Thursday, December 15, 2011

If You Could Just Be A Little More Like My Aunt Carol

I love my Aunt Carol.  She's a wonderful woman for a lot of reasons, she has a huge heart, she's fun, she listens, she's not afraid of taking on a task, and she lives on the beach, which we all know makes you a better person. All those things are great, but there is one thing in particular that is truly a gift she has given to me.
She is the only person with grown children, and one of the few Mothers over all, that has not once belittled my frustration with life with three little kids.

She has continually told me it gets better, to hang in there, but she has never given me that horrid and dismissive response that is so quick to escape other Mother's mouths, "enjoy them while they're young. It goes by too quickly. You'll miss it."

She has written me a message to say she understands, she too was often alone with her three small children and the days are long and lonely.  She even has admitted the one thing that I truly believe, but no one else wants to say, "you'll enjoy them more when they are a little older."

Why is that so difficult to imagine?  Why isn't anyone else saying that? 

I get that the problems are more complicated, potentially more serious, but life right now isn't exactly emotional easy street.  It's tough to enjoy someone that screams loudly, and often while you are trying to do nice things for them like feed them and clean them. 

Why must they be mean when we are trying to be so nice?

I think of her quite often during my difficult days.  She is a bright spot of hope among the constant onslaught of dismissive and degrading comments I get from all directions these days.

As I was leaving the pediatrician's office last week with Stella still crying from her shots, and a very over tired Cole, a woman stepped in to the elevator and gave me a very sweet smile.  I smiled back, trying to ignore the beginnings of Cole's tantrum over why he couldn't play the iPad for the third hour in a row.  I finally gave him a stern look which I really hoped said, "for the love of God, shut your mouth and cooperate or I'm telling Santa to skip you this year and give all your gifts to Stella."

This woman then leaned over and touched my arm and gave me a disapproving yet sympathetic-ish look and said, "It goes by so fast sweetheart, just try to enjoy them." 

Seriously lady? 

I get it.  I do.  Your kids are grown now and no one is asking you to rock them to sleep or tickle their belly, and that stuff is painfully cute and to be cherished.   Possibly you are dealing with kids experimenting with drugs or being bullied, there is all sorts of tough stuff out in the big bad world that is rough for them, and for you the parent.  How though can you look at someone in the middle of a clearly frustrating situation that can often leave them feeling like a failure at the most important thing in their life and tell them to only feel joy that they get to have their kids with them ALL THE TIME? 

That's not very Aunt Carol of you.

We should all be grateful, all the time, for where we are in life.  The reality though is that life, regardless of where you are, gives you challenges...thank goodness.  I'm grateful that I have my children, and all their challenges, but I don't have to relish and delight in every exhausting moment to prove it, because I am a real life person instead of a joy robot.

Are you a joy robot?  I don't want to be one.

Can I get a little more Aunt Carol out there in the world?  Can you just smile and say, these days can be rough, it will get better?  Can you say that to me regardless of how old they are?  I am confident I will be frustrated by my children when they are 13 too, but it will be different and I am grateful for the way that my challenges are going to change, and all of us are going to grow and mature. I hope.

Wait...when am I going to mature? 

At Target today, (moment of silence for my return to shopping at Target and all the financial turmoil that it brings,) Cole broke a Christmas ornament before I even knew he was standing next to the breakables.  Wonderful.

I looked around and saw two women were giving me a less than joyful look.  Happy holidays ladies.

An older woman standing behind Cole said, "Honey, that's why you really can't let them out of the cart, or you just should come by yourself."

What a helpful suggestion!  I had never thought of going without my kids.  I LOVE having them with me for shopping trips, especially when I have a lot to do.  It never occurred to me to not have them experience the joy of shopping.

Oh....but wait...what the hell do you suggest I do with my kids lady?  When exactly do you think I should come on over to Target solo?  Around 10 pm when my husband is finally home?  That sounds super!

I felt more than a little frustrated with this oversimplification of my situation.  Here's a tip strangers, telling someone that you don't know how to live their life is not a helpful idea.  It's demeaning and sort of hurtful to throw out your solutions while someone is having a tough time.  You should be saying nothing, or asking how you can help.  That's it.

As I was reaching for the broken ornament, another woman came along and picked the ornament out of Cole's hand.  "Here, let me help you.  You have a lot to take care of here.  No matter how sweet, two little ones are a lot of work."

I instantly loved this woman.  She was channeling the sympathy and kindness of Aunt Carol.  I profusely thanked her, letting her know that her kindness meant a lot to me.  One last glance at the old lady know it all, a final thank you to the nice woman, and I was off to find the nearest red shirt to whom I could confess my son's merchandise destruction.

Everyone has something going on and no one is without some sort of struggle.  Help the overwhelmed mother shopping with her little kids because it will mean a lot.  

And if you have older kids, please try to remember how exhausting and lonely it can be have little ones, as well as how cute the kids are.  These two things have absolutely nothing to do with one another.  Your time with the challenges of little ones may be gone, but some of us are still in the thick of things, praising God for our children, but also praying for mercy at every tantrum, whine, and sleepless night.

Be the encouraging Aunt Carol, because everyone likes her more than the dismissive lady in the elevator, especially me.


Emmy said...

Great post! I think most that say enjoy it mean well but yea sometimes it just sucks and I do no want to enjoy it- I want to wallow in how hard it is and throw myself a pity party. Then I will pull up my big girl panties and get over it- but let me suffer!

Mommy Inconsistent said...

I have been getting that comment "Enjoy them" a lot lately. I think about 3-4 times last week. Oh, yah, I'm enjoying the heck out of the whining and begging for more of whatever it is I already gave them too much of! I'm with you. I enjoy them plenty, but sorry, not every moment of the exhausting day. And so frustrating that they can't see how nice we are to them and how much we do for them...but mine are little and they'll notice when they're older, right? Right? RIGHT?!?

Anonymous said...

Ummm I think you are missing a paragraph at the end? What did the "nice lady" do exactly?

The Mommy Therapy said...

You are totally right Anonymous, I must have deleted a paragraph by mistake. It's back. She helped, she was understanding, and I appreciated it.

Awn said...

I don't have kiddos yet, but I work with them and I totally get where you're coming from! Sugar and spice is all good, but it's not that way all the time. It's hard work. It will get better (or so I'm told) but sometimes it takes all you have to keep it together until better gets there. (And if "keeping it together" entails drinking wine and letting them run rampant, well I think I'm good with that.)

Lizbeth said...

I love when people you don't know get it, really get it, and offer help.

And I get all stabby when they don't.

January Dawn said...

LOVE this. I had one lady help me w/ my freaking out 3 year old at a Walmart a few months back. I'll never forget her. Because it happens so seldom. Usually my child is tantrumming at my feet as I stand helpless holding my 2 yr old while people walk around us. Not the greatest feeling. (ps - I shared this on my fb page)

Lynda Halliger-Otvos said...

Kids are hard as hell to raise and worse when you are stuck with them all damn day every damn day. I sincerely advocate eating them while they still fit into the crock pot. With room for an onion and a few spuds. If I do my next life I won’t have them. Hardest thing I have ever had to do. Neither of their bio-dads and I were able to make it work; there’s another “guess who can’t keep it together yet" message for the family holiday letter my mom always wrote.

Love your blog... keep at it and have a good holiday.

Dwija {House Unseen} said...

Is it horrible for me to say that different kids are more enjoyable "that age" than others are? My son- he has his good moments, but mostly his sensory issues and his temper and his anal-retentive who-knows-what drive everyone crazy. And none of my other kids are like that, so I know we didn't break him! I wish him older all the time. Because yes, it is way easier when they're bating themselves and making their own sandwiches. Fo' shizzie.

Prudently Painted Vintage said...

I would have said to you on the elevator " I wouldn't judge you if you leave them in the elevator ;)" and I want to punch the older lady at target. Brilliant advise lady!! I'm going to buy Stella that shirt on pinterest that says " my mom doesn't want your advice". Maybe I'll buy her seven so she can wear one every day ;)

Two Normal Moms said...

You know what? Hang in there. It will get better. It will get easier. You will enjoy them more when they are older and they are not screaming while you try to feed and clean them. I'm not afraid to admit it. I adore my teenager. Of course I loved him from the moment he was born and I treasure all those special moments. I even miss them. Chubby hands and sloppy kisses and all the things that come with small children. And sure, we have frustrations now. It's not all peaches and cream. But I do find myself enjoying it more. And you will, too! This was a great, honest post. And the lady at Target... SMH.

Shanna said...

I had a day just like that today. I took my kids (3 and 1) to practice for the church Christmas play, and of course, both proceeded to throw fits in front of everyone. All of the adults proceeded to give me bad looks, and I overheard one say, "well she is a working mother..." I feel you, you aren't the only one out there! I wish people would put themselves in our place, and try to think about how we feel before they pass judgement!

jodi said...

Hear, hear! I am so sick of the "appreciate it now" and the "but it goes by so fast!" and (this one from my mother-in-law just yesterday, mid-way through my 2-year-old's tantrum) "Oh but the joy they bring you....".

Don't make us feel guilty for being human, for wanting to spend all this time with little folk who actually reason and clean their own snot. That doesn't make us sub-human or bad mothers!!

Grrr. Great post, and kudos to your Aunt Carol.

momnextdoor said...

Amen sister, AMEN!

Shell said...

If there were more people like your Aunt Carol, I think moms of young kids wouldn't feel so overwhelmed and stressed out!

Mel said...

Okay, I am just now catching up on blogs. My thoughts are as follows:
One, can I get a HOLLAH for Aunt Carol? She was one awesome gal.
Number two, if I need to accompany you to Target so I can bust a cap in a bitch, I'm ready. Just say go. Obviously these people are, what, rich? Childless? CLUELESS.
Hang in girl. And DO enjoy the good times, but acknowledge the hard work and struggle that goes into making those happen!

Doreen Lombardo-Campisi said...

Sometimes people think they are being helpful when they say something. However, it's the wrong thing to say. We are all human. I very much enjoyed my kids at every age and stage, and still do even though they are grown, but, there were those days when someone was puking in the back of my van because a stomach virus struck suddenly that I simply did not think to myself, "oh, how enjoyable, they will never be 3 again, let me get the most out of this and smile and be happy and pleasant." LOL That very thing happened and I pulled the van over and ran to get my daughter out of the car seat. This was a kid who was perfectly fine all morning and got into the car looking and feeling great. Well, a nice woman saw me as she was driving towards us, with my daughter on the sidewalk helping her to throw up into a plastic bag. She pulled up behind me, got out and came over with a bottle of water in case I needed it for some clean up. She understood my exasperated expression, my nerves being shot because we had to be somewhere important and my disgust (I could never be a nurse or doctor) at the mess, all over the floor of my van, all over the car seat and down my daughter's clothing. This is not a joyful moment, sorry. Nothing enjoyable about it at all. We missed the important event, I had to deal with a sick kid, bathe her, dress her in clean clothing, deal with a few more rounds of puking, finally get her settled and comfortable on the couch and then go tackle dried puke on the car seat and van floor. And as I was doing that, some elderly man in the neighborhood passed by on his leisurely walk and told me, "smile, it can't be that bad." Grrrrr. Little old man is lucky he didn't get whacked with a plastic Stop & Shop bag full of paper towels loaded with puke.