Every morning before getting my kids out of bed, I pause for a few seconds before turning the bedroom door knobs and rousing my 3 and 5 year olds out of their quiet, peaceful sleep. It’s a pause to remind myself to take it one thing at a time and sometimes a pep talk of “You can do this. You’re the adult in this situation, remember?” And then it’s a last minute prayer for patience to withstand the hurricane that happens in my house Mondays through Fridays between 6a.m.and 6:30a.m. It usually consists of different colored tutus being bulldozed out of closets, life changing questions such as, “tights or leggings, mom?”, power struggles over the old glittery ballet flats vs. the new sparkly tennis shoes, which all of the sudden are hideous but were the apple of my 5 year olds’ eye a few days before. And then the mother of them all, the Toothbrush vs. my 3 year old. On this morning, it was no different. When I call my daughter to come brush her teeth she clenches down her jaw and runs through the hall as if I am coming at her with a chainsaw. So I begin with my research based, fail proof parenting tricks hoping that this will be the day they miraculously work. I try singing a funny song, bringing up the pretty stickers she will get, bribing her with M&M’s, and then the advanced technique of holding her down and jamming the brush in while she screams and tiny white toothpaste beads spray the mirror and my nice adult like blouse that helps me portray my professional side and hopefully hides my sometimes messy life. I feel terrible and she feels terrible. Teeth are clean, the dentist loves me, but at what cost I ask? She runs back down the hallway as I catch my breath and look as though I have just wrestled with a T-Rex. Then, to let me know whose boss, my sweet little potty trained child yells, “Need to go peepee!” Everything else after this is in slow motion. I race towards the hallway to rescue myself from the inevitable. As I turn the corner with a loud and slow “Nooooooo!,” I see her pink pants become saturated and my shiny wood floors are now glossy with one big puddle. In that very moment, I become enraged. It’s hard to breathe and impossible to think as I attempt to quickly scan my brain for the file in my head titled, “The best parenting advice for the really bad parenting moments that nobody told you existed.”
Unfortunately, that file remains lost or password protected because all I can do is shout something unintelligible and get out of everyone’s way. Thankfully, my husband was ready to take over and I find myself running as fast as I can and literally biting my tongue all the way down into the garage until I am safe and in the only place a mother can sometimes find quiet still moments or also known as the Minivan. I race to work feeling like the most incompetent mother in the universe.
What can I do in these situations? Who can I run to for helpful advice that has worked for centuries? “Breathe” I tell myself, “Breathe.” That’s when the well-established Victims Unit Committee has a seat around the conference table in my brain. All the sob stories begin to fill the vast quiet space in the car. It’s a stream of thoughts like, “Why can’t my grandma still be alive to help me through this? She raised 7 kids in a run-down Guatemalan village. She would surely know how to handle these little dilemmas! And why can’t my mother be around more? Did she have to go and start a second career right as I was giving birth and becoming a mom? Come on people I need you! I need something to get me through these phases!” Then out of the blue my brain shouts back, “Google It!” I couldn’t believe that was all I could come up with. After 5 years of experience, that’s what it came down to, “Google it!” All the answers at the click of my sticky mouse. Now I really feel hopeless and terrified! I tried to imagine the mothers who came from my grandmother’s generation running through the dusty, unpaved roads to Google their problems away. There may have not been a need for search engines back then because they worked so closely together in the fields or the kitchen and shared their wisdom over sewing or preparing homemade black beans. As soon as I get to work and my boss was done with his robotic hellos through the maze of grey cubicles, I begin my search with “3 year old hates brushing teeth” and click Google Search and for a brief second I cross my fingers that somehow the old wisdoms of the past will come through and guide me this way or that way. Some of the advice came from other mothers who have encountered the same issue, which right away felt comforting. Some of the ideas ranged from distracting the kid with a singing toothbrush, a timer so she can see how long she has, coming up with my own funny song, and of course the tried and tested if all else fails sticker chart. Although, these are some good ideas, I was still reeling with anxiety and adrenalin from the morning chaos and Googling it felt empty and isolating.
The work day got busy fast and my tasks were somewhat distracting enough to take my mind off my not so idealistic mom moment. But luckily my co-worker and also fellow mommy of the toddler kind asked me to go for a walk and get some fresh air with her. Along the way I vented about my frustrations and terrible morning and she listened laughing at some of the descriptions and showing empathy as she too has had those same challenges. I began to laugh at the whole situation and could see that I was taking it all way too seriously. As she began suggesting some ideas, I realized what I really needed was just a sympathetic ear and not necessarily specific ideas about how to move past this, although that was helpful of course. Going on Google searches to solve life’s dilemmas can sometimes be helpful but human interaction is priceless, especially when we are stressed out and hit a wall. A week or so after, I found an article in a magazine that actually did the trick. I now ask my little Olivia “Who’s in your mouth today?” And she responds with an animal usually. “Wow, Can you open up in there so I can see the panda?” I say. Making it fun and tailored to her love of animals was all she was looking for and seeing me be entertained by her ideas is motivational for her. Todays’ generation of mothers do use Google but it is only our one tool of many. Asking our friends and our parents what they did is still just as important and meaningful. Do I still Google some of my parenting challenges? Of course! But I always follow it up with a talk with a girlfriend, my husband, or any other mom who will listen and help me laugh it off. Now, off to Google the next conundrum, “5 year old wants to get a manicure.”