It was one of those days.
One of those days when your pants are too tight, you wake up with a headache, and the kids’ rooms are disasters at 8 a.m.
It was one of those days when I had to physically go into Target for our groceries since I didn’t have time to wait for pickup—I think that alone should sum up exactly the kind of day it was.
The kids were hangry. The toddler was, well, toddler-y.
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Two minutes into our shopping trip, she had kicked her light-up rain boots and socks off, wiggled out of the cart strap, and refused to stay with us as I tried to pick up a few things we needed for lunch. I tried to maneuver the giant family-style cart aka city bus through the aisles with one hand (an impossible feat) while holding my barefoot, screaming 2-year-old. Unfortunately, this has been her new MO every time we go into a store, but usually, I can pacify her enough to get through a short shopping trip.
Not this time.
Every pair of eyeballs in the produce department was trained on me and my beet-red, tantrum-throwing toddler. I felt like yelling out to all the rubberneckers, “They don’t take returns on these—I already tried!” You’d have thought people had never seen a rascally kid in their lives based on the amount of staring going on.
My three other kids trailed behind as I abandoned my cart and bolted for the sliding doors out to the parking lot. We got buckled into the car, and I felt hot angry tears pricking at my eyes. Usually, I would try to hold back from showing my frustration, especially if it’s related to the kids (namely, the toddler), but this time I just had to let it go. I rested my head on my steering wheel and sobbed like a baby in my van, right in the middle of a busy Target parking lot. Thank goodness for tinted windows.
My kids sat in their car seats in stunned silence. I’m sure they were wondering what the heck was wrong with Mom.
We got home and they quickly ran ahead of me into the house yelling “Mom, go lay down on the couch, we want to do a surprise!”
I explained how that was kind of them, but I had to make lunch for everyone, so I couldn’t.
They insisted, so I obliged and lay down on the couch where they propped my feet up with pillows and draped a blanket over me.
Hearing a flurry of activity in the kitchen, I tried to put aside my anxiety about what kind of mess I would inevitably be cleaning afterward and decided to just let them do whatever it was that they wanted to do.
A few minutes later, they came and led me to the dining room table (because of course my eyes had to be closed!). When I opened my eyes, I couldn’t believe the precious scene in front of me. They had brought out my flameless candles for a relaxing ambiance, set the table (complete with a fancy Christmas plate and a pillow atop my seat for me), and made PB&J sandwiches for everybody—all by themselves.
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Yes, the kitchen was messy. The meal wasn’t exactly nutritionally balanced. And I don’t even want to think about how they retrieved my fancy wine glass from the top cabinet.
But none of that mattered.
All the blood, sweat, and tears I’ve poured into raising my kids were on display, right there on my tabletop. I try to teach them to be kind, to love their neighbors, and to be empathetic, but so many times it’s hard to see if any of it is getting through to them, especially when they’re so young. It’s hard to imagine that you’re doing anything right when you’re in the thick of a grocery store meltdown, and you feel like you’re failing at this whole parenting thing more often than not.
Those sloppy peanut butter and jellies helped me remember exactly why I’m doing what I’m doing, and it reaffirmed to me that at the end of the day, it’s all worth it.
So the next time I’m trudging through the throes of the terrible twos, maybe I’ll just make myself a sandwich, pull out some Christmas plates, and light a candle or two to remind myself that this too shall pass, and we’ll come out on the other side with some amazing, extraordinarily loving children.