“The Beach” outing

It’s been a while since I wrote about my Mommy journey – primarily because my husband and I decided to have a 3rd child.   Needless to say, I’ve been off my game for about 10 months now and I’m only finally starting to rediscover the me that doesn’t answer to “Mommy.”

“Smiley” (as we call her) turned out to be our 3rd girl and she came into the world as an emergency C section in November 2014.  I can say now that we went into having a 3rd child blindly.  At the time, our 2nd daughter  “Curly” was a quiet, shy, easy baby.  At 18 months, she became a big sister and although she loves her baby sister (sometimes a little too much), it was also a time when she started to want more attention but couldn’t get it from me.  Her little desperate voice couldn’t be heard and instead, she became a behavioral challenge.  Not only have I been walking on eggshells to manage the unpredictable tantrums of my now 2 1/2 year old, but my little Smiley was a colicky infant and a total game changer for our family and for me as a mother.  I thought I knew everything about babies and then I had one that through the book at me.   She did everything different than my first 2 kids and she still does.  It was a daunting experience and some days I still can’t believe I’m responsible for these three little beauties.

My oldest daughter, “Freckles,” is a rising 4th grader, 8 years old going on 9-teen.  She is my helper and my ally in this house overrun with little people, and I can’t imagine this journey without her.  That being said, she’s at an age where time with friends, and extra-curricular sports and activities have made it clear why the nickname “Soccer Mom” came to be.  I’m spending a lot of time carting her all over kingdom come, and when I’m trying to have a day at home to get errands done, I have her as my shadow.  This is sometimes helpful and sometimes just plain annoying.  I love her dearly, but summers are tough with 2 little ones who are very needy and an 8 year old who really wants to do more than play toddler games.  How do you please everyone?  Well, the answer is: you just don’t. The kids want the merry-go-round but I can’t always be the pony.

That being said, I still have my moments of confidence and inspiration where I think I can be that “Mother of the Year” we all wish we were.  Last weekend, my hubby and I had planned to take the kids to an exhibit at the National Building Museum called, “The Beach,” which as far as I can tell was just a very pretty, large ball pit.  You remember the old rainbow germ-laden ball pits of our youth – found in the McDonald’s or the Chuck-E-Cheese in your neighborhood?  Well, “The Beach” exhibit was supposed to trump that and then some.  All white balls with anti-microbial properties (or such was the rumor I heard), and an enormous space to play for kids of all ages.

But here’s the problem:  I imagined buying tickets and then letting my kids just have an amazing free-for-all in this gi-normous ball pit.  Imagine the smiles, the laughter, and the sheer glee.  But instead, we left the house 30 minutes later than I’d planned due to who-knows-what emergency, then we took 2 wrong turns in Washington, DC, hit traffic, and had to park at a far off parking garage that cost $18.  Upon entering the architectural beauty that is the National Building Museum, all my dreams were dashed.  There was a long line to buy tickets.  And if that were not enough, a 2nd lengthy line just to enter “The Beach,” which was enclosed and not even visible from the lobby.  Now, if I were a newbie mom, maybe I would have waited in line to buy the tickets and then waited an hour to enter The Beach with 3 kids in tow.  But no.  I know too well that my kids, specifically Curly and Smiley, do not do lines.   Back in October, before Smiley was even born, I had another unfortunate incident similar to this at the pumpkin patch, so I knew better.  Furthermore, since we had already left the house late, we were already pushing dangerously close to lunch time and nap times.  It just wasn’t worth it.

So, what did Mother of the Year do?  I pouted.  I sulked.  I refused to consider doing anything else in DC.  I belittled myself as a failure.  I told my husband that we just needed to turn around and go home because the day was already lost.  It was wasted.  It was all my fault.

And it really was – well, in a way.  We got home, ate lunch, and put the little kids down for a nap.  And you know what?  I needed a nap too.  So, although I don’t always do it, I slept away my pouty negative attitude and woke up refreshed and willing to shrug off the misstep of the morning and move forward.  I sheepishly apologized to Freckles for my baby-ish behavior and asked her if she thought we could start this day over.

So, we did.  That afternoon, after naps, we took the kids to our local town for icecream and time on the playground.  It wasn’t the earth-shattering cool “Mother of the Year” moment I had envisioned, but I did see smiles and heard laughter, and experienced absolute glee myself.

I think sometimes as moms, we look at the highlight reel of other people’s lives and think, to be an amazing mom, I need to do amazing things with my kids.  And in the end, we over-complicate things, stress ourselves unnecessarily, and set our expectations too high. Fun and joy, and memories can happen in your own backyard.  I’m trying to remember that not-so-small lesson every day.

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