For the last 18 hours or so, I've had a taste of life as a mother of 3.
As of right now I'm wondering what the HELL I was thinking. Why did I decide to become one of the elite group of mothers who no longer holds her sanity high on the list of things she'd like to cling to. That and the ability to make it five minutes without yelling at someone to either hurry up, slow down, or for the love to God stop wiping your nose on your sleeve and use a tissue like a decent human being.
I'm starting to think I will never, ever be the same again. With one kid, you get a break when the kid naps or goes to bed. With two kids, you occasionally get a break when for that brief moment of impossible bliss their naps overlap. Or when one kid is sleeping while the other zombie-fies in front of the TV for 45 minutes. Or when they are both actually playing quietly without lunging at each other like rabid little badgers. Unfortunately this break usually consists of folding laundry, loading the dishwasher, changing sheets, or simply rocking back and forth, hugging your knees to your chest as you quietly hum the theme song to Wonder Pets in a minor key (because hey, at least you're sitting for a few minutes).
With three kids....um....yeah....What the f*** do people do?? How do they keep themselves from becoming screaming, sighing, hand-washing psychopaths, whose soul scrap of happiness comes from the thought of being in a nursing home in fifty years, where they can sit and watching TV and eat meals in deathly silence to their failing heart's content? Surely there must be some secret, something mysterious and divine that only mothers of three-plus kids knows...something that will only be revealed to me when baby # 3 finally comes. How do they manage to perform all necessary tasks to make civilized existence possible for themselves and their families and still have time to, you know...take a crap? (Sorry to be so uncouth. It's been a long week.)
So my friend went into labor last night, and since we had prearranged that I would be on the shortlist of people to watch her daughter for her, I received the call. I was honestly more than happy to help, as soon I will be the one begging friends, acquaintances, UPS delivery men, neighborhood dogs to watch my children so I can shove one more out into the world. And my friend is new to the area, leaving her whole family in a different state, where they can't drop everything and come to your house to watch your children and systematically destroy every good habit you've tried to instill in them since birth (seriously...just got back from a weekend alone in LA and come home to find Elsa has regressed to pacis, bottles and eating food that comes only in squeezie form....Not that I'm not grateful, Mom and Dad. It's just...you know...I've got my work cut out for me. Oh yeah, and PS--what happened to Elsa's closet door?)
ANYWAY....my friend's daughter just turned 3. She's really cute. And not at all shy. She came over at 8:30 last night--just as my own children were whining away in their respective beds--and started playing with Elsa's toys. And asking either Jeff or me what each and every accessory was. Actually, the way she worded it was, "Do you know what this is?"
That was the way she worded everything. This morning she followed me around the house, watching me get ready, clean up breakfast and try to hustle my own children out the door before the next election.
"Do you know what you're doing?" she kept asking. Which sounded pretty funny, because I'm sure much of the time I looked like I had no f-ing clue what I was doing. From putting on make-up to changing Elsa's diaper to loading the dishwasher, she asked over and over, "Do you know what you're doing?"
Nothing will ever make you truly scrutinize your own parenting techniques than being in charge of someone else's kids, too. I'd tell Rollie for the fifth time in a row to please put his clothes on, and because it had evolved into me yelling at him that if he didn't do it I was going to spank his bottom, I stopped and wondered if my friend's daughter was ever on the business end of a spanking threat. Or was ever yelled at, period. She was just staring at me, seemingly bewildered that a mommy could even get that loud, much less pepper her offspring with promises of physical harm. No wonder she kept asking me if I knew what I was doing. Chances are I looked like I was out of my clueless, frazzled mind.
We rode in my car, and I found myself wondering if she listens to Disney music in the car, or stuff by the Gorillaz and Led Zeppelin, like my kids do. I wondered if she ever struggles while her poor mother tries to strap her in her carseat, refuses to hold hands across a busy parking lot, or purposely puts chewing gum in her hair, like my children have been known to do. I marveled that she went right to bed when I told her to, she said please and thank you without being prompted, and all she wanted to drink was water in an age-appropriate cup. Then I started to wonder if my kids are a little more rascally because they listen to Led Zeppelin, are allowed to chew gum, and get away without saying please on occasion. Man, if the secret to functional, well-mannered children is having to put up with the music from Aladin during road trips, I think I've got me some soundtracks to buy. And some earplugs.
All morning long I kept thinking, So this is what it's like to have three kids. This is why my sister, who has three children, never answers her phone. Or wears make-up. And practically jumps out of her skin in excitement at the mention of going to Starbucks for a half-hour or getting a mid-day pedicure. With two kids, I'd rather relax at home and write or watch TV when I get a break. After having three, my idea of fun will be getting the hell outta my house, regardless of reason. Even if it means getting a foot amputated.
My friend's daughter comes back tonight. I've got roughly four hours to practice giving off the appearance that I do, in fact, know what I'm doing. But I think this time would be better spent fixing Elsa's closet door. And burying her pacis in the backyard.