Finally, all three sons in one room. It’s been months. The deep laughter and humorous barbs make me smile. How did we FINALLY get to the place I’d always pined for? When did the “Please, grow up!” statement become reality? When did the maturity hit? I’m perplexed because we didn’t change anything- we just kept on keeping on. And I prayed ceaselessly for years. I wanted so badly to be a good mother and see them to adulthood. I also wanted them to eventually be friends. Had God noticed my MENTAL LOAD?
Recently, a coworker introduced me to the term “mental load.” It’s when a person makes mental notes of things or people needing attention. This certainly captures the hurricane swirling inside my head at any given moment. It’s the “to dos” that are unrecognized by other members of the unit. It could be as small as future appointments to make, mental grocery lists, emotional concerns about another, upcoming birthdays/events, or repairs needed to a paint job. Apparently, I do too much of this. However, it is real and appears women carry this load most.
My husband says I worry too much and that I’m going to have a heart attack. Well, I haven’t had one yet! What he calls worry, I call concern. I’m hyper aware of others and their perceived needs. Perceived, of course, because I have yet to master mind reading. Maybe my personality type makes me overly empathetic. But, hey, I could be a sociopath and that’s not good either. And I’m the one noticing tiny details and nuances. Maybe we are a perfect match? I don’t know but I would love to shut off the perpetual “to dos” in my head.
Seeing all three sons sitting (!) at the table together today chatting is something that started occurring only recently. For some reason, they interacted in passing fragments for two decades or were in a pile on the floor. Now, three humans with albeit humorous words have taken over and I love, love it!
My mental load might ease up in one area with this newfound pleasure but takes over like a V8 engine when it comes to their relationships and future plans. Peace Corps, anyone? Cross country relocations? Can I get an amen? Mamas will always be concerned with details of their childrens’ lives no matter how many times we hear, “It’s really none of your business.” Haha, go ahead, try to make me disinterested. But please, for the love of God, do not stress me out!
I imagined it like a mini vacation- a blissful dose of much needed freedom. I planned to do several, long delayed projects and enjoy some desperately needed solitude. This newfound time wasn’t a special trip. It wasn’t a fabulous, new job either. My triplets were starting Kindergarten and I was the single, dry-eyed mama exiting the school.
Since our boys were identical, we chose to separate them into different classrooms, affording them personal attention and a chance to be their own person. Never in a million years would I have anticipated the opening of Pandora’s box. Unbeknownst to me, my boys’ schooling would become “Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride.”
It began with notes home, then extra practice work, then on to the dreaded phone calls from teachers. I decided I held what would be the record in Guinness’ Book of World Records for teacher conferences. By second grade, I had 9 in one school year. This so called “break” became my new job: speech therapy, psychometry testing, additional homework, dealing with school discipline for talking, and inadvertently, my feeling like some kind of parental failure.
Embarrassed by all the attention they got for being talkers and highly energetic, I seemed to begin each year apologizing to the teacher before anything happened. I became so engrossed with “fixing” them to match (even perceived) expectations that I lost being their advocate. To this day I regret it. However, they weathered it much better than I would have in their shoes.
Finally, by 6th grade, we had a group of teachers that decided the Turner Triplets weren’t going to have a bad year as their last at the school. This special group of teachers banded together to create a supportive team approach to managing the entire grade’s testosterone and energetic demands. I thanked God profusely for that year of support, love and good-hearted teaching they received. I’m forever grateful for that last year in elementary school because middle school proved to be a beast of its own (but that’s another story).
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.
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!
It began in 1997. It was a beautiful, spring day and I was headed less than a half mile away to the local hospital for a scheduled ultrasound. Now, mind you, this was when some OB/GYN offices did not have their own machinery. Thus, we little folk herded into the waiting room to be seen by the local ultrasound tech. Being that I had a napping 1 year old, my husband came home from work (100 yards away) and ate lunch while I meandered to that appointment. Once there, another couple I knew had an entire waiting room full with them for their ultrasound appointment. I was alone. I had no idea how prophetic that would become.
After pleasantries with the other large family, I sat and waited. Luckily one of my former students from the exercise class I taught was my tech. She and I happily yapped about everything as she proceeded with my routine ultrasound. Once started she paused and said, “Oh my! Katie, you’re having twins! You can cry now.” I was mute and completely blindsided. (I wasn’t one to fantasize about children, number of children or desire for ANY sized family.) I was in shock and my mind went blank. Then, she said those words, “Wait, uhm, I think there’s one more, uhm, wait, uhm, let me get the radiologist to look at this.” As I lie there asking, “What!?!” (And this was before the meme portraying WTF!?!) my mind raced. I was completely freaked out with the possibility of multiples. I wasn’t the ideal candidate for motherhood. I didn’t really enjoy babysitting, had few child care skills and honestly, felt disliked by most kids I came in contact. My mother wasn’t available to equip me as she developed Alzheimer’s disease in her late 40’s. Let’s face it, I was NOT who you’d want to be your mom. But, as fate would have it, God calls the least equipped to show His strength. So, as I lie, my friendly tech comes back into the exam room where I finally ask, “Are there any more??” That was my first spoken thought…four children, what? How do I do that? I have an 1100 sq.ft. house, a two door car and no income myself. (My husband and I had tried to go it on one salary. Little did we know what was to come!)
So I drive my two door car back to our tiny house where my husband simply asked, “What?” when I mutely looked at him in desperation. I truly couldn’t speak. How do you tell someone they are about to go from one to four children nonchalantly? I just started handing him stuffed animals. One, two, three, four I handed. He only said one word, “Cool!”