I’m certain this story is familiar to you: one baby wakes up much earlier than she should, while the other one sleeps longer. Forget being at the park on time because older sister just squeezed her whole fruit pouch on the carpet, plus the gas tank was empty when you got in the car. Grocery shopping on the way home gets abandoned because the baby is screaming. Nap time is thrown off completely when you cannot sync their schedules and just as you get one lunch cleaned up, the other one wants to nurse. All of a sudden it is 3:30pm and you have not answered a single email; one load of laundry sits ready to be folded in the dryer, the other load freshly washed and wet but probably needs a re-wash because it was left there overnight. Dinner is spaghetti, the absolute best you can do tonight because you never actually made it to the grocery store. Hand the toddler another applesauce and pretend it’s a vegetable. Not one room got tidied up today. There were three episodes of Dora, though, and there would have been a fourth if Dad had not gotten home in time to come in as relief. It’s just been a day.
The crazy, unpredictable, and frustrating days usually come when we have the most to do, amiright? Have a deadline to meet? Your kids will cry at the exact same time for the 30 minutes you thought you could sneak in a little project. Is there a meeting or class or important gathering to prep for? They will not sleep at the same time even though they always sleep from 1:00-2:00 together. The baby will want to be held more some days, and big sister will be extraordinarily clingy on others. And then you’ll get crabby, because the day just went nothing like you planned.
But it’s their day, too. And when you think about it, they had a pretty good one.
Big sister learned how to clean up the messes we make. She had no idea we were in a hurry to meet our friends on time, she was simply eating the pouch I gave her, exactly where I handed it to her, on the carpet. But when she saw me with the stain remover and a towel, she brought over a baby wipe to help. She watched, and she learned something.
The baby was cared for. He was hot and sweaty and tired after being outside and he just couldn’t muster one more minute in his car seat. So we listened to him, and we went home. And as soon as I took him out and put him on my shoulder, he felt better. When he needed more holding and more snuggles the rest of the day, he got them. There are many things as a mother I do not do well, but I snuggle pretty nicely. Our little ones need lots of touch; it is the only way we communicate that they are safe and loved, that they can understand. I gave that affirmation in bulk today, and he felt it.
And together these little children watched their mom handle stress, but very imperfectly, so they also watched me apologize when I took it out on their dad. They saw me come up with a meal for our family and I know big sister did not care one bit that it was spaghetti. The only person who judged me for that was me. I never got to my email but I did read a book, blow bubbles, and catch a flying toddler at the bottom of the slide. I had to enforce a few timeouts in between all of this for throwing and hitting and not being a good listener, but I got a few “I’m sorries” as well, and that is a word we all need readily available in our vocabulary.
I did not check off many to-do boxes today, but my little ones did: learn, play, eat, sleep, read, and repeat. And I helped them do those things. If I measure each day by my list, they are not always very good, but when I look at each day like it is their day too, because it IS their day, too, well, then most days are better. A lot better.
And that’s where I want to land at 8:00pm every day, assessing it by what we learned and how often we laughed and the new words we heard. I think when you are the mother of a few young ones, productivity needs a different connotation, one that includes diaper changes and dishes and hugs. And at the end of the day, I believe it is ok to say this: I was not a good writer/small business owner/teacher/(insert role here) today. But damn, I kept two kids under the age of two alive and fed, and we played and talked about trees and chased after bubbles in the breeze, and both of them are sleeping safely in their beds tonight and that made it a pretty good day.