Thursday, March 25, 2010

If Motherhood Were Easy, It Wouldn't Start With "Labor"

This motherhood thing has been somewhat, um, challenging lately. I've got a gum-smacking, miniskirt-wearing, eye-rolling pre-teen chatterbox who thinks I'm the world's worst mom because I won't buy her a cell phone. I've got a selective-hearing, persistent, precocious Kindergartner who thinks she should be allowed the same freedoms (but not the same responsibilities) as her older sister. And I've got a husband who says things like, "Ask your mother," or "What should I feed them for a snack?" or "What does Mommy usually do in this situation?" Or, my personal favorite, "I'll think about it" when what he really means is, "No way in hell!" because he doesn't want to be the bad guy.

So guess who gets to be the the bad guy and actually make the decisions?

Moms make literally thousands of decisions over the course of a typical day. Thousands. Some are easy, like no, you can't eat pixie stix for breakfast. Here's a bowl of oatmeal instead. Some are trickier, like what to do about a baby on nap strike or a mean girl on the playground or a gossipy neighbor you just can't stand. Sometimes I'm on a roll, handing out verdicts like a veteran judge, doling out punishments and juice boxes like a pro. Other days, I struggle with simple things, thinking, "What, am I new at this? Why can't I get it together?" But over the years, I've found that the easy decisions, the easy days, do not test me, do not make me a better mom. It's the hard days, the hard choices, the tough times, that define us as parents.

Think about it: The easy days, the days where everything goes right, no one gets sick or hurt or upset, the days where I have it all together, don't make me a better mom, a better person. The easy days are, for lack of a better word, too EASY to be interesting. If everything is going right, we aren't challenged to rise to the occasion. But on those OTHER days, the days when I'm thinking, "Is it bedtime yet? How early can I reasonably tuck them in? And what time does Happy Hour start??" I find myself being more resourceful, more creative, more EVERYTHING than usual. On those days when I'm thinking, "Man, this is SO NOT what I signed up for, SO NOT what I imagined motherhood to be!" - well, those are the days that make me a better mom. Those are the days that end with me thinking, "I got through this; I can get through anything!"

Case in point: When my girls were 2 and 4, I spent three weeks visiting my family in Los Angeles. My husband flew back a couple of weeks earlier than I did, but I'd flown with both kids on my own many times. So I was undaunted by the prospect of changing planes in Dallas/Fort Worth with two kids, a double stroller, two car seats, and three carry-ons. No sweat. Piece of cake.

Of course, nothing went smoothly. Our flight out of DFW was cancelled, and the only other option would take us into Reagan/National in DC, and then to our final destination, Pittsburgh, around midnight. I only had 20 minutes to reach the gate, which meant that I literally ran through crowded terminals like in that old OJ commercial, jumping over bags, pushing a double stroller filled with 90 lbs. of kid and two car seats strapped on top, singing silly songs to keep my kids entertained, much to the amusement of other travelers. Arriving in DC, I found that, due to airport renovations, they couldn't bring my gate-checked stroller to me - so I had to drag sleepy kids, car seats, and bags to the check-in counter just to get my stroller. Then, because I'd been re-routed to a different carrier and had no bags to check, the computer program selected me for secondary security screening - and no one could override the all-powerful computer. Swabbing my stroller for explosive residue, x-raying my diaper bag, patting down my toddlers, dismantling my car seats - of course, I missed my next flight. By this time, no one had eaten dinner and everyone was exhausted. My flip flop strap broke, so I was hobbling around, people staring, looking like an idiot - but again, that may have been due to my singing in an attempt to convince my kids that this was all just a grand adventure. I was booked on a later flight, a puddle jumper (in whose seats neither of my car seats would fit, so more gate-checking) that arrived in Pittsburgh at 2:00 AM.

And that's when I remembered that when my husband had flown home two weeks earlier, he'd driven my car home from the airport. And he was now - get this - in DC on a business trip.

So, because I'm a mom and we do what we have to do, I smiled at my kids, collected my car seats and stroller, claimed my bags, and rented a car. Completely loaded down and with no one to help me, I got my kids and my crap settled into the rented minivan in the middle of the night. I made the 2-1/2 hour drive home safely. It remains, to this day, one of the toughest days of my parenting career - but I wouldn't change one single aspect of it now. I dug deep, and I learned that I can handle just about anything life throws at me.

Slacker Mom Says...sometimes, parenthood is tough. Sometimes, we think, "This is not what I signed up for!" Some days, we have to dig deep, really really deep, into the well of creativity, patience, self-reliance - and we find that indeed we can handle more than we thought we could. We have to think of tough times as a test that helps us fine tune our parenting skills, a test that challenges us to be better parents, better people. It helps us grow as mothers. We learn that we can. We CAN. We're moms. We CAN - and we DO.

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