By Elizabeth MacDonald
I was fighting back tears as I sat on the floor of Target last week. My almost 5-year-old son was having a meltdown that just was not ending – a roll on the floor, ear-piercing screams kind of meltdown. I sat down to try to talk to him, but he was passed that point. My cheeks were turning red; I was sweating, and my anxiety started to climb. This is when my youngest, 4 months new, decided he needed to nurse. No problem, I’ve been breastfeeding kids for so many years; I can do it blindfolded while wrestling a tiger. (Follow me here, I’m painting the picture.)
So I’m sitting there almost panicking that we will be thrown out due to the intense screaming, and I turn around to see that my 2-year-old son has stripped naked behind me. I’m talking full nudity. I scream for my 6-year-old daughter to grab him before he takes off streaking. (Have you lost count? That’s four children.)
Why didn’t I just grab my children and sprint as fast as humanly possible from the store?
My tantruming child has Sensory Processing Disorder and has to work through a “hard moment” before we can physically move on. This is not an exaggeration. I can typically sit with him and help him focus on his breathing until we can continue on, but this day – the cards were stacked against me.
As if the moment could not get worse, I see not one or two, but THREE women that I know. (THAT’S how long this situation lasted.) I couldn’t possibly pretend that these children were not mine. I just bowed my head and let a few tears fall before I gathered myself enough to handle it all like the true badass I am.
I scooped up a naked child, who refused to get dressed because he had dumped an entire water bottle on himself, and tossed him into the cart. I wrapped the baby onto my back in my ergo, and gathered my oldest son under one arm and headed to the toddler section for a pair of dry shorts. I then begged the manager to open a lane for me. She did, but no sooner than my SPD son’s meltdown escalated because he needed to return to the scene of the incident. The tears were about to fall again when an acquaintance -I hope she becomes a real friend- approaches. She takes my 3 other children and cart and tells me, “GO. You go help him and then breathe. I’ve got things here.”
It was as if an angel had been sent down to me.
Sure enough, walking back to the aisle that triggered the episode somehow calmed everything again. Within minutes, I was rocking my son on the floor as we both just cried together. He held my hand and whispered “Thank you Mama” before we walked back to get everyone else.
I paid, thanked everyone for their help and patience, and was overwhelmed by how many people hugged me.
The truth is that in moments like this you feel all alone; almost as if no one can understand what you are feeling. But we are wrong. We are so wrong. One man approached and told me that he was going to go home and kiss his wife. That I had just given him an idea of what she has tried time and time again to explain to him happens during her days. Moms, grandparents, and other passers-by sent me loving nods, asked to help, and simply said, “You are not alone. You are an amazing mother.”
I was in survival mode. There is no other way to describe this day. BUT I SURVIVED. The list of crap that was still needing accomplished by night fall: blogs, editing, dinner, errands, and laundry, all became meaningless. I felt as if I had just completed a marathon without knowing I was going to run one. The mental and physical exhaustion just took over. Pizza was delivered, Epsom salt soaking baths were given, and movies were turned on – and wine was poured.
My heart hurts when my son has these moments, but I am so thankful he is mine. He has taught me to be a better person and how somethings so small may not actually be small at all.
So many people know me as this patient, carefree, happy, perfectionist mother of four, traveling for a month at a time on the road solo with these children. Everyone always wants to know my secrets. SURVIVING the hardest days – that is my secret. These days happen; they are, thankfully, greatly outweighed by happy, easy days, but they do happen. I am not alone, and you are not alone. So cheers to you, my friend, on your day of survival. You are doing a great job.
Some nights look like this, and that is ok:
Elizabeth is a passionate writer at My baby’s Heartbeat Bear, focused on educating those open to learning. She is also a pre- and post-natal exercise specialist, natural childbirth educator, former teacher and current homeschooler to her 4 young children. Check out Elizabeth’s week by week pregnancy tips and parenting insights at her Pregnancy Blog.