It was a day. Nothing special, nothing overly traumatic. Just another day in a long series of similar days, the mundaneness in and of itself more notable than anything.
An ordinary day, yet one that also hadn’t been that great. There were tears and tantrums, struggles over tooth brushing, three different kids with three different ideas for activities that were not compatible with one another. (Play in the driveway! Play in the backyard! Walk down the street to the park!) There were toys strewn everywhere inside and a floor that needed to be swept three days ago.
Of the three, the 18-month old was the crankiest. He acted frustrated and didn’t seem quite sure what it was he wanted. Except he clearly told me that he wanted more scrambled eggs with his lunch. (“Egg. Mo’.”) I filled up his plate, set it on the tray.
He looked at the plate. He looked at me. And in less than a half second, he threw it all on the floor.
I had a moment. (Just another day in a long series of similar days…) The cleaning-up of the scattered-everywhere scrambled eggs was now my job. My teeth clenched. I have a college degree! I wanted to scream, I graduated with honors and now here I am about to clean up this disaster of scrambled eggs at 11:18 in the morning? I have ideas, dang it! What gives?!?
Toddlers throw their food. I get it. It’s not that it overly surprised me exactly. I’ve been through this with two of them before. It’s more that as this all happened, in the span of a few seconds, I had another moment. I thought of all the “you’re going to miss this” phrases tossed out by sweet little old ladies (always sweet and old) as they reflect on this stage of life. They seem to forget the part about bending over for the umpteenth time to clean scrambled eggs off the floor. Cuddles are something to miss. Cleaning up what had previously been a (sort of) clean floor? Not so much. This day was not one to look back on fondly.
As I bent over to clean the mess off the floor, I felt a twinge of pain. That same plate-throwing toddler had bitten me just two days prior. He was angry and flailing in my arms and he leaned right over and bit me on the chest, right on the breastbone. I didn’t even know that was possible. It hurt like crazy and it was all I could do to not drop him right then and there. I screamed loud enough that my husband rushed out from his upstairs office, wondering what on Earth was going on. Not only did he bite me, but the bite mark later resembled a large, red pimple. An angry red chest pimple that hurt. I wore a band-aid over it because even the fabric of my shirt irritated the bump as the material rubbed up against it. I couldn’t wear v-neck tops because it was so awful and ugly and red and bruised and who wants to see that? (Also realized my fondness for v-neck tops as I scrambled to find anything else in my closet.)
No one seems to remember the days of the angry red chest bumps. An injury sustained because their child, their beloved child, actually bit them. An injury that was still painful two days later when the plate in question was thrown, an injury that made those scrambled eggs on the floor even more offensive because, seriously, first you bite me, then you’ve been all kinds of tantrum-y, and now this?
Again: what gives?
The tension lies here: we are told to “enjoy every moment” while simultaneously living through moments — sometimes a lot of consecutive ones — that are anything but enjoyable. And the truth is this: I don’t have to enjoy cleaning up the scrambled eggs on the floor to be a good mom. A great mom. I can guarantee that I do not enjoy and do not want to enjoy three toddlers crying at the same time, picking up toys for the 842nd time in a day, and, maybe most of all, being freaking bitten. That’s unrealistic. And probably a little deranged. It’s a bit like childbirth, I suppose, where we forget all the pain and months of discomfort once that little bundle is in our arms, so much so that we actually go through with having another one or two or three.
Of course, that’s not what these sweet little old ladies are talking about. Whether they actually remember the challenges of small children or not, they see beyond the tantruming child at the store to the sweet snuggles and kisses you’ll receive at bedtime as you read a favorite story (or two or twelve). They know that even though that demon child threw her toys across the room and dented the wall in six different places that walls can be repaired, you love her anyway, and the toy-throwing incident wasn’t the sum total of your day. They know that while you’re exhausted because the baby was up one time too many last night, there’s also something sweet in those moments in the dark while the rest of the world is sleeping.
Maybe they do remember, but the memories have faded, blurred around the edges, into something less traumatic and more humorous. The “do-you-remember’s” of a childhood. Of course it’s possible they actually don’t remember the trauma of these things at all. Which means there’s hope for us all to block it all out, or at least to get a good laugh. Angry red chest bumps and all.