Penelope’s preschool teacher walked her to my car at pickup, and I could immediately sense something was off. “I bet you’re wondering why Penelope is wearing different pants,” said her teacher. “The reason is, she seems to have sat in the mud on the playground today.” I looked at the pants folded up in the bag her teacher handed me, which were coated in mud. I thanked her, took the bag, and drove off.
ME: “Penelope, did you sit in the mud on purpose, or did you fall by accident?”
PENELOPE: “It was an accident, Mama.”
ME: You can tell me.
HER: I fell!
ME: “Are you sure? Because I bet a nice big mud pile on the playground looked like a lot of fun to play in…”
Her eyes met mine in the rear view mirror, and they lit up for a moment. She tried to hide it, but a slow, small smile began to emerge on her face. I didn’t blame her. Adults pay money to get slathered in mud at a spa; she figured it out on her own, and for free, no less. I kind of wished I had joined her.
Of course now I’d have to spend their nap time doing laundry, but that’s nothing new. It seems no matter how hard I try to find pockets of Zen, all attempts are thwarted. Sometimes it happens in subtle ways – like the time I bought an adorable “Namaste” frog statue for my garden. No sooner did I set it down and admire his little position of peaceful meditation before our two-year-old picked him up and body-slammed him into next Tuesday.
The frog’s content little face, with his legs folded and hands in prayer position, now sits cracked in my garden as a reminder: you may find some Zen in parenthood, but it might break you in the process.
Other times, it’s a bit more messy. For instance, we’re potty-training Ciro. He’s been great about telling me when he has to go “#2,” so when he told me and led me to the bathroom last week I enthusiastically followed. I removed his diaper, and seeing it was clean and he hadn’t done his business yet, I gave an encouraging “Yay, little boy!” and sat him on the throne. As I knelt down to sit with him, something soft squished under my knee. Was that his sock? I checked his little feet, swaying in front of me, and his socks were still on. It has to be his pants, right? I was grasping for anything, because I knew damn well it wasn’t his pants; I was holding them in my hands.
The sequence in my brain that followed as I studied him — his little feet swaying, his sweet smile, my slow-motion processing of him saying “Allll donnnne mammmmma” — led to only one terrible conclusion: the poop had been stuck to his behind, and when I lifted him to sit on the toilet, it had dislodged and fallen to the floor. And currently, said poop was squished under my knee.
Which leads me to my next point: don’t let yourself have any sort of expectations of success.
In an event that was decidedly less traumatic but equally disappointing, take what happened on a recent Sunday afternoon when I ventured upstairs to do a yoga workout. This is how it usually goes down when I try to do yoga at home: I get the kids down for a nap, then rush onto my yoga mat for a quick half-hour workout. I get to the end of the routine called “shavasana,” when you get to lay there for five glorious minutes of total silence and relaxation. And as soon as I assume that position, like clockwork, one of my kids wakes up and starts making loud noises or busts through the door.
But not today.
Today, Greg was home. He’d keep the kids occupied downstairs while I embarked on what I knew would be a full, uninterrupted yoga workout with guaranteed total relaxation at the end.
I got through the routine and it was just as my limbs melted into my yoga mat for that relaxation session at the end when I heard Penelope’s little footsteps, and the door creak open.
“Oh, hi Mama!” She whisper-shouted it, and though I was pissed, it was adorable. I opened one eye.
Still whisper-shouting: “I just came up to get my kinetic sand! Daddy’s on the phone!” She tiptoed carefully and hopped over me, heading for the cabinet where the kinetic sand was.
Believing my relaxation was not totally ruined, I figured I’d wait until she was out of there and then release deeply into peace for five minutes. But as she hopped back over me she tripped, and the entire box of kinetic sand busted open in mid-air and exploded. All over me. I opened my eyes. I could see blue and pink sand in every crack of my clothing, in between my fingers, and all over my yoga mat. I saw Penelope standing there, stunned.
And I laughed, and laughed, and laughed. What else could I do? This, right here, is typical parenthood: you think it’s going to go one way, and next thing you know, you are laying in a shit-storm of pink and blue. It’s messy, and it’s muddy. But sometimes, even if you didn’t plan on it, sitting in the mud can be a hell of a good time. (Unless it’s, you know, squished under your knee.)
*I re-vamped my ‘About’ page! Have a look.