Today was a hard day. I'm not sure if it was any worse than any of our other hard days, but it certainly felt to me like it was. You are all asleep now — tucked away under your matching "Star Wars" comforters, faces still sticky with sweat because I was just too tired to bathe you. You look so beautiful when you’re sleeping. So peaceful and content, the way I always imagined you when I used to dream of being a mother. But motherhood hasn’t been quite as dreamy as I had hoped.
I’ve already checked on you twice tonight. The first time was the nightly ritual. I cannot go to bed until I know that each of you is asleep. But the second time, that was guilt-driven. I feel like a failure after the day that we’ve had and I just had an irrepressible urge to see you, almost as if I subconsciously needed my last glimpses of you for the day to be ones of admiration and awe, rather than frustration and irritation.
Everyone always says that you should never go to bed angry.
The truth is that motherhood is a double-edged sword and you three have successfully managed to help (force) me to see both sides of the spectrum. The side-splitting laughter I experience when I watch you interact with each other often yields to a quick temper, triggered by the defiance that is typical of children growing up and asserting themselves. Most of the time my life is wrapped in a bubble of unimaginable joy, but when any of you is sad, or hurt or, God forbid, excluded or teased by a peer, that bubble shatters and my heart breaks and I wonder how I am going to survive your childhoods and then your college years and then your adulthoods when you establish your own lives and families and you don’t feel the need to call, “Mama? Mama?” every three minutes and I wonder if you will even remember to call me at all.
And for all the satisfaction I get from nurturing you and feeding you and snuggling with you and watching you develop into capable and caring boys, there are so many times when your energy overwhelms me and I am desperate for just ten minutes of peace and distance from you.
Today was one of those days.
Everyone at church knew it this morning when I grabbed one of you by the elbow and pulled you into the vestibule. The other two knew to come despite the impending reprimand that was to follow. And a reprimand you received, audibly and without discretion, because I was so embarrassed and frustrated by your behavior.
Everyone at the grocery store knew it this afternoon when one of you had a tantrum because I said I wouldn’t buy more cereal until you ate the boxes that we have at home. We’re trying to teach you to be mindful, and that money is something to be spent carefully, and to avoid waste. But this was not a lesson that you wanted to learn and when one of you starts whining the others inevitably follow suit so I was left stranded in aisle 4 with children in the throes of an irrational meltdown. If any patrons wanted organic soup that afternoon they weren’t getting any. I was met with stares of sympathy, shock, and judgment and everyone stayed away.
Everyone in the neighborhood knew it this evening when they heard me yelling at you to clean up the basement for the umpteenth time. The downside to this warmer weather is the open windows.
It was just a hard day.
You were especially challenging, and I was especially irritable. The more you pushed, the more I lost my patience. And there was yelling. So much yelling. I hate yelling, especially at you. But sometimes it’s the only way that I feel heard. But I know — or at least I should — that no one actually listens when I yell. It’s not an effective means of communication. And the less you listen, the more frustrated I get.
After dinner I sent you to your rooms and said no to dessert and bedtime books and the Goodnight Song. The break in your routine exacerbated an already bad situation and everyone started crying and the only thing I could think to do was sit on my bed and close the door.
It wasn’t until I heard the heaving sobs and the desperate cries of “Mama, we’re sorry!” that I began to soften a little. The guilt started to kick in. And then I peered into the hallway and saw the three of you wrapped in an embrace. In my head, I imagine that one of you whispered to the others, “It’s okay, guys, we’ll get through this” or something equally bittersweet and that’s when I started to cry. I’m a glutton for punishment, I suppose.
After a few calming minutes I disbanded the group hug and sat you on the floor. I explained, as best I could, that your behavior today was inappropriate. Max, your ringleader, made the same observation about mine. You three apologized. I did too.
And before you went to bed, you said, “Mama, you still love us though, right?”
I nodded yes, kissed each of your warm, sticky little foreheads and tucked you in.
My Littles, if all of the children in the world stood in one line, and all of the mamas in the world stood in another, I would choose you. Every.Single.Time. Even knowing how you behave, even knowing how you don’t listen, even knowing how you test my patience. I would still choose you.
I only hope that you three would choose me.