You’ve all seen her: the train wreck mom. She’s got the screaming child, the haggard expression, hair disheveled, glassed over eyes. We other moms present avoid eye contact and awkwardly turn our backs to pretend whatever seen unfolding behind us is occurring in the far away land of incompetent momville where we have never traveled.
I say “we” because I have worked very hard on (and of course prided myself on) not being that mom. Present company was once overheard saying, at a park to her other mommy friends, when a child was erupting in crazy tantrums behind us, “I’d spank that.” And though said company has already admitted to not being in the spanking camp (though she might have actually spanked that child), she oozed with bride when uttering those remarks.
See little man clearly has his moments but his waywardness is a little more sly and sneaky. Yes mommy, I know you told me not to touch the salad tongs but if I move really slowly and tuck them under my arm here, you might not notice they are missing. Or in the let’s see if I can send mommy to the looney bin with my excellent use of vocabulary. Little man: mommy, can I touch baby girl’s foot? Mommy: no, when you are sick, you can’t touch her. Little man: can I touch her arm? Mommy: no. Little man: can I touch her head? Can I touch her eyes? Can I touch her toes? Can I touch her knee? Mommy: NO YOU CAN’T TOUCH HER ANYWHERE WHEN YOU’RE SICK!!!
So since little man, by nature, is not the screamer, climber, biter, hitter kind of kid, I’ve generally been able to maintain a pulled together public appearance for most of his existence. We do sit timeouts anywhere, explanations (but no negotiations as our pediatrician has instructed us), and “yes mommy’s” before we can get up and that has generally worked for little man. And for almost three years it has just been me and little man and man on man strategy works pretty well there—one parent, one kid, okay, we’re good.
Enter baby girl (cue ominous music in background please). So last week one of Axel’s buddies in his preschool had a birthday party after class in the school garden. Super fun. We were excited. Now little man had a cold and some general malaise that went with it and we have just potty trained him and and as I’ve mentioned, he hates to go poop in the potty now so he’ll hold it for days and just start an endless diatribe of “I’m uncomfortable! I’m uncomfortable! I’m UN-COM-FOR-TA-BLE!” and he had some diaper rash on top of all that so it was kind of a bad day for little man. But I strap baby girl into the front carrier and grab little man’s lunch pail (and nothing else because sometimes I just can’t stand schlepping everything around and baby girl had on a fresh diaper so we’re good) and we go to join the party and there is an actual train on wheels driving around in the cul-de-sac and little man is wide-eyed open-mouthed amazed and staring at the train but he won’t ride it because he’s my cautious kid that just wants to watch it but he can’t even focus on that because he starts his ceaseless “I’m uncomfortable’s” and he’s scratching his little rear and a couple mommy acquaintances I haven’t seen for awhile and am super excited to talk to are coming up to try and chat with me but little man is moaning and scratching and baby girl, who hates to be confined, starts squawking and suddenly I’m that mom.
And then I’m excusing myself and running to the bathroom because little man is suddenly screaming “I HAVE TO POOP I HAVE TO POOP!” which hasn’t happened in three days so yes we are all running—baby girl squawking and bouncing around in the front carrier and little man streaking back towards school. But in the bathroom he suddenly won’t go (I get heebee geebies from public toilets too, so can I blame him?) so we’re back at the party and I un-strap baby girl because she’s squawking LOUDER and holding her in front of me so she can face out which she much prefers but now little man is dancing around yelling “I HAVE TO GO PEE PEE!” and we were just in the potty and I’m not going back there so I hand baby girl to a fellow mommy and pull down little man’s pants and aim him at a shrub but he won’t go so up go the pants, take the baby back, and then little man spies the cupcakes. Cupcakes!
Now we’re on the broken record of “I want a cupcake I want a cupcake I want a cupcake” and no matter how many times I attempt to school little man in the art of courteous linguistic skills (mommy, may I please have a cupcake), he always resorts to the “I WANT A…” until coached otherwise. But I tell little man he can’t have a cupcake until he has eaten his sandwich so he opens his lunch box, has exactly two bites, and then he’s holding the front of his pants again and yelling “I HAVE TO GO PEE PEE!” so I hand baby back to mommy friend, feeling like such the rookie mom for unhitching baby girl from her front carrier in the first place and also not bringing the stroller, pull down little man’s pants and aim him at a bush again and just when he’s finally in mid-stream, I hear infant volume increasing behind me and know it’s absolutely my child beginning to let loose (remember, code name: the screamer). Though baby girl may not be understood by the general population, I my mind I know she’s yelling “YOU’RE NOT MY MOMMMMMMYYYYYY!” and I look back and kind helpful mommy friend has a panicked look on her face and is holding baby girl out in front of her who is red-faced fist-clenched fury. So I pull up little man’s pants, grab baby girl, and I can see the circle of mom’s widening around me—increasing the space between them and present falling apart mom. Yes, I’m that mom.
I apologize to mommy hostess for our short stint at the party and begin to pack up scratching little man and now quieter but still squawking baby girl and hand little man his lunch box to carry who then decides it’s finally a great time to eat his sandwich and opens said lunch box himself and apples and sandwich and water bottle fly out and I’m chasing them as they roll in various directions and can I be any more of a train wreck? Then hostess mom asks if we want to take a cupcake and little man is suddenly again fixated on the cupcakes and I’m about to just say no but she adds, “they’re gluten free!” Now as I’ve been trying to regain the last bit of my once svelte figure, I’ve been doing the whole gluten free thing on weekdays and I do have to say it’s been helping—maybe just because I’m not loading up on French bread when we go out to dinner. But anyway, I’ve been embracing gluten free so as soon as hostess friend uttered those words, the clouds parted and the sun began to shine again and a chorus of mystical hallelujahs encircled me. Then she added, “do you want to take two?” I almost asked if I could take the whole box but settled on two perched inside a red cup (oh how the mighty have fallen—if my single friends could see me now with cupcakes tucked inside my red cup instead of some yummy beach-banned beverage) and tucked my tail between my legs and dragged self, baby, whining little man, and two cupcakes in a red cup back to my car.
When I recounted the experience to husband that night, he simply said, “we all have our train wreck days.” That was it. We all have our train wreck days. Just because I have a train wreck day doesn’t mean I am a train wreck mom. And just because I see a train wreck in motion doesn’t mean that mom is a train wreck. We all have our train wreck days. So I apologize to you, mom at the park with the child I wanted to spank. I’m sure you’re doing the absolute best you can and I applaud you. I’m sorry for being judgmental and oh so prideful.
So today when after another eventful swim practice, sitting outside with girlfriend and all of our children in song-and-dance tow, a little girl of another mommy started to unwind, I introduced myself and said, “don’t worry, I’m in your club.” She smiled gratefully. I’ve learned my lesson: we mommies need to stick together. Because we all have our train wreck days.
So carry on, mommy friends, you are awesome at what you do!