Parenting

A Day Out With Three in Three

Lest anyone be deluded by the idea that I’ve got my poop together, let’s talk about my morning today…

I need to go to the post office to check our company PO box and to Target to get some Band-Aids and toothpaste. By the way, we need Band-Aids because someone skinned their knees in the parking lot last night and we found out the hard way that we have no more Band-Aids. Win.

Anyway, this particular cluster of errands would take a normal person roughly 20 minutes. 30 if there’s traffic.

But I have a two-month-old (2M), so he automatically gets a ticket wherever Mom’s headed. Which means I have to take our CR-V – the only car with car seats in it. Then I remember that the CR-V has no gas, so I need to add the gas station to our errand list. No biggie. Add another 10 minutes to the trip.

When the three-year-old (3) sees me getting 2M ready to go, she runs to the closet to get her shoes so she can come along. Ok. Another kid. Cool. She’s pretty independent and doesn’t need to be carried, so if we go at her pace, we can get through this trip in probably 45 minutes. Not bad.

Of course, when the one-year-old (1) sees 3 getting ready to go, he begins to sing the song of his people (aka shout unendingly for the closet to be open so he, too, can get his shoes). He wants to come too.

Kind Mommy (the good angel living inside of me who clearly hasn’t had enough coffee nor provocation today) reasons that it would be terribly unjust to take 2M and 3 on a trip and leave 1 home alone with Daddy. Daddy, by the way, is recuperating from surgery and can’t run these errands for us. Nor is he particularly enabled in the “lifting children” department.

So I get all three kids shod and ready to go. As I’m ushering everyone out the door, I quietly say to Daddy: “Don’t expect us back soon; I’m going to surprise them with a trip to the park!” (Side note: we’re now addressing Kind Mommy’s drinking problem.) Add a minimum of an hour to the previously 45 minute trip for buckling/unbuckling three children at each stop and, of course, time to play at the park.

I load the kids up and start off through town, debating on which way I want to schedule each of the stops. Should we go geographically: gas, Target, park, post office? By order of boredom: gas, post office, Target, park? Reverse geographically so home is right nearby: post office, park, Target, gas?

I start driving on autopilot while considering our options and we end up driving right past the park. “Screw it,” I think to myself, “let’s have fun first! Then maybe the kids will be tired out enough that they go through the rest of our errands in peace.” (Don’t laugh, sometimes I am still a naïve new mother.)

We get to the park and 3 is absolutely beside herself with joy. It’s a big park with a lot of equipment and she’s finally to the age where she’s comfortable climbing anything on her own. She runs off instantly to explore.

I hope that 1 will pick up on her enthusiasm and play on the same equipment so that I can easily keep an eye on the two of them while staying with 2M – who’s chilling in the Ergo – in the shade.

Unfortunately, 1 is far more interested in picking every tiny piece of mulch off of playground equipment than he is in playing. While I commend his organizational acumen, this makes it very challenging to visually track 3 through the park. I have to keep grabbing 1’s hand and pulling him along to follow 3’s path.

1 also conveniently keeps losing a shoe approximately every five steps so I have to keep plopping him down on a bench or piece of play equipment to put it back on. (In case you were wondering, tiny TOMS are the cutest shoes on the planet but are functionally useless. 0/10: do not recommend.) It is not easy to track 3 and keep 2M happily balanced on my chest when I’m also hauling one-shoed 1 around from bench to bench.

After about 20 minutes at the park, 1 is interested in an activity: swinging. Praise be! A slow activity where 1 is seated (read: shod) and I can stand in a single location and not look like a crazy woman with a baby strapped to her chest and a one-shoed toddler under one arm, hollering after 3 repeatedly.

In my naivety, I ask 3 whether she’d like to swing too. Think of it! Both kids in one location. But 3 is fickle. At first, she’s all “Yeah!”, but then she sees the swings and darts off in a different direction.

I put 1 into a swing and tell 3 that she needs to stay on the equipment closest to the swing set so I can watch her. Now listen, I’m not a helicopter mom by any stretch of the imagination (if anything I’m a let-them-bleed mom), but I also don’t want my three-year-old clear across the park when it’s bonkers crowded.

3 doesn’t listen. Before 1 gets a dozen glorious swings in, which, by the way, make him unendingly happy, his sister is completely across the park. So I haul 1 out of the swing, both shoes flying off in the process.

I curse quietly, re-shoe 1, track 3 down and then Angry Mommy comes out. I put my best “pissed off kindergarten teacher” face on and 3 starts to laugh and runs away. This is the wrong move, as she quickly finds out.

When I reach 3, I take her hand and inform her that playtime is officially over. It’s time to head back to the car and run the rest of our errands. This displeases 3.

With all of the waterworks she can muster, 3 dissolves into a tantrum and shouts loudly for all of the other mommies to hear about how unjust and cruel a mother I am. She twists, trying to loosen herself from my grip, meanwhile I have to keep stopping every four seconds to put 1’s damned shoe back on. We are a very dignified bunch.

We make it to the car and 3 refuses to get in. On one side, I can understand why: getting into the car is defeat. On the other side, we have errands to run and I could’ve accomplished them thrice in the amount of time our park diversion has gobbled up.

I finally get all three kids into the car and buckled, with 3 still screaming her head off. I zoom off to the post office, hoping that she’ll calm down during the drive.

She does not.

We get to the post office and I bring out Kind Mommy again: “Come, Children! We’re at the Pooooost Ooooofice! Oh, how fun! We can check our PO box and see where all of the packages go.” (Normally, I’m not into lying to my children, but desperate times call for desperate measures.)

3 remains unconvinced. The tantrum, which had begun to fade returns in full force. Kind Mommy tries to pull it out: “Come on 3! You can be the special mail holder! I’ll even let you do the key!” If I could’ve summoned a rainbow to spring up over the post office, I would’ve done so.

3 is still unconvinced and doesn’t want to climb out of the car. I finally cajole her out and she dissolves onto the ground in the busy post office parking lot. “3”, I say, “You absolutely must get up! Besides, you skinned your knees last night. Do you really want to make your boo boos worse?

In tears, 3 walks near me without holding my hand. We make it to the post office doors and I think, “Okay, quick, run to the box, grab the mail. Get in, get out. We can do this.

As the automatic doors swing open, 3 collapses to the ground once again. I try to calmly tell her to stand up so that the door doesn’t close on her. She stands up to go in one door and collapses again in the atrium between both doors. An older woman comes to the door and I have to halfway peel my child out of the way so that she can step over her. I’m still wearing the baby and have 1 by the hand, so it’s not exactly like I can easily pick 3 up and be on with it.

3 is aware of this weakness and uses it to her advantage. While I stand with my body propping open the door, I manage to wiggle 3 through the threshold.

The customers at the post office desk sense the coming storm as we sweatily fumble through the door. I try to ignore them and walk with 1 toward our PO box. 3 collapses yet again just inside the doors, and at this point, I’m really losing my temper.

However, the fact that we have an audience (and that the post office has these giant cameras everywhere) means that Kind Mommy has to run this show. She is so very, very underqualified for the task, and 3 is keenly aware of that fact. Even 1 rolls his eyes.

Come 3, we must check the box. We would’ve been done by now if you would simply cooperate.

3 babbles incoherently and screams repeatedly at the top of her lungs. I don’t know whether I appear to the rest of the post office patrons as an incapable mother, an object of pity, or some other scorn-worthy creature. By now all of the attention is on us.

I finally have no choice but to pick 3 up while she’s tantrumming so that I can check the PO box and we can get the heck out of the post office. Also, we need to move somewhere else now because I obviously can never show my face in the post office again. Add that to the to-do list.

I pick 3 up and she proceeds to slither down my back so that I’m left holding her by the ankles over my shoulder. This must look really professional to the other patrons, but what do I do?

Then 3 decides, for some reason, to pull my shirt up from underneath the baby carrier, exposing me to even more shame in front of our post office audience. Dear God, WHY would the child DO this? And moreover, how? Even my husband hasn’t mastered such a maneuver.

We go around the corner to the PO box and I have to put 3 down to get our mail. She dissolves to a puddle yet again and keeps slamming down right onto those poor skinned knees. I get the mail and a little yellow paper floats out at me: “You have a package that’s too big for your PO box. Pick it up at the desk.

Of all days, why today?

I tell 3 that she needs to come with us to get our package and then we can go. Kind Mommy tells her that she can even be the special package bearer if she wants to.

3 starts screaming “I WANT TO GO! I WANT TO GO!”

Funny, so do I! “3”, I say, “You do realize that we can’t go because you’re having a tantrum here, right?

“Uh huh.” Sniffles.

So stand up and we can grab our package and head right out the door.

“BUT I DON’T WANT TO STAY HERE.”

Right. Neither do I. Let’s go then.

“NOOOOOOOOOOOO. I DON’T WANT TO STAY AT THE POST OFFICE!”

Yes, I KNOW you don’t want to stay at the post office. But if you’re sitting on the floor in the post office, we cannot leave the post office.

“BUT I DON’T WANT TO STAY AT THE POST OFFICE.”

Great. Neither do I. But you are holding us at the post office because you won’t peel yourself off of the post office floor.

“I WANT TO GOOOOOOOO!”

I DO TOO. We could’ve gone 10 minutes ago if you’d kept your cool. Now kindly get up and LET’S GO.

By this point, I can hear that the employees sorting mail behind the PO box wall have stopped their work and are listening to our exchange. I swear I even see one box open from the inside so that someone can peek at the utter insanity of what’s transpiring on our side of the wall.

Now that I’m juggling 1, 2M and the mail, it’s hard to try and pick 3 up again. But she finally gestures her arms up to be held and I’m not missing an opportunity to GTFO of the post office.

I debate leaving the packages for my husband to deal with another time, but now that 3 is up, I decide to get in line to wait for them. Everyone in the post office knows that we’re crazies anyway, so at least I won’t need to make small talk.

I leave poor 1 to follow behind us, but he’s a champ and tags along. Of course his f*&@ing shoe comes off yet again, so he silently hands me the offending shoe and toddles behind us with one bare foot.

As we wait in line, the man in front of me wordlessly smiles, and I really hope that he has kids and knows what we’re going through. 3 is mostly quiet now, so 2M pokes his head out of the Ergo and says, “remember me?” by making some squeaks and rooting for food.

Unfortunately, I’m pretty in tune with his cues and all of the sudden I feel the front of my shirt getting wet. “Oh please, no!” I silently beg, “Don’t let me be lactating in the post office. For the love of all that is holy, keep it in, Girls!

Thankfully 2M is situated in such a way that no one can notice the leakage. The line is mercifully short and the clerk is terribly gracious, so we grab our packages and high tail it out of the post office.

Poor little 1 is my pack mule, being the only human being with hands left, but is still a bit too young to multitask carrying the packages and walking to the car, so he wanders aimlessly still in one shoe in circles on the sidewalk outside the post office until I toss 3 into the car and come to retrieve him.

At this point, I’m tempted to throw in the towel and do Target another time, but we’re literally out of toothpaste and are tempting fate too openly by having zero Band-Aids in a house with two toddlers. Besides, these silly errands were only supposed to take me 20 minutes!

I get 1 and 3 strapped into their seats and take 2M up to the front seat to nurse. I have to turn on the car while we wait because the outside temp is pushing 90, but I reason that these few moments of sitting in the air conditioned car might cool everyone down in more ways than one.

2M finishes nursing and we get him situated to drive on over to Target. As I navigate toward Mommy Mecca, I strategize how we can get 3 into and out of the store without making yet another scene.

I also have a lightbulb moment and realize why my mother always grabbed a full-sized cart even when we went for a small errand: kid containment. I laugh to myself and question whether motherhood turns us into brilliant geniuses or crazed shells of our former selves.

We arrive at Target and park next to a cart return that amazingly has a single cart in it. A beacon from Heaven alights from the sky and a soft rendition of the “Hallelujah” chorus echoes in my ears.

With 1 and 3 carefully tucked into the cart and 2M once again situated on my front, we head into the store. 3 seems to be returning to herself, but is loudly judging other customers in the store, which is frankly awkward as hell.

I divert us from our course and head straight to the shoe section to get a new pair of shoes for 1 because I’ll be damned if I’m ever putting those TOMS on him again. I grab a pair of sandals that’s not outrageously priced (though I do break my own standard for ethical shoes in my state of desperation), slap them onto his feet to check the fit and toss them into the cart.

3 asks which shoes we’re going to get for her, but she has more shoes than my Barbies did so she’s not getting any today. Thankfully, Target is so overstimulating that she forgets to cry because some new diversion catches her eye.

The rest of the trip goes uneventfully. 3 picks out Band-Aids and I grab some toothpaste. I even pick up some treats for Daddy and I to enjoy after the kids go to bed tonight.

We ring up and head back out to the car. I unload the kids and our bag from the cart and 1’s freaking shoe falls off again as I take him out of the cart. Little does the godforsaken shoe know that it’s sealing the last nail into its own coffin.

I head to the gas station, last of all, praising that this stop doesn’t require anyone to get out of the car. The few minutes it takes to pump the gas alone are a dream come true. $30 for a full tank and three minutes to myself? DONE.

As we’re heading home, I consider how I might share the events that transpired this morning. Yes, I was inspired to share my mom fail morning even as it was happening (#WriterProblems). Then I was like “Ugh it’s so lame and normal”.

All of the sudden, the guest on the podcast I’m listening to brings up the Japanese concept of “wabi sabi”, which is finding beauty in the imperfect. (No, it’s not a condiment, although now I’m craving sushi.)

I start to think of sharing our morning as a very wabi sabi part of the whole mothering game. I’m not perfect. I’m so imperfect. Sometimes blogging and a social media presence can make moms seem like they really have their crap together. But there’s always more than what you see at the surface.

Even if I never shared my experience, I know that viewing my morning as simply an imperfect part of this chapter we’re in will help me to accept it as part of the narrative we’re living. It’s hard to cope with the post office meltdowns and 20 minute trips that turn into billion hour long ordeals. I’m a perfectionist and want everything to go smoothly all of the time. No imperfections allowed.

But I have three kids. Things are going to go imperfectly way more often than they go perfectly (which, by the way, does not happen often – why do you think it takes me weeks to write a single blog post?!). It’s better to roll with the punches and laugh it off than to let the struggles of a day get us down.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I need some coffee to push through the rest of this day!

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Gabrielle Rystedt
Gabrielle Rystedt
Gabrielle Rystedt is a writer by day and a writer by night (because writers never sleep), who spends time balancing client orders, a couple of books and her blog at Raising Rystedts. She’s a business school grad who’s dabbled in management, both at the project and company level. She loves coffee and crafting, and enjoys settling down with a good book. Though as mom to three kiddos in three years, she realistically spends most of her time reheating her coffee and typing away like a crazy person on a laptop keyboard while surrounded by (clean) cloth diapers and cheddar bunnies.

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