Sunday, January 12, 2014

An open letter to my village

Why are there so many articles written about parenting, so many mom bloggers, so many shares on social media of articles that point to the poop-moments of parenting young children? Well, BECAUSE IT'S FRIGGIN HARD PEOPLE. And if you read that last "sentence" and can't relate, you either fall into two categories: you have not had children, or your children are now "grown" (translation: they are no longer insane little monsters with instant gratification needs) and you have conveniently forgotten what it was like to live in the trenches.

Today I witnessed and was held responsible for by The People of Many Stares and Glares, the complete and utter typical two-year-old public meltdown of my son. Of course I've dealt with the public tantrums before but NOT on a Sunday afternoon in a completely PACKED OUT Trader Joe's with 2 very tired and very hungry kids. It was a recipe for disaster.

I'll spare you the details suffice to say that it was bad. Really bad. So bad that this one older woman followed us around shaking her head at us. As if the People of Many Stares and Glares weren't bad enough of a reminder that I was utterly "failing" at keeping my child tame in public (tame because let's face it, they really are wild animals until age 6), I had this woman following me shaking her head in disapproval. Thanks lady. It's in these moments that a kind word uttered from a stranger such as "I remember those days, hang in there" or "can I help you?" mean a world of difference.

Instead I just stood there in the storm with the onlookers casting their judgement on me. It felt horrible. That's what you can't understand about being a parent beforehand. The feelings of failure and shame that wash over you in the moments of despair. Just as you cannot control your friends, your spouse, your family, you cannot control your children. Because they are people too. There's a difference between trying to control your kids and disciplining them out of love. I hate that phrase "he's out of control" (which was probably muttered today in my direction). We are all "out of control". I'm "out of control" and I proved it well after my daughter asked me in the most annoying tone "Mo-ooom, what are we DOING?!" as we abandoned ship and headed for the door, leaving our cart full of food in the middle of the store, son dangling from my side under my arm, flailing and smacking me with his balled up fists. After about 14 of the "Mo-oom what are we DOING?!" questions coupled with the violent ceaseless screams I snapped at her in the parking lot. "Stop. Asking. Me. Questions!" It was ugly. She cried. I cried. More waves of shame and guilt. MAN THIS IS HARD!!!

And then there are the people that look at you and say "just wait till they're teenagers." I mean really, did you just say that to me? I want to look at them and tell them they must have amnesia because this is insanely hard. Why can't it just be hard and we leave it at that? After the total devastation we caused at Trader Joe's we headed to Chipotle so I could feed the crew because we had no food at home which is why we were at the grocery to begin with. After waiting in a long line for food with 2 grumpy kids who can't stand still and a full restaurant with no tables in which to eat the food that I was barely able to hold in my arms because I had a hand on my son, the Bolter, we finally were seated and eating. Well, they were eating. I was of course up and down, getting napkins for the messy one, replacing a dropped fork, blowing on bites of food that were too hot. In my fast paced world of anxiously trying to meet every need at the table, an odd thing occurred to me as I glanced around. It was the people who had no young kids (which was everyone else there excluding me) and how they casually walked from the counter with their steaming food, to the forks, got their drink and then leisurely sat down to eat their food. They looked so foreign to me. What would that be like? The simple act of dining and feeding only yourself? At any moment my delicate ship could go down in flames and it was up to me to put out all small fires that popped up. A banged elbow, a bitten tongue, a dropped quesadilla could all cause the eruption that would shake the whole restaurant. I watched The Others as in slow motion as they gracefully and blissfully fed themselves while my food sat before me untouched and my stomach growled. But there were pieces of rice stuck to the side of a bean and I MUST get it off because someone looked like their eyes were welling up with possible tears.

I guess sometimes it baffles me how truly hard parenting is. That's why there's so much written about it, so much chatter from those in the trenches. Unlike an older generation, we have not developed PTSD and blocked out the bad parts. We are living them daily! And we are the "let's talk about it" generation. Look, I love my kids. They are my precious gems, my treasure. I guard them with my life and feel their every need as if it were my own but more intensely. That's the other thing you can't imagine about being a parent. The unbelievable love you feel towards these little people and the lengths you will go to protect them, to rescue them, to keep them from harm. But it's hard work, sometimes extraordinarily hard. I've experienced nothing like it. Not one thing could have prepared me for this which is why I need support. It takes a village. I love it when people come along side and offer to open the door when I'm pushing a stroller and obviously cannot do it myself. It's like a warm blanket on a cold day. When someone gives me a nod and says "I've been there".

I know they are going to turn into teenagers and that an entirely different set of problems and challenges will happen. Just as I couldn't prepare myself for parenting in general I cannot prepare myself for that either. I just know that moms of young kids NEED YOUR HELP people. So turn that frown upside down and the next time you want to mutter under your breath "that child is out of control", offer to help or give an encouraging word. You have no idea how much a simple smile or word can lift someone out of a pit of shame.

And to the super sweet employees of Trader Joes: thank you. You have never made me feel bad, you give me free food on the way out, and you give looks of sympathy and offer words of kindness with stickers. If your kid is going to have a meltdown, TJ's is the place to be!

To the other parents in the trenches - I'll see you around. Maybe tomorrow will be a better day. I'm making mental notes for when I'm in my 60s to check this blog so I can be reminded and offer to carry a tray of food, heck PAY FOR IT, get some napkins or even just give a sympathetic smile to a mom in the trenches. I surely won't ever look at them and say "Enjoy it, it goes by fast!" will I??

And to my children: I love you. You are wonderful. You aren't monsters but instead little people trying to grow and figure out the world around you. I'm saving for therapy for you one day. Love, Mom.


Erin said...

So, one day in Kohls Reagan started throwing a fit about a necklace she wanted (after she was told we would not be purchasing anything) and I abruptly whisked her away into the "family" bathroom for a stern "talking to" and when we opened the bathroom door to walk out a lady claiming to be from social services asked Reagan if she was ok - several times...

Erica said...

oh jen.....i love your realness and genuineness of life
: ) all i can say is yes, yes and yes!! heck i get stares when i walk in public with many small children.....i feel they look at me like i'm some crazy woman probably thinking "does she know she has 4 children under the age of 7?!" haha! and i've talked meanly many a time....i'm surprised no one has called child services on me! as my kid starts crying/screaming "no i don't want a spanking!!!!!!" that gets some nice looks! and it's amazing these things always happen to me......they are as good as gold with casey---probably b/c they truly have a reverent fear---i'm too inconsistent : (

EBW said...

Amen, woman. A-MEN.

design by