Tuesday morning. At our house, this means swimming lessons. Specifically, it means corralling 3 little girls into swimming suits, braiding 3 heads of hair, grabbing 3 towels and enough snacks to keep a non-swimming 2 year old from coming unhinged while at the pool. We have this system down fairly well, and despite the fact it looks like we are packing for a week long trip across the country, we manage to make it to the pool every Tuesday.
This particular day, the boy was feeling very...two. Opinionated. Obstanent. Infuriating. Pick your "describes a two year old" word. He was that, big personality, little patience, lots of feelings, little control. Most of the time, this little blond dude can roll with the punches and is an enjoyable member of our little tribe. But today? Yeah, not so much.
We pull up to the pool, disembark from Doug (the Durango) and head for the pool.
"Mama, I need up"
In my hands I have my purse, my cup of coffee that I haven't had time to drink despite the fact it is closer to lunch than breakfast, a swimming bag and a partridge in a pear tree. Ok, so maybe not that last one, but I was feeling full on Sherpa already.
"Bud, my hands are all full, you are going to have to walk, sister can hold your hand"
Commence full-on melt down.
I send the girls on their way, seeing that this will not soon be over. They run in, as not to be late for their lessons as I get comfortable on a bench. Two year old is now laying, flailing and screaming on the sidewalk. I sip my coffee as nice little old ladies give me a look; part pity, part "get that kid under control".
I think how glad I am that it is fairly warm and dry outside, this would be really miserable if it was wet and cold and I am desperately trying to find the silver lining. Sip more coffee, try not to feel embarrassed as yet another group of people walk by my flailing toddler on the sidewalk.
I try and talk to him, despite my rule that I "never argue with a drunk" even when it is just a kid who is drunk on big emotion. I try and help him calm down, he isn't having it. I tell him I need to go in to help sisters and I would love for him to come. I walk in the door, he screams louder, but at least he is up and following me now.
Upon entry, I realize how good the acoustics of the rec center are. The eardrum busting screaming reverberates throughout the lobby, every eye is our direction. I grit my teeth and take a breath, determined not to let him make me come unglued. I get on his level, look him in the eye, and speak quietly. I let him know I have a snack for him as soon as we are watching sisters swim, but we can't have it until he is calm. There is no screaming at the pool, it is too distracting to the kids who are trying to swim.
A nice lady trys to talk to him, she brings him some sunglasses to try and distract him. He screams "NO!" and covers his head. Oh boy, here I am, mom of the year, with the kid who yells at nice strangers. I thank her and apologize.
Boy is officially beyond the point he is able to get himself under control. I ask him if I may pick him up and rub his back and sing. He sobbingly nods his sweaty blond head, face blotchy, breathing ragged. I scoop him up and he calms down in my arms. I whisper in his ear, asking if he would like to try again. He nods and walks by my side into the locker room and pool. I avoid eye contact with all those who were witness to the nucular loosing-of-the-shit the my two year old just inflicted.
My blood pressure is high, my patience is thin, my coffee is cold and I feel like I am done parenting for the day and it isn't yet 10 a.m. In my head I remind myself that he is only two and has big feelings, just like his daddy. I refresh my memory, knowing that he owns his feelings, not me. It is my job as his mama to teaching him what to do, not what to feel. I watch my budding swimmers, as the little man munches an apple next to me, and I tell myself that his learning behaviors is just like his sisters learning the back stroke. She sinks as often as she floats, it just takes a lot of practice and doing it wrong before you get it right.
Swimming is over. The big girls change, the little guy makes comments about all the naked old ladies in the locker room (*sigh*) and we head back to the car. As we pass the front desk, the lady who works at the front and was witness to the meltdown calls out,
"Hey, you are a really good mommy. You know that, right?"
I smile and thank her, stating that it doesn't always feel that way. She repeats that I am doing a good job and my children are blessed to have me. I walk to the car with tears in my eyes, not feeling like a good mama but at least feeling like I will live to fight another day.
So to the dear front desk woman, I would like to say a heart felt "thank you" from a mommy who doesn't always feel like the end game is worth the daily grind. Your kindness, lack of judgement and words of encouragement mean the world to me. One day, when I witness a mama struggling at the front lines of motherhood, I hope to handle it with such love and grace.