This morning I woke up to an epic disaster in the little girls’ room. All the drawers had been emptied, the covers stripped off the beds and piled into the closet along with every Little People toy we’ve ever owned. The floor of the room was strewn with emptied packages of pull-ups, five kids worth of stuffed animals, and, inexplicably, an unrolled roll of toilet paper. Insane, right?
Here’s what’s insane: This is what I wake to every morning. I know, I know. I take total responsibility. Somewhere along the line I traded in an extra 30 minutes of sleep (while they
destroy play in their room) for 20 minutes of clean up. For some reason, I decided that today was the day to do some serious housecleaning.
While I was upstairs, here’s what happened downstairs:
That, my friends, is an overflowed toilet, in case you’ve never seen one. I hadn’t.
Oh, dear God. I mean, really… God help me.
So, I was going to write a post about these:
These are gardening shoes. Rubber shoes designed for stomping around in the mud. I bought them at Target a few years ago while under the delusion that I had time to garden.
I was going to write a witty, funny post about how these shoes sat unused in my closet for a couple years until I repurposed them, today, as “exploded toilet bathroom cleaning shoes”.
But then the rest of the day happened.
It was nothing in particular. Juliette got on a 30 minute kick about her Mimi, whom she kept referring to as “Mimi, your dead mother.” I babysat for a friend (a friend who would have totally done the same for me under the same circumstances) during nap time , which meant my little girls didn’t nap. No nap = no break. It was bath night and it took me 25 minutes to get the tangles out of Juliette’s hair, and she was first of three. Everyone was cranky and tired (including me) and demanding. I couldn’t get one girl a piece of paper to color on before someone else was screaming for a glass of water. The laundry from this morning was molding in the washer. The fish for dinner was rotting on the counter. I suddenly understood the cliche: “Blood boiling”. I was so tired and over it, I was seriously considering the risks of locking myself in my bedroom and leaving three toddlers unattended. At 4:59pm I went knocking on the box of wine.
It was empty.
By the time my big kids got home at 6:30 (mind you, this is after I’ve already done Dinner and Baths: Round 1), I had this strange burning in my nose. I felt like a five year old who’d just inhaled pool water. When Zoë asked me if I was okay (“you look strange”) I realized what it was: tears.
I burst into tears in front of my sweet 11 year old daughter and 8 year old son.
I’d like to say I had some graceful and meaningful piece of wisdom to bestow on them before I sent them upstairs, with kisses, to do their homework. I didn’t. I said I was tired, and that sometimes grown people cry when they are tired, just like little kids do.
Here’s the thing: this parenting business is hard work. It can be frustrating and infuriating, especially when you aren’t allowed to stomp your feet and shriek like a three-year-old. Especially when you know that there are five little people looking to you to figure out how to navigate this world and all it’s stress and disappointment. It can feel like an exercise in theatre. Playing the perfect parent. Playing the role model.
But even clowns take off their makeup sometimes.
I hope what my children saw tonight was a woman willing to be vulnerable. I hope I showed them, if not how to grin and bear it, how to be honest, how to sit with the suckage. Our children need to learn not only how to be strong, but how to be weak. How to be exhilarated, exhausted, fearful humans still striving to be kind, to do good, to be authentic. And sometimes failing. Because sometimes there is grace in failing, humility in missing the mark, and great compassion in vulnerability.
And if I had to rank the attributes I’d like to impart to my children, grace, humility, and compassion would top the list.