With the holidays quickly approaching, I have had to spend more time than I like with my kids in retail stores and restaurants. I try very hard to run errands without my children. If I am planning to go out to a store with my kids, I need to add at least 1.5 hours to my total trip time. That time accounts for bathroom breaks, snack stops, public meltdowns, etc.
The holidays only amplify the crazy that exists in my family. Anytime I go out with all three kids, it's like I am using a megaphone to tell the world, "Watch out, here comes the Crazy Circus Tent Out-of-Control Family." The glaring looks of fellow shoppers can be as icy as the winter snow. Some shoppers offer a look of pity; others are staring at you, shaming you for having such badly-behaved children.
One day last week, I was heading out of Home Depot with all of the kids. I made the mistake of walking past the Christmas decorations. My kids wanted to stop to look at all of the light-up lawn ornaments, and push every button on the singing stuffed animals. We spent about 15 minutes watching the blinking lights before I announced that we would be leaving.
My youngest wanted to continue to push the buttons on the snowmen, reindeer, and the new and improved Christmas fox. We were on a tight schedule, so I said, "No, it's time to go." I had my oldest holding my hand, the middle was in the basket, and my youngest was now dragging on the floor holding onto my leg screaming as though he was being tortured in the Spanish Inquisition. He desperately wanted to push the button one more time. My button, however, had been pushed its final time.
As we passed the exit, there was a greeter at the door. He looked and me and said, "I don't miss those days." I stopped and looked at him, not exactly sure what to say. Then it hit me. I said, "Thank you." He was one of the first people to be honest with me and agree that this stuff sucks. Parenting isn't all roses, and it's OK to be honest. We talked for a few minutes. He told me that he much prefers his 30-year-old son to the pain-in-the-ass toddler he raised over 26 years ago. It made me feel better about the rage I'd been feeling in the lawn ornament aisle five minutes earlier.
Here are a few things I will NOT miss:
1. I am not going to miss running down the aisle at the grocery store to stop a kid from pulling down boxes of Cheerios.
2. I will not miss public restroom breaks where my kids drop an F-7 crap that can scrape the paint off the walls.
3. I will not miss leaving my basket full of items at the front of the store to go to the minivan to have a "chat" in the middle of my three-hour grocery shopping trip.
4. I will not miss whisper-screaming into my kid's ear and raising my blood pressure 30 points.
5. I will not miss my kids playing "Hide and Seek" under the table at the restaurant.
6. I will not miss being asked, "Can I have this?" at every store we enter.
7. I will not miss trying to find a time-out spot while in public.
8. I will not miss hearing "I had an accident" while furniture shopping, and then looking over to see a wet stain on a couch I don't want to own.
9. I will not miss WWE fights between my three kids at the mall playground.
10. I will not miss screaming, "PLEASE HOLD MY HAND IN THE PARKING LOT!"
These are not the memories that people scrapbook. I have yet to see a photo album where someone saves pictures of times they punished their children, or a scrapbook kit for the "Time-Out" page. "Oh Stacy, look how cute Tommy is in the time-out chair. What a beautiful memory," ... said no mom ever.
But there are plenty of things that I will miss, too. For example:
1. I will miss cuddles and hugs.
2. I will miss butterfly kisses and hand-holding.
3. I will miss painting nails and coloring.
4. I will miss pumpkin carving and Christmas tree decorating.
5. I will miss hearing, "I missed you today, Mommy."
6. I will miss homemade Mother's Day cards.
7. I will miss being brought still-frozen waffles for breakfast in bed.
8. I will miss hearing all three kids laughing and playing together on those rare instances when they are not trying to kill each other.
9. I will miss bath time.
10. I will miss tiny fingers and toes.
I think it's OK not to miss the crappy hard times that we deal with as parents. I think it's OK to call this period of time "survival mode." Parenting is exhausting and mind-numbing at times. It is OK to say, "I will not miss those days."