Hey, friend. So you had a terrible day with your kids, huh? You know you should be laughing about it and coming up with witty hashtags to describe the multitude of irritations comprising your day, but you can’t. You’re pissed. You’re disappointed. And per the motherhood usual, you feel guilty about those feelings, thus completing the distasteful cocktail so many of us swig on the regular. I mean, we know guilt makes everything worse but we just. can’t. stop.
You feel like complaining about the stupid things that made your perfectly planned day go awry, but you realize how ridiculous you sound. How “first-world-problem-y” you are. Because really, those two words up there—perfectly planned—are the crux of your misery. Which you know is ironic, because you even said your “surrender your goals and agenda to the Universe because you know there is something even bigger and better planned for you” meditation this morning, but dammit, you haven’t exactly seen the silver lining to your meticulously mapped out day gone wrong just yet.
I know how much time (and let’s face it, pride) you put into writing your “list of things not to forget to bring with you on said mapped out day” (the night before!), and how pleased you were for laying out the wet swim bag, the dry swim bag, the library books that needed to be returned, the movie snacks in the cooler (because you don’t want to drink that tiny can of ginger ale when it’s lukewarm, amiright, and nobody likes melted M&Ms with their overpriced popcorn!), the swimming pool lunch in the cooler, and even the deposit slip to take to the bank. I get it, pal. This stuff brings me great satisfaction as well. You totally had your shit together. You rock.
I will feel nothing but empathy when you tell me you set your freaking alarm for crying out loud so you could get in a workout to kick-start the “seamlessly flowing day of fun” while your kids played at childcare. But for literally the first time in their lives, the little bastards slept until nine and derailed that plan. You just couldn’t bear to wake them. I get that, too. So you skipped the gym, and also the trip to the bank. Hey, you can go with the flow! You made it to the library and even got to the $1 movie on time; high five! I don’t think it’s funny that you left behind a stainless steel water bottle in a public place for the second time in a week, for the love of God.
I will cringe with you when you tell me that the only “successful” part of your outing was to see a movie that you’ve already seen (but who can pass up the Dollar Family Movies??) and actually own, and despite the fact that you’ve seen it at least seven times your five-year-old still sobs and bawls, “Are they all going to die?!” even though she knows how it ends and then, distraught, steps in her M&M bowl and spills candy all over the theater floor.
I promise I won’t snort and say “Classic!” when you tell me that the second you got to the pool after the movie it became totally, ridiculously cloudy with no promise of the sun coming out again. Your kids whined and shivered and you ate the stupid lunch you had packed (as well as the leftover movie theater popcorn you brought with you, because, $8) while wrapped in your towels under a gray sky. Nor do I think it is funny that this seriously happens to you EVERY F*CKING TIME YOU GO TO THE POOL.
And I have nothing but compassion for the fact that you wasted precious drops of that unicorn sunscreen (you know, the kind that actually works but is free of some toxic chemical you are supposed to passionately avoid, and it also sprays because anything else is a pain in the ass but it’s somehow NOT an aerosol, it’s air-powered? and it’s reasonably priced and AVAILABLE AT COSTCO!!) when it was entirely unnecessary.
I won’t judge you for being a touch passive aggressive, as though it were your children’s fault the weather changed, and announcing your imminent departure after a mere 35 minutes. I won’t think it’s all hilariously Murphy’s Law that you hit every goddamn stoplight on the way home. And I completely understand your unwillingness to drag your wet-bottomed, cranky offspring to the bank. Save that crap for another day.
I absolutely will not laugh when you tell me that the second you pulled into your driveway with your damp, cherry-stained, saturated in now-useless perfect sunscreen kids, the freaking sun came out. I mean, of f*cking course it did. Only one of your kids carries the same guilt complex you do, compelling her to help you carry the wet towels, two swim bags, coolers, library books and movies into the house. The other one trots in empty-handed until admonished and returns toting the empty popcorn tub. You know they are secretly thrilled to be back at home to watch television.
I will take your side when you argue with your oldest child about how she has to go to martial arts class even though she (barely) skinned her knee two days ago and tries to get out of it every week, and also, it is literally the only structured activity she is signed up for all summer, so are you kidding me, just suck it up and go!!
I will not shame you into gratitude. You already know you are lucky to be home this summer with your healthy kids and your healthy self. I would never capitalize on your superstitious, sometimes crippling fear that everything is going to go to shit any second now and maybe mostly because you were an ingrate sometimes.
If you tell me your kid had a meltdown at Kohl’s and even though you know you should lighten up and laugh, it embarrassed and discouraged you, I get it.
If you tell me you drove all the way across town to take your kids to your favorite restaurant and it was closed, I will not judge your genuine disappointment.
If your entire weekend getaway was ruined by whiny, ungrateful kids, know that I’ve been there and I don’t think that’s funny, either.
I will not laugh when you tell me you did the walk of shame out of the grocery store, leaving your empty cart behind.
You may feel like you’ve completely lost your sense of humor; what monster is genuinely irritated, mad, sad, disappointed about these mundane daily hassles? Shouldn’t you be tapped into the bigger picture all the grandparents are always talking about? You must be defective because of your inability to laugh off these failed outings, sibling squabbles, ruined mealtimes, and holiday shitshows.
Guess what. You will laugh about it. When you’re ready, I will laugh about it with you, too. Maybe it will be tonight over drinks, as we take turns complaining and exhaustedly watch our kids playing/crying/complaining/imploding. Maybe it will be in a few days. Maybe it will be in two years. I will laugh with your about the poop explosion on your birthday at the restaurant right as your meal was served, 14th cloudy day at the pool in a row, ruined trip to the mountains, and any other crappy day you want: when you’re ready.
Until then, I will commiserate with you, take you seriously, and listen empathetically to your series of seemingly ridiculous mishaps. Your disappointment is OK. Your frustration is warranted. The struggle is, forgive me, real. You don’t have to be drenched in gratitude for your mediocre day with your kids. The gratitude will beam in again, I promise. Being upset about a rough day with your kids doesn’t make you a monster: it makes you human. And honestly? If you let yourself feel all your crappy feelings for a while, you’ll probably laugh about it a whole lot sooner.
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