These are the days, they say. The ones we will look back on in our later years as the best memories. The snuggles we receive daily will fade slowly until one day we yearn for the smell of their baby shampoo. The nights we smother them with kisses will be replaced with sneaking out and slammed doors before we know it. We will beg for the simplicity of time-outs and forced apologies, they say.
Right now, it seems those days will never come. I love my little gems more than life itself. Yup, I’d take a bullet. I’d gladly walk through fire if it ensured their eternal happiness. I also could do without the jack-in-a-box bedtime routines, crap in their underwear, and episodes that rival some the best Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde moments.
When you are in the troughs of toddlerhood, it is very difficult to see the big picture. Sure there is no shortage of open letters written to pluck at our heartstrings and give us the guilt we need to do one more glitter craft, but what about the days you just stop giving a fuck about glue, playdough, and boa feathers? Those days when you just can’t muster the strength to pull them apart one more time as they fight over the Elmo doll? The days when they go to bed less than shiny because the energy needed for bath time was gone before lunch. Does that make us bad mothers? Ungrateful for these days?
The internet has made us think so. The perfect pictures of these wonderful moms who always seem to have it together, who contain endless energy, and who shit rainbows. The glimpses of smiling faces destroying their mother’s kitchen with shaving cream activities and crayon doodles. The documents that scream you should meet your child’s every whim within seconds or they will turn into serial killers and take you out in your sleep. But the internet lies. It holds back the truth; it shows only the highlights of life. It shows only the days.
It doesn’t show the 10 minutes of screaming before the snapshot. It neglects to show the mom profusely cursing under breath as she scrubs the bathroom floor for the fifth time after her son can’t seem to find the huge hole that is the toilet. It doesn’t allow you to see the haggled, stain-ridden T-shirt you are rocking for the third morning at school drop-off. It doesn’t show you the real effects of the days.
I don’t want to seem unappreciative of the time I get to spend with my boys. I understand this new role in my life is not a chore, but an amazing gift with which I have been blessed. With every fiber of my being I will work to raise beautiful, rule-abiding, caring, well-rounded men, but I also understand that these days will get better and only in hindsight will they seem magical.
Some of these days we will tour dinosaur exhibits and museums evoking hours of childhood play. Some days we will get through two hours of schoolwork and learn how to count without help. Some days we will go on exploratory walks discussing books we enjoy. Some days we will gather with friends and family, and laughter will never end. Some days the boys will collect fireflies from the skies and revel in their awesomeness before releasing them hours after bedtime. Some days we will go on vacations. Some days we will paint, and glue, and create masterpieces. Some of the days will be amazing.
Some days we won’t get out of our pajamas. Some days will be a TV marathon. Some days the kid will play with an empty popcorn bucket and paper coffee cup, despite the various toys at his disposal. Some days we will be in time-out 40 times and still push our brother over the toy train. Some days I will feel like I’m in negotiations with a terrorist over peas. Some days we will leave the supermarket with our pride in our pockets screaming all the way to the car over a bag of goldfish. Some days I’ll secretly snack on bonbons while playing hide-and-seek. Some of the days will suck.
Years from now I will look at the boys I have grown into men and will sigh in gratitude for all we have gone through to get to that point. I will reflect on the wonderful days that comprise my memories. I know those days will not just include the magical moments that made me seem like supermom, but I also know in time all the non-magical, cleaning up messes, scrubbing off poop, lazy Tuesdays will start to fade. I will let go of the days that seem like hell. I will forgive myself for feeling embarrassed that this is my life. I will forget the open letters I’ve read that have shamed me into feeling less than stellar. Over time these days will be the days.
But for now, right now in this trench of toddlerhood, in the hardest, bloodiest fight for my sanity, I resolve to go to bed every evening feeling successful knowing my children had food in their bellies (not that it was all fruits and veggies), played with toys (even if it they were the generic versions), and had clothes on their backs (sometimes several-generation hand-me-downs). Some days will create lasting memories, and some days I will struggle to forget.
While I appreciate hearing from someone on the other side of this battle that these are the days, currently, as I struggle leaving the park with my screaming toddler, fail at my attempt to sneak a shower in during the kids’ 10-minute nap, and stare longingly at my husband while scarfing down my meal at the kid-friendly restaurant, I don’t need the reminder. I don’t need to be told how I should savor the moments, create better memories, and strive to be a better mommy. I am already painfully aware of these days, and if I am being honest, some days, I can’t wait until they are the days.