To say this afternoon-into-evening was rough is a total understatement. It was AWFUL. One for the books.
The day began well enough (apart from the headache that started brewing soon after I woke up). I managed to get a brisk walk in before Liam left for work. We got the oldest off to school and then the two youngers and I enjoyed a relaxing trip through the local market.
After that, we headed back home where I decided to pack a picnic lunch so I could take all three kids for a quick visit to my elementary school after we picked up Nora from her school. There aren’t too many days left in the school year, and I wanted my students from this past year to be able to meet and see the new baby.
That all went fine too. And everyone fell asleep on the ride home. Score! I was hopeful then I might be able to nap too, or at least close my eyes to relieve the worsening headache pain I was experiencing.
When I pulled into the driveway, though, things began to go awry. The baby woke up once the car stopped and started screaming. I took him and his seat from the car and moved him to a shady part in the driveway, where he continued to scream.
I grabbed Frances next and carried her into bed, no problem. I came back outside, briefly picked up and air-rocked the baby’s car seat, hoping to calm him down. It didn’t work.
So, I put him back down, grabbed the sleeping Nora and carried her inside. Of course, she woke up. She doesn’t really nap much anymore, so this wasn’t too surprising. I was still holding out hope, though, that she might. After guzzling down some water she asked for, she got into bed next to her younger sister and appeared to be attempting to fall asleep.
I hustled back out to the driveway to close and lock up the car, and to collect the screaming child, hoping none of the neighbors called CYA on me for being neglectful.
I came back inside, plopped on the couch with the baby and a huge glass of water. I proceeded to try and nurse him to sleep when Nora came out of the bedroom and into the living room to announce she was skipping nap. I ordered her kindly back to the bedroom to at least try to take a rest.
Twice more she emerged, once wearing a baby doll around her waist, attached to a Mardi Gras type beaded necklace around her neck, complete with a blanket-as-a-skirt around her lower body. The second time she was wearing no less than three headbands in her hair and twice as many barrettes. Her nap was so not happening.
I moved with the baby to the empty bedroom to lie down. He had fallen asleep. I told Nora I didn’t care what she did or played, but that she must leave me to rest so that I could try and get rid of my headache (I suffer occasionally from migraines and this one felt like it could turn into one if I didn’t try to get rid of it).
Now, yesterday, Nora skipped nap and played by herself for over two hours. She did some make-believe with her dollhouse. She drew some pictures. She played blocks. And, she dressed and undressed her baby dolls. Most days she does keep herself occupied pretty well and does not appear to be tired at all.
Today, however, she just didn’t know what to do with herself. So, she bothered me. She kept climbing up into bed, threatening to wake the baby with her insistent hugging and squeezing and kissing of his body, and in the process, completely pissing me off.
“Nora!” I whisper-screamed. “Either get under the covers and rest your head on the pillow, or get out of here and play something quietly.”
She left for a spell to do something in another room, only to return over and over again. My heart just about broke when she came in for the last time and said, “I’m tired of playing by myself mommy.”
She woke the baby when she said this, so then all three of us were grouchy. Ummm…make that four. Frances woke up soon after, and that kid is always a whiny mess after a nap.
From 4:30 until 5:30, I attempted to cook dinner. I was interrupted nearly 437 times. Most of these interruptions had to deal with the girls screaming at each other over something ridiculous. Frances told Nora she was not allowed to sing. Nora pushed Frances. Frances threw chalk all over Nora’s drawing. All of this stuff was alleged, since I witnessed none of it.
Essentially, since Nora hadn’t napped, she decided she was going to bug the shit out of her younger sister and push all of her buttons. And, younger sister decided she was just going to holler ‘No, Nora, no!’ over and over again at the top of her lungs. Meanwhile, I was going absolutely crazy having to listen to it all while trying to cook a meal and move the baby from swing to mat to shoulder to keep him from adding to the ruckus.
After I made a complete disatrous mess of the kitchen, we four sat down to eat together, the baby sprawled, belly down, across my lap (Liam’s been working late all week, making it home between 7:30 and 8, so I knew he wouldn’t be joining us for dinner).
The girls took one look at their plates and decided they weren’t going to eat the meal I prepared.
“Me no like it,” Frances whined.
At that point, I could’ve cared less. I gave them both a bowlful of fruit while I enjoyed the baked tilapia and sundried tomato pasta salad with asparagus and spinach.
Nora continued to misbehave at and away from the table before I blurted out that she was being completely unhelpful and made me feel like I wanted to leave.
Well, those lovely words caused her to burst into tears and ask, “You mean, like move to another house?”
“No.” I reassured her, feeling full of shame and guilt. “I’m your mommy and I would never leave you, no matter how angry or frustrated I got. I only feel like leaving.”
“Mommy. You shouldn’t say that. I thought you were going to leave and that hurt my feelings. I would be sad and miss you.”
I apologized and told her she was right, that I shouldn’t have said it. That people sometimes say hurtful things when they get upset.
And then I put her and her sister into the bathtub because I was at my wit’s end. I tried to sneak in a quick nursing rest break in bed with the baby, but five minutes into the tubby, the girls were at it again.
After a few lengthy screaming sessions, I yanked them both out, did teeth and pjs, and attempted to get Nora to sleep. At the early hour of 7:00.
Somehow, laying next to me, with the baby crawling all over my chest, and her sister acting a silly fool, speaking gibberish and climbing all about the bed, Nora fell asleep. Hard. She was out in under ten minutes. Gifriend sure needed that nap today. Her mama should have had one too.
After that, I kept things together just long enough until I burst into tears the moment Liam walked in the door.
“I’m just out of coping skills!” I told him. “It’s all too much! I hate that I keep yelling at the kids, Nora in particular, when all she wants is just a little attention from me.”
We tried to problem solve ways to make life easier. Like maybe not feeling the need to cook baked tilapia and sundried tomato pasta salad with asparagus and spinach. Maybe we should hire a nanny. Or win the lottery. Or have Liam just quit his job.
Today at school a lot of my colleague-friends asked how we are all doing. “How’s life with three?” they said.
I said, “It’s really freaking hard. I wish I could say it’s all beautiful and amazing. There are those moments, for sure, when things are completely wonderful. But mostly, it’s just hard.”
I know that lack of sleep, lack of ‘me time’, lack of husband from dinner through bath and bed, plus headache, and three needy kids is a recipe for madness, but I feel like I should be better at this somehow. Like I’m totally failing as a mom right now.
I don’t want my kids to remember their early childhood with a stern, bitchy, asshole dictator for a mother. I want them to recall times of peace, joy, and fun. I remember my mom being patient and kind nearly always, although she assures me this was not the case. I’m grateful my kids seem to easily forget the bad days and bad moments.
Which is why I’ll be thanking God tomorrow for second chances and do-overs, and for the love from a little girl, who will have forgotten just how awful her mother was the day before.