Grocery shopping, a family affair!

They pushed me.  Right on over the edge.

You know those three spunky, rambunctious little monsters that dominate much of my writing?  A mere six days ago they very nearly had me in need of being committed.  I am quite accustomed to thriving under a certain level of craziness.  But even I have my breaking point.  Being the little hellions they are, my spawn busted thru that breaking point like the finish line on a 50 yard dash.

*I feel the need to put a disclaimer here- we all managed to survive, and no children or animals were injured in the creation of this post.

I have to admit, I am mostly to blame for what transpired.  It was about 5pm on Saturday.  The big two had attended birthday parties, no naps.  Henry had a brief nap.  Naps are very important in our house.  For all of us.  My darling husband was off cutting trees to bits with a chainsaw and the kids and I were all a bit antsy.  So, in my infinite wisdom what do I do??  I suggest a trip to the grocery store, followed by ice cream if there is decent behavior.

Really?  REALLY?!?  If anyone had, up until this point, questioned it when I claim I am a crazy person that should seal the deal for you.

But everyone was in a good mood and excited to get out of the house, so off we went!

We have a nice ride to the store, but before we get in it starts.  No one wants in the cart.  Now, we have a system and the ‘ol Wal-Marts.  Isabelle and Henry in one cart, Eli in another.  I push one and pull one.  Keeps them separated and leads to less fighting and a much better experience overall.  It also draws all sorts of comments, but it *is* the easiest way.  But not that day.  We were in a much smaller store (Aldi’s- I LOVE Aldi’s!!) plus their carts are bigger.  Two was not an option.

Henry started crying as I loaded him into the cart.  Then as I pushed Isabelle in on top of him, she squished his hand and wailing ensued.  We made it thru the door and a kind gentleman told me how brave I was bringing them all (over Henry’s crying).  I told him he may change his mind before we could get out of there and think I was the dumbest person he had ever met.  If only I had known how right I was!

We made it literally 3 steps before Isabelle and Eli started asking for pretzels, chips, cookies, crackers, chocolate, wine, and anything else that was in the first 10 foot section of the store.  Henry was too busy crying to bother looking around.  Isabelle was asking to get out of the cart- in the most whiney voice imaginable.  Eli was putting random things in the cart.  I wanted to just leave it all- kids included- and go home.

But I am no quitter!  We soldiered on.  It was pretty much how I envision Hell.  Eli was pulling the cart when I tried to push, Isabelle kept pestering both of her brothers, Henry was STILL crying (except he would forget every few minutes and get quiet… then he would realize he stopped and start up again, louder).  I was questioning the appropriateness of cracking open the bottle of wine in the cart in the middle of the store, knowing that hitting any of the lovely children upside the head with it would be undoubtedly INappropriate.

We run out of room for Isabelle AND Henry in the cart, and Henry is STILL crying, so Isabelle is out.  Which turns into a push and pull the cart contest between her and Eli.  My shins and Achilles tendon claimed the loss.  In the war haze I have completely forgotten everything I can intending to purchase and the list was lost several aisles before when I set it down to snatch a run away kid.  I tried to keep other shoppers safe from my oft runaway cart.  I tried to get Henry to STOP.CRYING.  I tried to keep Eli from scraping the ice on the inside of the cooler to taste.  I tried to get Isabelle to stop sobbing that I am the meanest, most unfair mom in the whole entire world when I made her stay on the opposite end of the cart as Eli.  I tried to control myself enough to not pelt my children with produce.  I was only successful in the last category.  Even that was very touch and go.

Usually the chaos, destruction and “fun” are met with a smile (ok, just occasionally on the smile) and a sigh.  But usually the chaos and destruction are reserved for our own home.  I was furious with the behavior of my children.  I was embarrassed.  I don’t want to have “those” kids or be “that” mom!  As I trudged to the check out I was completely and utterly defeated.

The checker was super sweet and smiled as she zoomed thru the items I put on the belt, many of which I was seeing for the first time.  I was quite beyond caring though.  We managed to get out of the store and I even buckled them all into their carseats, as much as I was tempted to leave at least a couple behind.  Henry, for the record, was still crying.  Then- GET THIS- Isabelle asks if she gets her ice cream!?!?!?!!!!!!  Yeah, it seemed like days ago, but we had talked about ice cream after the store.  I half choked, half snorted a pretty resounding NO.  That instantly gave way to the sobbing, hyperventilating tears that only a 6 year old girl can manage.  I rolled my eyes, shut the van door (a teeny bit harder than necessary) and drove thru the parking lot to the adjoining McDonalds.

Now, if you think for one nanosecond I was getting those little brats anything, you don’t know me at all!  Nope, I pulled the super mature move of getting me myself and I a big fat ice cream cone to enjoy while they cried.  I cranked the radio to drown out the sobbing behind me and pretended the last hour had all been a bad dream.  A really really bad dream.  Nightmare.

As I finished my treat and my blood pressure returned to near normal levels, I thought I should try to talk to the little gremlins, to see if they had returned to the cute friendly state.  As we chatted Eli began making an obnoxious noise.  Mothers of boys, you know exactly what I mean.  They will repeatedly, almost unconsciously, make these incredibly annoying, nails on the chalk board type noises.  Kind of like a vocal ADHD.  I asked him nicely to stop then went back to my conversation with Isabelle (who was back on the whole tirade about how I am the most unfair mom on the planet).  When I heard it again like two seconds later, I sternly told him to stop.  Two seconds later I yelled at him to stop.  Two seconds later my blood boiling, I screamed at him to stop.

He did it again.

Then…

he…

giggled…

 

O.M.G.  I can feel my blood pressure rising just typing it.  I think he really must have thought it would be hilariously cool to actually witness my head exploding.

I could seriously barely see to drive.  But I did not pull over.  Probably because I was afraid for HIM if I were to pull over.  I had been pushed over the edge.  Through my teeth I told him he was going to bed the minute we got home.  Do not pass go, do not collect $200.  HE.WAS.DONE.  I am pretty sure there was sobbing after that, I was too busy praying Keith would be home by the time I got there to have any clue what was transpiring behind me.

It is a good 20min drive from the store back home.  It seemed like hours.  But PRAISE GOD! I pull into the drive and see my wonderful husband.  I calmly get out of the vehicle, look him in the eye and say, “They are yours for the night.  I am DONE.” and I walked inside and locked myself in my room.

Over-reaction?  Hormones?  (I am NOT pregnant people, I still have hormones!) Does it really matter?  We all have our breaking point.  And no two are the same.  I had hit mine, like a freaking brick wall.

Even the next morning, as we all got ready for church I was still very much on edge.  My nerves were still frayed and raw.

We managed to get to church about 5 minutes late, which is actually quite early for us.  As the music began I took a deep breath and I could feel the tension melt away.  I looked down at Isabelle coloring the Hello Kitty Rock Star.  Then over at Eli, stacking his Hot Wheels high on a trailer to see how many he could haul at once.  I smiled.  Even at the height of emotion yesterday, I had, of course, still loved them so deeply and completely.  But in this moment, I actually liked them again!  Then they bowed their little heads to pray, and I could hear them saying the Lord’s Prayer as best they could and my heart melted a bit.  My soul was refreshed!

(Henry, as you may have noticed, was absent from the above description.  After sharing a Hot Wheel with his brother by hitting him upside the head with it, he and Daddy left the sanctuary)

Now, in the 30 minutes between church service and Sunday School, they worked hard to pick at the newly formed scab over my nerves.  That was pretty evident to all in my Sunday School class!  But, they didn’t manage to send me back over the edge.  God, being a far more patient and insightful parent than myself, had given me a Heaven sent dose of calm.  It lasted *almost* til nap time!

Because I was the grumpiest of the bunch, I went down for my nap first.  Naps are seriously my favorite hobby in the whole world.  I spent a little time before dozing off asking God to help me- help me not flip my lid, help me not stroke out and help me remember why I actually like hanging out with my kids.

When I woke up, all was right with the world.  Naps are amazing like that!  There were still plates with the remnants of lunch on the table.  Walking barefoot thru the living room risked your life in a literal lego land mine.   The kitchen sink was overflowing with dirty dishes.  The laundry hampers overflowing with dirty clothes.  But you know what else was overflowing?  My heart.

I have been so incredibly and lavishly blessed in life.  I usually don’t lose sight of that.  But we all have our breaking points.  Sometimes, methinks, that letting ourselves break is what allows is to become stronger, better.

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Let it go… My Thoughts on Parenting.

Let me preface this post by saying that I am only qualified to give parenting “advice” in that I am completely aware of my shortcomings and failures as a wife, mother, and well, as a person in general.  Trust me, my 6-year-old would be the first to agree.  She tells me at least once a week about how I am ruining her life.  I have come to realize though, that the acceptance of that imperfection is key to letting go of all the guilt, insecurities and other crap that so often comes with parenting.

Rewind about 9 (? I am totally guessing) years.  I attended a sales conference in St Louis with a couple of my co-workers.  There was this slick speaker.  No clue what his name was, but there was a part of his message that really stuck.  But it wasn’t really his message… he stole the words of Deepak Chopra, but sounding far more like Apu from the Simpsons he encouraged us to “Let it go”.  Make sure you say it in your head with the accent!  Now, it was shared in a business context quite specific to my line of work.  However, it was catchy and my co-workers and I quickly added it to our inside joke vernacular, which after almost 14 years has almost become a language of its own.

I am not sure when it actually clicked outside of the work world for me, but it can be so profound.

Just let it go people.

The stress.  The guilt.  The insecurities.  They serve no purpose in your life.  They are just dragging you down and keeping you from enjoying the bounty of blessings you have been given.

THERE IS NO PERFECT PARENT (*ahem*, earthly, anyway).  So let go of that idea right flippin now.  Give it up.  Ain’t gonna happen.  All you are going to accomplish in trying is making yourself, and likely everyone around you, miserable.  The reality is your kids WILL have issues.  They will probably blame you for those issues.  There will be things you cannot shield and protect them from.  Their heart will break, which will break yours.  Then they will be bratty and selfish and mean and you will wonder what the heck you did for them to think that is ok.  Then you will hear them parrot your words and then you will hear yourself parrot your parents’ words and then you will need to find a drink ASAP.

That Pinterest perfection stress?  LET IT GO.  First off, it is the internet.  You have heard that famous quote from Abe Lincoln, right?  “Don’t believe everything you read on the internet.”  What is important to YOU?  To your family?  Just focus on that and deal with the other crap when- if- you have time.  Completely organic, home cooked meals everyday?  Kudos to you!  Really, that is awesome.  Me?  I love Halloween.  If me making costumes means the kids eat McDs and frozen pizzas a few nights, I am good with that.  If there are two loads of dirty dishes waiting for a spot in the dishwasher so we can play board games or wrestle around, so be it.  I have forgotten picture day, snacks for the week, money for offering, pick up from preschool, the list goes on and on… and I am only 6 years into this parenting gig.  But guess what?  My kids are still happy to see me!  Sure, it may just be because I didn’t forget them.  *W*.  Let go of the stress of perfection.

Really, what better way for you kids to know that it is ok to screw up from time to time than to see that you make mistakes as well?  If you flip your lid and yell at them when you shouldn’t have, apologize.  Tell them that you are working hard to do better- and follow through.  Ask them to forgive you and LET IT GO.  Life happens and sometimes, as much as you would like to move Heaven and Earth to be at every ball game, school award ceremony and teeth cleaning YOU CANNOT DO IT ALL.  Your kid WILL survive.  Don’t harbor that guilt.  Seriously, that will be far too much baggage to lug by the time kids are grown.

Then there are those icky little insecurities… a few things to keep in mind here.  1) Children are evil masterminds and they WILL find your insecurities and exploit them.  It is like Sesame Street is covert CIA training.  But remember, you are the adult.  No name calling.  Also, just do what is right for your family.  Do not let other people’s (usually unsolicited) opinions impact what you feel is best for YOUR family.  Do what you want.  After a while everyone just assumes you are crazy and doesn’t bother questioning you anymore.  The other thing is, in picking up on your insecurities, you kids can, and often will, take them on as their own.  I make a point to NOT let my daughter see me crying about my muffin top and stretch marks.  Or the bye-bye skin on my triceps.  Or the cellulite on my thighs.  Or the little wrinkles that are forming around my eyes.  There are less superficial insecurities, but for the sake of my vanity, we will leave it at my childbearing ravaged body.  We have already covered that we aren’t perfect, and we aren’t going to be.  So, for their sake and yours LET IT GO.

My prayer in all of this is that all of the struggling parents out there, all of those thinking about being parents, all of those just barely hanging on, can let go.  Parenthood is the most amazing, challenging, rewarding, frustrating, soul quenching experience.  Don’t get so caught up in what you think it should be or what you want it to be that you cannot enjoy all that it is.