The key to effective parenting is emotional energy, of which I have a limited supply. I have to hoard some from my children so I’ll have a little left over for my husband when he gets home, but when I’m out, I’M OUT.
I used to say that parenting was more physically taxing than anything. I did something to my back last week when Asher threw an epic tantrum in the mall Food Court because the carousel ride ended and I told him it was time to get off. He freaked out, requiring me to lift him up and twist to maneuver around the big metal tiger he had been riding on.
I carried him like a stack of firewood all the way back to our table and my friend Jamie tried to help me jam him back into the stroller. She commented that it’s like he is made of rubber; you push him down or pull on his legs and he just snaps right back. I don’t know how long it took to get him strapped in, but I was full-on sweating by the end of it.
A few years ago, I would have been mortified by that kind of scene — his angry screams echoing throughout the entire mall — but now, I feel like I’ve been hardened against embarrassment by an ongoing series of experiences. I don’t really have time to dwell on anything that happens. We get through it, and we move on. I think that is why so many women have trouble recalling what it’s truly like to live with small children. If you don’t take the time to dwell, the memory doesn’t stick. And then we have more children.
Mothering is obviously physically demanding, but the emotional demands are what really get you. If my emotional energy is off, the kids pick up on it and things get shitty fast. Sometimes, even when I am emotionally capable of dealing … things get shitty fast. This afternoon was the perfect example.
After nap time, I herded my children through eating a snack and changing diapers/going to the bathroom. I told them we had a few errands to run; most important was the grocery store. Ever since I started transitioning Pepper to milk, WE CONSTANTLY RUN OUT. I’m a milk snob and prefer to give the kids organic, which seems to only be available in half gallons. I need a five-gallon jug. Where can I find that?! Someone please tell me.
So anyway, I cranked up the van and Maverick climbed in. The baby pooped her pants. I changed her and put her in her car seat. I went back inside and find that Asher has also pooped. I tell him it’s time to change his diaper. He screams “NO!!!” because he’s two. He also screams that he wants milk. I tell him he may not have milk, and I leave to get a fresh diaper.
When I returned, I found him standing in front of the open refrigerator guzzling what remained of the milk, directly from the carton. He was displeased when I took it away, and even more displeased when I wrestled him down to change his diaper. He was so displeased, and he fought so hard, that poop pellets rolled away and disappeared in between our couch cushions.
This is when I yelled.
I cleaned up the mess. I put him in the van. We drove to the store.
In the parking lot, I got a shopping cart. Not the big kind that I needed, that looks like a police car. Those are kept inside. I had to get a regular one, and I put Asher in the big part of the basket. Maverick got out and I instructed him to stand right next to the cart with his brother. They were right next to me. I turned to unbuckle the baby, and look up to see Maverick give the cart a hard shove. As it rolled into the road with my middle child in it, Maverick yelled “Look Mommy! Asher’s rolling away!” Presumably he was acting out what took place in January when Asher really did roll away. But who can say.
This is why I feel it’s important to try hard not to be judgmental of the mom you see on her phone at the playground, ignoring her children as they play … or the mom who is drinking before 5 pm … or the many, many mothers who let their kids eat whatever they can find and watch back-to-back episodes of whatever is on Nickelodeon. Those mothers have probably run out of emotional energy. They need to recharge. Let them do what they need to do. If your emotional energy level is high enough for you to look on with judgement, then you might consider offering to help.
Because I love my children, I do things like make special trips to the grocery store to get organic effing milk. But because I did that, the cart thing happened, and I ran out of emotional energy. When we got back home I sat in one place for a really long time and stared at my phone while my children did God knows what. I eventually found all three of them in a closet. Don’t know what they were doing. Probably hiding from me, which worked out well, since I was hiding from them too.
Later on, Robbie asked him, “What were you thinking when you pushed Asher into the road?” And he said, “I was thinking that Mommy would believe me when I said the wind blew him out there.