When it comes to motherhood, I like to think that I get most of the important things right. There must always be a balance, however, and I more-than-occasionally tip the scale over to the side of "probably not the best-ever mother performance." My kids eat vegetables, but they also eat Happy Meals and suckers. They take baths or showers, but sometimes with a three-day stretch in between. They love reading, but they also love watching "American Ninja Warrior" and then building their own harrowing obstacle courses in the living room. They love exploring nature and handling toads and worms, but then I sometimes forget to wash their hands. They love to listen to music, but they may have a thing for Meghan Trainor. Currently, their favorite song is "Tribute" by Tenacious D, which they have dubbed "The Demon Song." I partially blame Jack Black for his awesome characterization of a hilarious, snorting demon. It cracks me up to hear my kids' tiny voices singing from the backseat, "We are but men. ROCK!" (George's pronunciation is more like, "We ah but men. WOCK!")
The award for "Mother of the Year" (as my friend Chanda jokingly calls herself) isn't likely to go to this gal, whose 17-month-old son calls all drinks "Coke." On the subject of drinks, though, Coke might be slightly better than the conversation I had with Silas the other day, in which we talked about how he is the oldest child and will therefore get to accomplish a whole lot of milestones first. We took turns listing them. I said he would go to school first, he said he would turn eight first. I said he would drive a car first, and so on, until he proudly announced that he would "get to drink beer first."
Nope, parenting isn't for the faint of heart. It's being stuck on an airplane with a sick child, using baby fingernail clippers to cut a Zofran in half because it's the only thing you can think of that might help. (It did!) It's letting your kids taste your coffee, realizing that they love it, and relinquishing what was yours when you spot the waffle bite from his mouth going back down your straw (I only give them the rest if it's decaf, at least). It's getting up from the table no less than eight times (I'm serious) during a meal to take care of spills, get refills, retrieve forgotten utensils, and take kids pee-pee. It's making room for one more in bed after a nightmare involving wolves in the house. It's just all-encompassing.
So forgive me for the following story, which is really the impetus for this post.
A couple of weeks ago, BJ was gone for a jog in the afternoon. Van was sleeping, so bear in mind that I only had two children to keep an eye on, not three! Silas and George played in the sandbox as I packed groceries to take to Susan's house, as we planned to cook a meal with her there. Even though the sandbox is easily in my line of sight from the kitchen, I must have lost track for a couple of moments because Silas stepped into the back door, lamely announcing that George had just covered his nice shirt in sand. As I stepped closer to Silas to help him brush off, I could see that he had sand in his hair too, and quite a bit of it. I stepped outside to put the kibosh on these shenanigans.
"George!" I began. "If I catch you dumping sand on your brother again..." My voice trailed off as I realized that what George had inflicted upon Silas was only about one-tenth of what he had done to himself. The sand was absolutely caked into his hair. What's a mother to do? There was no way that they were stepping into my house like that, so I stripped them down to their underwear and turned on the hose. The weather was warm, but the water was cold and I don't blame them for their reticence about getting hosed down. Silas screamed in laughter and enjoyed it, but George screamed as though I was murdering him, and promptly ran around to the front yard. Eventually I had enough sand off of my children to herd them inside, straight to the shower.
This they loved. However, I could hear that Van was awake and now playing in his crib, and we really needed to get ready to go to Susan's house. So, after a couple minutes of letting them spray each other and themselves, I took over and scrubbed scalps to remove the grit, beginning with Silas. Once out and dried, I pulled Silas close, said, "Listen bud. Look at me. I need you to go get some underwear and get dressed. That's your job right now is to get dressed. Got it?" He gave a thumbs up and trotted off, laughing as he went. I then tackled the trick of getting the sand out of George's hair. (As an aside, I don't think I actually got the last of it out until about ten days later.) George got out of the shower and we got him dried off, precisely as I was beginning to notice how quiet the house was. I suggested to George that we should go get dressed and find his brother, and he agreed.
Silas wasn't in his bedroom, nor was he in any room of the house. I went to the back door, which was still open from our trek in from the patio, and I didn't see him anywhere out back. He knows not to go out front without telling me, but my chest tightened a little and I thought, "He must have gone out front." Just as George and I reached the front glass door and opened it, I could see that BJ had returned from his jog and was walking down the cul-de-sac toward our house, laughing hysterically. And there was Silas, buck naked, riding his bicycle around the street of the cul-de-sac. The child had not a shred of clothing on, not even so much as a sock or a pair of Ninja Turtles underwear. Buck flipping naked.
When I later asked him why he didn't go straight to his room to put on his clothes as instructed, he told me that he had seen his bike on the front porch as he walked past the front door to go to his room, and he "forgot" his instructions and ran outside to go for a spin on the street. In that moment, caught by BJ--which doesn't really matter because BJ knows I don't always have it together anyway-- I had to come to terms with my limitations as a mom. Here I only really had two kids under my care since the third was in his crib, and still I had let it get away! And I sometimes have visions of a fourth?! Who am I kidding? A quick peek around our street confirmed that, fortunately, there were absolutely no neighbors outside to witness the spectacle of my son's garmentless joy ride. I'm not Catholic, but it only seemed appropriate to cross myself in that moment.
And so, dear Committee, this is why you should consider my application for "Mother of the Year" Award. And did I mention that last week my youngest son was taken to the emergency room twice in one night for entirely separate problems? I bet you don't have many applicants that can claim that! Hey, someone has to keep it real around here...