The other week I met a mom. We started chatting about our kids, as moms tend to do, and she asked how old mine were. When I told her 3 and 1, she gave me a look that was part pity and part relief. Her kids were 5 and 7, I believe. “Wow, you’re really in the thick of it, aren’t you?” she said.
I suddenly remembered a friend telling me about a very similar conversation she had with another mother when HER kids were 3 and I. Except I believe that woman’s exact response was, “You’re in hell, huh?”
If complete strangers are widening their eyes and oozing sympathy, there’s gotta be something to it, right?
And yes, I’m sticking with that word: GRUELING. Rail at me all you want about how motherhood is nowhere near as hard as picking beans in a field and I will tell you you’re WRONG. It’s harder.
In a single day, you can find yourself rushing to the pediatrician because of some weird rash, racing to the ER because someone did a faceplant at the playground, saving one kid from drowning when his brother gets too rowdy in the bathtub, fishing the other one out of a duck pond, and changing a wet kid in a crowded locker room after swimming lessons while the other screams in the stroller. And yes, these are all real-life examples.
In a single night, you can find yourself comforting a child who’s coughing and another who’s having nightmares. You could be chasing away monsters, singing lullabies, fetching cups of water, and changing diapers and sheets. You might sleep from 11 p.m. straight through till 7 a.m., or you could be woken at 2 a.m., 4 a.m. and 5:30 a.m. You never know.
Some days I wonder if I will ever again wake up without a small, damp person clawing at my face and kicking me in the stomach. Will we ever get through a meal without tears and threats? Will I ever get to finish a cup of coffee without reheating it 7 times? Will I ever get to shampoo AND blow-dry my hair on the same day? Or wash, dry, fold, and put away a load of laundry in the same week?
So why the heck do people do this kid thing, then? Because all the stress and struggles are interspersed with moments of real joy.
I’ll be yelling at Miles to take his hands off his brother when I notice Riley is laughing harder than I’ve ever seen him laugh. Riley will be wailing in the car and I’ll hear Miles say, “Don’t cry, buddy. When you get bigger we’re going to have bunk-beds, isn’t that exciting?” The tears and scrapes are offset by hugs and silly songs we make up. A day may start with spilled milk and slammed fingers, and end up with a picnic and feeding the ducks. And then one kid slips and falls into the pond and it’s back to tears and laundry.
So, yeah. I’d say we’re in the thick of it. But at least I know from these other moms that there’s life on the other side of 3 and 1. Man, 5 and 7 must be a walk in the park... without a change of clothes.
- When he uses half a bottle of soap to wash his hands, he’s “make suring” they’re really clean.
- “Mom, when you’re done take caring of Riley, can you get me a snack?”
- He likes “lawn mowering” the grass with his toy lawnmower.