There are those days, those days raising your toddler(s) where you wish you could just wave the white flag. Throw in the proverbial towel. Surrender. These days come in many forms. They can start off on a great foot and quickly unwind. They can be coming on for days. Or, they can be a product of relatively sleepless night(s). The way in which you get to your point of wanting to surrender may be different, but the outcome is the same. For my little family, my boiling point tends to come when life gets too complicated. I get too preoccupied, task-oriented, overwhelmed, and/or stressed. Then, my toddlers act out, BIG time. I’m not talking about the “we are testing boundaries” moments, but the moments where I am convinced they have orchestrated an actual blitzkrieg attack against me in the form of whining, defying me, and destroying my home. I have a moment where I want to wave that white flag so feverishly. I want to call in reinforcements; call my husband off work, call my mom in to save me, or just crawl into a dark, quiet, CLEAN place, and hideout until the dust settles, the whining stops, and my apartment is miraculously and meticulously clean.
Yesterday started off after a very sleepless night. My thirteen month old appears to be cutting FOUR teeth right now. Still, the morning started off well. My husband made me coffee, a gesture I always thoroughly appreciate! Everyone ate happily and once I’d finished my breakfast, I made a couple of phone calls to family. My brother has been in the hospital four times in the past two weeks due to heart problems and chest pains. Some of his stays have been for extended periods, while others have been a few hours to get things under control. Fortunately, the most recent was his shortest hospital visit yet. Nevertheless, the whole family has been on an emotionally bumpy ride as we’ve been by my brother’s side.
During my first phone conversation, my toddlers were bouncing around me happily. Just prior, they had unsuccessfully attempted to raid my spice cabinet twice (damn thing can’t be child-proofed). When they made their way into the playroom and started playing quietly, I was grateful for the opportunity to wrap up the call without interruption. Little did I know that one of them had gone back to the forbidden cabinet, gotten onion powder, snuck it into the toy room, and both had started taking turns shaking the contents on to the carpet. After a quick explanation that the spices are mama’s and are a “no-no,” I decided to make my second phone call while semi-playing with them. As I played less and they collaboratively played more, I decided to back away to conclude the call. Before hanging up, these two presented themselves freshly inked with their DIY tattoos.
After their body art melted into an aqua blue bath, and they were dried and diapered, I made my way into the playroom to finish cleaning up. They disappeared quickly; the silence that ensued prompted me to run into their room.
The diaper cream had been retrieved from the top of her dresser. After clean up event number three, my one year old was seemingly ready for his nap. As per usual, I put Dora on for my daughter as I brought my son into the bedroom to wind him down. After ten minutes, I found the TV, bar stools, counter, and my two-year old painted in the remnants of the diaper cream, which she had to retrieved from the kitchen counter. Just to add insult to injury, my little guy decided to delay his nap for two hours past his regular time.
If this had been an episodic battle, they certainly had won. I was done, and rightfully so. I could no longer focus on cleaning. My phone calls were already done, but I needed to put my phone, social media, and my to-do list down completely. Though I wasn’t going to call in reinforcements, I needed to stop every insignificant thing I could afford to give up, and hone in on my little ones. Some times I have to remind myself that years down the road, I won’t lament over an untidy home, or a project that took much longer than anticipated to finish. In the grand scheme of things, tasks mean nothing. My family is every thing. And, I will be always be grateful for being completely present and involved with my children. Another influence I use as an almost mantra in these times is the Raffi song “All I Really Need”. The lyrics, written from the perspective of a child, include the lines “All I really need is a song in my heart, food in my belly, and love in my family.” When I feel overwhelmed as a stay-at-home mom with a one and two-year old, I find replaying these words in my head help set me free from feeling frustrated about events such as a creamed TV, and a well seasoned, pungent carpet. They are a perfect reminder that a happy, healthy family is contingent on some very basic, fundamental things. The rest can afford to be given up on from time to time, and will be of very little consequence.