Advice from a mother who's been there
There's only two and a half years from my youngest to oldest three biological kids.
Let me paint this picture in practicality on a trip to Target when they were little.
I figured out the “kid carts,” which are really meant for two kids, can actually fit three. You put the baby carrier in the basket, and strap the other two in the little side-by-side seats.
So envision this with me: there is a 1, 2 and 3-year-old strapped into various parts of a cart so I can go “shopping”.
About 10 minutes into the experience the baby starts to cry.
I try to comfort her. I take her out and carry her for a moment while attempting to push the giant monstrosity with one hand. I get her calmed down, and strap her back in.
Immediately she begins to tantrum again.
About this time my 2-year-old boy begins hitting his 3-year-old sister. I break up the fight because I am relentless. I have errands to run, and we ARE going to get them done.
Then one of the toddlers grabs something off a shelf.
At this point we stop for a scolding, an evil glare from me, and a small discussion on not grabbing or hitting. Instead of everyone calming down and showing their angelic-like behavior, the boy starts screaming.
Baby and 2-year-old are now both having a tantrum, and the amused stares we've been receiving have been replaced by glares.
The 2-year-old is bright red and trying with all of his strength to wiggle out of the three-point harness. He's managed to stretch himself to the bottom of the cart while practically strangled by the harness, and soon will be attached and dragging behind us. As arms flail, he kicks his older sister in the eye.
The shriek heard around the world escapes her throat.
We stop. I look at her eye, which is fine because it's still in it's socket, pick up the boy and plop him back into seated position. All three are screaming. Someone stopped and made a comment about how they must be hungry or sleepy or something. Because when you have three crying kids under 3, people like to point out the obvious.
And it's around this time I join in the crying. Tears well up and begin to slip down my cheeks as I mutter like a crazed lunatic under my breath about how hard this is.
I'm livid and exhausted.
All I wanted was to feel like I accomplished something that day that did not involve diapers, feeding, or the care of a small human being.
I just wanted to buy something at Target. But now it just wasn't worth the fight.
I attempted a swift u-turn of my kid-laden cart (which has the turning radius of the Titanic) and bolted toward the exit.
And that's when an older lady stopped me.
I braced myself for another maternal scolding.
Instead, a soft smile crossed her face as she said, “It will be OK, I promise.”
The tears couldn’t be held back any longer, and a sob escaped my throat. “Really?” was all I could choke out.
“Oh, yes," she went on. "I had six and they were all a year apart like yours. It will get easier. Believe it or not, one day you will even wish you had these days back. As hard as it is, enjoy them. They are only little once.”
I thanked her profusely as I took off with three crying kiddos in tow.
Now they're in middle and high school and when they fight in public, they know the mom stink-eye equals death.
And there are days when I miss those baby years.
But since that time I've become an advocate for exasperated young moms.
In the moments I see them overwhelmed by their kids, I'm the woman who stops and tells them it is going to be alright.
Because I know how much I needed to hear it that day.
I think sometimes when they're little and we don’t know what to do to make it better, we all need someone to stop judging our parenting and instead recognize the overwhelmed look on their faces. If I can’t talk to them, I pray for them.
So thank you, sweet older woman.
Thank you for telling me it will be alright.
To all of you with babies and toddlers I promise it will be OK. There does come a day when they're potty trained and realize pulling hair is not acceptable. And a joyous day arrives when you can shop with them at Target in peace.
And to all of us who remember these days, don’t forget to stop and tell others it will be alright, too.
Let’s pay it forward and keep the cycle going.
It might just make a young parent's day.