I usually never go anywhere with all three kids alone. Maybe I’m not brave enough or maybe I’m smart enough to know it usually won’t turn out well. Last night Natalie had piano lessons and since Nick is out of town, I had to take all three of them. In my head I imagined the short 30 minute lesson would pass quickly while Jack, Amelia and I sat quietly in the waiting area. There are toys there, and lots of things to look at. It should have been a piece of cake. However, as I’ve learned, if it seems like it should go well, it usually won’t. We arrived a bit early, and Natalie showed her brother and sister the toys to play with while they waited. When she started her lesson, things went downhill quickly. Jack almost toppled a fish tank, Millie had several screaming-fit outbursts and I spent the entire time thinking “people are looking at us. People are LOOKING AT US!!” By the end I carried Amelia out of there under one arm, while Natalie chased me down screaming “MOM!! You forgot your purse!!!” By the end of the 30 minutes I thought I might have a nervous breakdown in the drive thru of McDonald’s (because I wasn’t cooking, and there was NO WAY IN HELL I was going through another period of time with them free-range in a public place). I don’t know if it is because I anticipate bad behaviour, or if they do it because they know that I can’t possibly chase after all of them at once, but my kids always decide to behave in wild and crazy ways while out in public alone with me. I know my daycare provider happily carts around 6 or more kids at once, and therefore I should be able to as well, but honestly, it’s not an easy task. I don’t know how she does it. Maybe if they weren’t my own, they’d listen and behave like perfect angels, or maybe not. I won’t ever try to test that theory.
Anyway, it got me thinking about how other people perceive us. When I had Natalie, I was the easy to spot “first-time” mom with one sweet little baby in a carrier. Sometimes things would go haywire, and my baby would fuss. Back then I was absolutely terrified that I was interrupting other people’s lives with my screaming baby. Now, I know we are terrorizing the general population, and I don’t have time to care. I usually don’t even notice other kids screaming or throwing fits either because 1. I’m tending to my own kids who are doing the same or 2. I’m alone and blissfully unaware of any children (every mom needs to block out kids when she’s not with her own). But I digress… When I first had Natalie I used to get “awwww…your baby is so sweet” looks and comments. It filled me with pride, and made not sleeping through the night for over a year seem almost worth it. ALMOST.
When I had Jack, I went from one to two. Natalie wasn’t yet two, and Jack was a newborn. Again, I got: “awwww….cute kids.” When I go grocery shopping with Jack & Amelia after we drop Natalie off at school, I get comments like: “How perfect. You have a millionaire’s family.” I don’t dare burst their bubble by mentioning my third, who is at school. I can usually always handle Natalie alone, or Natalie and Amelia, or Jack and Amelia. Any combination of two really. However, when I go out with all three I actually get worried looks from strangers. I’ve had people say things like, “I wouldn’t want to be you” as I pushed a cart full of kids through the grocery store. Yes, they are all close in age, and still very young, so I get it. I don’t want to be me in the grocery store with them either!! But still… I know there are other insane people like us out there too. Do they get the same comments and looks? Am I the worst mom in the world because I actually dread grocery shopping with all three of my kids? Why do my kids turn into wild animals as soon as I undo their belt buckles? Will we ever be able to be in public without everyone within a 10 mile radius being able to hear us?
The last time I took all the kids shopping, the check-out lady said this to my son: “I bet I can guess what your name is. JACK! Your mom has been screaming it throughout the store for the past 30 minutes.” She said it with a smile and a laugh, so I was only HALF mortified. This was shortly after the “sticky Costco situation” in which Jack spilled a jug of agave syrup, and I thought we’d be escorted from the building. After that, everything seems much less embarrassing.
The other day I was alone in a grocery store, shopping and enjoying my freedom. It was awesome. I hardly noticed the baby screaming its head off somewhere in the distance. I shrugged it off and thought to myself “THANK GOD THAT’S NOT ME FOR ONCE!!” I saw another woman around my age, feeding her kids snacks while she quietly tried to stop them from gouging each other’s eyes out. I could tell she was panicked and getting pretty irritated. I couldn’t help but laugh to myself. We were leaving the store at the same time and I said to her: “I know exactly how you feel right now. My kids are at home and it’s a damn blessing.” She laughed and then one of her kids punched the other kid and all hell broke loose again. I loaded my groceries into the back of my car, with fruit snack wrappers and colouring books blowing out and all over the parking lot, and I thought to myself: “Maybe I won’t drive home right now. Maybe I’ll drive off to Mexico. Only to return when my kids are all potty trained and can walk through a grocery store without screaming, crying or causing a “clean-up on aisle 3″ page for the custodians.”
One day I hope to be able to take my kids places without fear that we may be arrested for disturbing the peace. But I’m not going to hold my breath. I’m pretty sure we have a long road ahead. Until then, if you hear screaming, crying or “JAAAAACK!!!!” You can be sure we’re somewhere close. If it’s not us, know it’s some other poor mom with her kids, just trying to get through the day. Be nice to her.