The cordless phone lies in pieces on the floor. Another broken item, I thought silently. One more example of a lack of self control, an immature temper tantrum. I couldn’t get on to the perpetrator or lecture anyone, however. I couldn’t punish them either. Why? Because it was me, the mom.
Reaching a boiling point was an ongoing issue for me rearing my brood. Somehow, it seemed the extreme would occur and I’d be past my limit and explode. My triplet sons seemed to make a sport of it too. The only proof I have is that a large smile would erupt on their faces when I’d charge like a mad bull or start “raging” as they like to call it. Because then I became the problem, not them. It was an interesting tactic on their part and it took me years to adapt.
When the boys were 3 year old preschoolers, I was barely done feeding and dressing them and their sister when it happened. Three sopping wet, muddy bodies appeared when it was time to load up. I burst into tears, undressed them, and began the laborious process all over again. I also called their dad to come get them because mommy was losing it (again). Why did I not send them wet and muddy to preschool? Because I believed it would reflect poorly on my parenting.
Occasionally I’d take all 4 children shopping. BIG mistake! I somehow repeatedly forgot they couldn’t be captive that long. Wanting so desperately to lead a “normal” life, I’d set myself up for failure. Thinking I could handle it, I’d get two grocery carts and put two children in one and two in the other. I’d push one while pulling the other. I’d also restrain the child from standing in the lower part of the cart by using a belt from a life preserver or by adding piles of groceries on top of him. (One goes to extreme measures when determined.) This tactic did not stop Houdini-like escapes or hair pulling, however.
Once a sitter had them during nap time. I use the term “nap time” loosely because it was more for me. However, we knew they needed a break from each other, so we had them go in their rooms to play or read quietly. Inevitably, they were like magnets being pulled towards one another. Their doors would open slowly and they’d creep towards another’s rooms. One afternoon, a sitter was unaware and found all three boys in one room with a mattress barricaded against the door. The boys were 4 years old and incredulous at times.
I prayed for patience a lot back then which I found out was one of my biggest problems. I was gaining patience alright but it was because of the inevitable, “can’t make this stuff up” incidents which occurred on a daily basis. So maybe it’s true you have to be careful of what you pray for. They are adult children now (isn’t that an oxymoron?) and I pray for their safety instead since I don’t want anymore patience.
Young children are blissfully unencumbered by awkward things we adults have to navigate. They tend to take things head on and react exactly how they feel or, ignore them altogether. There are three such instances that make me smile every time.
The first occurred when we took our children on a cruise. Aside from lots of swimming and games, we also took them to an evening show in the ship’s theatre. It was a show featuring lavishly dressed dancers and music. One son, being approximately 6 years old had never seen sparkly, dancer’s costumes before. When the velvet curtains parted, his eyes got wide, he turned around and blurted out, “Daddy, those women forgot their pants!”
Another surprising moment occurred when my husband took one of our 10 year old sons out for wings on a football Saturday. We were out of town and he took him (here it comes) to Hooters. When they returned, he said where they had gone. I was very curious how our impressionable, sheltered son would react to the scantily clad servers. So, I hesitantly asked while fearing the worst but he said he DIDN’T EVEN NOTICE!
Last, but not least, one occurred when our 10 year old went snorkeling with his grandfather in the Caribbean. When rinsing off in outdoor showers, his grandfather told him not react but a nudist couple was walking nearby on the beach. Not only did his face more than give away his feelings on the matter, but he was reportedly more appalled due to their being old……
I used to say the only mother I could relate to was on Animal Planet. My litter, like theirs, would tussle, prod, and generally aggravate one another until an indecipherable mass formed. It seemed as innate in them as it was in the wild. I tried everything to eradicate that instinct but failed. I suppose it’s natural when three or more come from one crammed womb. I finally just gave up and pushed furniture back or yelled at them to take it outside (mostly).
My boys seemed to always end up in a pile. This pile could be inside our house, in the yard, on a patch of grass at church (I hated it when they were all dressed up), on a playground, or even in the water. They looked like a three-headed triclops with numerous, flailing appendages. I’d ignore it (outside the water) as long as the noises emitted from said “pile” didn’t indicate pain. That sound was my cue to intervene with the water hose, pitcher of water or any other mechanism possible.
Dumbfounded at how to handle the situation as they grew in size and strength, I finally asked one of the boys what he would do if he were a parent and had three sons constantly wrestling and bothering each other. Being approximately 11 years old, he replied, “What do I look like…a social worker?” I asked him how he knew what a social worker was. Dead serious, he said, “I saw it on Sponge Bob.”
Some consider graffiti a nuisance that should be covered up and prevented. Others see it as artistic expression. You might see it under bridges, on abandoned structures or inside bathroom stalls. It’s presence can be defacing but it usually has a message.
I had the privilege of viewing a long, cement wall of graffiti in Prague, Czech. It was an homage to John Lennon after his passing. Apparently, many behind the Iron Curtain grieved deeply and the Communists allowed one spot for them to express themselves. This was an offensive move by the government to prevent random, public graffiti which was not tolerated. The collective mural featured different artists each with distinct style and was impressive. Art, like beauty, is in the eye of the beholder….
Graffiti can also be delinquent, purposeless destruction as well. When our boys were young, one found a can of hunter green spray paint. He impulsively painted the side of our garage. After his brothers let him know we’d see it and he was going to get in trouble, he decided to paint “I love mom and dad” on top of his transgressive “art.” Of course we weren’t pleased with the graffiti but it sure was disarming to read his “love” for us- his hilarious countermove. Eventually, but not too soon thereafter, we had him paint over his parental homage.
None have tried or attempted anymore “freelance art” (that we know of). If anyone knows otherwise, feel free to contact me any time.
Does anyone remember the television show “Candid Camera?” It was the show from the 70’s where a serious newsman would interview children on relevant matters. Usually, the child was very frank in their response and was unintentionally hilarious. Occasionally, the interviewer would get giggly because some kid would say what adults could not.
If I had a Candid Camera crew around to record some of the things that came out of my childrens’ mouths, I’d have done it (most of the time). One example occurred during Vacation Bible School. It was tribal themed that year and I knew the leader of my son’s tribe. She found me during pick up to share what my son had said to the group. She had been explaining that tribes work together for the common good and that we do that for our families by completing chores. When asked who did chores for their family, my son’s hand shot up (he never backed down from an opportunity to talk out). She asked him his chore and he emphatically said, “When my daddy wants a beer, I go get it for him!” Strike one for parenting….
Another doozy occurred when we were all in the car. My husband was reprimanding the boys about their behavior and told them that their ADHD was not an excuse for D-U-M-B. Everything got quiet for a minute and a son said, “I didn’t know I had D-U-M-B too.” We got a kick out of that one.
Once the boys reached double digits, their language became somewhat “colorful.” I nagged them repeatedly about cleaning up their language, washed mouths out, put in time out, everything. So, one son began spelling out curse words because he believed God wouldn’t get mad because he actually hadn’t SAID them. I happened to hear him arguing with his brother one afternoon and heard him say, “You are nothing but a B-A-S-T-E-R!” (I am so glad I wrote that one down. Possible Strike Two in there for us as parents.)
Our daughter had the propensity to create new words and phrases. She invented the word “reservate” (instead of make a reservation) which I actually use to this day. Another thing she invented was a term for people who didn’t behave nicely. She had heard the term “red neck” and “white trash” so when someone was acting ugly, she called them “red trash.”
We have had a dear friend/nanny/housekeeper over the years and once when one of our sons was young and visiting her house he looked around and said, “You sure make poor look good!” Thank goodness she laughs about that one to this day.
A few years ago, my mother in law took my husband and two of our sons to the Holy Land. Our church had sponsored the trip and it was going to several ancient, biblical sites. One of our boys was adamant that he wanted to be baptized in the same river Jesus was by John the Baptist. The pastor wasn’t very excited to get wet and in the cold river because it wasn’t part of their group tour, however, his wife made him do it. He got in and Joshua got baptized. The only fluke was the picture my husband sent. He sent a photo with the caption “Baptized in the river Jordan!” (HE NEVER LOOKED AT THE SHOT.) Excitedly, I open the image and get a full frame of a bag of POTATO CHIPS. I could see my sons legs and water, but that was it. Chips. Really?
In Chinese philosophy, yin yang describes how seemingly opposite or contrary forces may actually be complementary. Can this explain how things can be both wonderful and frustrating at the same time? It’s like having an absolutely adorable puppy that just won’t stop pooping inside the house. It’s also like atomic fireball candy- it burns your mouth but you can’t stop eating it. I often find relationships to be like these, so wonderful I won’t leave them but so challenging sometimes I wish I could. Parenting is the epitome of yin yang to me.
As much as I love, appreciate and want to be a good mother to my brood, I find it to be the most aggravating assignment in the world. When I look at Facebook and see all the perfectly posed back to school photos, I chuckle to myself wondering what some of the REAL scenarios were like. I have to guess some moms are behind the camera threatening for all kinds of momentary misdemeanors. I will never forget a family photo shoot we had. I decided to dress everyone alike and take photos at the waterfront. (By the way, I regret every day that we wore denim overalls but, it WAS the nineties.) One son was having NONE of it and was not cooperating. He just got up, turned around, and posed in the opposite direction. The hippie photographer found his behavior hilarious and snapped a shot. I treasure that momentary annoyance.
Christmas is full of yin-yang moments. When we had four toddlers, I put a baby gate around our Christmas tree- the ugly, plastic, white folded kind. This hideous necessity was due to several pulled over, decorated trees. Thinking I had finally subdued their grabby little hands, I walked in to find my children INSIDE the gate WITH the Christmas tree. (So much for offense.) Another gross, yet hilarious moment is the year my husband’s stocking was empty (my bad) and the children wanted to know, “WHY!?” To satisfy their curiosity, he disappeared for a moment and reappeared with something he said he found in his stocking….it was a pair of boxers with brown magic marker drawn “stains.” He smiled and said, “Santa only left me skid mark underwear!” The children howled. I admit I did too.
Frustration is a guaranteed part of life. Wonderful moments aren’t guaranteed but sure are nice when they occur. I’m still working on trying to focus on the latter. Yin wouldn’t be the same without some yang.
Like many parents, I have spent many hours in car lines at schools. In an effort to offer each of our four children the best possible education, for a few years I’d dash between two different schools picking up from one early and the other late. This did not make me a very popular parent. In fact, I KNOW I was not a popular parent.
My boys were consistently in trouble in car lines. Either excessively talking, running, wrestling or tossing a rock around. It really didn’t matter, they always seemed to be in the hot seat. It probably didn’t help that they ran as fast as they could and body slammed themselves into the side of our vehicle vying for the front seat each afternoon. I finally assigned seats for each day of the week. That helped….a little. One afternoon, the assistant principal got wind of what was going on (or got complained to, more likely) and outran the boys to the car and jumped in the front seat first. The shock on their faces and stunned reactions ended all fighting (that day). I admired him for how he handled that.
I also remember the last day of school when a teacher grit her teeth at me in a grimacing smile as she shoved our car door shut. She said, “Have a good summer!” But I read through that look to mean “Thank God this is the last day of carline with the Turners!” That was just about the time I learned the truth….
You see, prior, I was eager to please and concerned with what others thought. Having triplet males was a cure all for that. As I wondered if I had an “It” tattoo on my forehead most days, I later realized I grossly underestimated reality. While I anticipated flying book bags, shoes and lunchboxes at carline, I did not realize the walkie talkies the teachers used were for conveying surveillance of the load and launch of the Turner triplets. Yep, they were all talking about us alright- EVERY. SINGLE. AFTERNOON.
I now get to tell people that they don’t need to worry about what other people say about them…..it might be much worse than anything they could imagine!
There have rarely been times when I have been totally and completely blindsided by my offspring. Since I had become so conditioned to strategize, I always felt the best possible outcome would ensue with the least amount of negativity. I became so accustomed to this mindset, I literally divided my day into quadrants- morning, afternoon, evening, and night. I micro -managed each detail so I might feel the tiniest bit in control.
It was farcical to be so type “A” when I lived a perpetual play date (triplet boys) that could go wrong at any second. Sure, I could plan but something was always bound to pop up.
One such afternoon, the children were all together at a friends’ house. They were having a fun time playing and there were about 5 of them. Our girls were in charge since they had reached babysitting age and could easily access us moms who were two blocks away.
It was a welcome break to see friends myself and get to visit. We were at a local tapas and wine store sipping and chatting when our cell phones began blowing up. Apparently, one son had gone upstairs to hang out and decided it would be fun to play on the phone. This resulted in cop cars WITH BLUE LIGHTS FLASHING to dash to their house assuming there was an emergency. One son had curiously pushed “911-111-1111” on the phone just to see what would happen. The cops asked where the parents were and they told them, “At the wine store drinking wine.”
Not only did our friends get highly embarrassed that cop cars pulled into their Main Street house for the world’s speculation, but we moms felt no parenting awards were coming our way either.
Before anyone calls the cops (or DHR for that matter), please read the rest of the story. When our daughter was about two years old, she had a really hard time verbalizing syllables. Her brother’s name, Jordan, was especially hard for her to pronounce. She ended up spontaneously calling him “Weedo.” We all ended up calling him that for nearly 15 years until he finally (exasperatedly) expressed his true feelings about his nickname. And they were not pleasant!
The term of endearment did, however, apply until high school. Since we typically made his lunch on school days, one morning I absentmindedly wrote “Weed” on his lunch bag. He either didn’t notice or didn’t care. When he went to lunch, his friends died laughing over the fact he was carrying his bag of “Weed.”