When My Family is Described as a “Sh&tShow” by a Stranger. Mom-Shame and Restaurants.

It all began at a restaurant. As my sister pointed out, “It’s a FAMILY restaurant.” It’s actually the restaurant I bussed tables at when I was sixteen in my hometown. I have to be honest, I would never have imagined myself almost twenty years later in that restaurant for dinner with my three year old twin boys, my wife, my sister, her wife, my five year old niece, my cousin from New Jersey and two of her kids, and my Mom.

It was a weird feeling to look around at the tables I used to clean and remember waiting to get off my shift to go to my boyfriend’s house on a Friday night.

So I was feeling slightly nostalgic, but also annoyed because three year old’s in a restaurant is never a good thing. It was definitely time to go when we left. My wife was wrangling one of them, he was singing “Jingle Bell Rock” very loudly and running away from my wife.

The other one was attached to my leg and my niece was singing “Let it go, let it go” from Frozen, and my mom was trying to say good-bye to my Jersey cousin. My mom is hard of hearing so everyone was talking loudly anyway.

So yes. To the older woman trying to walk through our party as we were trying to exit…we are a walking shitshow. But did you really need to say that loudly in front of our children at a family restaurant?

“What a shitshow!” you said with a sneer of disgust as you tried to run me over with your cane.

The great part about this is that I don’t think she was homophobic. I think she was just grumpy and annoyed that we were blocking the little hallway to the dining room. We made room. She got by. But yeah. Total shitshow. It was kind of a win-lose. Not homophobic, just mean.

We don’t bring our kids out much. Because three year olds just don’t do well in restaurants. Once every few months we might bring them to a diner for pancakes or to this restaurant in my hometown because it is family-friendly and the owner is always lovely to us because he’s known us for years and at one time was my boss.

My point to this is that there are a lot of opinions about kids in restaurants. Here’s mine.

We bring them well before bedtime- usually between 5-6 p.m. My wife and I only bring them to a restaurant for dinner when it’s a family function. Meaning we also feel it’s torture and choose to never bring them unless we have extended family who want to meet us out for a meal.

Diners are different- food comes fast, it’s loud, it’s expected they will be loud, and there are always crayons. So we are more likely to go for breakfast or brunch.

However, if you are at a family restaurant between the hours of 9 AM and 7 PM expect loud children to potentially be there.

If it says “Family restaurant” on the sign or menu…then it’s a family restaurant which generally means kids are welcome.

If you don’t like kids or the noise and chaos that ensue with them…go later at night or choose a non-family restaurant- one that caters more to adults. I know my wife and I do just that when we get one of our rare nights out alone.

We as parents do our best to keep our kids contained. If they are bothersome to you because they are in your space, then I agree we have a problem. If they are bothersome to you because you’re grumpy- that’s a you problem not a them problem.

Please don’t swear at anyone’s children. It’s extremely disrespectful and mean-spirited.

There is a lot of mom-shame that happens everywhere. Eating out is a big one. If you see a mom or dad struggling with their little one in a restaurant. Don’t make it worse with assumptions and judgement. Maybe offer to lend a hand or just a smile that says, “I’m with you.” Encouragement and kindness are what is needed for parents in those moments.

Trust me we are already judging the shit out of our own shit-show. We don’t need to have it pointed out to us.

Four Days with Twin Toddlers: Puke, Bees, Emergency Department, and Thunderstorms…

It’s literally only Wednesday.

Let’s start on Sunday.

“Boys we are going to a big store, and you can’t jump on the couches, we have to be good boys in the store.” They looked at me and nodded. Then came the furniture store. They ran around like maniacs. I finally rounded them up in front of me, “Guys, what’s going on?” My Declan, “Mama say no jump. We run.” Perfect. Played by my two year olds.

Followed by a trip to the diner where my Declan started acting sick. He nestled in on my chest, and started to look pale. I’m thinking shit. We have got to go. The week before his brother had acted the same way about a half hour before he puked. So I take him into the car. We sit and wait for my wife and his brother. He just lays on me like when he was a baby. It was actually a beautiful sweet moment. Followed by us trying to fly home, but not beating the puke. He threw up in my brand new car. Not a little bit. A LOT. We pulled over and stripped him down. It was in his hair, on my shirt, my legs, his legs, his shirt. My car. All over my car.

We made it home and survived Sunday. And tried to clean the car.

Monday: Declan was feeling much better. They are home with me on Mondays. I brought them to the town beach where we were going to meet my mom. I stopped and got them doughnuts. We pull up to the beach and I get them out and we go to the playground. There are a few yellow jackets flying around. Then my mom arrives and I give them each a half doughnut. We are swarmed. 4-5 yellow jackets dive bombing each individual. To the point we are all running, then I take the doughnuts, throw them toward the water. The boys are screaming, the seagulls go nuts, we get to the car. The boys are yelling, “Mama not nice!”

I’m not kidding. This is actual reality. The seagulls screaming. We were screaming. Then I finally get in the car, doors closed, and there’s a damn bee buzzing around. Boys start yelling, “Bee NOT NICE” and I’m opening the doors and windows trying to swat it outside. I can’t tell you how relieved I was to leave, car shut tight, faint vomit smell still lingering…bee free.

Tuesday: Thunderstorms after bedtime but right at that sweet spot when they weren’t sound asleep yet. Yeah. That was horrendous. Me sitting by the crib and them falling asleep but magically waking up every time I try and leave the room. SO much thunder.

Wednesday: This takes the cake. I get up, shower, dress. Get the boys up. They go in and pee pee on the potty…yes we are doing that now most of the time…but still wearing pull-ups. I walked with Declan to his room, changing his pull-up, I look up (less than 60 seconds have passed), there’s Jackson on the counter that he’s never been able to reach with the childproof cap in one hand, the bottle of Benadryl in the other, gulping it down.

I’m pretty sure I screamed. Then I was next to him grabbing the bottle, I almost flung it, but realized that was totally irrational and needed to take a picture of it. I took a pic, I think I was still yelling because both boys were crying, then I’m sticking my finger down his throat, he gags, refuses to puke. Of course now he’s really sobbing, then I’m screaming at my wife on the phone because she doesn’t remember the volume that was in the Benadryl bottle from, I don’t know, 8 months ago whenever we used it last.

This is when knowing too much as a former pediatric emergency department nurse sucks ass. I think I should call 911, then I think, they will take me to the nearest hospital which doesn’t have a pediatric specialty. Nearest pediatric hospital is 25 minutes away. And if I call 911 what do I do with Declan? I’m there alone with two kids. The ambulance won’t let us all ride with them.

I quickly made up my mind. Onset of liquid Benadryl will be about 35 minutes. I threw some diapers in a bag grabbed some cereal bars and threw the boys in the car and drove. Didn’t count on rush hour traffic. Took a solid 35 minutes. His lids were heavy by the time I pulled in.

Now I can tell you that drive, that 35 minutes was pure torture. I couldn’t cry, because they were already upset and I was trying to calm them down. I gave them their bars, and literally called myself the worst mom in the universe in my head a million different ways a million different times. I was picturing every kid who overdosed I ever took care of…yeah those weren’t pretty images. I kept asking my son if he was okay, he kept getting more and more cranky and tired looking.

We pulled up, my wife met us there, and I walked in to see the smiling face of a nurse I used to work with in the other children’s hospital. “Hi! It’s okay. It happens.” My eyes welled up, and I was so relieved. Relieved I made it there, relieved to see a friendly and familiar face, and that my baby was in the right place if he was going to have any type of reaction.

It was actually an easy Emergency Department visit. We watched a movie and they monitored his heart rate. He took a nap curled on my chest, and walked around like a drunken sailor when he woke up. It was kind of funny but also made me cry to see him walking drunk. Worst Mom ever award. I’m a freaking nurse. And my kid got into medication. I can’t even process that right now. I can say the healthcare providers we saw were great, and never made me feel like a bad Mom. They provided constant reassurance that these things happen, and twins, but seeing him so tired and out of it. That broke me a little.

We came home. He recovered. Acted fine by dinner time. And then Declan says, “No drink medicine,” I say, “Yes baby, that’s right, no drink medicine,” Declan says, “Unless it’s in a cup.” Facepalm.

I am dreading Thursday. But really what else could possibly go wrong…

No One Says “I want a two year old.” Now I know why.

Everybody loves babies. Babies are cute, they smell nice, and they don’t move too much. My babies were snuggly and although they didn’t sleep well/ever they were so cuddly and beautiful that it was okay to be completely sleep deprived.

Then they started to grow. Now we have these two monstrous two year olds.

I’ve literally never met someone who has said “I want a two year old.” It’s always, “I want a baby”. But when you get a baby you eventually get a two year old, or in my case, two of them.

Now the wonderful part of having two year olds is they still mostly smell good. In my case they are still cuddle bugs. They say the cutest things like, “Got Mama,” as they squeeze my cheeks together and nuzzle my nose with theirs. They yell “Babe” when they can’t find my wife because they know it will make me laugh when they call her the name I call her. And they say it more like “Bayy” and try to mimic my voice. They are starting to sing songs and they point out the moon and the stars and the sun as if seeing them for the first time making me appreciate the things I take for granted. They also look at me like I am their entire world and I treasure those moments because I know in just a fleeting few years they will push me away when I try to kiss them. They will prefer their friends over me, and I know there will be a time when we cuddle up for the last time and that literally brings me to tears.

But the flip side of the heaven of two year olds is the Hell. The wanting to scream as I say things like “Don’t…bite, hit, lick, pull, follow, yell at, run into, run over, glue, color on, paint….your brother,” “Don’t slam the door,” “Don’t open the door,” “Throw that away,” “Pick that up off the floor,” “If you….do anything ever again….you will go to timeout,” “Don’t dance in front of the fireplace,” “Don’t push him in front of the fireplace,” “Why did we buy a house with a damn fireplace?” “Don’t put your foot in that…” shit.

Then you try and get them to say something and they won’t, then you swear in front of them when you drop a piece of firewood on your toe and of course they say “Shit.” Like perfectly enunciated. And yes I had a broken toe. Then the boys talked about “Mama’s boo boo” for the entire six weeks it took to heal.

Getting them out the door is a total shitshow. My wife says “It’s like herding cats.” And it really is. I’m always talking to them, always asking them to do stuff, and always trying to allow them to grow in their independence but seriously you can’t get your shoe on without my help and we are running late so give me the damn shoe.

They test my patience and my ability to not swear on a minute by minute basis. I go to work in psychiatry and my job is literally easier than my two year old twin boys. They are both so smart and they both totally try and play me. And sometimes it works.

I started to really pay attention to the new mom’s who come see me in my practice. Not just the fresh postpartum mom’s but the toddler Mom’s. For anyone who is a butch lesbian, when you see another butch lesbian there’s usually this head nod of acknowledgement. It always kind of irritates me because my wife gets the head nod and I never do, and I’m like hi over here, I’m also married to a woman but because I have long hair and cleavage I don’t get the recognition…anyway. When I have a client who is a toddler mom, not even twins but maybe a 3 year old and a 1 year old or something like that, and then I tell her I have twin two year olds….we have that moment. That, “Gotchya girl.” Like we are in the battlefield together and we know what it is really like down there in the trenches.

I’ve had Mom’s break down in front of me hysterical because they feel like failures because they yelled at their kids and they get so mad at them sometimes they want to hit them (they don’t hit them) and they look so ashamed and so sad and full of self loathing when they tell me these confessions through tears. That’s usually when I disclose I have two year olds. That I too know the pain of toddlers. That our society lives on Facebook and pretty images that mom’s should be these superheroes who never lose our shit, when in reality it would be weird if toddlers didn’t bring you to the brink of insanity at least once a day.

I reassure my clients (of course after a thorough assessment that they actually are not a danger to others) that actually what they are experiencing is normal. That it certainly doesn’t feel good, and they may need a medication trial, or at the least therapy, but that toddlers push us in ways we couldn’t possibly have imagined. That toddlers can literally make us feel bipolar because we are so in love with them one second and the next we are hauling them off to time-out about to watch an epic tantrum.

No one wants two year olds. Because two year olds start to make shit real. They start to be little people who make us feel in ways we never imagined we would or could.

I’m not a perfect Mom. I lose my shit. I swear. I listen to Eminem in the car when I just can’t take one more round of Let it Go. But even if I never said I wanted a two year old I’m so glad I have them. I am completely head over heels for my boys. They are making me a better person. They make me more aware of my anger and cues for when I am getting worked up. They make me practice patience. So much patience I could choke on it. They make me stop and look at the moon. They make me say “I’m sorry” and give big hugs when I freak out and I know I’m wrong because it was my fault for running late not theirs. They’ve made me better at time management. They’ve made me figure out how to communicate differently because going head on was not working and just hurting us all. They make me learn how to set age appropriate boundaries and consequences and follow through on them.

I thought having newborns made me love in a new way, little did I know what toddlerhood had in store for me. They exploit all my vulnerabilities without intention. They see books and movies with Dad’s and being married to a woman I wonder what they are thinking about. Are they already starting to wonder about not having a Dad? Does it even enter their heads?

No one asks for toddlers, and I certainly wouldn’t wish two of them on anyone. But on the flip side they are making me a better woman and honestly a better psychiatric provider. I am so much more empathetic to mom’s of toddlers. I get it. I give them space to feel like a bad mom and reinforce to them that they actually are not bad mom’s. They are just human trying to navigate this incredible journey of parenthood.

I’ll end with this. Our kids are always watching us, learning from us, becoming us. I will never be sorry or regret hugging them too much or cuddling too much. I will never regret the time I spend with them now and the bonds we are forging together. Toddlers have the ability to make you face and embrace love, anger, frustration, patience, and every other good and bad part of yourself. Enjoy the journey because it is all too short.