I haven’t had one of those parenting days in a while. You know the ones. Those days when nothing goes right and everything is a struggle. I mean, don’t get me wrong. On most days, there’s always something that is challenging, but there are certain days when it seems like everything I touch becomes ten times harder to accomplish. It’d been a while since I had one of those, so I was probably overdue. On Wednesday, I paid for it.
I had the best of intentions on Wednesday afternoon. I was going to pick the kids up from daycare as soon as I was done at school, and we were going to head across town to our church where Chris would meet us for a family dinner before we all went to the Ash Wednesday service at 6:30. It should have been fairly simple. Ahhh…best laid plans…
I had forgotten when I planned this little soiree that I had after school tutoring scheduled (I tutor in writing two days a week for an hour after school), so I ended up leaving a full hour after I originally planned. Which meant I would not, in fact, miss the rush hour traffic as we headed across town to the church. But, I was still optimistic. I picked up the kids and we set out. But we didn’t get far. We pretty much came to a dead stop on the interstate in rush hour traffic and we continued to creep for the next full HOUR. For one hour, I sat in traffic with a screaming Gracie and a whining Bean, who were both hungry. As we crept closer and closer to the church, the sky grew darker and darker and darker until I was sure there was a hurricane getting ready to hit us. But as bad as the wind blew and as dark as the clouds grew, no rain fell and so I thought that maybe we’d be able to get to church before the heavens opened up and soaked us.
And the rain did hold out. It waited until I had just loaded my arms full of diaper bags, a thermal tote with our dinner inside, my purse, and I had just pulled Gracie in her carrier out of the car. THEN, the heavens opened up. So, holding all of these things, and trying desperately hard not to drop Gracie’s carrier, I now had to try to wrestle with an umbrella, too. All of this while Gracie is screaming bloody murder in her seat. She doesn’t like the rain. It makes her hair curl.
So, I’m hurrying and balancing and trying to protect my screaming banshee of a child from the rain, when I finally make it over to Bean’s side of the car to get him out and I discover that – surprise! – he’d taken off his socks AND shoes in the car.
Now, at this point, I am very carefully balanced with all my bags and supplies and giant babies in car seats. My arms are full and I’m standing in the pouring rain, holding an umbrella handle under my chin, trying to keep Gracie dry. In order to put Bean’s shoes on him, I’d have to put everything down. But where? It was pouring!
“Michael!” I barked. “Why did you take off your socks and shoes?”
“Because my feets were hot,” he pleaded.
But before I could even begin to think of how I was going to handle this (I’d have to put everything back in the car, including the car seat, go put Bean’s shoes on, and then reload everything in my arms for the second time…), a Good Samaritan appeared.
This very kind older woman was walking by with her umbrella, trying to get into the church, but when she saw me struggling to hold everything and then heard me asking about Bean’s shoes, she turned back to me and said, “Hi there. My name is Betty. Can I please help you?” I tried to kind of smile and say that I really had it under control, but it was very clear that I did not. So, Betty kindly pushed me out of the way and told me to keep Gracie dry while she literally climbed her 80 year old self up inside my SUV and dug out Bean’s shoes which had been flung to the nether regions of my floorboards. The whole time she climbed and searched, she talked to Bean, and he must have liked her because he talked right back. He told her about his day and about his “bes’ fend” at school, and about how we were going to go to “cherch” tonight and eat God’s snack (which is what we call Communion). Finally, Betty got both shoes on Bean and helped him out of his seat and then she walked up to the church with us, holding him under her umbrella while I carried Gracie’s seat and all my bags under mine.
At the outdoor entry to the nursery, she said goodbye and I thanked her profusely, while insisting that I now had everything under control. So, she leaves, and I turn around to go inside the building to the nursery only to discover the entire nursery wing is locked. No lights are on. No doors are open. It’s shut tight. So, now I’m standing under a tiny awning with all my bags, my screaming baby in her car seat, and a squirming, hungry toddler.
Cue the lightning and thunder.
It started popping lightning around us and the thunder boomed so loud that Bean literally scaled up one side of me and down the other. He was terrified. Gracie was, too. And I had no where for us to go. When I had stopped to thank Betty, I had set down all of my things in the process of our conversation, so I very quickly started piling my bags on my arms again, picked up the infant carrier (which, with Gracie in it, weighs about 35 or 40 pounds, at least), and tried to also carry/drag Bean, who was now terrified of the lightning and had strapped himself to my right leg.
Now, our church campus is beautiful and very Floridian, which means it’s open air. Which meant we now had to get from one side of campus to the other in order to find a building that was unlocked. So, we start the trek, me balancing all these things and cursing myself for choosing to wear heels that day to work.
We finally made it to the other building and managed to get into the church kitchen, where I dropped everything in relief and immediately texted Chris, “I really need some help. Where are you?” He responded with, “Running late. Won’t make dinner. Will be late for church. Love you.” To which I responded with a text that was not appropriate for church OR this blog. I ditched my phone and concentrated on feeding the kids dinner. Only, I just realized that in the shuffle of sweet Betty helping us get out of the car, I had accidentally left our dinner tote in the backseat of my car. Which was across the church campus. And it was still raining and thundering and lightning.
So, I left my bags in the kitchen, threw Gracie on my hip, and held Bean’s hand while we ran back across campus to the car through the rain, got our dinner, and then ran back across campus to the kitchen again. If we hadn’t been before, we were now SOAKED.
But soaked or dry, everyone was hungry. So, I got Bean all set up with his PB&J and sat Gracie on the table so I could hand her little pieces of steamed veggies I’d brought for her. About 10 minutes into dinner, Gracie knocked her entire bowl of food onto the floor and then immediately started crying because she wanted more. As I was cleaning that up with the one small napkin I could find, Bean spilled his cup of apple juice all over the table.
I finally got everything cleaned up and loaded up and we headed back to the nursery. It had been half an hour and it was only 15 minutes until the service started. Surely, the nursery would be open. We fumble our way once again through the rain with all my bags, the infant carrier, and Bean in tow, only to find the nursery to still be locked. Seriously, I almost started crying. Instead, I prayed.
I believe the exact prayer I prayed went like, “God! What the crap, man? I’m trying to get to church! Are you freaking serious with this?”
So, I just gave up. I set my bags down, I sat down on the ground and pulled a crying, scared Bean into my lap, and we sat there for 10 minutes under a tiny awning in the rain and thunder while we waited for the nursery to open. Finally, one of the nursery girls came flying up and let us into the building. I got the kids all set up and made it to church right on time. Chris, unfortunately, was about 20 minutes late and ended up sitting in a pew behind me because of the crowd.
Sometimes these days, I forget how hard it is to be a parent. You get so used to going, going, going that you almost forget what it’s like to not be on full speed all the time. And I forget that I’m tired, and I somehow manage to fit it all into the 24 hours in a day. But then there are other days. And on those other days, the only thing that holds it all together is the fact that you don’t have time for it to all fall apart. On those days, you just pray angry prayers to get through the moment and hope you aren’t doing any permanent damage to your children’s psyche. Then, you go home, wipe everyone down with a diaper wipe, kiss them goodnight, as you climb into your own bed, you say another prayer that somewhere in this somber season of Lent, you find a little time to be still.
And then you wake up tomorrow to blue skies and happy babies, and life goes on as it always has.