I knew this. I knew having kids would be messy.
What I didn’t expect was discovering the petrified half-eaten slices of bologna in the Lego box. What I didn’t expect more, was for this to happen on a somewhat regular basis.
No one – no book, no doctor, no parent – could prepare me for the time my husband and I came home from date night and found a trail of jelly spotting our floors from kitchen to boy’s room to living room back to boy’s room leading directly into Little’s bed. The story? They were out of bread so Middle made Little a peanut-butter and jelly taco. Then, didn’t feel it was necessary to tell him to eat it at the table.
And how about that pee? I can’t write for girl moms right now, but I know every boy mom out there feels the pain in her knees from scrubbing the porta-potty smell out of the bathroom. My favorite excuse is from my husband, the tallest male in the house. He blames the little one for having the worst aim. Funny thing is, the little one is closest to the bowl when he’s peeing and there’s much less splash back from that distance… nice try dad.
Soda cans. Everywhere. Half-full most of the time. Why?
And the laundry. Oh, the size of the weekly laundry pile is enough to make any aspiring Everest climber quiver in their boots. And it’s there every week. Loads go in. Loads come out. Clothes get folded. Clothes get put away. And by the time you’re done, the baskets are full again.
Lactose intolerance. Picky eater. Vegetarian. Out of food. Different schedules. There are many reasons in our house for cooking multiple dishes in one meal.
Oldest = picky eater + small appetite
Middle = picky eater + huge appetite + would rather graze on snacks all day than eat one full meal
Little one = no dairy + limited palate
Me = on again off again vegetarian + health nut who doesn’t like frozen foods or preservatives + wants to experiment with new dishes to become a better cook
Husband/Dad = pretty easy going but sometimes gets on these kicks where he wants something specific + he’s underweight and needs extra fattening up to give him fuel for the hard labor he does every day
Why I don’t force us all to eat the same meal every day = I hate wasted food and I have three STUBBORN children who will, yes, go to bed hungry before eating something they don’t like. And as adults, we get to choose what we want to eat based on what we feel like, why shouldn’t our kids get to call the shots with the food.
Why I don’t force the older ones to make their own dinner since they insist on being picky = I like to cook. I might complain about the need to juggle my short-order cook skills on nights when my eyelids are dragging under my feet, but for the most part, I like to be in the kitchen in the evening. I still choose what I cook for dinner, I just choose the healthiest options I know they’ll eat.
This all being said, when we’re eating dinner at someone else’s home, they are expected to eat and be gracious for what’s been cooked for them. They know perfectly well if they don’t at least try what’s in front of them, they’re not getting anything else later. At least not cooked by me.
All black clothing = Sign 1
Unwashed curtain of hair over his face = Sign 2
Long sleeves in the heat = Sign 3
Afternoons spent holding his bed in place, the only light in the room a dim square illuminating his face as his robotic hand scrolls through who-knows-which social media site = Sign 4
Drawing a boy hanging from a tree with a power cord for a noose in art class = Sign 5
Getting kicked out of school for ditching and being caught with an illegal switchblade in his pocket = Sign 6
Fighting with his father = the biggest sign of them all
I saw them happening in front of my eyes and was too busy or too tired or too unsure to approach him. Then the eruption and we could no longer ignore his cries for attention.
He’d shut down. He used to talk to me back when I was dad’s girlfriend before I was step-mom. He must’ve felt abandoned by mom and probably abandoned by dad (for me) and I stopped listening when I felt abandoned by him.
It won’t happen again. Not now that I’m back to knowing which girls are drawing doodles on his arm with Sharpie markers or who’s on the outs with his group of friends. Not now that my advice is sought on how to survive high school and what to do after. Not now that questions about mental health are being asked and I’m the one he’s asking.
I won’t always like to hear what he has to say as he grows up and pushes the boundaries of adolescence into adulthood. But I will always want to be an open ear for him… for all of them.
“I said stop it!”
“Stupid!” “Retard!” “F*ck You!” “If you don’t shut up I’m gonna beat the sh*t out of you!” “Stop touching me!” “Don’t touch my stuff!”
The collective parental chorus rings aloud, “Boys!”
This is every weekend we have all three boys. Every car ride everywhere we go. Every rainy day we’re stuck in the house. Every road trip. Every night spent at grandma’s house. Every night spent at our house. Pretty much, every minute, of every day, the two older boys are in the same room.
In one night, Oldest was screaming at Middle about his missing cord to charge his phone. He punches him in the arm. A few minutes later, Little reaches down with his hand from the top bunk and smacks Middle in the face. Middle gets up screaming about Little hitting him. Oldest starts screaming at Middle to shut up. Little starts telling Middle, “yeah! Shut up!”
I run in, tell Oldest it’s his own fault for not keeping better track of his stuff. Ask Middle, “What do you expect to happen if you’re always smacking and tackling Little? He’s five, he doesn’t know how to ‘play fight’ yet.” Turn back to Oldest, “You. It’s your fault he,” point to Middle, “is smacking him,” point to Little,” because you,” point to Oldest, “won’t stop smacking him,” point back to Middle. Turn to Middle, “You. If you’re going to smack him,” point to Little, “he’s going to smack you sometimes too. Now, if you don’t want him playing around like that, keep your hands off him.” And one more time I turn to Oldest, “And you, keep your hands off him.”
Little chimes in at the very end, “Yeah. You stop hitting…”
“You. No one was talking to you. You let mama handle this and go to bed.”
The entire speech was delivered in my loudest outdoor voice before a dramatic exit back to the kitchen.
I could write a book about the amount of problems our public education system has, but I won’t take up that much space on it here. Nowadays, though, it seems like the teachers are either too busy teaching kids how to bubble in circles on a scantron or they’re so bogged down with paperwork, the actual teaching is being left to the parents. Homework is sent home with the expectation for parents to pick up where the schools are leaving off.
Let me make it clear, I am not blaming teachers individually. I was raised by a teacher. I understand fully how difficult their job is. I blame the education system.
That still doesn’t mean I want to spend my evenings fighting with my kids over sight words or hovering over their shoulder to make sure they’re watching the YouTube video about plastics in the ocean for marine biology rather than Rick & Morty episodes.
I did not go to college to earn a degree in education. I have zero concept of how to teach a child to read. I can’t remember a time where I didn’t know how to read. I don’t remember learning to read. I just read.
I’m a writer. I studied art in college. I played viola in grade school. I doubt it comes as a shock that my brain leans towards the creative subjects. Math and science are not my things. And now, they’re teaching math differently than how my generation was taught. So now, despite the fact I already put in my thirteen years of primary public education, they expect me to attend parent academies to re-learn math so I can help my kids with their math homework. Um no. No, no, no, no, NO!
But still, I can kick, and I can scream, and I can stand on my soapbox preaching about how ridiculous this system is, it won’t change the fact I’m still going to be the one at the table attempting to be their homework helper. May the stars shine down upon us all.
And the role I may detest the most. This is the one that makes me feel like I’m running on a hamster wheel never getting anywhere. Things I take care of as secretaria de familia:
- My work schedule which comes with almost daily deadlines for multiple clients, and meetings happening anywhere from one day a week to every day.
- My events schedule mostly filled with work-related happenings.
- My client’s events schedules because even if I’m not going, I need to know when to promote them.
- My blog deadlines I’m trying to adhere to.
- My husband’s work schedule because he will forget everything and has no idea how to use a calendar app. Even if he did, or if he had a paper calendar, he’d still forget and ask me when he needs to be where anyway.
- Emails – my personal and work correspondence, and my husband never checks his so every once in a while I’ve got to get in there and make sure we didn’t miss anything important.
- Doctor appointments for myself, my son, my step-son, and my mother-in-law (because my husband has to drive her and as I’ve already explained, I’m his secretary).
- School events for Little like the picnic lunch we attended last week, and the booster fun run they’re doing this week.
- School holidays for all three boys.
- Our weekend exchange for Oldest and Middle with their mom. Which weekends are ours, which are hers? There is an every-other plan on the books, but due to extenuating circumstances, we’re often revising and switching weekends and then figuring out who will go where when and who’s dropping off whom on which day to which parent/step-parent…
- Holiday exchanges for Oldest and Middle, because as long as I’ve been in the picture there doesn’t seem to be a set plan. It’s always been a kind of, “Hey what are we doing for Thanksgiving/Christmas/Spring Break/Summer,” thing. It usually depends on extended family visitors or travel plans on either side.
- Backup plans for anything planned on a Sunday not kid-friendly in the event of my son’s father “being sick” again and can’t pick him up for his visitation.
- Mine and my husband’s social calendar, because somehow we find time to hang out with friends at non-work-related social gatherings. Sometimes. Not often, but it does happen.
- Our pool league is a traveling one and everyone knows my husband will forget so it’s my job to remember where we’re playing each week.
- Family birthdays – for the husband, my mom, his mom, and the kids this involves not only knowing the date, but making the plans for how we’ll celebrate, inviting guests, buying the presents, and wrapping the presents. For the extended family it is keeping track of the dates, accepting invites and making plans for their celebrations, or at the very least making sure we call to say, “Happy Birthday or Felicidades…”
- Bills. Which are getting out of hand.
- I’m the keeper of the records – birth certificates, social security cards, passports, school papers, IEP paperwork, immunization records, taxes, insurance documents, titles, deeds, etc., etc.
- The shopping list… which I never remember and therefore come home without the one thing we really needed every dang time.
I utilize as many helpful tools as possible. I put everything on my desktop paper calendar and my Apple calendar that crosses all my devices. I LOVE my Reminders app. I use my Notes app to quickly jot down ideas or anything I want to remember later that doesn’t come with a time or date attached to it.
All in all, I’m a frazzled hot-mess but as (step)mom, it’s my job and I’m doing the best I can.
Every family is different, and there are probably many roles other moms play I didn’t mention here. For instance, chauffeur. I know most moms would add that one to their list, but I can’t in all honesty because I hate to drive, so my husband fills the position in our family. Do you have any other mom-roles I didn’t mention? I’d love to read about it in the comments!
Do you have a mantra helping you be a zen mama? Or a lesson you’ve learned along the way you want to share with other mamas to help them be more zen? Contact me if you’re interested in posting it here on Zen Mama Mantras.