a wrestling match on the floor that ended with Bittykins whacking Butterscotch over the head several times with the ceramic head of a slightly creepy antique tiny baby doll we found on the ground like a year ago. Because she hit multiple times, even after we asked her to stop, I asked her to go to time-out, but she refused. The threat was time-out behind the baby gate at the top of the stairs if she didn’t go sit in time-out by the count of 3. Three was counted to, which meant I had to get up off the sofa (uuuuuugghh I’m so pregnant!) and chase her down. She was like a wild-eyed sprite, having figured out now that our downstairs is arranged so that you can run in a circle, so she would peek her head around one side, then the other, and no matter which direction I tried to chase her, she would run the other way, and I couldn’t get her. Thankfully, Geoff intervened and blocked her path because I was too fuzzy-headed to figure out a solution. Well, now I’m extra irritated because I have to not only get my exhausted self up and chase her, I have to heft her 24-pound kicking body up a flight of stairs. I accidentally tripped and fell over my long skirt on the last two stairs, so we fell into the gate, and I had to leave her there in time-out. She wasn’t hurt, but there was loud wailing.
Meanwhile, I go back downstairs to sit on the sofa and ride out the two-minute storm. Butterscotch is being the most adorable freckle-faced angel of a five-year-old boy at this moment, twirling with his little hand-knit bunny, looking at it with twinkly smiling eyes, its ears flailing out as he spinned. More screaming and wailing in the background, and now I’m crying because Butterscotch is being so cute.
Crying emotions and exhausted feelings caused by pregnancy, enjoying my son’s twirling dance, and enduring my daughter’s time-out. All at once. This was the first moment I was parenting three at once.
Then I heard soft sniffles and the drama subsided, but I was too tired to jump right off the sofa and convince Butterscotch to come with me to get ready for bed, so in those 9 seconds, Bittykins pushed past the gate I forgot to close, came downstairs, and started streaking around the living room. Now I have to get up, talk with her about time-out, and go upstairs with everyone before anyone has the chance to accrue another misdemeanor.
I’m not sure I can communicate the level of exhaustion to you I’m feeling right now. I’ve got this 6-hour jet lag on top of 7 loads of laundry up and down 3 flights of stairs while 15 weeks pregnant and still nauseous and an afternoon of squealing children kind of tired. Oh, and I'm kind of ill as well. I am extremely irritated. Extremely at my limit. If I were a cell phone battery, I’d be at 1-2%. My patience was as thin as store-brand Saran Wrap.
So of course, Bittykins won’t listen to a word I ask of her. She won’t stand still. She won’t stay in the same room. She won’t get her itty-bitty naked unbathed self off my pillow Right Now Or I Might Get Pink Eye, she bites the toothbrush and hangs on it with her teeth (seriously? I'm going to add this to her circus resume...I'm building a very good case for her employment), she won’t use the potty, she won’t put on her Pull-Up, she won’t leave her brother in peace to use the bathroom and he ends up showering the toilet training seat, regular seat, lid, wall, and all the real estate in and around the trash can. Even straightforward directions like, “Please stand on the white rug” fall on deaf ears. My requests are punctuated by coughs and sniffles because I came home from France with a cold. And when you cough, an entire second can pass, plenty of time for a child to escape to another country. She giggles and runs and jumps and hangs on everything through every direction and runs away in any moment I’m not holding on to her, and my irritation is welling up into a loud voice and my hands guiding her by the upper arm just to wrangle her into her own basic hygiene. This is not my normal me. I am not me right now. I am having an out-of-body experience where I’m watching all the things I swore I’d never be come out of my face and through my arms and out my hands, firmly holding her by the upper arm so she’ll "Sit! Still!" so I can brush her teeth with one hand while I wrap my legs around her to keep her from running away again. I am the dark cloud over the carnival fun house without a roof, threatening a storm. I am almost in tears.
And then they’re released, they’re choosing stories. This is the 22-second interval where I repeat to them to choose their story while I survey all the previously unobserved destruction that’s occurred upstairs throughout the day – upended items, new sets of things scattered throughout everywhere in complete randomization, one more personal thing of mine destroyed but only very slightly. I feel like all the Things I have that I really love are all slightly damaged by a child. I’m pretty sure there is no wall or corner in this house that does not reflect some slight form of destruction. Nothing is how it should be, and yet I know, everything is. I know it’s all meant to be imperfect and love makes it all perfect, but every once in a while I would love to be able to put something somewhere and know that no one will find it and break it, color on it, wipe boogers on it, lick it, poop on it, rip it, pee on it, bite it, put a sticker on it, drop it, leave a lollipop on it, cram it somewhere it doesn’t belong not to be discovered for 3 months, scrub it all over the sandy floor, slide down the stairs on it, “decorate” it, or incorporate it into a pivotal part of a multiple-day play scheme and never put it away. I do love them. I do love their little fingerprints, and I almost never act upset in front of them if they’ve hurt a Thing, because I want them to know that while we need to treat things with respect, that things are not as important as their feelings. But Dear Heavens. When the moving trucks come in two weeks, at this rate, there will be nothing left that’s worth taking. I think if burglars broke into our house, they’d turn around and walk away empty-handed, and I might be more disappointed over that than they. I might even chase them down and beg them to take some things with them in a sort of streetlight-negotiated plea bargain in my bathrobe.
In a miraculous ray of hope, they chose the same story. “I’m off the hook!” I thought, but no, Bittykins figured out the situation and instead chose Superman.
“The yellow sun gives Superman incredible superpowers.”
And I started bawling. Hard. Great, big, ugly tears rolled down my face, and I wipe my mascara only to realize I never got around to putting it on today.
Bittykins holds my arm and kisses me and looks at me with her angelic doe face trimmed with golden cherub curls and her blue eyes laced with long blonde lashes. “You are d' best mommy,” she says, her cheek pressed in and tiny arms curled around my upper arm. Butterscotch follows suit with compassion. I cry more.
“I wish *I* had incredible superpowers - to not be angry at Bittykins!”
“You do, Mommy!” says Butterscotch, who struggles with managing his frequent anger outbursts over things putting on his sandals. “You have the power.” The first indication he’s at least hearing what I’m telling him. I just cry some more.
Now great, the crying leads to coughing, and the coughing leads to that puking feeling.
I reach for the metal Thomas the Tank Engine lunchbox and pop it open fast enough to catch my puke only to notice too late it’s filled with pennies, cotton balls, and Legos.
Worse, the force of the puke made me dribble onto the reading mat.
Bittykins offered to read her own story to herself, which she did out loud by guessing what the pictures were, and when Superman saved the train from derailing, she said, “And dat’s when they all said, ‘Crap, crap, crap!’”
(Clearly, I am winning the Mother of the Year Award.) This is when I switched to crying tears of laughter.
Poor Butterscotch. He was probably so confused what on Earth was wrong with me.
I finally managed to read Corduroy without crying too hard and everybody went to bed.
And when I closed their doors, I didn’t pick up the playing cards from Tiffany’s from my grandmother I thought were too nice to play with the children. I thought about how today I got to be the first person to teach Butterscotch how to play Go Fish. I didn’t pick up the fairy costume from the fancy toy store in downtown Quebec now marked with ink pen. I didn’t sweep up popcorn crumbs or inspect the dent the door handle made in my painting when they accidentally pushed the front door into it. I thought about how for two months, popcorn was all I could stomach when I was pregnant with Bittykins and how she's almost as tall as the doorknobs now. I didn’t iron out the crinkles in the large prints and photographs I painstakingly laid out for our impending move after months of resisting the urge to frame them. I wondered what the walls will even look like in the 97-year-old home we just purchased that I've never set foot in and what an adventure awaits us. To some, it's just mess, and I do have to clear a path through it all. But it's also the story of our day, laid out in leftover props from opening night. I passed it all right by and checked in with Geoff, and ignored the mess and propped my feet up. I just slowed down and Let Go of so much control, and after a long struggle with perfectionism, this has become my greatest superpower.