So I ugly cried at Costco today. And honestly this had nothing to do with the fact that there were no samples (legit ugly cry reason I'm sure)...or that we had just picked up Addison's brand new glasses and she stomped on them and left them in the driveway for dead one hour later (never a dull moment), or that the crew was all over the place during our stop at the eye doctor- wandering about....not obeying or listening...randomly climbing on displays (oh gosh the climbing!)....no the crying did not happen during any of this instances.
When we arrived at Costco, we were there seconds after it opened so there were no carts stored in the parking lot, yet the lot was full enough with cars that we had to park a ways away and walk in (still not the reason I ugly cried- the kids did really well holding hands and walking together).
When we got to the front of the store, dismantled our "chain of hands", and tried to position everyone in the cart (yes Carter, this is what I mean by "I do puzzles all day so I don't have to do a puzzle before I'm allowed to watch a show at night like you do") I determined that Eli needed to sit in the front with Addison, so I moved to position him there. Unfortunately, Eli decided he DID NOT WANT TO SIT NEXT TO ADDISON. NO. HE WANTED TO SIT NEXT TO THE BABY! I use all caps because that's the way he was sending the message across. Body stiffened, head thrown back, mouth opening with explosive screams "NO NO NO NO SIT NEXT TO BABY!!!!" It was the kind of 2-year-old tantrum that caused random strangers to toss condoms into your shopping cart as they walked by (Lady, PLEASE stop having children!!!!). Pride crushing tantrums. Eardrum shattering tantrums. But honestly, this is just another day for me, so this is still not why I cried. I gently held his shaking body as I bent him into his seat in the cart. "This is where you need to sit, baby. You're going to be ok." I whispered in his ear. It's ok to be frustrated. I get that. He was disappointed and he chose a BIG scene to communicate this disappointment. Not as ok, but he's two. We will get it.
He finally settled into his seat with hiccups and a few last sobs, and I pushed my cart laden with children into the store, shoulders slumped, trying not to make eye contact with anyone who just witnessed our super awesome moment of screaming as we rushed to load our cart (or rather, carefully stash stuff between children) and get back home as quickly as possible.
I was thinking about this whole motherhood thing- how there is just so much to teach them. And I wondered- am I teaching it right? Enough? Will my kids turn out ok? We just created a rather significant scene and it stung at my motherhood pride which always wanted to have a cart full of sweet docile children who ALWAYS obeyed and listened. Am I carrying a cart full of future ax murderers? I often feel like I'm completely screwing this up. Like I'm constantly failing. Like I'm not enough. Like my kids aren't being trained properly because I'm such a mess. That I'm too tired to give them the perfect version of "mother" I picture in my head.
Just as my head was spinning with this- chaos on top of chaos after a long week of teaching and guiding and trying to encourage them to be non demanding, grateful, civilized, kind human beings- and yet feeling that I was making absolutely no progress- just as we were rounding the cereal aisle and my head was about to explode with it all ("Don't forget oatmeal squares, Mommy!!!")- I felt a tiny little body fold over into me from his seat in the front of the cart. He wrapped his short little 2 year old arms around me, buried his face against my waist still soft from growing baby sister, and then he lifted his face up to me.
"I sowwy I scweam, Mommy" His long eyelashes were still damp with tears. His eyes were hopeful and yet sad. His sweet little lips quivered.
Wait, what? He tightened his arms around me, and I stopped moving.
"I sowwy, Mommy. I sowwy I scweam." He said it again, staring intently at me, waiting for my response.
"Oh baby, it's ok. Thank you for saying you are sorry- it made me so sad to hear you scream like that. I love you." Kissing his warm forehead, wiping away the last of his tears, watching his huge green eyes turn from sad to happy just like that.
And that is when I ugly cried.
He was sorry that he screamed. My 2 year old. Apologized to me for throwing a tantrum in the store.
That's when it occurred to me that it's okay that I'm failing at motherhood. Because by not being perfect- I am teaching them how to cope as a mistake-making human being- how to graciously admit when you are failing- how to own your tantrums, apologize, and move on.
We all get frustrated. We all have our own version of "tantrums"- how to deal with these disappointments- how to express these frustrations- how to move on from choosing incorrectly- how to deal with mistakes made in the midst of all of this- this is the important thing. Not trying to be perfect. Because who is?
This is a life skill. And it's not one we sit down and learn in a formal classroom environment. It's something we learn from watching- from doing life. From failing. And that's what my 2 year old picked up from me these past few weeks- how to fail.
I straightened my slumped shoulders and pushed my cart full of potential out of the cereal aisle. We finished our shopping as tears were now damp on my own eyelashes. My heart was overflowing. I was encouraged, hopeful, and in awe of the moment that transpired in the cereal aisle. What a sweet little boy with such a soft heart. He will get it. One day at a time. One teachable moment at a time. One kiss, hug, and "I love you" at a time. He will get it. They all will.
And so I, an imperfect-failing mother, pushed my cart full of imperfect-failing children, head held high. Because I will fail again- and so will they. But we are in this together. And we are always just one "I'm sowwy." away from a fresh start.