So, I am vacuuming the dried-up play dough crumbs off the dining room table (judge away, it was way easier than any other method) and I happen to glance at the Christmas cards and Holiday letters taped around the doorway. I am not supposed to be doing this. Vacuuming or staring at stationary. It is 5 minutes to 4pm and we are supposed to be getting ready to leave for the Zoo Lights. It probably stands to reason that we should have done this 2 weeks ago since we aren't really supposed to be in town, but those are just details at this point. Awkward Dad wants to make some Christmas memories (whether or not Christmas is really 12 days long), and when Awkward Dad wants to make some memories it is usually best to just go along with it. Which I was. Until Super Preschooler's mind left his body and he started climbing the walls. Literally. The child must think he is equal parts Spiderman and Donald O'Conner the way he is flying around here. His brother is close on his heels, brandishing some sort of weapon, and I am just counting the seconds until the conch shell and war paint shows up. There is actual screaming going on in here; loud, nonsensical whoops and manic, mocking laughter. It says something about the severity of the situation that I found cleaning the table to be an escape from the current chaos.
Which I was doing until I saw the cards. Cards that I slapped up in a fit of "oh-holy-cats-Christmas-is-3-days-away-and-I-need-to-decorate-like-now." Cards I didn't exactly read, other than to make sure I had that person's current address. Not that I sent my cards until, um, today. (You'll notice I have been leaving the Christmas part off of Christmas cards.) So, I am looking at the cards and letters, tuning out the roars of my children, when I decide that if Awkward Dad can pick this moment to update his cell phone, I can sit here at my, mostly clean, table and read the happenings of my friends and family. Upon reflection, I probably should have just entered the fray.
(All "quotes" are completely paraphrased and exaggerated in the storm of Awkward Mom's questionable mind, so please, do not hunt for yours within. It is more how they make her feel, not the actual message. That said; if you were bragging in your Christmas letter, tsk, tsk. Didn't your mother tell you not to brag? Awkward Grandma is quite clear on no bragging, and the one about fluids when you are sick. She loves that one.)
Who knew that I knew so many Perfects? I sink further and further down the sinkhole of my own inadequacy with every line of "Perfect Coed is president of her sorority and getting all As and thinking about Med School" and "Perfect Toddler has already said 1500 words, half of them in French!" and "Our trip to the Bahamas was, sadly, a week shorter than last year, but still the restful and relaxing time that we needed to recharge for our duel-career, homeschooling family of 6." I fend off repeated preschooler punches and toddler tackles with vague murmurings to "oh no, stop that, Mommy isn't a jungle gym," while I continue a more punishing mental torture with "Making my all-natural, completely organic baby food isn't easy, but it is so rewarding to know that my humble hands are feeding my child the best the world has to offer." I can feel my blood pressure rising with "not that there are grades in preschool, but the teacher told me, confidentially, that he is completely above-average," and that same blood starts to pulse violently in my left temple with, "Perfect Baby, at 14 months, is just so young to be potty-trained. I really take no credit, she totally did it herself." And I finally erupt after reading "I find so much reward in my work; so glad I went back because I simply couldn't imagine sitting at home all day with the kids, doing nothing."
I explode out of my chair and start yelling, "Stop it! Stop it! Super Preschooler, go get your shoes! Super Toddler, put down that stick! Where is the baby?! Awkward Dad, get off the computer already; we have to go! Do I have to start taking away toys? Do I? Maybe I will just leave you all here and go to Zoo Lights myself? Would that be fun? No, it wouldn't. Now, go get ready. GO. GET. READY. NOW!" Turns out that in our personal Lords of the Flies, I am not Piggy. I am Jack.
I am yelling, Readers. Like real yelling. This is not that fake, slight raising of the voice, firm but fair, totally in control, yelling that you pull out at the park when your kid hits another kid and that other kid's mom totally saw. No. I am in Joan Crawford wire hanger land, and it is like pouring gasoline on a fire. Super Preschooler starts speaking in tongues or, more likely, it is more of an Exorcist-type sound, and he won't stop running in circles. Super Toddler just starts laughing at me and continues to ride his bike down the stairs. Awkward Dad pokes his head around the corner and says, "One minute. Oh, and remember that tone affects them more than what you say, Sweetie." And I finally find Super Baby, pouring dill weed and cinnamon into some dishwasher soap that she has found and upended into the middle of the kitchen floor.
I, quite honestly, have no memory of how we get to Zoo Lights. I think crying might have been involved. All I know is that things do not improve in the grand wonder of over 1 million lights. (It's true, the conductor on the Safari Railway said so.) It is beautiful, but it is also cold and snowing. The Supers are bundled, but probably not that well, given that we left in a rush and I am the worst mother on the planet, if those letters were anything to go on. Awkward Dad leads our forced march in unfailing cheerfulness, pushing a double stroller crammed with 3 children in various degrees of whine and trailed by a completely mopey mommy, consumed with her own self-pity. Whee.
We all plod along and try to make some memories, but I am afraid most of them I would like to block out. The melt-down in the Reptile House where Super Preschooler accuses me of trying to "kill him with my meanness" is particularly note-worthy. Super Baby is pretty good, but her odd citrus/clove smell keeps me thinking that maybe we should have called Poison Control after all. No, the star of this epic night is Super Toddler and Super Toddler's insistence on getting on the carousel, only to scream the entire time that he wants off; only once it has started, mind you. He pretty much continues that move after that, unless he is held. By me. Not Awkward Dad, who is miles stronger. Or the stroller, whose sole purpose is to carry him. No. Only me. No idea why. I am the worst mother in creation.
We are heading toward the parking lot, pretty much calling it a wash and trudging like, well, trudging doesn't really need a metaphor, does it? We are tired and terribly tense and tearful and thinking tumultuous thoughts of terror; we are trudging. When a little boy, definitely and defiantly not trudging, comes flying around the corner and plows right into Super Baby, who is the figurehead on our barge-like double stroller. She squeaks a protest and then smiles, because she is an angel who deserves a much better mother. But her beatific grace is aimed at this boy's back, as he is already fleeing the scene. I am bemused, we aren't that scary looking, just slightly crabby and tired. But no, it isn't us he is afraid of. With a roar that I mistakenly attribute to the nearby lions, this little boy's father comes racing after him, slipping on the snowy path, as he lunges past us to grab after his son's coat. He comes up with nothing but air, but this only serves to make him madder and faster. He is in full-on-crazy-Jack-wire-hanger mode and his fury alone seems to propel him past the eagle enclosure to sweep his son into a bear hug that is way more bear than hug. Little Hit-and-Run is marched back to us and forced to apologize to each of us, including Super Baby, who finds the whole experience hilarious. They round the corner, and we continue on our way, but in the wind I can hear the whole episode play itself out again, a little further down the path. Guess Little Hit-and-Run's brakes aren't working this evening.
This saves my evening. We actually don't leave, but continue on to the polar bears, the Safari Train (with the knowledgeable conductor), and even see some wolves. The children don't behave any better; Super Baby blows out a diaper, Super Toddler still insists on being carried, and Super Preschooler must be working on a PhD in whining. Awkward Dad meanders like it is the middle of May, but I don't care. I now have proof that there are other parents like me. I am not a bad mother anymore than Hit-and-Run's Dad is a bad father; we are just having an off night/week/parenthood. We are imperfect parents trying to raise imperfect children in an imperfect world. So, I lose my temper. So, I don't make baby food. So, I don't have self-potty-training children. So, I didn't prepare enough to write a Christmas opus telling everyone I know about my happenings. (Oh wait, I do that like twice a week....) Point is, who cares? Certainly no one that matters. The three children being pushed/carried through the snow and blindingly beautiful twinkle lights don't care. My adorably upbeat husband who wants to know if I want some insanely over-priced zoo lemonade, doesn't care. My parents don't care. My friends don't care. Pretty much everyone who sent me a Christmas card, with the tiny little handwritten notes at the bottom saying, "love the blog!" don't care. Why should I care? So, there in the cold Zoo Lights, I make my new years resolution:
And then I clarify, because "stop caring" isn't going to look too good on a motivational poster on my fridge.
Stop Caring about Perfection.
Just stop, Awkward Mom. It's OK: Life's messy. You're imperfect. And we fairly certain Super Baby did not actually eat any dishwasher soap. Fairly certain.
Mommy, I am cool with your new year's resolution and I am not shooting for perfection.
Maybe just a scarf? My nose has me looking like W.C. Fields over here.