8 Minutes in Parenting

It was a 16 hour day alone with all 3 kids. Dan had left before the kids got up and wouldn’t be home until well after the eleventeenth time they got up to ask for a snuggle or a glass of water or to use the bathroom or because there is creepy shadow or just to harass me say hi.

They’d actually been pretty good all day. Played imaginary games outside, built with legos, shared the coveted bench seat at the kitchen table. But in no way was I fooled. Every day in our house contains the same amount of crazy, plus or minus; how the day goes depends on how the crazy is distributed. And today, the crazy graph looked more like a mountainous landscape, spiked with high peaks and low valleys.

Take our trip to the store: The kids got ready exactly when and how I asked them to, AND they were patiently, repeat: PATIENTLY waiting at the door for me. What?! They even got into the van right away. That never happens.

Which is how I knew I was in for it.

Within 90 seconds of being inside Target, Isaiah had managed to fall down with the pole that was holding the “wait here” sign at customer service. I have no idea how this happened. Judging by the surprised look on his face I don’t think he knew either.

I awkwardly picked the pole up, tried to balance it, and replaced the now broken wait sign while holding a baby, apologizing to the cashier and the next person in line and using my positive parenting skills to redirect Isaiah (read: I used my “people are watching,” voice). I can’t be certain, but I’m pretty sure the pole wasn’t broken and the sign holder wasn’t tilting when we arrived, and there definitely weren’t any shards of broken plastic on the ground. But he used his walking feet all the way to the car and didn’t even run a victory lap around the car.

Our next stop was the garden store and they didn’t waste any time. Before I even got Andrew into the basket, Natalie had run over Isaiah’s toes with her walker, causing him to fall down…again…and scrape his knee.

As if taking 3 kids and some adaptive equipment to the store wasn’t enough to call attention to us, Isaiah went off like a siren. The cashier and every single person waiting in line turned to watch the fireworks. I scooped both boys up and took them outside to calm down. Natalie stayed in the store. Alone. Why? I still don’t know. I had to go back and get her. The whole scene was concerning enough for a patron of the store to come out and stand uncomfortably close to us while I looked Isaiah over for scrapes and bruises. Fantastic. I’ve always wanted my own CPS social worker.

But wait…you said 8 minutes in parenting. That’s roughly 4. Acute observation, my friend.

 The Final Four

They always seem to save up some crazy for those moments when there’s only one parent. Always. They know that one parent means no help and no help means no witnesses. All of this happened in the span of about 4 minutes. All of it.

Dan had a big night at work so I thought it would be great to pray with the kids for daddy and the team of staff and volunteers who were getting together. Hands folded, heads bowed, I barely got “Father, God…” out before Natalie yelled at Isaiah because he head butted her while we were praying.

Restart prayer.

Isaiah yelled because Natalie pushed him. She pushed him because he head butted her. Again.

Restart prayer.

Andrew crawled into the laundry basket sitting on the couch. While we were praying he leaned on the part facing out and almost tipped the whole thing off of the couch.

Restart prayer…Amen. Thank God!

I looked up to see that Isaiah had destroyed what looked like a pencil eraser. Except it wasn’t. It was an oil pastel. A red oil pastel. All over the living room carpet. He also ate some, but poison control assured me that they’re nontoxic, so at least there’s that.

I sent Isaiah to wash his hands while I carefully picked up little pieces of fancy crayon. While I was occupied, Andrew tried to get the remote from Natalie. She pulled it away. Andrew crelled (cry-yelled), bopped his head on the floor a few times, then bit Natalie in the leg. She yelled and pushed him away.

My children are violent.

At that point I realized the water had been running for way too long. Like water-all-over-the bathroom too long. Isaiah came out of the bathroom, shirt soaked.

I started vacuuming up the rest of the oil pastel. Now, there are 2 fears every kid has about the vacuum.

1.The vacuum is going to eat me.
2.The vacuum is going to eat my toys.

As a parent I have mastered the art of reassuring that neither of these things will happen. Ever.

I’m a liar.

I’m just going to get to it. I ran over a toy and Andrew’s fingers. Both of them. Stop judging me – everybody’s everything is okay. Except Isaiah might scarred for life.

8 minutes in parenting. The 8 minutes they tell you about but you promise to do better than your parents did, or than the parents of the screaming toddler in the toy aisle, or the mom who gives in and gets the candy bar for her begging kid in the checkout lane. The crazy that happens with young kids the hour before supper. Yeah, THAT crazy. The unavoidable crazy that creeps in no matter how many parenting books you read, no matter how many boundaries you set, or feelings you validate. And honestly, most days it’s so much more than 8 minutes. Most days, at least here, it’s somewhere between a few hours and every waking minute of the day.

And so now I offer a smile of solidarity to the mom with 5 kids, just trying to make it to the checkout lane without losing one of them. And words of encouragement to the mom of the toddler declaring her independence during our play date. And a bit of a chuckle to mom of the kid who has to touch every single bottle of ranch dressing on the way by. Because, after all, we’re in this together, you and me. We’re in this for the crazy and the calm, the challenges and the celebrations. But we are in this together.