Monday, August 18, 2014

Battle in the Target Aisle

I don't know about anyone else, but about this time of year summer starts to feel rather long in the tooth.

Same could be said for me and the kiddos.

I love how the glare of Target lights exposes everything. There I was the other day, thinking that the four of us got out of the house looking halfway presentable. Or not thinking. Then walking past the Dollar Deal section everything became embarrassingly clear.

Ethan had thrown on old ripped jeans for some reason, although he had decided to leave the cowboy hat in the car. How had I missed how badly his nails needed trimming? Anna had a purple stain on her shirt that she claimed was always there, was part of the design (not buying that one).

The kids were shoving at each other as if they'd never been taught simple manners, loud enough to make people turn heads. I needed a haircut in the worst kind of way and my flip-flops were falling apart. And Chloe, Little Miss Teething Chloe, had completely soaked the top of her outfit with drool. Not only that, but the cute little piece, the one with red bows, had some kind of orange stain I hadn't noticed before. I'm guessing peaches. Or sweet potatoes.

I looked at all of us as we trudged with the herd and wondered when we'd drifted just a few shades from Honey Boo-Boo. Then I remembered: it's that whole third child thing.

Baby #3 is nearing seventh months old, and you know, it hasn't been as tornadic as some had warned. Maybe it's because I have two older helpers. Maybe it's because I'd steeled myself after hearing so many stories of Armageddon. We're getting by. Food is on the table. You can see the floor (usually). I'm not weeping throughout the day (anymore, since Chloe blessedly climbed out of that constant-newborn-fussiness stage). And we all absolutely, wholeheartedly love her to pieces.

But some things have suffered. I guess, when a third one comes along, and you throw into the mix starting a business and my own freelance work and summertime with everyone home, certain things fall by the wayside. Things like anything remotely close to a decent night's sleep (yeah, look at those circles). Vigilance as far as how the kids are dressing or not dressing themselves. Timely haircuts. Regular exercise. Getting lost in a good book. Actually printing out photos of the baby. Tackling dust bunnies. Tackling everything I've wanted to organize for the past, oh, 10 years.

I've tried (how I've tried!) to let the little things slide in place of the big ones. I'd rather my kids remember childhood not as mom always cleaning but mom reading them a book; taking them for walks. I've tried to not spend every day yelling...nagging...fuming. There are days I get to the finish line and think "That wasn't half-bad."

Then there are days like the moment in Target when all I can hear is the "You should" voices. They are the ones that are never forgiving, that are void of all grace. You should make sure the kids aren't looking like total slobs. What if you run into someone you know? You should do a better job saving money. You could probably get better deals elsewhere if you did your research. You should exercise and get out and do one of those zany 5K's like everyone else is doing. You should pick up more freelance work to bring in some extra money. You should be a better friend...wife...daughter...mother.

A little bit of honest self-examination is healthy. The problem for me is that the "you should's" never travel alone but rather in hordes; a huge, loud bundle of guilt. Sometimes I wonder if this is what separates pessimists from optimists. Optimists see one negative at a time, and it's usually the challenge of the present moment. Then there are those of us who have their faults roll at them like a snowball rushing down a hill, a catalogue of failures ever-increasing in size. In those moments I see everything, from my disorganized garage to the weeds in my yard, through the lens of You Could Be Doing Better.

In those moments I look and see my six-month-old sitting in the cart, minus one of those fancy soft coverings to block out all the germs, and chewing on my car keys. Yes, my car keys, because she's fussy and it's the one thing making her happy. And for a moment I fight the sound of a hundred judgments.

I wish I could say that at Target the other day, I had a eureka moment. That my child looked up at me with her one-tooth grin and all was made well. That another child slipped his sticky hand into mine or I heard the sound of their laughter and lights beamed down from heaven, and suddenly, the epiphany came that this is all worthwhile, that I am embracing the small things and appreciating every precious moment.

No. Instead the kids asked for things and I gently told them no. And with this thousandth moment of fighting to not sink, I once again learned I'm getting better at fighting. By the grace of God, and I mean literally, the grace of God, I'm learning to let the wave roll over me and find myself still standing. I'm still standing and learning to love who I am, who we are, even in our Honey Boo Boo moments. I'm learning to listen to that voice; the whisper: It's okay, Baby Girl. Ever so slowly, I'm learning to laugh. I'm learning to forgive. I'm learning to accept that one day at a time is not just a cliché and that sometimes even trying and failing is enough.

I thank my third little one for this gift, along with the many more she has given us. And for other moms (and people) out there overpowered at times by the relentless voice of the You Shoulds, I pray it for you, too.


truthinlove said...

Excellent! So many of us, I'm sure, can relate!

Emily Murphy said...

I think you're doing a great job Deb. Thanks for your honesty, I've been there many times myself.