They Go Where I Go

One of the most simultaneously boring and strenuous aspects of adulthood has got to be the errands and appointments and chores. I’m embarrassed to admit this, but I remember when handling the mundane business of life felt overwhelming – before having kids. Now there is exponentially more to do, less time, and more people to drag along with me.

It’s all a crazy juggling act now, with two or three kids in tow. Doctor appointments, smog checks, pharmacy, post office, dog food, and budget grocery shopping at four different stores. All shuffled in around meals, naps, activities, school pickup, and moods. I get tired thinking about it.

Heading out every day requires planning. Each stop has different logistics: stroller – single or double? Shopping cart – double cart if we really get lucky? What distractions do I bring?  Are they super grumpy (needing bribes)? Will I need them to STFU while I have conversations with adults?

And the snacks – we must always bring snacks.

Since they have opinions now, I also have to trick them into going to do the errands in the first place. Owen is usually game, until the third or fourth stop. Addie is a different beast. If it were up to her, she would stay home in her underwear, lazing around and doing whatever she wanted, all day every day.

But we do it – through tricks, bribes, and whatever else the little dictators demand. After the planning and coercing we leave the house for crucial to our life bullshit like procuring food and toilet paper.

Things have to get done and the kids have to go with me. They go where I go.

Most of the time their behavior in public is pretty great. Sometimes it’s less so: they’re too loud, they fight, make demands, and grab everything. On occasion, they’re so monstrous I am tempted to leave them on the side of the road (which I OBVIOUSLY would never do). They try, but they don’t know how to pretend to be humans in public yet.

Some days, their behavior elicits THE LOOK from passersby. You know, the look that says what’s wrong with those wild animals, and what is wrong with YOU for being such a terrible mother as to bring them out in this condition and have no control over them? I usually ignore it or flash a blank stare. At times I kiss my kids and call them little angels, as though I don’t even notice.

I wish I could convey all the ways I want to respond, in a look of my own. Maybe I should practice in the mirror.

What I would answer, if  the smug and judgmental were bold enough to use actual words, would be some combination of the following:

  • I know, but it’s frowned upon to leave them home alone.
  • Yes, I have tried to control them and, no it’s clearly not working right now.
  • They’re not supposed to have solid emotional control and coping skills at 2 and 3. But you probably should.
  • Trust me, this is worse for me than it is for you.
  • We’re at the bank, for fuck’s sake, not a 5 star restaurant. Get over it.

Here’s the big thing, though. I like bringing my kids out in the world with me to do mundane shit. They are good company and I am quite fond of them. Most of the time, they are well behaved in public – charming even. I get plenty of compliments on their friendliness, good manners, cuteness, and how helpful they are.

And also, we have to do the things, just like anyone else. So they go where I go.

I want my little ones to get to know their community, to be comfortable in the hustle and bustle, and to see how people function around one another. They will be better adjusted for it in the long run.  I may not be taking them on exotic vacations, but I am exposing them to daily life around us.

The time is coming to broaden their horizons (their pretend trips are often to the grocery store or Target). But when we do get someplace a little more exciting (after we win the lottery), they’ll have some practice existing in the outside world.

And I’ll have some practice ignoring the inevitable glares when they act like wild animals anyway. Maybe I’ll have perfected that response look by then.

Target pic



Letting Go Of “You Always” and “You Never”

You never listen. I have to refrain from saying this to my kids eighty-five times a day. Even though it may feel true in the moment, it is not a never, it is a right now. You must have forgotten to turn your good listening ears on. That is what I say instead, in good parenting moments. In worse, I command: Listen to me right now! In between, I try for a silent pause – anything to prevent me from saying you never.

Why are you always such a messy eater? I think. Owen makes accidental messes from eating with speed and gusto. His chunky, 2-year-old fingers can’t quite pull the foil off the top of a yogurt cup without toppling it, but really insist on trying. He also makes mischievous messes: turning over a cereal bowl on top of his head, throwing slobber-covered bread crusts, and rubbing food on his neck (I have no explanation for that one).

You always make such a mess. I try not to throw the words at him. I know they will not help. Be a neater eater, I say instead. Use your napkin, like Addie does. He will get there. Owen will (probably) not be a pigpen his whole life.

You kids always fuss when it’s time to get ready in the morning. I do say this one, but does pointing out their flaw help? Are they suddenly better about getting ready because I toss out a label? Quite the opposite. I say they are fussing for no reason, and they dig in their heels and commit to the fussfest. There is nothing I should say instead. If they fuss about getting ready, so be it. There are lots of ways I can still get us out the door. And if I keep you always out of my mouth, eventually they will get over the fussy mornings. Or maybe not – everyone has issues.

In these long days of motherhood, repetitive, but temporary, little things get under my skin. In order for me to not lose my mind during these phases, I need to let go of you always and you never.

post 1
NOT fussing about getting ready in the morning.

Why can you never go to the bathroom by yourself? I mean really, sometimes I cannot leave what I’m doing to watch you pee.

You never agree on anything. Obviously not.

You always kick me during diaper changes. Maybe it’s time to potty train.

You always fight at Costco. Like every other kid, and most adults.

You always splash water out of the bath. Only sometimes.

You never eat that, so I’m not making it. Except really, I will.

You never keep your hands to yourself. Almost never.

You always run away from me. Only most of the time.

The list is endless.

The danger (to the kids) in you always and you never, is hearing absolutes that they have to live up to. They internalize the labels, they feel bad, and they keep it up to save face. It backfires a hundred percent of the time.

The benefit (to me), in letting go of that vocabulary, is I can skip getting panicked into tunnel vision about little behaviors. I can avoid making catastrophic plans for how to deal with their (genuinely atrocious) issues FOREVER. In letting go of you always and you never, I leave room for the frustrations to become distant memories.

No good can come of making someone relive, and pay again, for minor instances that collectively turn into an always or a never. And so my new mission (among all of the many in progress) is to drop the labels from my kid related vocabulary.

post 3
NOT fighting at Costco. Ridiculously cute.