It started with potty training. (It always starts with potty training, yes?)
We began on a Monday, planning to take full advantage of the rainy weather. Our house was stocked: juice boxes, salty snacks, tons of fiber, and two brand new packs of Cars undies. Bring it on.
At the risk of being that mom blogger, this is what I really want to say about potty training: the potty training was easy; the poop training is a whole different story. It’s all fun and games until your toddler gets constipated.
Picture this: Brett and I stuck in the house for an entire week with a toddler peeing on the floor and a newborn that needs to nurse every two hours and so much rain and so much laundry and nobody is sleeping well and is it okay to give your toddler a laxative?
I’m an optimist; always have been, maybe always will be. When I read a book about running a 3-day potty training bootcamp, I assume we will be done potty training in 3 days, maybe 4 or 5 at the most. We needed to be done quickly because on day 5, we had big plans—The Polar Express. We had dropped a serious chunk of change on tickets months ago. It was going to be our Big Family Christmas Experience: a one hour train ride to the North Pole, a visit with Santa, cookies and hot chocolate, and our best friends in tow. All the ingredients for a magical evening.
Poor planning on our part meant that on Polar Express day, Everett was still potty training and Carson was due for his two-month shots.
The day was sheer chaos, as you can imagine. Everett had a tummy ache and in a moment of preventative panic, we decided to put him back in a diaper so he wouldn’t have an accident onboard a one-hour train ride with no bathroom. Anytime Carson was awake, he was screaming like a banshee.
We left the house late, as usual, and our process of getting into the car was worthy of reality television. Sometimes I wish we had a nanny cam set up in our garage to capture the pure shitshow that is our family trying to leave the house with two kids.
While Brett put both kids in the car, I triple checked the diaper bag: burp cloths, diapers, pacifier, Solly wrap, extra change of clothes for both kids, sippy cup for Ev, snacks, wallet, phone. Check check check. I could hear Everett whining from the car for his hot wheels jeep because he simply cannot function with less than four toys in the carseat with him.
Forgot a jacket for Everett. Forgot a sweater for myself.
Back inside. Back inside.
My phone had 20% battery, need the USB charger. Back inside.
(Heaven forbid my phone dies and I no longer have the ability to capture these impending magical memories.)
Carson woke up screaming bloody murder, red face, hyperventilating. Need Tylenol stat. Back inside.
Where’s the syringe? We have no syringe? What happened to our medicine syringe?! WHY ARE WE SO UNPREPARED FOR LIFE AT THIS VERY MOMENT?
We pulled out of the driveway as Everett was crying and Carson was screaming. Brett and I looked at each other and laughed, not because anything was funny but because everything was stressful in a way that makes you laugh awkwardly as a coping mechanism. This better be worth it, I thought to myself.
We parked in the structure and started walking towards the ticket station. It was cold and just starting to rain and Everett was complaining that his tummy hurt and Carson was squirming in the wrap, attached to me with a permanent “shhhhhh” streaming from my lips. Our friends showed up and saved the day with a syringe, like drug dealers only better.
Once aboard the train, we all got settled. There were children everywhere. I shouldn’t be allowed to say this because I am a mother but when there are children everywhere, I want to evacuate. This is how I know I am not meant to be a preschool teacher or a childcare worker or even a nanny for more than three children. Our train was very, very loud.
30 minutes later we arrived at the "North Pole". Carson was starting to fuss so I rocked my body back and forth, holding him close in the wrap and shushing him as best I could. I looked over to my right just in time to see Everett with his hands pressed against the window, taking in the sights. When Santa came into view he started waving in that adorable way that toddlers do, shaking his entire arm back and forth with excitement.
“Hi Santa! Hi Santa!” he said over and over again.
I stared at him, desperately trying to see Santa from his perspective. I tried to see the magic that he saw. The innocence. The belief. For two minutes, I forgot all about potty training and the rain and Carson’s shots and the drama of us leaving the house. For two whole minutes, I watched the world through my toddler’s eyes and my heart skipped a beat watching pretend snow fall over pretend elves wrapping pretend presents.
And then those two minutes were over.
And then Carson lost his mind. The only thing worse than a screaming baby is a screaming baby in a confined space, such as a train. I frantically ripped him out of the wrap, attempting to unwrap fabric from my body while simultaneously unsnapping my bra strap and arranging the nursing cover around my neck.
Santa was on the train now, walking down the aisle passing out bells. He nonchalantly threw two at me and made a joke about me having my hands full.
Getting off the train was just as much work as getting on it. Can you take the diaper bag? Don’t forget Ev’s blanket. I need to get the wrap back on. Is that your sweater? Where’s my phone?
We walked back to the car and Everett started to cry, complaining of a tummy ache again. Carson screamed while I wrestled him into the carseat. I wish I could scream sometimes and get away with it.
Brett and I climbed into the car last, exhausted and hungry.
What do you want for dinner?
I don’t care.
Should we stop and get something?
With the kids melting down in the backseat? No.
We lament over everything: the potty training, our empty fridge at home, the diaper bag that is never properly packed. I tell him that sometimes I am tired of life feeling so hard. That in the grand scheme of things, our life isn’t hard, but that taking care of a toddler and a newborn is a special kind of difficult. I feel like I spend hours and hours and hours trying to get us to wherever we need to be, just so we can be there for 30 minutes and not fall apart. It feels like it takes all day to prepare for something like The Polar Express just so I can watch my toddler wave to Santa for two whole minutes.
And I am left with the burning question: is it worth it?
Truth be told, it would be a lot easier to stay home and turn on the TV than go anywhere with two kids. It would be much easier to be permanent homebodies, only leaving the house for an occasional run to Chipotle when necessary.
But what kind of life is that?
And this is where being a parent becomes tricky because when you are a parent, you live an entirely different reality from your child. When I talk to Everett about The Polar Express, he remembers going on a choo choo in his jammies and eating a cookie and seeing Santa. And to him, it was perfect. He doesn’t remember (or care) that it was chaos getting in the car. He doesn’t remember or care that his baby brother was screaming half the night. He probably doesn’t even remember that he had a tummy ache. Those two minutes of magic that I witnessed? Those two minutes were the whole night for Ev.
And maybe that's just what parenting is in this season. Maybe this is what life will be like for the next couple of years raising two small children who seem to need something every second of every day. Maybe I will spend 95% of our days working and preparing and cleaning and packing and checking and double checking and triple checking that damn diaper bag. All so that we can have 5% magic in our lives.
Is it worth it?
You tell me.