You know the day I’m talking about. You don’t have to be a mom to be all too familiar with a day that starts out rocky and ends with you pretty much smashed to pieces underneath a pile of not only rocks, but boulders. At 13-months old my son may not be aware of it yet, but he holds all the power concerning what kind of day we are going to have. He can easily paint our day into a masterpiece or a catastrophe with one effortless swipe of his hand. However, our abhorrent and torturous type days usually begin with the familiar scene of my little boy crumpled up on the kitchen floor–wailing–for absolutely no reason, just minutes after he has waked. This is inevitably when I sigh and say, “This is going to be a long day.” It also never fails that if we are going to have a day like this, however rare these days may be, it is going to happen when my husband intends to work a 12-hour shift. Without fail. My husband has never witnessed one of these days. It is always just me and my son scraping and scrounging for every piece of happiness we can find just to survive until bedtime.
The last time I experienced a day like this was roughly one week ago. It actually began relatively quietly. My son was exploring the house, as usual, squealing and talking with delight as he pulled open my kitchen drawers and forced out the contents, a typical sight for a weekday morning at 7:00 am. I was rushing through my morning routine before I got him breakfast. I had no intention of feeding him until my floor was swept and mopped. I certainly cannot function if my floors need to be swept and mopped, which is a daily occurrence since I am a clean-freak who is a bit of a masochist with her dog and her son and her husband, all very unclean creatures.
Things were going just as I would anticipate right up until my husband left for work. No exaggeration here. The second the door closed behind him, my son started screaming. I got him breakfast and he kept screaming. I got him milk and he kept screaming. I laid him down for a nap and he kept screaming. I prayed for it to stop and he kept screaming. I lost my patience. Finally, I managed to calm him enough to get him dressed and get me a shower. I planned to go to the library that morning for story time and then squeeze in a trip to the grocery store before lunch and my son’s crucial, I mean absolutely pivotal, nap time. This was my mistake. I had a very crabby boy, and instead of just throwing my hands up and calling it a day, I tried to keep my original plans. Yikes!
We stayed at the library for roughly 10 minutes, a shorter duration than the drive there, before my boy started pounding his head against my chest (the precursor to his tantrum). I got out of there before my son’s grunts got loud enough to warrant a sensitive, yet relieved it is not her kid, look from every mom in the place. Still, I refused to back down. With my son wailing in the backseat, I ventured to the grocery store where he was surprisingly peaceful. However, in my rush to get everything on the list, I forgot nearly half of everything on the list. I, again, lost my patience.
Once he was finally down for his afternoon nap, with no lunch in his belly may I add, I attempted to be productive. Productivity. This word haunts me on a bad day. Where my son’s power to ruin a day may reside in his ability to scream louder than me, my power to turn a day around resides in my ability to be productive and cross things off my to-do list. While he slept, I would complete. What I did not expect is for my son’s usual three hour nap to last less than one hour. Now it was my turn to crumple up on the kitchen floor and wail. I, again, lost my patience.
The day only got worse as I ran around in circles trying to accomplish something, anything while my little boy followed me around practically torturing me. I burned supper; I forgot to close the lid on the washer; my vacuum broke; my husband had the stroller in his car so we could not go for a walk; it was too cold to play outside; my dog threw up four times in my living room; my dog also chewed up my flip-flop; I had five loads of laundry to fold; my kitchen had not been cleaned since the morning; my floor was still not mopped or swept. I lost my patience–I lost my patience–I lost my patience. Looking back on it now, I am surprised I survived the day at all.
Supper was over and still splayed all over my kitchen counter. I had 90 minutes left before his bedtime, and I was counting down the seconds until I would get to breathe again. It is what I chose to do in this moment that will forever change the way I approach these disastrous and inevitable days. I dropped the dirty dishes, the laundry, the mop and laid down on the floor with my little boy. I wish I could say he magically transformed into the happy boy that I had not seen all day. He didn’t. However, I can tell you that I gained some perspective and some peace as I watched him play and let him crawl all over me. I realized that my son does not have the power to make or break my day. I do.
I don’t want to sound like some cliche, motivational speaker, but I would not have lost my patience as many times as I did that day had I just focused on my irritable little boy and doted on his needs for the day. I didn’t lose my patience because he was crabby, I lost my patience because I was crabby that I was not getting anything done. Here’s the question that really burns me up after a day like this: So what? It does not matter that I accomplished nothing. Had I just accepted the day we were going to have and actually embraced it, I still would have accomplished nothing but would have done it with style, grace, and a smile on my face.
So what is a mom to do with one of those bad days? Relax. Breathe. Walk away from all the to-dos. Accept that you are human. Accept that your kid is human and embrace the crappiness that will fill your day because you know the moment you put them to bed, you will miss them.