Rebuttal and Train Museums

In my post entitled, “You Have Your Hands Full,” I said I had had quite a day at the train museum.

Let’s back up a bit. Recently, “So You Would Like to Have Three Children” has been widely shared, and the comments have poured in. Many of them are from people sharing their own experiences, which is great. Some of them say that my post sounds like their lives, and some say that hasn’t been their experience. Some people do not think I should complain about my kids, and some think that I should.

All of that is fine with me. I love being engaged in my community, and I think sharing stories is a critical part of that. And I’m growing slightly more impervious to criticism.

I think the comments that get me, or perhaps just perplex me, are the very few comments that have claimed that motherhood or parenthood are easy. Some add that if I just had discipline and structure, it would be easy*

I’m afraid I don’t buy that. And my trip to the train museum is why. I’ll even kind of break it down into a play-by-play.

We get to the museum. I skipped church, wanting to have some actual time with my kids that wasn’t immersed in school, sports, or church.

I know that the children’s father has brought them more recently to this museum, that they remember it, and so commit a parenting fail here. I do not slow things down at the front entrance and explain my expectations, as I normally do. I always start public excursions by handing out business cards (with my phone number on them), by telling them what to do if we got separated, and by asking them to stay with me. This time we kind of start off willy-nilly.

So they do what they always do if you don’t slow it down. They kind of scatter and run all over the place, leaving me feeling like I am trying to keep caterpillars from climbing out of a box. “Wait!” “Hey!” “Come back!” And I was silly and didn’t bring the stroller for Noah, vaguely thinking that it would be hard to have in the museum. But the kid is enormous, at the top of the growth charts, and the train museum is huge, so abandoning my fallback stroller was unwise.  It turns out OK; I just have to regroup after the fact, which is always harder. So sure, I set the stage by using up unnecessary energy.

Next phase is visiting the museum itself. It’s always challenging to bring the children to places like this, because my daughter, nearly eight, wants to read the history of how they used this train car as a post office, while my middle son, four and a half, wants to see as much machinery as he can as quickly as possible, and my youngest son, just over two, is focused on trying to just make it up the steps with an ultimate goal of catching up with the middle son. Nobody quite gets to do what he or she wants to do.

But really, everything goes fine. We just amble (or scurry, really) around, looking at trains. There is the odd complaint, and the toddler periodically falls down, but it goes well. Then we want to find the upstairs part, with the toy trains, and we have to wander all over the museum (which is large enough to house multiple full-sized antique trains) trying to find it. Did I ever mention I am not gifted in spatial relationships?

We stop by the bathroom. The four year old goes into the men’s room, and the rest of us go into the women’s room. The four year old does a great job of emerging and waiting right there for us. We happily keep trying to find the stairs.

We find the stairs. The two older kids run up the I-can’t-believe-how-tall-these-are stairs, and the toddler says, “I do it myseff.” I let him take the stairs, one at a time, even though they appear to be actually getting longer as we climb them. We reach the top. I am exhausted.

Everyone starts playing with the toy trains, and I sit down and breathe a sigh of relief. I like this part of the museum. The kids don’t want to go anywhere else, so I can enjoy watching them enjoy themselves and rest a little. We are there for approximately one minute, and then:

 

The four year old says he has to go potty.

“You just went potty!” I search frantically for the meaning in this statement. The child just exited the bathroom five minutes ago. I was there.

“Yes, but I still need to go.” I stare at him mutely. I look at his toddler brother, who has just finished selecting which trains he wants to play with. Noah is NOT going to want to leave this area. I look at my daughter, who is also playing happily. There are times when I’ll put her in charge of watching her brother momentarily. But in a building of this size, in a place this public, this is not going to be able to be one of those times. I look around at the room of unfamiliar faces and wish I were with someone I could ask to watch the toddler. Sh*t!

“OK, let’s go,” I tell the four year old. I tell his brother, “Let’s go. We’ll be right back. Asher has to go potty.” Perhaps unsurprisingly, this is meaningless to the two year old victim of Mommy spoiling just-started playtime. He won’t come with us.

I pick him up. And he thrashes and tries to push himself out of my arms all the way down the endless flight of stairs and as we weave back and forth among the enormous trains in this enormous building. Apparently the bathroom I am heading for is about as far away as it could possibly be from the play area, and my son is screaming, SCREAMING, at the top of his lungs. People turn to stare, because this isn’t just fussing–he’s thrashing and screaming as if he were trying to save his own life. It’s all I can do to keep him in my arms, being as he weighs about a third of what I weigh. Periodically he squirrels down enough that I’m kind of holding him from his armpits, where he dangles like an enraged wet noodle. I can’t carry him this way. But I have to, so I get him all the way to the bathroom. Thankfully the four year old is calm enough to just proceed to the bathroom and go in, because I am not even particularly aware of him as I fight Noah.

So then we have to wait for Asher. But Noah wants to turn and flee back to the toy trains. And I can’t let him do that, and Asher’s not old enough to be told, “Find the toy train room across the museum and up the stairs, kid.” So I sit on the steps of a train, and try to restrain Noah while Asher takes his sweet time in the bathroom. Just try holding down a screaming, thrashing human being while someone else without great coordination enters a bathroom, undresses himself,  goes #2, re-dresses himself, and washes his hands.

Several people look at me sympathetically. Some try to say things to me. I’m honestly not sure what they say. I just tried to fix a patient, neutral expression onto my face and look like there is nothing to look at here, people–move along. An older lady does manage to tell me that they’ve all been there. I still remember her face, her flowing white hair, hazy through the cloud of frantic screams rising around my face like steam.

Asher emerges. We can finally go back, thank goodness.

Only Noah is exhausted from his trauma, and can’t walk. He lays inert in my arms, sobbing, and I carry him all the way back across the museum, weaving among the trains, and back up the enormous stairs.

This is actually the point I described in the other post, when a woman tell me I have my hands full after I say I have three kids. She doesn’t even know what we’ve just gone through. She says this just looking at the three of them playing happily with toy trains, smiling like angels. I don’t tell her. I wait until my fatigued muscles recover to even consider going anywhere else. My daughter tells me she’s bored; I ask her to play with the toddler, and she does, and seems to enjoy it.

Though transitions and leavings places is usually not our family’s strong suit, trying to leave the museum also goes OK. It takes a while. But we get out. I’m in the home stretch, and I’m looking forward to going home for nap. My arms and legs ache, and I’m tired, but the kids are happy and looking forward to the lunch I say is in the car.

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I pay for my parking, and we only wander a little before I spot my car. I dig for my keys, and bark at the kids, who are trying to scamper around in the parking garage, that this is still a road, and they can still get hit. I can’t find my keys.

I can’t find my keys.

My keys aren’t in my purse.

AUGH!!!!

They must be here. I know I must have the keys. I put the kids on this little platform area and turn my purse inside out. And the diaper bag. I search outer and inner pockets. I bark at the kids, who are attempting to scatter again, tired of waiting in one place.

I call roadside assistance. I have to wait 45 minutes in a parking garage with three children. I feed them whatever I can find in the diaper bag, and try to ignore how horribly filthy they are becoming in the garage, and try not to think about what they are touching on the floor of the platform and the pillars. Noah has a poopy diaper (of course he does), which I try to change while he is standing.

Roadside assistance comes. When he opens the door, it sets off the panic alarm on the van, which you can only turn off with the keys. Frightened by the noise, Noah screams and cries and tries to cling to my legs while I’m digging in the car. I think my blood pressure is rising to epic levels. I try to stay cool and systematic in my search.

I can’t find my keys.

My keys aren’t in the car.

AUGH!!!!

The man tries to help me find the keys. We fail. He leaves. I call the train museum to ask if they have found any keys. They haven’t. I start to cry.

I call my ex, basically the only person I can think of who can take the three children, even though it’s his day off. “Can you help me? Will you come get the kids?” I start to cry again and feel embarrassed. I figure if I can just get them off to the nap that should have started thirty minutes prior, it doesn’t matter if I’m stuck. I can surely find a way to my home, find someone to let me in, get my spare keys, get back. He agrees to come.

He shows up. We put the car seats into his car. He suggests that he could drive me home. I go to get my diaper bag. And I see that somehow the keys are dangling outside of one of the outside pockets, kind of stuck to some threads on the bag. The very pocket I already searched at least twice. I have a moment of wishing that they weren’t there, because somehow it’s less embarrassing if the keys are actually lost. I feel sort of defensive, as if I know for sure that the keys were not actually there a few minutes ago. We put all the car seats back. And then, when my ex shuts the door, Noah realizes that Daddy has only shown up for a moment, and he starts bawling. He cries all the way home, except the final five minutes, in which I am desperately trying to keep him awake so he will nap at home.

Game over. Today’s game, that is. Or really, this morning’s game.

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I am not saying this is how every day goes. But the thing is, nothing actually went wrong on Sunday. It was just hard. It was a hard day. It was a mixture of an average occurrence with a toddler and a bad day with car keys, with lots of nice fun with the kids. I wanted to cry once and I did cry twice. The boys and I took a three-hour nap.

Some days, things really do go wrong. Some days are fairly easy all the way through, nearly every part. But not many. Because I am responsible for three tiny human beings who have no filters yet, who are still learning that they are not the center of the universe, who are still learning to be kind and selfless. And they need a fairly intense amount of physical help. And one of them cries every single day the entire time I am cooking, because he doesn’t understand that dinner doesn’t magically appear on the table–or that sometimes he’ll have to take a break from playing because someone else needs to go to the bathroom.

Parenting is hard. At my children’s ages, it’s mostly hard because it’s tiring and physically demanding. And it’s hard because you are throwing all of your life, heart, and energy into trying to do it right. Trying to raise these tiny humans into responsible, loving, socially acceptable large humans. I would not throw less energy, heart, or life into it, and I wouldn’t give my children up for anything. But parenting is hard work. That’s why it changes you. Aren’t there sayings about how nothing worth having comes easy? It seems like there are. I can’t remember. I’m too tired today.

***

*Randomly and for the record, discipline and structure are supremely important to me, in my own life and in my parenting philosophy. They do help make things easIER. But they don’t make parenting easy.

*I don’t know when I last locked my keys in, but it seems to be a frequent occurrence over the last year. At least this time I didn’t have to make a diaper out of a maxi pad.

 

Comments

  1. Carrie M:

    Parenting is hard work – I’m a working mom of twin 3 year old boys! I get similar responses of oh wow you must have your hands full – uh ya you think! Stay strong and yes you are allowed to cry :)

    Reply

  2. Lora O.:

    Oh HEAVENS, I have been there so many times!! Except I used to look at them at first, and some would be looking at me(at least in my mind) like I was a terrible person… I stopped meeting their eyes finally… and it was almost like the world dissolved away.. and I was able to be serene(even though sweaty). HUGS to you and thank you so much for this story!

    Reply

    • Laura:

      I seem to vary wildly. Sometimes it helps me to be looking at people, because many look curious at worst and supportive at best. Other times it just adds to my rage/grief/etc. This time I felt eerily calm, and other times I just want to scream too.

      Reply

  3. alexis:

    I see no issue in blogging about your adventures with three kids. It is difficult. I have suggested to my husband that we switch roles for a day and he told me no because my job is much more difficult than his. My 6 yr old daughter doesn’t listen, my 3 year old son has started to bite and yells back, and my 5 month old boy is taking notes on what his siblings do. Most days are difficult, but they are manageable and some days are actually good! I say keep up with your blogs! It makes me feel that i too can survive the mommyhood of the little kids.

    Reply

    • Laura:

      Parenting is absolutely harder than your average out-of-home job! I know my editing and writing work is easier than my parenting work, and that people tend to provide more appreciation and affirmation! We will make it!

      Reply

  4. Lauren P.:

    We have a field trip to the science museum coming up. I’m trying to convince myself that this will be easier because we will have teachers and other parents to help lighten the load, but in reality it will be even more stressful because my oldest will run off with her friends while I try to wrangle the younger two who have to tag along (deep breaths, fewer run-on sentences…breathe). Anyway…I can completely relate.

    Parenting is easy and hard all at the same time. It’s wonderful and stressful. There is a big difference between complaining and explaining the reality. I’ve read blog posts that just complain, your post is not one of them. :)

    Reply

  5. Ali:

    Wow! This post brought back memories. Some good, some horrible. Outings with 3 kids were always challenging. Who am I kidding, staying in the house with 3 kids was challenging! Now they are “big” and the challenges have changed, but some days I miss when they were little. Then I observe something, (or read something!), and I am thankful they are mostly grown! 😉 This post made me want to cry. The elusive stairway, the trains, the potty, the meltdown, the parking garage, THE KEYS!!! Oh my gosh! You are amazing!

    Reply

    • Laura:

      Ha! Yes, isn’t it odd how sad it is that they grow up and yet you spend much of their babyhood hoping they will hurry and grow up? Being a parent is so contradictory!

      Reply

  6. Anita:

    Being another mom of three (ages 2, 4, and 6) I can totally relate to your blog. EVERY LAST WORD. Nothing is easy. EVERYTHING is hard. Some days are just less hard. I didn’t know what my purpose was until I became a mom. No one prepared me for how many tears would be shed, from joy, or fear, or pain, or laughter, or just plain exhaustion. I JUST found your blog and I wanted to let you know that if what you post is read by 50 or 50,000 you helped ME realize that I’m not the only mom who gets those sideways glances from folks trying to figure out what all the commotion is (our youngest two are prone to shriek like banshees when they don’t get their way). Thank you for doing what you do. BTW – I laughed for 10 minutes straight when I read about how your Noah “managed to sort of get run over by his car” because the same thing happens to our youngest. Same wicked witch position and all. Please keep up the good work.

    Reply

    • Laura:

      That means a lot–thank you!

      Reply

  7. Jennifer:

    Your blogs are hilarious, and I have quickly become a fan. As a mom of an 8 year old and a 4 year old, i feel like I can relate, even though I only have 2…lol.

    However, the saddest part of this blog, was the mention of your “ex”. I assume this is the same husband who is the youth pastor in your previous post?

    I am very sorry to hear that your marriage has suffered. As a divorced and re-married (for 9 years now) woman, I know how easily marriages can fall apart, and how much work is required to keep them together.

    I pray that you and the kids find your peace, and that God works wonders on your marriage, if there is any way possible for that to happen. Of course we know, “that His power working in us can do infinitely more than we can ask or imagine”, and so I hope His will is for your relationship to recover.

    Blessings on you, Jeremy and your children.

    Reply

  8. kathryn:

    I’m not even close to the point in my life at which I hope to become a parent, but I just wanted to say, I hope that when I get there, I can manage half as well as you do. The idea that some people are reading your posts and dismissing parenthood as an easy endeavor is insane to me. Keep doing what you’re doing, you are a great mom.

    Reply

    • Laura:

      Thank you! I think just going into it knowing that it’s a (worthwhile) challenge is helpful. Good luck to you!

      Reply

  9. Christine:

    I love you.
    That’s it! Thanks for writing a great blog!

    Reply

  10. debbie:

    Am totally going to use business card idea. Genius. Am hiding this from hubby who needs convincing re number 3:) great blog.

    Reply

    • Laura:

      It works! The kids can remember they know a way to contact me even if they aren’t old enough to actually know the number.

      Reply

  11. Angie:

    Thank You for sharing. We have all had those days.

    Reply

  12. Katey:

    I am the epitome of structure and discipline. I have an 18 month old and an almost 2-year-old. Albeit, my 2-year-old is moderate to severely Autistic, but it is far from a piece of cake. I run a tight ship and still at the end of the day, I kiss their sweet heads and thank God for the next 11 hours that are all mine!!! PS I’m a professional writer and I think you should approach news sites to get some income for your writing.

    Reply

    • Laura:

      Yes, bedtime is this sweet reward each day. Too bad I’m too tired to enjoy it! :)

      Reply

  13. Vanitha:

    Laura, this article is really good. I am a working mom of 19 month old son. And my husband is working + doing his MBA. And I am exhausted all the time. But its worth it, when my little one comes and hugs me, kisses me or cuddles with me. We are definitely planning for more kids, so keeping my fingers crossed.

    Reply

    • Laura:

      Sounds tiring! I’ve been there in the working/school/etc. circuit, and it can take it out of you emotionally and physically. But yes, it is worth it. Hang in there, and good luck!

      Reply

  14. Christie:

    Oh how this brought back memories! I’m a mom to 3 who are now 9, 5 and 4. Two summers ago we were building a house of which hubby was the principal contractor and worked day and night at his regular job plus on the house. We didn’t see him for 18 months and he sacrifices many many family outings in order to work at the house. I was DETERMINED not to let it over ride the kid’s summer so decided to take my crew of 3 (then 7, 3 and 2) to the waterslides. On.my.own. It was a killer hot day and we got there a bit too late to get a primo shade spot (due to me packing up 3 for a day out….on.my.own) Had to haul in 4 people’s stuff, chairs, towels, food etc then wait in a 20 minute line in the hot summer with 3 kids excited to get in and already hot and tired it seemed. Somehow manage to survive keeping three kids alive, entertained (although the oldest was occassionally ticked about the time spent in the baby pool and the littles were annoyed to have to wait for the oldest to do the ‘big kid slides’). Then the 2yo has a blow out diaper in the kiddy pool which forces me to tell the staff and effectively closes that pool. Off to use what I have left of the wipes to wipe up the baby in the change room with the other two crazy upset about not being in the water. Decide to pack up since we’ve run through nap time and everyone is cranky so I pack everything up and leave with at least 2 crying kids and all the crap I toted in (which seemed like twice as much stuff as I carted in). Get out to the FAR end of the sweltering hot parking lot and drop everything beside the van to find the keys and pack everyone in. Can’t find keys. Have to stow everything UNDER my van and haul all the kids back to the waterslides, search our picnic area then finally find the keys on the top of the toilet paper dispenser in the bath room where I changed the blow out diaper. Haul kids back to the van, load in and somehow keep myself awake on the hour long drive home while all the kids fall into a fitful slumber. Somehow I managed to make it look like a wonderfully fun-filled relaxing day in my Facebook post of photos, lol. We won’t even discuss the week long camping trip with hubby’s family that I decided was a good idea to brave that summer with the 3 kids on.my.own. Forever a kindred 3 child mommy trying to make it all happen.

    Reply

    • Laura:

      Haha! They say what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger. I think sometimes it just makes you lose your mind. You may kind of identify with one of my camping stories, Perfect [Bleep] Storm: http://shortwinded.net/perfect-bleep-storm/.

      Reply

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