I recently had an epiphany after seeing an Instagram post from Indy Moms Blog co-owner Nickie. She described the sequence of events that had brought her to Parenting Rock Bottom on that particular evening. It was a play-by-play of every single annoying thing that happened while she was trying to wrangle all three kids at her son’s baseball game.
Kids were crying and crawling all over her instead of watching the game and enjoying the snacks she brought. The baby dumped a water bottle on her light jeans, making it look as if she’d peed herself. Her participating child refused to actually PLAY in the game and was clinging to her, along with another child. And of course, other parents and grandparents looked like they were having an idyllic evening with their perfectly behaved kids, making her feel humiliated on top of embarrassed and frustrated. Nickie concluded, “So after chasing Charlie all around the field, and as I was holding him in the teeball line while wrestling Remy into my arms in a pair of pants that looked like I wet them in front of two dozen baseball moms and grandparents whose kids were actually playing, I realized my life is just generally embarrassing.” She gave up on the dream of spectating the game and hung out in the van with the non-playing kids until the game was over.
As I read this post, I felt a wave of relief washing over me. There was something extremely comforting about hearing the EXACT sequence of events that made Nickie feel like she was losing her mind. I recognized myself in her words–all parents and caregivers, perhaps. I felt her frustration and annoyance, and later in the post, her love and pride at Charlie’s comeback. I could picture myself in her shoes, just trying to deal from moment to moment.
Parents often say, “It was a really hard day” or “The kids have been driving me insane recently.” But rarely do we share how we got there. We leave those crucial details out, which makes every bad day feel like the result of our own parental failings instead of The Age-Old Story of Kids Annoying Every Parent Ever.
In an effort to break down these less-than-heartwarming parenting moments to their actual components, I thought I would take a cue from Nickie and share my most recent breakdown. *insert dramatic music*
The electricity in our house had been on the fritz for four days. Lyra and I were driving home from daycare, and she was chattering about wanting peanut butter crackers, which I assured her were waiting for her at home. The moment I pulled into the driveway, it hit me: We were locked out. I didn’t have a house key with me, and the garage door didn’t even offer a hint of response at my many frantic button pressings. “Oh no, Lyra, I guess we can head to Target and wait for Daddy to get home!” I exclaimed over my shoulder in a chipper tone, knowing already that I was doomed. The second I put the car in reverse and started backing out of the driveway, a deep, blood-curdling scream began to erupt from that 27-pound creature:
No amount of reassurance that we would buy MORE crackers at Target seemed to calm her down. This change of routine was clearly the most traumatic thing that had EVER happened to my toddler, and she screamed at the top of her lungs the entire six-minute ride to Target. When I fetched her from the car seat, her face was so blotched and red, you would have thought she was suffering an allergic reaction.
During our ten minutes of shopping, Lyra had approximately four meltdowns of similar intensity. But nothing compared to when I placed the crackers on the conveyor belt in the checkout aisle. Seeing them there, just out of reach and PROBABLY gone forever, was just too much to bear. She let out a scream so deafening that several Target employees came running to our aisle, assuming she was seriously injured. Thankfully, a playful cashier gave her some stickers and helped stabilize her mood.
Less than a minute after leaving the checkout lane, I stopped to throw away my Starbucks cup before heading to the parking lot. Lyra was still holding her mostly empty tall ice water. “Are you done with your water too?” I asked. She nodded. “Yes, all done. It’s dirty.” She handed me the cup. “Are you sure you are done with it?” I asked again. “All done!” Lyra confirmed. I dropped the cup in the trash can.
And I was done. Hey there, rock bottom. Good to see you again. Thankfully, it wasn’t more than a beer and ten minutes of chilling alone on the couch couldn’t fix. But man, was it a pretty crappy hour.
I hope this story helps you remember that you are not the first parent to be overwhelmed/exhausted/worn down/frustrated/pushed over the edge by needy children, regardless of how you got there. That’s what kids do. They also do really cute things that make your heart swell with pride and remember that you love them more than anything on Earth (or else nobody would continue having them). So it all works out in the end!