Mommy I’m A Gas Station

Photo: Ahmed Hussam

We all screw up as parents at some time or another. Just three days ago I left my 2 month old, 17 month old and 2-and-a-half year old in the car (while it was running) while I jumped out to grab a brochure. Mind you, the brochure was an arm’s length out of my reach. But wouldn’t you know it, there were no brochures left. So I popped my head in the store, forgetting I had left the car running with my three babies in it.

Ok, not the smartest thing to do, especially considering some lunatic just drove away with a lady’s baby not one week ago in the next town. My guilt was compounded by the stern lecture I received from the gentleman who owned the children’s music company I was trying to get a brochure about.

In my mind I was just stopping for a second, but it turned into an eternity, or at least a good 20 minutes of lecturing (followed up by a gummy bear from the nice man to apologize for lecturing me) and two days worth of guilt. And trust me, I recognize the horror that might have been my life if something had happened. It is certainly not something I do regularly. But I suppose we all do things that are absolutely embarrassing at one time or another, and perhaps life threatening. I suppose I am glad I have someone looking out for us. At least I’ve managed to get the kids buckled into the car every time (OK, well, there was one time that didn’t happen, but I didn’t get any further than the driveway before my daughter berated me!).

Of course, you have to remember I haven’t really slept in three years, having had three babies back to back. It’s a wonder I can even remember how to drive, or my own name. I certainly can’t remember any of my children’s names on any give day. Hannah is often Kayla and Kayla is sometimes Hannah, but more often one or the other I refer to as Kannah or Hayla. It makes absolutely no sense. I should just start calling them 1, 2 and 3.

We did start calling Colin “the boy” which helps at times. At least it separates him from the pack.

Life is crazy enough having three children under three. People often tell us we are brave. We aren’t brave. We are just crazy. We didn’t plan it this way. We’re just lucky I guess. At least that is what I try to tell myself most days. It’s hard for any parent much less two parents who never expected to have three kids in three years.

I returned to my car to find my youngest screaming. “What’s wrong Kayla?” I inquired innocently enough.

“I hit her, mom,” my two year old replied. Of course. At least she is honest. While the two do share many dear moments being so close in age (they are just 13.5 months apart) there are many more where the two spend equal amounts of time trying to pummel one another. Take the other day for example. Hannah was sitting quietly on her Dora couch and Kayla came up and whacked her upside the head with a shoe. This led to another series of intense screaming and tantrums, all while I was trying to get the baby down for a nap.

On any given day when anyone calls there are at least two of my three children screaming. Oh, there are quiet times. Sometimes at three in the morning I awake to find everyone in blissful dreamland. But even those moments are rare with an infant around whose preference includes breastfeeding twenty four seven.

Then there are the well-meaning family members who ask us to come visit. “What are you crazy?” At least, that is how I envision my perfect response. Try to get three babies in a car to drive an hour and a half to visit family, when none of them nap at the same time and all of them cry incessantly or fight in the car. Yeah, right. Why mess up our happy home routine? At least when I’m home and the screaming begins I can pop some earplugs in.

Of course, there are many times when life is an absolute delight. I do get at least one good laugh in during the day. The other day for example, Hannah was especially gassy. She kept passing wind and laughing. So I asked her, “Hannah honey, what do you say when that happens?” Of course, silly me thinking the answer was obviously “Excuse me mommy!”

Instead, Hannah smiled up at me and said, “Mommy, I’m a gas station today.” And, well that about made my day.

Here’s the thing you have to remember as a parent. There are always going to be people on the outside looking in. What is important is that you take time to nurture your family in the best way you can. What works for one family may not work for another.

No matter your situation, even if you are God’s gift to the earth, you are going to mess up at some point. Don’t beat yourself up about it. Some people will probably take time out of their day to remind you about your flub. Don’t sweat it. Thank them for their insight and walk away.

Why waste your energy? You’ll need it to tackle some other parenting challenge in the near future. Instead, pat yourself on the back. And carry on. Tomorrow always brings new challenges, new smiles and new adventures.