I’m Not Strong Enough for This

frustrated mom
Photo "eve8" by Lisa Brewster available via Creative Commons license.
supporting moms
eve8” by Lisa Brewster available via CC BY-SA 2.0

It was supposed to be a good day. I guess most of our days start out like this. So much promise. So many great intentions set out for the hours of playful adventures and learning experiences that lay ahead for both of us.

And then, on days like today, those good intentions crash and burn.

What I had planned: A shopping trip to get you all the things you were looking forward to. Renewing our stocks of milk and cheese and vegetables (most of which will likely go bad in our crisper – more grand intentions spoiled), and a cheese stick from the bakery as a treat to keep you content while we wade our way through the grocery aisles, looking for deals on things we might actually use. Then we can go home, have a lovely lunch, and enjoy some time playing together.

Maybe your plan was the same as mine. Sitting here now, I’m sure you didn’t intend for all this to happen. You’re only 2, after all. Even though it might feel like it, I know you’re not heading into our adventures set on screaming tears out of your distraught little eyes. I’m trying to keep that in mind.

I know you’re not trying to make my temper rise by tossing out everything from the cart, including the items you begged for me to add. I know you didn’t intend on chucking the package of applesauce cups I gently asked you to keep safe, and trusted you with when you asked to hold them while I unloaded our bounty onto the conveyor belt. I know you’re feeling upset and confused and maybe a little bit scared that the applesauce broke when it smashed on the floor, and now there’s a sticky, slippery mess of mushed blueberry-applesauce splattered all over our checkout and my legs.

But in that moment, it’s all I can do to keep from thinking “Just stop trying to be a little shit!”

We make it through the scene being loudly played out as we wait for the cashier to ring in our groceries, not even caring what she thinks of our frozen pizzas and the hoard of Turkish delight that keeps me sane. I pay while people glance at my scream-crying mess of discontent toddler flailing in our cart. I hold back my own frustrations and try to keep her calm, whispering reassurance while trying to make this a teachable moment, and giving hope for a more pleasant experience “next time” we’re shopping. No, honey, the applesauce is gone. It has broken, and now we can’t eat it. We’ll try again next time. I know you’ll keep it safe next time.

Am I saying the right things? I don’t freaking know. All I know is I’m tired and cold and frustrated and disappointed about how our “nice” morning has turned out. I just want to go and salvage whatever sanity I have left.

[tweetthis]Shop with a toddler, they said. It will be fun, they said. #momproblems[/tweetthis]

And then I am reminded, loading into the car is not going to help our situation any. Not only that, but you’re in your undies after another successful morning diaper-free, so you’re going to need a diaper on for the nap that really needs to happen. I convince you into the truck while I load up our bags, then spend fifteen minutes painstakingly trying to keep it together while I get you snugly into a diaper, and finally end up having to lift your little, thrashing body into your car seat.

I hate this. I hate having to make you do things forcefully. There’s supposed to be so many other ways we can work together peacefully. I’m an ECE, goddamnit, but I can’t even get through a morning without resorting to force with my own child? What am I supposed to do? Let the already-thawing freezer stuffs melt in the back while you do acrobatics and play a back-and-forth game of (never) getting into your seat, which you keep saying you’ll do “by self”?

I want to let you do it yourself, I do. I’ve given you so many chances. I’ve tried so many positive guidance techniques. I just don’t know what else to do. Sometimes we just have to do what needs done, when it needs done.

Right?

I drove and drove while you cried. Forget about the melting mess of groceries, this truck is going to carry on until you find your sleep, and I find the space to breath and pick back up my patience.

I’m not strong enough for this. I don’t think anyone is, really.

Thankfully, I know I’m not alone. There is strength in numbers. There is strength in words. There is strength in gestures, no matter how small, and this is where I’m going to pull the strength I need to keep on going with as much poise and collect as I can, to get us all back to our happy, safe places.

Thank you to the man in front of me at the check out, who smiled and told me not to worry about the spill. These things happen, and he shared his disaster of dropping one of those giant water jugs and the tidal-wave that ensued from that “oops”. It feels so good to know you’re not judging me, and you can be in these predicaments, too.

Thank you to the many people who stopped by our checkout on their way past, to say some kind words and check in on the reason for such screaming lungs. It feels good to know that you care about another in distress, and that you want to help somehow.

Thank you to the cashier who paid no mind to the broken applesauce and pushed it into the bin, telling me not to worry about paying for it. It feels good to be granted space for accidents.

Thank you to man who was originally behind us, and switched to a quicker aisle and kindly wished us a better day to come as he left the store.

Thank you to the woman who came by our truck while I was unsuccessfully trying to coax you into your car seat, to say some words of kindness and encouragement, and who apologized for not being able to help. Even if you couldn’t make her feel better, you did help me feel better to know I wasn’t alone.

So to all of you shoppers and errand-runners out there, lucky enough to do so without a tantrumming child, please remember that when you see a mama wading through the boggy sinking sand that raising a growing little being sometimes can be, you can be her strength. She might be in need of the power that comes from even a simple smile and the nod that says “It’s okay. No judgement here.”

Please, offer your support in whatever way you can. Trust that she’s got it, and let her know. Offer a smile, a word, a story, a distraction, a hand – anything you can. You never know how badly it’s needed.

It takes a village to raise a child, and also to raise a mother. Thank you to all the caring souls out there, supporting moms however you can. It means so much.

[tweetthis]It takes a village to raise a child, and also to raise a mother. #momlife #parenting[/tweetthis]

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