Overall I would say I typically feel pretty confident and competent as a mother and don't find my two children all that challenging. I don't spend a lot of time worrying about whether or not I am a good mother or feeling angst about the way I parent my kids. That said, I have been feeling a little frazzled and not-quite-together just lately. I don't know if it's due to being more busy with work / life in general or the kids being a lot more challenging than usual or both or neither, but it's been a noticeable shift. My increased level of introspection about said competence may also relate to the book I'm currently reading, which features a mother who is struggling a lot to handle her child, her job, her husband, and her life in general. There are a lot of scenes and reactions where I think, Jeez, I don't think I would ever do that, and then I step back mentally and think, Well, in her situation how would I react? And because the book is written in first-person and the character is having to evaluate herself as a mother, I find myself asking myself how I feel about myself as one, so it's been a little navel-gazey around these parts.
I was off work with the kids this past Thursday because Nico had big truck camp at the YMCA in the morning and Kindermusik in the afternoon, and that would've been a lot of running around and Elliott-hauling for my mom to do by herself. I got Nico to camp just fine and then Elliott and I had two hours to kill so we went to the nearby Walmart so I could do a work-related shopping trip. We had a bit of a slapstick time, as I initially tried wearing him in the Beco, only to find that he is finally too big and grabby to be in a front carry while shopping. He was able to reach the shelves and the cart handle, and after about five minutes I gave up and put him in the cart seat and took off the carrier. Then he spotted the big play balls and said "Bah! Bah!" and even though I guess technically he wasn't asking for one, I was feeling fond of him for using the word and picked one out for him. For a little while he wanted to hold it, but then he got tired of that. Since our cart was mostly occupied by a stepladder and three cases of soda, the ball just sort of had to perch behind him. This allowed him to start swatting the ball out of the cart periodically as he became more and more bored with our trip, and he's really too little to understand me telling him "If you do that one more time, we aren't buying the ball."
I made it out of there feeling only a little flustered, we collected Nico, and then we went to Panera for lunch since we only had two hours between camp ending and music class starting. I briefly considered popping Elliott into his stroller, but I didn't want to mess with it in the crowded / small space so I just carried him. Of course I couldn't carry anything else while I had him and I immediately realized that I had been incorrect in thinking that it would be easier to navigate lunch without the stroller. You'd think this is my first toddler or something. I don't really have a problem leaving the kids at the table without me while I fetch things, but Elliott was hungry and borderline crabby, Nico had a million questions, and I was trying semi-frantically to get them seated and find Cheerios and a book to keep Elliott distracted so he wouldn't start screeching like an excitable pterodactyl. Once I got them ready I had to go get my drink (forgot a cup for Nico, had to go back), then I had to go get the food (forgot a fork for Nico, had to go back) so by that point I'd made four trips across the restaurant. Elliott saw the food and started to get upset that it wasn't already in his mouth, Nico wanted bread to eat, so I was cutting up Elliott's sandwich and tossing a baguette at Nico and just generally feeling like holy shit, isn't this usually easier?? (And I had the thought, which I have had more than once recently, that maybe I shouldn't feel so confident in my ability to handle three kids if I get the chance to try.) We made it through lunch, though E did screech a few times and N almost had a sobbing meltdown over dropping a piece of pasta on his shirt. I posted a picture of them to Twitter and said "One parent two-kid lunch. It was a bit hairy at first but I think we're going to make it through." And then, of course, as we were leaving I saw a mother standing with a preschooler younger than Nico, a toddler younger than Elliott, and a bucket baby and she didn't look frazzled at all. Touché, madam...I am sufficiently humbled.
We had just enough time to stop by Target for yogurt, and that trip was hardly stressful at all. Things were looking better as we left, and I was feeling way better about myself and thinking hey, maybe we just had an off morning...I'm not so bad at this, right? It's not SO hard. We totally made it through that store without anyone screaming or knocking over a display or anything embarrassing! And then, as I was buckling Elliott into his seat, I saw a woman trot by the back of the car calling, "I'll get you!" and realized our cart had rolled away. With Nico in it. So all you other ladies in line for mother of the year, you may want to step to the back. I'm pretty sure I've got this one locked in.
Reading: All Fall Down by Jennifer Weiner
Playing: Only by the Night by Kings of Leon