My 3-year-old twins have been particularly challenging the last couple of months: mischievous, whiny, and defiant as all hell. Sometimes, it’s like they’re so caught up in their own little hell-raising games, that they literally can’t hear me yelling, “Please stop, come here now, please stop!” It’s gotten to the point where I don’t even take them to the grocery store or the mall with me anymore because they will, inevitably, run off, run in circles, and run maniacally through a store throwing food items or nicely-folded T-shirts off of the shelves. It’s crazy, so crazy. But, as with most bad behaviors, I’ve been reassured that it’s all a phase, one that comes with the age. And since they are twins, it’s double the challenge, two small irrational humans egging each other on and tuning me out. It’s kind of like they’re going, “Well if you think it’s an amazing idea to wreak havoc and destruction and I think it’s an amazing idea to wreak havoc and destruction, then clearly we are right and Mommy is wrong. Gooooo team!”
One of the things that I find most frustrating is trying to get my kids to leave when I pick them up from preschool. It’s like they see me, abandon their lunch, and immediately start running in “you can’t catch me” circles. For the most part, I’m usually able to wrangle them out the door, but there are times when it just feels impossible.
A few weeks ago, we had just such a moment. Apparently, it was someone’s birthday. And there were cupcakes. With lots of frosting. By the time I showed up, the inmates had taken over the asylum. Not even the teachers could get them to calm down. At one point, I managed to get one boy sort of pinned to the ground, and was trying to get his shoes on, and looking at him in the face, I swear, it’s like he had crazy in his eyes. Ultimately, a teacher had to pick up one of my boys and carry him to the car, while I held the other one in a tight grip. And my car was all the way down the block and around the corner, and my kids are heavy. This poor, poor teacher.
Once we got to the car, I realized that I had left their lunchboxes behind so this very kind woman suggested I swing back around to the front of the school and she would bring their lunchboxes to the car. But when I pulled up to the front of the school, there was no parking and there was no way in hell I was going to park, unbuckle my wild animals, and set them loose on the street again. As I sat there, I started to tear up. Then, it became full-blown, heaving sobs. I just couldn’t understand how my sweet boys, who I’ve raised with boundaries and consequences and conversation, could act like this. I was so embarrassed, mortified really. Also, I was just so tired. So tired of trying to manage all of it, trying to manage them, and unsure how I would survive the rest of the threenager year.
As I sat there, double-parked, hazard lights on, with tears streaming down my face, the teacher ran out with the lunchboxes. And with total compassion and been-there understanding, she let me cry and cry, and reassured me that it was all so normal for this age. That they’ve seen it all. Of course, that made me cry more, only this time, it was because this woman had shown me such kindness, not even as a teacher, but as a mom herself.
When we got home and my boys had calmed down, they asked why I had been crying and I told them. I told them that it makes me sad when they don’t listen. That it’s hard for me when they run around, instead of coming to put their shoes on. I told them too that I felt sad that their teacher had to carry one of them all the way to the car. That it wasn’t nice.
What I couldn’t explain to them was this other side of it, the tears that came from being shown Mama-to-Mama compassion. The tears that came from this teacher’s reassurance that this would pass, that my boys were still good, sweet boys, and that I hadn’t done anything wrong as a parent. This teacher, a mom herself, had basically said to me that it was all okay, that I’m okay, and that as parents, we all get it. So, yeah, I bawled my eyes out in front of their teacher, in front of other parents during pick-up, and in front of my kids. It kind of felt good to know though that, at the end of the day, we’re really all in it together. And we’ve all been there.