Tuesday, March 9, 2010

The Easy Button

You know that Staples commercial that shows people in distressing situations who are trying to meet deadlines and perform under pressure, and just when they find themselves stressed completely out, a big red button with the word "Easy" on it appears out of nowhere? They press the button, and, wha la! Their problems are magically solved.

Have you ever wished there was one of those for motherhood?

I certainly have. It wasn't that long ago that three of my four children were younger than kindergarten age, the last two being only 20 months apart, and I often found myself searching frantically for that big red button! Unfortunately, it never appeared. I just kept reassuring myself with the thought that some day things would be easier. Now, a few years later, my youngest is three, and although I can admit motherhood has become less difficult in ways (no baby to keep me up at night, no teething or potty training, no diapers to change or small toddler hanging on my legs all day, etc.), I have found my challenges have only changed, not dissipated. I guess what I'm trying to say is this . . .

There is no "Easy" button in motherhood because motherhood isn't meant to be easy!

That seems like too simple a truth to be meaningful, but it has actually been a life-changing fact to recognize. Why? Because in those difficult mothering moments when it seemed I was drowning, I found myself being frustrated by the fact it was all so hard, and I kept waiting for things to magically get easier. When I finally came to the self-realization that it wasn't going to get easier--that motherhood wasn't meant to be easy, that we just simply have too much to gain from our experiences as a mother for it to be easy--then my whole perspective changed. Somehow knowing there is no easy button, and that there never will be, made me rise to the challenge and plunge ahead, expecting and conquering difficulties, rather than wondering why they were in my way or wishing they weren't. And that has led to a happier, more patient, more self-fulfilled motherhood experience for me.

For example, just yesterday I ventured to the store with my two youngest children. Experience has taught me that taking my five-year-old along only leads to an unhappy shopping experience, so I usually go to extreme lengths to leave her behind. Unfortunately, it was not an option yesterday, so I loaded both children in the van and forged ahead with determination to make the most of our trip, secretly hoping my five-year-old would find it within herself to behave today.

She didn't.

She was great for the first ten minutes while we were picking a few things out for her, but then as the real grocery shopping began, so did the fits, the whining, the begging, and so on. Now, I have learned (both from my own sad experience and that of others I've seen) that Wal-Mart is the least desirable place for an episode to occur between parent and child. Someone you know is bound to be there and witness the whole embarrassing scene, so no matter how frazzled I am, I try desperately hard to keep my cool while maneuvering through the store with crying, bratty children. Yesterday was no exception.

As problem after problem arose, I constantly found myself reviewing in my head the parenting books I've read about how to deal with aberrant behavior. I squatted down to eye-level, looked right at her, and explained to her that I wanted to go home as badly as she did, that the constant stopping to deal with her problems was slowing the process down, that I expected better behavior. After about the sixth time, I didn't care about eye-level anymore. It hadn't seemed to be effective. In fact, I hardly cared about making a scene at this point. I simply wanted the child to get a grip, and I was nearly ready to use more extreme measures to get my point across.

That's when I turned to choose something from a shelf across the aisle and I heard a big crash. Something told me it probably had to do with my children, but I hardly dared to spin around to see. I heard someone draw a quick breath and I saw someone else from the corner of my eye rush to the scene, but it wasn't until I heard my five-year-old start wailing that I knew it was indeed my children with the problem. Taking my eighth deep breath of the shopping trip, I forced myself to turn around and see what the commotion was about. That's when I saw my two dear children lying flat on their backs on the floor, both pinned beneath the tipped shopping cart, their hands still gripping the handle. They had been fighting over that "spot" and had decided to both hop on it at once in an effort to steal it from the other, and in so doing, they added too much weight to the near-empty cart, and it tipped over backwards, right on top of the two of them. It actually would have been quite a funny sight if it wasn't that they hit their heads pretty hard on the cement floor and that my darling daughter was screaming bloody murder.

I was tempted to gather my children and simply escape, leaving it all behind me, including my cart, but I knew I would regret it when I went to make dinner that night and we had nothing to eat, so due to the fact no big red "Easy" button appeared to magically solve all my problems, I had no choice but to pick up my kids and the cart, and continue on our way. Regyn cried the entire time. The old me would have been frustrated and frazzled, but the new me, the one who realizes these are the moments that really shape us as mothers, the one who understands that this road I chose wasn't meant to be easy, the one who believes it will all pass one day--all too quickly--simply smiled as I maneuvered down the grocery aisles with two tired, crying children.

And I've just gotta say that although that "Easy" button has always held an enticement for me, I think I'm finally getting to the point where I am ready to embrace an "I Can Do This" button instead!


The Martinez Fam said...

Once again, a great post!! What a great insight! Thanks, Lor.

Cathy Witbeck said...

Believe it or not, I think it actually does get easier as they get older. With communication. Their little brains evolve, they start to really understand where you are coming from and some days are pretty darn good.
Of course there's the fun part where they just know that they know more than you do. That is always interesting.
A big plus is that you don't see teenagers throwing fits in Walmart. My kids drive there themselves.
Maybe I should send a camera. How do I know that they don't throw fits. Could be it just hasn't made the paper. Sigh.