I was just sitting on my daughter’s Princess Aurora pink plastic bathroom step-stool, crying into the palms of my hands, hoping the overhead fan would muffle the sounds. I was trying hard to stop, reminding myself how lucky I was for so many reasons and how there was no good justification to be so sad. But it didn’t help. I couldn’t stop the tears. I still can’t.
It has been one of those days and it’s only 2:14 pm. And it’s Easter.
Maybe a few little things contributed to my mood. I woke up at 5:20 am today with my little son standing by my face saying, “Mama, I’m wet. And my pants are wet. And my bed is wet, too.”
He has a little lisp or maybe it’s an accent thanks to his former nanny who was Moroccan, so everything he says sounds a little off and makes me smile. When he says “too,” his mouth forms an “o” and the word goes on for several extra seconds.
I followed him into his room and when I’d finished changing the bed, his older sister came in, wide awake, dressed in leggings and a gymnastics sweatshirt, hair in a ponytail.
“Good morning!” She said to both of us, smiling.
“Want me to sleep with you?” She asked my son.
He beamed and nodded and they climbed on top of the sheets together.
I had a few minutes of motherly bliss watching two of the kids be so sweet to each other, before they both started the non-stop demands for TV, iPads and computers. I’ve been clinging to those few minutes all day long.
A couple of hours later, it was motherhood mania. My older son’s shoulders had been peeling from the horrific sunburn he’d gotten over Spring Break. (“Mom, you should’ve reminded me about putting on lotion!” Um, I only told him about 50 times.) I was scrubbing off the dead skin with a washcloth at his sink, then slathering him with aloe vera lotion when my younger daughter sauntered in and casually said, “I think I have a boogie.” Thick, yellow snot was pouring from both her nostrils. I grabbed a tissue and snatched it up right before it reached her mouth. Then my little son called out from the other room, “Mama, I need new pants!”
Uh-oh. As I tossed the tissues and walked over to him, the smell assaulted me. I stopped short. Oh no.
“Sorry, Mama, for pooping in my pants,” he said sweetly.
“No!” I said, covering my face. “You’re supposed to poop in the potty! You know that!” I lifted him up and carried him at arm’s length back to the bathroom, trying not to shame him but not wanting to seem pleased either.
No matter how much you love someone, cleaning up underwear filled with their poop is just gross. I had him stand in the bathtub while I ran the water, which, after 10 minutes still wouldn’t get warm. Why then?! I ended up having to scrub him down with wipes and throwing cold water on him while he screamed, “Cold! Cold!”
The flurry of bodily fluids stopped for a moment giving us just enough time to do an Easter egg hunt. We’re Jewish but my in-laws are Catholic and we’ve happily adopted another holiday. My mother-in-law sent an amazing care package, an Easter extravaganza, that made me smile ear-to-bunny-ear. I spent an hour at the dining room table last night stuffing little chocolate bunnies into the multicolored plastic eggs she sent, all the while thinking, “Wow, hiding one piece of matzo is so much easier than this.”
The kids were supposed to go visit my mom after the Easter egg hunt. It became abundantly clear that my babysitter wouldn’t be able to handle the six-block walk with four kids, who were completely hopped up on chocolate eggs and I didn’t want the kids to be late. I didn’t even have time to get dressed. I ended up pushing the stroller with one hand and holding my little son in the other arm, my two big kids on either side, as we walked down Park Avenue. I was clad in my black and white striped pajama pants, oversized French Open t-shirt, navy blue robe and a little coat on top, which hid nothing. I also didn’t have time to get my own shoes so I was walking in my son’s bright orange Nikes, my toes squishing at the tops.
Of course I ran into one of my most proper neighbors, an older gentleman in a suit, in my get-up and tried to sweetly wish him a happy Easter without him noticing. No such luck. As I walked downtown with my brood, we passed many other families all decked out for Easter, boys in blazers and bowties, girls in pastel party dresses and Mary Janes with ribbons in their hair. I trudged past in my sleep gear, mortified.
Then came the monster tantrum before my son’s nap. I ran through every psychological technique I could think of: make jokes, distract him, don’t pay attention to the tantrum, walk away. Eventually, after 45 minutes, I got him to sleep, but by then I’d missed the only time all day I had to spend alone with my older daughter.
I know it’s not enough to cry about. It hasn’t even been that bad a day! I have food on the table, a beautiful apartment, a loving husband, four healthy kids, parents I love, thoughtful in-laws, no true stress! Nothing is worth being upset about. I know this.
This is just life with kids. And usually it doesn’t get to me. I can laugh it off. But other times, like today, I get so overwhelmed that nothing logical stops the tide. My feelings just seep out like water being squeezed from a washcloth (hopefully not the one I used to scrape off my son’s skin). I feel so helpless, like no matter how good a job I’m doing, something else pops up and knocks me off my feet — feet that are so swollen from eating chocolate matzoh that they resemble flippers.
I want this mood to pass over me. I want to feel bright and happy like the Easter eggs we dyed yesterday afternoon, unread newspapers underneath catching the drips, the kids wide-eyed at seeing the eggs change colors.
Am I the only one who gets like this? The guilt over my unjustified feelings makes it even worse. The joys of motherhood and holidays are profound and significant, but so are the dips. At least, sometimes.
I know this whole day will pass and I’ll never remember it, or perhaps I’ll just look back at the photos from the Easter egg hunt fondly and forget the rest of the day. I hope so. But in the here and now, sometimes it feels tough just to get through the day. No matter how lucky I am.