Tuesday, January 11, 2011

The Peanut Gallery

An unsettling phrase keeps emerging from my mouth lately.
In the library, when we’ve stayed just ten minutes too long, and Margot is pressing the wheelchair-access button that opens the door to the parking lot, Violet is yanking her little sister back to safety, Jude is marching around in his boots leaving bits of chicken poop on the floor, and I’m standing at the counter waiting to sign out our books and movies.

At the grocery store, when I’ve given Margot a flat of blueberries to occupy her while I shop and she spills it all over the produce section floor, and Jude and Violet are long gone, doing the small-town kid laps of the store (knowing that everyone knows them and will send them back to me, as if I couldn't hear them screaming and laughing three aisles away).

At lunch time, when I've placed three healthy, colourful, balanced meals in front of them, I’ve just sat down to eat, and everyone asks for juice. Or spills their juice, rice, and peas all over the floor that I’ve just finished scrubbing for the first time in months (it only took me 3 hours, with all the interruptions).

When they're all occupied with games in the livingroom and I sit down with a cup of tea and a book, and they find me, clamouring to be on my lap, burrowing into me as if they're trying to get back inside me.
“It’s a wonder I’m not nuts”.

I always say it with my tongue firmly in my cheek, the picture of a good-humoured, well-balanced mother, a smile on my face as I wrangle my unruly children out the door. Older women smile at me, remembering when. Men and people without kids might purse their lips at how little control I seem to have over them. I remember judging women with unruly kids, back before I had my own.

The fact is, I'm exhausted. I'm always exhausted. Five minutes into the day when Violet and Margot are already starting the "Mine!" "No, MINE!" routine, I wonder how I'm going to make it. I know I'm not alone. I don't think any mother really knows what she's getting herself into. When we are pregnant with our first child, we imagine ourselves as the serene, beautiful mother we see on the front of greeting cards, gazing into her baby's face, confident that she will handle all future parenting situations gracefully and successfully. We swear we will never be that mother who snaps at her kids at the grocery store or is short-tempered ever, let alone in public.

When the rude fact appears that we have, in fact, become that mother, it can be disheartening. To the top of the list of perceived parenting failures, we can add the fact that we are not always patient, not always gentle, not always good role models, and not always good at mothering.

The reason my statement, "It's a wonder I'm not nuts" is unsettling is because...well, maybe I am nuts. I must have been nuts to get myself into this in the first place...then to do it again, and yet again!

What comforts me is that I'm not alone. If I'm nuts, then so are you...and you, and you. We're nuts because we keep getting out of bed, keep doing our best even on days when all we get in return is backtalk and misbehaviour. Mothers of children with special needs might get less than that, and work 100 times harder than mothers of healthy children.

Somedays we feel like we could just drive away and never look back. But somehow we don't. If you looked up the words "determined" and "resilient" in the dictionary, you just might see a picture of a mother. Below the picture would be a note: "see also nuts".

Have a wonderful day, all my nutty friends out there. I love you all, and know you're all doing the best you can. Keep up the good work.


  1. That's what I needed to hear today. Thank you.

  2. Great post. Just remember that exhaustion, guilt and self-doubt are chronic diseases of motherhood, and there's not much you can do about it. Often the best part of the day for me is at 5:00 a.m. The first child is up at about 6, and it is usually downhill from there. But truthfully, the quiet dawn would not be so relished if it was not for the fact that I know the children will soon be up. Without that knowledge, the quiet of the early morning would be almost deafeningly so.

  3. OMG, I honestly was having one of those " Self doubt, guilt that I'm not a better parent " moments just as I was reading your post. Thanks for giving us a reminder that we're not alone!

  4. Right on. I so often need the reminder that I'm not really alone in the nut-house :)

  5. I know. Why do they wait until I sit down and almost have that first bite in my mouth when they ask for more juice?? I love your picture. I doubt my parenting skills on a daily basis....glad to know there's many more of us out there!


  6. Love the picture. From one nut to the other, thank you for this great post, which I thoroughly enjoyed. I'm on my own this week, so by the time Saturday rolls around, I'll be the biggest nut in town! Come to think of it, none of this madness would have happened without somebody elses' nuts....I'm just sayin'...The great thing is that now that my kids are getting older, I can actually explain to them why I'm going nuts and hope that makes a difference.

  7. Just tonight I thought to myself: "Wow, I did a terrible job parenting my child - me grumpily uttering slightly audible complaints and offering ultimatums for no discernible reason.

    But, I reminded myself that I'm exhausted working full time, waking up at 5:30am every morning, nursing a toddler, trying to get kids to school and squeezing out every moment of 'me' time after they go to bed before I fall into mine - exhausted - kind of exhausted.

    I always resolve to do better tomorrow, and sometimes I do. Sometimes I don't. But, with my work outside the home - I shrug my shoulders and say: "I'm doing my best."

    So, from one nut to another nut - I love your beautiful squishy face, BTW - I think you're doing a fine nutty job! ;o) I figure if my kids are healthy, mostly happy, and whatever is happening today won't make a difference 10 mins, 10 days, 10 weeks, or 10 years from now - then it's all good. Wow. I need sleep. ;o)

  8. PS: I just love that picture! It made me giggle, and I needed to do that. ;o)

  9. I knew we were fellow nutty pals. It sounds like a day from my house.... and sometimes I make this big dramatic yell as if I AM going insane which is a sure way to pull a pair of teen/preteen grumpy ones out of a yelling match.... they look at me.... goofy smiles on there faces and say something like "seriously mom, you're totally weird" and we all laugh.... being nutty really has the power to save the day!

  10. Great photo! And a great, lighthearted post full of truth. I know you are tired of hearing it but "this too shall pass". Now, when I go to the grocery store, the girls go and get items for me. They WANT to help, and stay by my side, and push the cart, etc. And I look at the Moms with squishy babies and toddlers, and for a moment, envy them. Then we get to the car and my kids buckle themselves in while I reapply lipgloss, and I smile at how things are just as they should be!
    However, the drama of puberty may be the death of me.....

  11. lol, this post made me smile today, thanks! I feel nuts with one child, so I can't imagine the chaos that will ensue with a second (or third??) You are very right about mothers who are parenting children with special needs, and I try to remind myself that when I'm getting uptight and feeling the tension in my shoulders mounting.

  12. Great post! My son has a snow day and of course I imagine it being this wonderful fun filled day and meanwhile, he is pushing my buttons to the point where I have snapped multiple times. My little one is just getting over an illness so I've had very little sleep in weeks. I am going on 9 years of not getting enough sleep. As I am approaching 40 in just a few short years I find myself saying "I am just too old for this" I am exhausted, just exhausted, constantly.

    Anyway, I am going to take my crazy crew out in the snow for the second time today to unload some energy.

    I love being a mommy, I just wish I could get some sleep..or read a sentence..or complete a thought...


  13. This is exactly what I needed to read today. Thank you!

  14. I know I am crazy:)
    I loved reading this because we have all been there and are still there sometimes...
    Thinking of you.
    Warm wishes, Tonya


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