There are so many pros to having your babies close together. They always have a playmate. You never feel like you have to 'start over' with the entire process because you're already in it. You become pretty fabulous at juggling 20 balls in the air at one time and are ready for pretty much anything that can be thrown at you. Literally.
You go through sleep deprivation all at once, night after night, month after month, year after year. You don't even notice the bags under your eyes anymore as they have permanently taken up residence and just seem to now fit.
And you've become accustomed to chaos, every second, of every minute, of everyday. So accustomed, that you wouldn't realize the circus you are putting on for everyone in public. You'd probably join them and roll your eyes while shaking your head if you saw another family carrying on with the same antics as you are putting on.
But I, for one, happen to love my circus. My daily life craziness actually is the normal that I prayed for my entire life. Frankly, I wouldn't trade it for the most quiet, organized, successful, well-traveled, well-rested lifestyle. But, that is just me.
When you have a crew like mine and you venture out in public, people have the opportunity to do one of two things: they either fall in love with you and adore your beautiful, entertaining monkeys by 'ooh-ing' and 'awe-ing' and chuckling at the tricks of your little performers or absolutely, positively despise you and are irritated by everything about your entire crew and each move and every noise.
But one would think you'd at least get some slack from other parents who are going through or have gone through the same things. Right? That they'd get it? They don't hate you for being the one hogging grocery aisles with three shopping carts and three crying children or Heaven forbid, taking up three times the space on a sidewalk or one side of the mall or fairground pushing the double stroller. Yes, being the woman pushing the stroller; oh the looks could kill.
But the other parents are supposed to be on the same team. Battling the same battles. Fighting the same fights. Holding onto the same roller coaster ride that you're currently being flung around on; white knuckles from holding on so tightly for dear life.
But, as with anything, you have your Negative Nancy's and Debbie Downer's. And unfortunately, they are everywhere.
At the grocery store, at church, at the park, at the mall, at the gas station, and sadly, they even find you out of town visiting family and friends. They're everywhere. And the best part, they manage to sneak up on you with their 'words of wisdom' at the most opportune times.
The baby is bucking in the grocery cart but you must keep pushing through despite what the best parenting research says; show your child that you won't put up with that behavior in public and leave immediately. Well, I apologize to everyone in Wal-Mart but I cannot leave and must get my groceries. It's now or never. And before my trip is over, at least one or two other shoppers lean over and share, "Oh you just wait. It gets worse."
My toddler is speaking out in the middle of church. We do what we can, take him out to the cry area, use as many quieting techniques as possible. Just then the older woman behind us whispers, "It's OK, dear. Don't worry. Mine went through that stage. He'll grow out of it. But boy, hold on. You'll have so many other issues to deal with when this phase fizzles out. You'll be wishing you had this back."
It's a beautiful, sunny day and the kids are running around laughing at the park. Everyone seems to be having a great time until the baby falls on the cement from running ahead too fast and busts open her knee. A bystander pipes in, "Oh poor thing. You always hate to see them get hurt. In a handful of years you'll be afraid to let them leave the house and have to worry about each time they get in the car with one of their friends or go out on a date. Ugh, I wish these were the boo boo's I still had to worry about fixing. Just wait. It gets worse!"
All three kids are shrieking and running underneath the clothes racks in a store at the mall. Everyone in the store seems to be quite annoyed as if we are purposefully trying to ruin their relaxing day out. Another dad walks by and says out of the side of his mouth, "You think things are tough now, ha! You have no idea! It only gets worse."
The kids are fighting and hitting each other in the back seat of the car while we're filling up at the gas station. The person across from us chuckles as they're being entertained by the impromptu WWE show going on in our vehicle and says, "Reminds me of how mine used to be. They still hate each other to this day, and they're all in their mid to late teens now. I hope one day they'll like each other."
You're at home for the holidays and run into friends of the family that haven't seen you in a couple of years. You have the kids dressed in their best and are ecstatic to show off your picture perfect, beautiful, intelligent, personable, glowing children. Naturally as soon as they are approached and asked their name or how old they are, they shut down, stick their face into your leg, shake their head back and forth while screaming "No!"
The family friends are quick to respond, "Oh it's OK. I'm sure they're trying to adjust from being out of their normal routine and away from home.
Try to enjoy this time since they grow so up so fast and before you know it, they'll want nothing to do with you. My kids never want to talk or be around me. Soon you won't have this."
When we get these comments, normally I do the infamous smile and chuckle and reply with something like, "Oh I can only imagine!" Or nervously laugh, "They're something else, aren't they?" But most of the time I want to look them square in the eyes and ask, "Really? Thanks a million for the great pep talk! Now I feel so much better! Whooh, that's a load off!"
It's tough being a parent for all of us. The different worries that I'll endure and battles I'm sure to face, but I'm a mother; it's my job to worry. There will never be another day for the rest of my life that I'm not worried about my children.
But I leave you with this thought to ponder: Positive thinking leads to positive outcomes. Be that start or that bridge for the next struggling Mama you encounter. A couple words of encouragement could be a total game changer.
Long is a local author and mother of three. Her column is published on the first and third Sunday of each month. She may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.