Today was a rough one. I woke up with a headache. I burnt my espresso. I’m fighting some killer cramps. I received some very sad news about a dear friend of mine. I’m all kinds of emotional. And my kids have needed me all day. Like really needed me… as in, demanded every single ounce of my being. I know… they’re toddlers. That’s what they do. They’re kissable, huggable, lovable balls of exhaustion.
Mid-morning I tried to give myself a reset. I thought to myself, Ok, I’m going to set the kids up for success… put their drinks in hand, give them a bowl of snacks, turn on the tv, and scatter toys all over the living room floor.
“Give me one Daniel tiger episode guys” (this is the only reference of time they understand). “I need to take a hot bath and then I promise we’ll do something fun.”
No sooner than I had ran my hot water and eased myself into the tub, both toddlers were barreling into the bathroom. “Mommy!” “I need more water”, “My cheerios are all gone”, “Harrison took my blanky!”, “Sissy hit me!”, “MOM!”
I pulled my knees up to my chest, positioning myself into a fetal position in an attempt to preserve any amount of modesty motherhood has left me. I tried to control the chaos. I tried to tame the tantrums. I tried to persuade them to go watch cartoons but they were no longer interested in Daniel Tiger. In fact, they had seen that episode already. Psshhh… They didn’t care. They wanted to take a bath. They wanted to splash. They wanted to play with their mom. I spent the next 10 minutes trying my hardest to fight for the opportunity to hold onto my bath. All I really did in that amount of time was yell at my kids to stop putting their hands in the water and splashing me. At one point, my two-year-old literally almost fell into the tub.
So I gave up.
My water was cold anyway. I grabbed my towel and stepped out and as you would expect, both kids began pulling off their pants. “My turn!”, “Tubby Time!”, “Can we have bubbles!?”
While I dried off, they climbed in. In a matter of seconds they had turned the bathroom into a splash pad. I tried to relax. I tried not to be bitter. Or negative. Or begrudge their innocent play. At least they were confined to a given space long enough for me to sit in one spot for more than a few minutes, even if that meant sitting half naked on the toilet seat as I watched them and made sure they didn’t drown.
Once we finally all made it out of the bathroom and got ourselves dressed for the day, I told the kids that we were going to run into town and pick up some groceries. Honestly, I needed to get out of the house. We all needed to get out of the house. My kids were full of happy energy, I was on EMPTY, and it wasn’t even noon.
Would you believe that even grocery shopping was a disaster? We hadn’t been pushing the cart around the store for more than 5 minutes before I had lost one of my son’s shoes. Minutes later, I dropped a glass jar of marinara sauce. Glass and sauce splattered everywhere… all over my boots, my daughter’s shoes, our cart, the aisle, everywhere. We were a disaster. I can’t even make this stuff up.
I feel like I’m complaining. Like I’m a super negative and in one of those moods where I need to turn off my phone, stay away from people, and lock myself in my bedroom… (the irony of that statement is that I am in fact, finally sitting in my bedroom with my door locked as I hide from the chaos and try to type my stress away)… I suppose I should be thankful for my ‘knight in shining armor’ of a husband who recognized, for everyone’s sake and sanity, that mommy needed to go sit in her room for awhile…
Here’s the thing. MOMS. I feel you. I feel you on a seriously personal level tonight. Social media is so inundated with pretty pictures and happy moments and I LOVE looking at those beautiful happy shots, but I’m also here to tell you that behind those pictures are real people. Tired people. Emotional people. Exhausted people. Good people. But real people. People don’t naturally share the angry, messy, tiring, crazy chaos. But you better believe it’s there. We’re all human…
Tonight isn’t about being witty or funny. I don’t have an inspiring message or ‘lesson learned’ to share. Right now, I’m the mom who is hiding from her family. I can hear my husband tackling dinner and taming tantrums and doing his best to keep the kids happy and calm and quiet. Tonight, I’m just sharing a moment. A very raw and very real day of ‘momming’ (Can I make that a verb?). Maybe I’m trying to offer you some validation. Perhaps I’m looking for some reassurance and validation myself… In all honesty, this is probably my mind and body keeping myself busy in order to divert an emotional breakdown. Today has just been one of those days. Those terrible, horrible, no good, very bad days. A day of one thing after another going the opposite of how it was planned. A day of a whole bunch of hard moments. A day of doing EVERYTHING in my power to keep from screaming, or crying, or both… and I haven’t even mentioned the overwhelming guilt that comes after the roller coaster of a bad day… You know what I’m talking about… Guilt for yelling. Guilt for fatigue. Guilt for being boring, for not doing enough, not giving enough. Guilt for wanting a break from the people I love and care about the most.
Moms. We all have those days. Momming is HARD. Tomorrow will be better. I’ll be less emotional next week. I promise my next post will be witty and light. But tonight… whew… tonight is about some heavy, UNcontrolled chaos. You’ve been there too, right?
“Kids! I have a surprise!”, I yell as my kids come running into the kitchen to find a table filled with paints, brushes, pumpkins, old t-shirts and a momma with a vision to construct some cute little painted pumpkin faces with her toddlers.
15 minutes later….
You know what I got? A mess.
You know what I didn’t get? Those planned ‘cute little painted pumpkin faced crafts’.
It’s fine. You guys, my kids weren’t interested in the pumpkins. They didn’t care about a meticulously designed pumpkin face. They wanted to make a mess. They wanted to create and imagine. They wanted to channel their inner Bob Ross and let their paintbrush move wherever and however they chose, with no regard to instructions, plans, or directions… and that’s ok.
Today’s blog post isn’t a long one, but it’s written as a reminder to all the parents who thrive on order and instructions, schedules and planned activities. I’m totally one of those parents. My type A personality yearns for organization, a clean house, and a darn good planner, but I live in chaos remember? Controlled messy chaos… and if you have young kids (whether they’re yours, your grandkids, whoever), I imagine you can relate.
Toddlers are crazy, you know? They don’t care about sitting still. They don’t want to follow step-by-step instructions. They aren’t concerned about making pretty pinterest-worthy crafts. Sometimes, we just need the reminder to let our little kids be little kids; the reminder to follow their lead, despite our planned expectations; and the reminder to let them be creative and imaginative, even though we know a mess may likely follow. There’s a time and place for teaching lessons, following instructions, sitting quietly, and maintaining order…but let us remember the importance of creating a time and place for a little controlled chaos too.
…like painting beyond the pumpkin, because the un-planned craft will allow for more freedom, creativity, and originality anyway.
… or mixing playdough colors, because play-doh is cheap and it might even lead to a lesson on creating primary and secondary colors.
… or jumping in the mud, because the washing machine will probably take care of the dirty clothes.
… or going beyond the sidewalk and coloring the trees or play house with chalk, because the hose or the rain will wash it off later.
My point? Kids are only kids for a short while. Toddlers aren’t wired to ALWAYS sit still, follow instructions, take turns, keep quiet, or stay clean.
They need movement. They need messy. They need creativity. They need the freedom to explore the world with every part of their being.
Happy crafting, friends. Here’s to more ‘pinterest-worthy’ fails and creative messy chaos!
Being a parent means failing every day. It’s a role defined by trying your best and giving your all while simultaneously fighting off relentless feelings of worry, fear, criticism, and self-doubt. Just when we think we’ve done the right thing and made the right decision, motherhood has this way of sneaking in and knocking us straight to the ground. Today was no exception, in fact, I’m pretty sure I’m still metaphorically sore and swollen from the strike I received this morning.
Let me tell you about this playground, located about 5 minutes from our house. My kids and I go there often. It’s always fun, never too busy, and close to home. It’s perfect… with the exception of this slide:
We have a rule about this slide. Since our very first visit, it has been off-limits. It’s too old, too high, and literally every parent’s worst nightmare. Every time we go to this park, my kids ask about the slide- “Please mom!”, “Can we go down the slide!?” “We’ll be careful!”
I don’t even pause to pretend I’m thinking about it. It’s not safe. You could fall. You could get hurt. The answer is always no.
Well, today, we decided to spend the morning at the park. As I pulled up to the playground, I noticed that we had the entire place to ourselves. The weather was beautiful. My kids were having fun. We swung on the swings, twirled on the merry-go-round, played on the monkey bars, and crawled through the tunnel. Everything about the day was going smoothly. After about 20 minutes, my 3-year-old asked the inevitable question, “Mommy, can we go down the slide?”
I looked at her pleading, confident eyes. She’s such a strong girl, a ball of energy, this one… “Sweet girl… I’m afraid you’ll get hurt.”.
“But mom! I can do it! PLLLLEEEASSSSEEEE!”
What’s a mother to do? We can’t shield them in our arms forever (although if it was socially acceptable to wrap my kids in bubble wrap, I totally would). Every ounce of my mother’s intuition told me to tell her, “NO”.
But today I said yes.
I said yes because I want my children to be unafraid, to radiate confidence, to believe in themselves, and experience new things… While I would never knowingly put my kids in danger, something was pulling at me today to let them try. If I forever told them NO, wouldn’t they eventually stop asking? Then what? What does that teach them? What if they lost their self-confidence, their spark? I can’t cover them in bubble wrap forever, remember?
I walked both her and my two-year-old son over to the slide. Before letting them go, we had a talk. We discussed the importance of holding onto the handlebar when walking up the steps. We talked about sitting down and keeping our bottoms on the slide. We talked about the importance of keeping our legs together and our feet straight out in front of us so that our bodies would glide down the slide smoothly. We talked about taking turns and being safe.
With my ‘mom worry’ in serious overdrive, I finally let them go. As one would expect, both kids went running toward the steps before I even had a chance to think about changing my mind. They proudly reached the top, carefully sat down, and flashed me their super happy, confident toddler smiles. I was so nervous for them and so anxious for me, but I was also proud. Proud of my two little kiddos who were doing everything right. They had listened carefully to my instructions and were taking turns going up and down that slide without any hesitation. Honestly, I felt proud of myself. ‘See momma?’, I thought, ‘they’re doing just fine. Sometimes you just have to loosen the reins, (say a little prayer), and relax’.
You know what happened next?
My two-year-old fell from the top of the slide.
Right there, as I stood proud of my decision to give them an opportunity to do something they’ve never done, allowing them to be brave, allowing myself to be brave… my worst fear became reality. I watched my two-year-old son lean forward, somersault into the air, and fall to the ground. I’m not sure who screamed loudest- my daughter, myself, or my son.
First of all, I’m happy to report that he’s fine. The fall did not warrant a trip to the ER. Luckily, the ground was soft thanks to mulch covered mud from the past two days of rainy weather. A few minutes of cuddles, kisses, and fruit snacks was all the medical attention he needed before he was ready to get back to the playground… (Well, everything on the playground except for that terrible slide, which I was now ready to start tearing down myself). But here’s my point- Even when we’re trying our best to make the right decision for our children, we’re going to sometimes fail. We ALL fail. Some people just do a better job of hiding their failures than others. Some people refuse to talk about their failures. For me, sharing my failures is therapeutic. It’s relieving to talk about this thing that nobody likes to talk about. Because here’s the even bigger point- parenting doesn’t come with a manual. It is not black and white. There is NO right or wrong.
Before I could call myself a mother, a friend of mine gave me some of the best advice I’ve ever received as a parent. She warned me of all the varying and conflicting opinions I would likely hear throughout my pregnancy. She explained that while most of those opinions would be sincere in nature, they could also lead to overwhelming feelings of insecurity and intimidation, especially as a first-time mom.
“Trust your instinct”, she said. “You are going to be that sweet little girls’ mother and you will know her best. Whatever you do, whatever choices you make- if they are made out of love, they are right.”.
Those words have had such a profound impact on my role as a parent, even now, as a mother of three. The decision to let my brave kiddos try the slide today was made because I want them to be brave, to experience new things, and be unafraid of something new. Today didn’t turn out as I expected and I’m still struggling to get that fall out of my head, but you know what? My decision felt right in the moment. It was made out of love and it lead to a lesson learned and an experience gained.
If you are beating yourself up for a recent ‘parenting fail’ or struggling with a tough decision now… take heart in knowing that you’re not alone. We’re all failing. And whatever decision you make for your sweet children… if it’s out of love, it’s right.
You know those cliché remarks you hear when you’re a parent with young kids?
“Oh, they grow up so fast!”
“You need to soak up these moments.”
“You’re really going to miss this!”
We’ve all heard them. We do our best to remain polite listeners, but surely find ourselves holding back eyerolls as we dismiss the advice. We sigh as we count down the hours until naptime so that we can have a break from the chaos. Can you relate to this stage of crazy? A stage that finds you standing in the kitchen as you try to make lunch amongst requests for more milk, more grapes, more this and more that. A stage of guilt because when one child needs you, they all need you and you can only fit so many kids on your lap or in your arms. A stage of anxiety because when one child is melting down, they’re all melting down and you no longer can hear yourself think as you break up fights over who gets the pink cup versus the blue cup. This is a stage in which we need more hands. More time. More coffee. More patience. More sleep.
I validate you momma, this stage is rough and not a role in which you can always embrace with a smile on your face. Just recently, I was on the interstate, driving home from my in-law’s house when I noticed a particularly unpleasant smell coming from the back seat. I glanced into the rearview mirror and to my horror, saw my 2-year-old son’s hands covered in a mysterious brown substance (Yeah, you and I both know what that was). I spent some of the longest 10 minutes of my life as a mother, frantically searching for an exit while simultaneously throwing wipes into the backseat and pleading with him to keep his hands away from his face. I did finally find an exit and it was in that moment that I dealt with one of the most repulsive circumstances I’ve experienced thus far as a parent. I won’t go into any more details, but I can assure you, this was not a moment I could ‘embrace with a smile’.
Here’s the deal though… that 2-year-old boy just recently started potty training which means soon (I hope), I won’t have to deal with any more messy diapers or blowout circumstances. My 3-year-old daughter just recently entered the phase of, “I can do it!”, which means I’m needed less because she insists on proving her independence. My 5-year-old daughter just recently transitioned from being a preschooler to a kindergartner which means I now must trust a building full of adults I don’t know to teach and protect my sweet girl.
Big accomplishments. Exciting changes. Milestone moments that will soon be memories to look back upon.
Let this be a gentle reminder that time is, in fact, passing. Eventually, we will recognize that those people who forewarned us with all their cliché phrases were wiser than we realized. It may not be today, or tomorrow, or even next year… but sometime, we will blink and when we do, we won’t recognize the child standing in front of us. We will wonder when our sweet sleeping babies became walking talking toddlers. We’ll wonder when those walking talking toddlers became curious little children. We’ll wonder when those curious little children became super cool teenagers too embarrassed to hold our hands. We’ll blink and suddenly find miniature versions of ourselves standing before us as brave, independent, young adults ready to take on the world.
While I’m sure we can all agree that this stage is crazy and chaotic and messy and overwhelming and all the things… we must also recognize that it is simply that… a stage. A phase. A time in our life that is not forever. Yes, we’re all exhausted right now by the relentless needs and demands of our little toddler tornadoes, but soon we will find those sleepless nights to be replaced with empty silence and those messy floors to be replaced with uninterrupted dust.
It’s ok to continue counting down the hours until naptime and bedtime. It’s ok to need a break. It’s ok to be exhausted. But let me offer you a cliché reminder to embrace the fatigue, welcome the mess, accept the overdrive, enjoy the chaos, and let go of the worries. Our goal as parents is not to be there forever. Our greatest accomplishment as parents will be to look at our once young, naïve children and recognize that we have raised happy, competent, independent adults.
And you know what? When we reach that point… we may even find ourselves stopping young parents, forewarning them to slow down, reminding them that time flies, and laughing at ourselves as we recite those same cliché phrases that made us once roll our eyes.
Maybe it’s the emotions in the responses of the applicants as they realize who, in fact, is crazy enough to accept this position… Maybe it’s the acknowledgment of all the endless responsibilities such a title requires… Maybe it’s the relevance of my current stage of chaos… Perhaps it’s all the above… You guys, this one hit me hard (in the sweet, happy, sappy kind of way)! I spent some time digging for a source and found that this video was released by a greeting card company several years ago to recognize mothers on Mother’s Day. Check it out, I promise it’s worth every bit of your four minutes:
Director of Operations.
Extensive requirements including (but not limited to): constant exertion, a high level of stamina, minimal breaks, inconsistent lunches, excellent negotiation skills, expert cooking and financing, sleepless nights, 24/7 availability 365 days/year with no salary.
Whether we call ourselves mom or parent or caregiver or whatever our title may be… We fit every requirement. We are the people who shower our kids with unconditional love. We are master negotiators, meal planners, diaper changers, tantrum tamers, housekeepers, booger wipers, mess cleaners, booboo kissers, multi-taskers, teachers, discipliners… We work from eyes open to eyes shut and we do it by choice. It’s true, we probably are crazy (for a variety of reasons, exacerbated by lack of sleep and a caffeine-based diet, among other things) and we deserve a pat on the back.
Moms are awesome. Parents are awesome. You are awesome.
Congratulations on managing the world’s toughest job.
We’ve all experienced moments of chaos, right? If parenting is among one of your many roles or titles, then I have no doubt that you can relate to this current stage of crazy. A stage in which leggings trump real pants and aerosol dry shampoo trumps a hot shower. A stage in which you’re hydrated and fueled by caffeine and coffee instead of water and trips to the bathroom are always accompanied by an audience of toddlers. A stage in which you’re always cleaning yet constantly surrounded by messes of snot, splattered milk, and stacks of toys. A stage that lends to complaints of being tired and exhausted, even though you find yourself staying up later than anyone else as you hang on to those few sacred hours of adult ‘you time’ at the end of each day.
I call this stage controlled chaos… because the oxymoron makes me giggle and because motherhood is truly the most paradoxical job out there. I LOVE being a mother, but motherhood is HARD. Parenting has given me some of my most memorable moments of joy, happiness, and pride and is no doubt my greatest accomplishment. With that said, parenting has also lead to some of my most challenging moments and strongest feelings of vulnerability, fear, and worry.
Parenting is a role in which you realize ‘your best you’ and your ‘most struggling you’. A role in which you strive for patience when you have no patience. A role that conveys a sense of confidence although your every move is questioned with uncertainty. It contributes to the loneliest feelings of lonely, because you’re always and never by yourself. It is a role in which you embrace moments and life and the growth of your children, yet, at the same time, fall to your knees as you pray for time to slow down.
Everything about parenting is a clear misunderstanding. See what I’m doing here? The oxymorons are limitless. I could write an entire book about the disarray of this most amazingly difficult job. I don’t know how to write a book. I barely have time to read a book (unless it’s written by Eric Carle and full of pictures), so instead, you’re witnessing the birth of a blog.
For me, this is an opportunity to do something creative that doesn’t involve play-doh or finger-paint. It’s an opportunity for me to share my life in the most raw and natural way. Not to gain attention, generate revenue, or become insta-famous, but instead, to provoke conversation that inspires and validates our very real experiences in life. My hope is that it will serve as a platform to express myself in such a way that other moms, friends, parents, etc. can relate to. Because life is chaos and parenting is exhausting. And hilarious. And every other adjective you can think of.
This is my controlled chaos.
Real parenting. Raw stories. Real life.
Thanks for stopping by!