I saw her reach for the jar of sprinkles, then begin to shake it up and down.
“NOOOOOOOOOOOO!” I yelled, but it was too late. Hundreds, no thousands of teeny, tiny brightly colored balls went flying into the air, then landed with a bounce, bounce, bounce, ALL over the kitchen.
Everywhere I looked there were sprinkles: on the counter, on the floor, on the rug, in the sink, in my hair, here a sprinkle, there a sprinkle, everywhere a sprinkle sprinkle. Yes, Old McMommy had some sprinkles, E-I-E-I-OHHHHHHHHH was I mad!
But perhaps I should start at the beginning, back in a time we’ll call BS (Before Sprinkles). It’s been a rather chaotic few months (which partly explains my lack of writing lately, and completely explains my abundance of dark eye circles). I have three wonderful, but busy kids. Those kids have two wonderful, but hospitalized grandfathers. I have one full-time job and it has countless stressors. There are dozens of meals to make and messes to clean and mountains of laundry to scale and birthday parties to plan and playdates to feel guilty about not being able to attend and kindergarten roundup and dentist appointments and well-child visits to schedule and reschedule and I hear that there is sleeping that is supposed to take place at some point as well.
But that hasn’t been happening much lately either, because when I lie down and close my eyes I start thinking about the new job, which is really not all that new anymore, and then I start to wonder how much longer I can get away with a “Well, it’s still so new” answer when I’m asked how I like it, and how there are some parts and some people that I really do enjoy, but most days it doesn’t even feel like I speak the language with all the KPMs and the CC-ing and the EOM-img and the annualized this and the PTO that has nothing to do with parents or teachers. And then my heart starts to race so I have to stop thinking about that.
So then I’ll think about my dad and how much I want him to come home from the hospital, but how scary it is to think of him NOT in the hospital, and I wonder who will walk first- my dad or my baby boy, and I don’t like the likely answer, and when I try to close my eyes all I see are flashing ambulance lights and I hear sirens and my heart starts to race, so I have to stop thinking about that.
So then I’ll think about my kids and my husband and how much I love them, but then I remember that I’m supposed to bring in a treat for daycare tomorrow, and that reminds me how my little girl was clinging to my leg when I dropped her off, and that makes me think of how I won’t even see my baby boy before I leave tomorrow and he’ll be almost ready for bed by the time I get home, and does he still know that I’m his mom? And why hasn’t he started talking yet? And maybe I should ask his doctor about that but of course I forgot to schedule his 12-month appointment and speaking of 12 months, it feels like it’s been about that long since I’ve had a decent conversation with my husband who is currently snoring away, and how come he can sleep but I can’t? And then my heart starts to race so I lie just there and stare at the ceiling and try hard not to move until the alarm goes off and then I get up and run.
I run as fast as I can (which isn’t very fast), and I pray as hard as I can (which is very hard), and I race up and down the big hill by our house. With every step I stomp all over those cryptic emails from work, and I stomp all over the Mommy Guilt the Wife Guilt and the Friend Guilt and most of all I stomp on those flashing ambulance lights.
But lately even my standby stress reliever doesn’t do the trick because I hurt my calf, and the physical therapist told me to get new shoes, and those made my foot hurt, so the doctor gave me orthotics, and those REALLY made my foot hurt, so now I’m stuck.
Which brings me back to the sprinkles: in an attempt to get unstuck, I’ve taken to baking with the kids. They love it and it’s always been one of my favorite diversions: relaxing and delicious. Usually. Until that moment when your 3-year-old grabs the sprinkles you had prepped by loosening the top and she shakes them like maracas and then… well, we’ve covered that already.
“WHY DID YOU DO THAT???” I yelled, and I mean YELLED at that sweet girl and her brother (guilt by association- he was standing right next to her). I saw both of their little lips tremble and their chins quiver but it was too late- I couldn’t stop. “I TOLD you not to touch anything! Why can’t you listen to me? Why doesn’t ANYONE listen to me??? EVER??? ” I shouted.
And then they sobbed. And then I sobbed. And I’d like to tell you that we hugged it out and finished baking our cupcakes, but it wasn’t quite that simple. Because when you stick a cork in your anger, when you put on your happy face all day long, when you’re sleep deprived and confused and scared and a little bit lost, cupcakes alone aren’t the answer. There’s work to be done here and I’m not just talking about the sprinkle cleanup, which will likely last into the next decade (those little buggers are like jumping beans when confronted with a vacuum or a broom). Life work, soul searching work, sometimes gut-wrenching but always worthwhile work.
As parents we try so hard to shield our kids from the painful parts of life, to surround them with nothing but sunshine, but eventually there’s a breaking point. For me it was the sprinkles. It’s inauthentic to push all the anger and the stress and the reality of life into the nighttime hours, and to become some sort of Happy Mommy (or Wife, or Employee) Robot by day. Eventually, you just end up sobbing on the floor as you chase down sprinkles that hop away like jumping beans when you try to vacuum them up.
I don’t have the recipe for a well-balanced life, but I’m sure it includes a dash of reality with tablespoon of sugar.
And probably a few sprinkles.
Mona Shand is the mother of 3 young children and a former radio and TV news reporter. You can read more at www.monashand.blogspot.com.