There’s something about a comment from a stranger, a mere observation, that when shared, can really make an impact. I had just flown from Philly to Indianapolis with Joey and Emil – just the three of us. It was quite the ride, to say the least. Traveling in general is difficult, even if you are alone. But add a 2 1/2 year old and an 8 month old who’s teething and it’s a whole ‘nother ballgame. Let me show you – picture this – Emil is in the carrier on my chest, I’m pushing Joey in his umbrella stroller while balancing a way-too-overstuffed tote bag on my arm…arrive at the end of the corridor where the door to the plane awaits…stand Joey up to get him out of his stroller (oh and did I mention that I am dripping with sweat both from stress but also from wearing my jacket because my suitcase was stuffed- it’s a great look)…only to notice that he’s peed all the way through his pants. Well, too bad son – the changing table in the bathroom is the size of an unfolded napkin – not at all suitable for an almost 3 year old. I also don’t have any dry pants. So I love you, and don’t hate me, but you’re going to sit in those wet pants for approximately 2 hours. Mother of the year – right here. Flash to Emil going crazy in my lap – until you reach cruising altitude an infant must be loose on a lap, and not in a carrier – so I’ve got WAY TOO long to endure his jumping, slapping, screeching, hair pulling, and eventual cheek biting (that’s my cheek). Cue the tears…Mamma’s tears. God damn I want this plane ride over with…
I’ll spare you the rest of the journey, I’m haunted by it and don’t want to do the same to you. We finally land and that’s a good thing because I’m ready to squeeze through the “window” and kiss the ground. We unload and make our way to the bathroom so I can finally, finally, change JPK – poor babe. Good news – I don’t think he hates me. I made a bee line for the “family bathroom” so I could have some privacy, but mostly, I was craving room. We had been cramped up and sitting down for too long. The bathroom was occupied when I arrived so I waited. When the door opened it was a Mother and her daughter (a pre-teen) who were on our flight, sitting a few rows up. “Oh boy, I bet you’re glad to be on the ground aren’t you” – she said with a mix of pity and empathy. “Well, yes, I am, but I still have to wait for my husband to come pick us up and he won’t be here for 2 hours – but the important part is that the plane ride is over haha”. “Well, you are really brave, for what you did, I couldn’t have flown with two children like you did – you are a really strong Mother”. And here’s the kicker – she wasn’t bull shitting me. It wasn’t a “oh, we are both Moms, so let’s give each other a half-ass “been there, done that” smile when we pass on the playground or in the grocery store”. No, this woman meant it. You know sincerity when you hear it – mostly because you know bull shit when you hear it. She looked me right in the eyes when she paid me the compliment. “Oh, well, thanks, I appreciate it”. I knew I was blushing, despite the sweat that had continued through the flight. I went on to change Joey while still wearing Emil in his carrier (it’s an art I tell you, and I have it mastered)…we saddled up, and out we went to retrieve our things from baggage claim.
Our exchange stayed with me though, and I’ve thought about it often. Sure, many people have commented “How do you do it?”, that whole bit, to me many times before. I’ve appreciated all of the compliments, but this woman was a stranger. She didn’t have to say anything, and she didn’t have to repeat her praise – but she did. She could have exited the bathroom, gave an internal “thank god I’m not her” as we passed, and we could have never spoke. But we did. And I’ll always remember her, and that moment. Just as I will remember being in my Nana’s house a few weeks ago, my Mom was there too, and we were all wrangling the boys – it was a team effort. There’s something about being with your Mother, and her Mother, and now being a Mother, that really shifts your universe. It instantly matures you – whether you’re ready for it or not.
The truth is, I have no idea “how I do it”. I don’t. I don’t know because I just keep my head down and drive on – if I must have a “secret”, then that’s it. I drive on like when I was rounding the back corner of the 400yard dash in high school, like I did when I wrote my graduate thesis, and just as I do now when I’m juggling (literally) everything at once. Perhaps my perseverance and drive is core to my personality – I think so. I just do. I just am. I just. keep. going. I am a chef, an alarm clock, a maid, a personal assistant, a nanny, an entertainer, a chauffer, a salesman, and above all – the CEO. At times I take the “flipbook” approach to my day – I just keep completing tasks, and chugging through. If each “task” were a “page”, at the end of the day I could sit down with my now constructed book and flip through the pages, thus seeing my day in an instant. Some days the book would be longer than others. Some days the book would include intense frustration. It would always include crying (the length, and author of the cry would vary)..and it always, always would include laughter.
Now don’t get me wrong – there are some tough, tough times. Some days, many days, I have survived by the skin of my teeth, and barely with my sanity. But when the sun rises, and Emil pops up in bed, and Joey busts down the door and struts in – it’s a fresh day and we do it all over again. I’ve learned so much about being a Mother so far. It’s true that you don’t know how much patience you have until you become a parent. I think this is true because you are so frequently pushed to the very boundary of your patience, and past it, on many occasions. I am finding my limits, and stretching them. Drive on.