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Tag Archives: surviving motherhood

The good old days

When my grandmother used to call and ask “What’s douching?” Her quirky way of asking what’s doing, I’d generally answer, “Nothing really, same old nonsense.” To which she’d reply, “Good. That’s how you want it.”

Often I argued. “Well, sure, if you enjoy changing poop diapers or chasing down a maniacal two year-old with a blue marker and the glint of crazy in his eye.”

“Best years of your life.” She’d scoff, “Goes by like a dream.”

“Or a nightmare.” I’d quip, to be funny and also because some days it was true.

“You’ll see.” She’d counsel knowingly, “You’re gonna miss it when it’s gone.”

Not that I’d admit it at the time, but in my heart I knew grandma was right. Each night looking down at my sweet sleeping babes, I mourned the loss of each passing day; each precious giggle and milestone now stored away in the picture and video folders on my computer.

But, of course, those wistful, reflective moments always seemed to happen when my beautiful little rats were sleeping.  Before that I was counting the minutes till bedtime; puffing out deep breaths while cleaning up a bowl of cheerios my toddler had flipped to the floor, or realizing the reason why my baby had just peed through his romper and all over me was because I had put the diaper on backwards.

I couldn’t help day dreaming at times about doing my private business in private without some small creature pushing the door open, crawling in and yelling, “Mama, I sit on your lap!”  Or simply about being back with adult people and feeling smart. And not mom smart like convincing my kid that he was safe by spraying a water bottle of “monster remover’ all over his room, or sensing before seeing that my child was about to fall off a chair he somehow climbed in the 3 seconds I turned away.

Not that I’d ever knock mom smarts. Where would we be without the forethought to pack an extra diaper or stash a lollypop in the bag for just the right moment? Up shits creek, that’s where, but still, I longed for a little adult appreciation.

Although I occasionally fantasized as I sleepwalked through my days after walking from bedroom to bedroom each night; from nursing a baby, straight to comforting a child with a scary dream back to the woken baby; in so far over my head that I couldn’t even see the surface, I knew I was living my dream. That this was it. These were the times of my life, working and playing up through the ranks of ‘mommy hood’; where the work could be grueling but the gifts were overflowing.

When else would I be needed so? When else would babies nuzzle in my neck? When else would I rock in the blissful solitude of 3am with my child sleep-nursing at my breast? When else could I skip out of the house with spit-up on my shirt, dried sweet potato in my hair singing “Let’s Go Fly a Kite”, and happily enjoy an ice cream cone with my kids without dwelling on my non-existent exercise routine.

Those were the times to remember just as much as they were the times to survive. Where the most exciting thing in my day was staying awake to fall asleep watching a movie with my husband; a long hot uninterrupted show was the epitome of pleasure, and a night out with the girls left us all flush with wine and laughter and still home by ten.

Grandma knew those days would be the good old days. But honestly, these days are pretty good as well. There’s holding my breath as my boy strikes that last guy out; proudly signing a 100 on a test after torturous studying, negotiating whether to play Payday or Monopoly.  There’s catches on the lawn, water balloon fights and a growing communication and understanding between us. We’re a little older, a little wiser but we’re still living the crazy. It’s just different.

And sometimes when I see a sweet little one giggling and smeared in chocolate, or a baby making out with his mother’s cheek, I feel my heart squeeze and just for that moment I long for the good old days when my boys were little, nothing was ever new and grandma was still around to see it.

grandma & jack

She made the good old days better.

Say Cheese!

I know some just think it’s a rat hole, but for years Chuck E. Cheese was my saving grace to save my sanity.

The boys may have been having a day where every word came out a wailing cry of whine, but the moment we stepped foot into the Cheese, all tears were dried, all woes forgotten, all snot just a smear on a sleeve.

They would take their golden coins and scamper away; walking up the skeeball machine to plop their balls in as high as they could reach, going from game to game swiping off any leftover tickets, getting stuck in the habit trail, forcing me to push another child up there on a search and rescue mission, before ultimately having to squash up there myself to save them both.

We’d be the first ones there, lay claim to a booth in the back and get deep-dish pizza to share even if it was only 10am. By the time the crowds piled in, just before noon, my kiddies and I had already retrieved our prizes and grabbed either a dollar ice cream from the machine or a bag of cotton candy to go. It was all sugary smiles, crappy toys, and children falling asleep in the car on the way home.

Cheesy heaven.

But that was a long time ago.

With all the kids now in full time school and the strict never on weekends rule – I may be crazy but I’m not that crazy – we hadn’t been there in close to a year. So when we had a random day off last week, I decided to surprise them with an impromptu visit. By the time we hit the parking lot there were cheers of ‘Best mom eva!” and I parked the car trying to see past my own giant head.

We walked in and stopped cold, our mouths hanging open in ‘Waaaaaa’. This was no Velvetta, this cheese had gone organic. The place had been renovated completely. It was shiny and new. The hamster tunnels were no more. There was open space and new games sparkling through the sun drenched windows.

My boys had a beat where they almost couldn’t move, then with frenzied joy tripped over themselves in excitement. I handed them each 50 tokens and didn’t see them again for two hours. Okay, not true. It took them less than an hour to burn through those tokens, but it was a damn good hour.

We had the run of the place, with only two other families to share the space with us. One was a mother and a four year old bouncing around from game to game. The other was a mother pushing a baby carriage and dragging a screaming three year old. She was so stressed and miserable, even more so than her boy in the midst of a meltdown.

I felt bad for her. I really did. I understood perfectly the stress of an overwhelmed mom. I mean it wasn’t that long ago that I was somewhat in her shoes, but she was barking at him, “You brat! Stop it this instant!” over and over, like yelling at him was going to make him stop crying, instead of making him cry more, which is exactly what he did.

I tried not to focus on them, and instead on my happy day with my boys; although every now and then I’d sneak a glance. It was hard not to, the kid was losing it and the mother was having a nervous breakdown among a thousand happy blinking lights and bleeping games. It was almost a cinematic masterpiece.

I wanted to tell her to calm down. To let him have his tantrum. That it would be okay. That she would be okay. And losing it and lashing out at a three year old wasn’t going to make him or her feel any better. But I didn’t know any of those things really, so all I did was smile encouragingly, and make a light handed comment about kids being counted on to crack just when you needed them to stay glued together. She didn’t respond. I saw the furrow of her brow, the tight hunch of her shoulders, stress dripping off of her and knew she was in a really ugly moment.

I caught a glimpse of them leaving; her pushing the carriage with one hand, dragging her wailing son with the other as my son pulled me away to a machine which was spitting out a million tickets; his face lit brighter than the game. “Mommy! I won!” I smiled indulgently; so much happy for so little invested.

We stayed for another half hour, going through 20 more tokens each. before we redeemed our tickets, got some sweets and skipped out the door. It had been a perfect morning. As we drove away, my boys busy breaking the trinkets they won, sticky sweets on their hands and faces, talking loudly over one another with residual excitement; I looked back at them lovingly through the rear view mirror.

At 6, 8 and 11, they are growing up so fast. Soon they’ll probably only hang out with me kicking and screaming, or at least muttering and eye-rolling. But I’ll take it. I’ll take every day I’ve got with them. The good, the bad, the ugly.  I’m going to appreciate it all.

Cheesy as it may sound.

Never follow men with candy, but always follow mice with tickets.

Never follow men with candy, but always follow mice with tickets.