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Friday, July 31, 2015

we are not alone : moms as warriors, gladiators

The last few weeks have been busy, tiring, HOT. That leads to some cranky kids and an impatient mama sometimes.

We have done so many fun things - beach trips, days at the lake, ice cream for dinner, trolley rides, etc. It's been amazing and fun and I won't complain. However... it's been hard, too, being the solo one all day with the demanding and sometimes overtired 3 and 5 year olds. We've had our moments, for sure. They've tried my patience. I've apologized for snapping at little things. We've reconnected with big bear hugs and fun blowing bubbles outside.

Some moments are the BEST EVER. Others I'm wondering "how can I do this?! this is hard!"

So in these last few weeks I've had some tough moments as a mother, managing the busy-ness and differing viewpoints of a preschooler and almost Kindergartener, along with the heat and just long days of summer.

Through these tough days I've felt like the people around me in public must think I'm awful for snapping or raising my voice. They must think I have no control over my kids. They must think my kids are crazy or I'm crazy or everything is out of control. I've wondered if they are judging me. Me, the person who RARELY cares what others think, lately I've been wondering, when out in public with my busy-bees who aren't listening to me and I'm looking all frantic, taking deep breaths and about to pull my hair out for a moment of peace.

In the midst of these crazy moments though, I've been given some clarity. A moment to really see what is before me, a moment to stop and reflect on what's important, a chance to find some patience. I've been sent some Mom Angels. Some mothers who have seen my struggle and stepped in to give me a smile or even kind words. They have shown me they don't judge, yet understand. They have told me, "I get it," instead of "You're losing it, lady."

It's powerful to be surrounded by women who get it, who see the struggle and show you, "Yup, you're normal, my kids act like that, I feel like that, it's all good."

It's helpful for other moms to see me enjoying my kids and knowing that even if I seem impatient in a moment, it doesn't mean I don't love this motherhood journey, it's just that it's a bad moment, amidst a thousand other GREAT moments.

This all started at the beginning of July when we went to a water park for the day. My kids were very tired so they weren't listening, were whining way too much, and were overall picking on each other, pushing buttons and driving me and each other nuts. We got to the water park early so I could ensure we had a good spot to sit in the shade and got to enjoy the day before I knew they'd melt down in the early afternoon. I tried. I tried to make it great.

So we were standing in line for the water park... a super long line and we were all hot and tired and just wanted IN instead of standing in line. My kids were poking each other, stealing snacks from each other, screeching, talking loudly, pushing, not listening when I gave warnings. I was saying "If you do that one more time we're going in the car. If you ... then we're... I said stop it. Listen to me. Come here. Stop. E-nough!" I was frazzled, yet trying to stay calm, without any control in this situation, it felt like. All the positive things I knew to do and would try on a calm day at home, I couldn't muster enough energy up to figure out right now for some reason. 

The woman next to me had children who seemed slightly younger than my kids. Her kids were perfect and standing nicely, quietly, patiently. I was jealous. In an instant, when I think she could tell I was at my last straw, she sat down with my daughter who was flailing on the ground in a 3-year-old attitude way, and asked her questions, asked how old she was, said how old her child was, and spoke in a calm, quiet voice and helped my kids focus and calm down for a few moments. It was short-lived, but it helped. I was so grateful.

Yet I didn't say a word more than "thanks." I wanted to tell her "THANK YOU SO MUCH, lady I have never met and will never see again. Thank you for modeling to me what I should be doing right now for my own kids. Thanks for not judging me, but rather siding with me, assisting me, showing me that it's OK, I can do this. Thanks for being there." But I was silent, because I was tearing up under my sunglasses. I was guilty. I was embarrassed. I didn't want her to think I was a bad mom because I was just disciplining versus encouraging them in that tough moment. It was a weak spot for me. 

I think all moms have those weak spots sometimes, where we don't do it the way we wish we had energy to do in that moment, maybe even daily, but it never means we're bad moms, ever. It means we're having a hard day, moment, struggling, and that we need assistance, and there is nothing wrong with asking for or accepting help. 

I wish I had said more to that mother. I wish I'd told her how she helped me find some clarity and the realization that I can slow down, take a breath and reassess a situation instead of just get easily frustrated and discipline. I am grateful to her presence that one day. 

I am thankful for the time that we went on a trolley ride a couple of weeks ago and my kids were in a mood. They wanted the trolley to get here NOW. They did not want to wait! (Are we sensing a pattern that waiting is hard?!). It was hot. The snacks were eaten. They wanted to be there now. They were not listening. My son went too close to the road so I raised my voice out of fear he was going to be in a dangerous spot. I was losing patience.

The couple next to me, with their older children who were probably in their 20s, smiled and tried talking to my son to encourage him that yes, the trolley would be here soon. When we boarded, the woman sat in the back with us instead of next to her family. She talked to my son the entire trolley ride. She asked him questions, he asked her questions. She told him about where she was from in Pennsylvania. She smiled at me when my son said really smart things, as if to say, "Wow, you've got a great little guy here, Mom."

She helped me. This stranger stepped in, seeing that I was losing it, that I was on the fringe of turning that car around and leaving that fun trolley ride adventure. She helped me simply by being there and having the patience that was hard for me in that moment. She helped redirect my kids to the positive. She helped me see she'd been here, and that I'd survive, too, this young childhood experience that is so trying on young parents.

She gave me hope that day, that everything was fine, I was fine, the kids were fine, despite our struggles. She helped me see all was OK.

After work last week, I rushed to pick the kids up so we wouldn't miss the library story time that we looked forward to. I think it was that whole "balancing working mom life" stuff inside me hoping to do something fun that summer day. We ran late and the kids hadn't had a good nap that day, so everybody was just exhausted.

After spending the story hour time chasing the kids around at various spots in the library and reminding them to walk and be quiet inside... we managed to get outside. My son had just run away from me, being silly, but it was unsafe near a parking lot.

The look on my face must have been one of "I'm done," because as I was putting them in their car seats, another mom who was putting her kids into their car seats in her van said to me, "Best time of day, right?" with a smile, as her kids were kicking and screeching.

She rolled her eyes, laughed, and said, "Hope you have a good night." She seemed sincere, like she cared, like she got it, and as though she was teaching me, "Just laugh, Mom, just laugh it off, because it's NUTS and we can't do anything about it, it is what it is with kids. It's OK, you're doing just fine. Let it go." 

I was thankful she saw me in that moment, instead of judging me over at my mom van trying to gain control of the behaviors.

I'm sure by now you're wondering geez why are her kids so misbehaved?! They aren't. They are just kids who have long tiring days with a busy tired mama, and I'm being real in sharing with you that it's not all roses and butterflies every day. I think more of us need to share those tough moments so we know we aren't alone.

The best moment this month was last week at a grocery store. My kids were just ready to go to the lake already, they did not want to be in the store picking up food for later. It was REALLY HOT. More not listening, trying to touch everything in sight, bugging each other, wanting to sit where the other sits, etc.

The woman in front of me looked at them, then looked away. I swear she was judging. I was thinking she must think we're so loud. Instead, she turned back around to smile at me and said, "It must be the heat. I've already put my youngest in time out three times today. I understand."

"I understand."

She understood. She got it. She did not judge me or this experience. She didn't look at this one snapshot of my life as a mother and think I'm a bad mom or that I don't have my stuff together. She saw this tough grocery store moment, that ALL moms and kids struggle with, and she told me, "I understand." 

As she walked away, she smiled back at me and said, "Have a good day." She seemed to mean it, not just as a parting phrase.

And we did. We had a great day after that, perfect in fact! I did a million things right after that: put sunscreen on and reapplied it later, fed my children healthy snacks and lunch, made sure they drank water, snuggled each of them 142 times so they know they are so loved, built sandcastles and splashed in the water... I was a great mom that afternoon, after that ridiculously tough morning.

Because that's how how motherhood days go, right? It's insane, muddy, messy, crazy, up and down, difficult, challenging, stressful, tiring, soooooo tiring... and then it's the BEST day ever, the best second or moment ever. 

Motherhood is amazing, despite how tough it can be sometimes. 

So lately I'm catching up on old Scandal reruns... and in that show Olivia Pope refers to her team of workers, friends, confidantes, people who get her the most... as warriors, as Gladiators. These are people who show up, who never quit, who don't judge but rather totally understand. They are there for the difficult times. They stand together, solidarity, side by side, doing what's right, and sometimes having really tough days. 

I know it's just a term in a show, but honestly I feel like I've found some Mom Gladiators this month. In the Target aisle when a mom smiles at my kids who won't sit still in the cart, or when a grandmother at the table next to us in the restaurant where I feel like the kids are being so loud we might get kicked out, she says to me, "They grow up fast. Enjoy it," as though she misses these loud and crazy moments. 

There are Mom Gladiators everywhere, warriors who are fighting this tough battle sometimes that we call parenting. I firmly believe there are more mothers who get it, understand, feel for you, and want to show you that you aren't alone, rather than those who judge and feel like they are better than you or would never have kids behave like that or do it the way you're doing it. I really believe there are more Gladiators out there than we give other moms credit for. You just have to be open to seeing them and taking in their messages and looks of understanding. 

Better yet, YOU be the Mom Gladiator. Be the one who shows up and holds the door open, smiles at the mom, says out loud, "Oh I've been there, too, many times. You aren't alone." Be the one to buy an extra coffee for the mom behind you, or to distract the little ones in the cart before you as the mother is desperately trying to just pay the bill and get out of there. 

See kids' behaviors as just that - behaviors from kids. They're kids, unpredictable, silly, emotional, growing kids. We're mothers, trying our best, giving it our all, and we are only human, we have moments where we aren't our best, and other moments where we shine. It's all part of it. We are normal, OK, and doing just fine. We're great, even, even in those tough moments, we're great. We're Gladiators. We're Mothers. 

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