Family Life is a Gladiator’s Arena

“Mama, you forgot to take the skin off!” wailed my four-year old daughter as she held out the piece of apple with the offensive “skin” still in place.

It was noon. I had changed at least three diapers by this time. Nursed the baby. Made four breakfasts. Burned the pancakes. Washed and hung three loads of laundry. Washed three loads of dishes.

And now I had soup and chicken on the stove, rice in the pressure cooker, cookie dough on one counter, cookies in the oven baking, cookies on another counter cooling, and lunch plates waiting to be filled.

I had just rescued a plate of rice from my 18-month old, who had nearly spilled the whole thing on the floor.

My hair stuck out of the messy pony tail I’d pulled back as I dragged my weary body out of bed that morning. Not a stitch of makeup adorned my face, and there was either mashed pumpkin or my son’s poop on the sleeve of my sweatshirt.

And there stood Nora, my Type A, ever particular four-year old, lamenting the unthinkable: Mama forgot to cut the peel off her apple.

I wanted to scream. Or pull out my hair. Or plop down onto the floor and cry alongside my daughter.

Parenting Ideals and Reality Checks

I used to think parenting would fall neatly into my Type A, semi-controlled life. Organized. Ordered.

I observed families and thought, “I won’t be the mom who lets her kids go to the store in their PJs. They’ll never leave the house with dirty faces or looking like they just rolled out of bed. Or survived a tornado.”

My kids will behave on the playground. Never throw fits about leaving. They won’t hit or bite unsuspecting little co-horts.

Dinners will be gourmet, meals well-balanced. Mac ‘n cheese or frozen pizzas? Ha, never.

The house will be clean and well-kept. No piles of dishes in the sink or laundry on the floor. The kids will clean up after themselves, and we’ll never go to bed with a mess left for tomorrow.

Our house will feel tranquil. Can’t you hear the soft, classical music in the background? No screaming, bickering, tattle-telling, or whining. Especially not whining…

I’m not sure who ransacked my life.

Someone replaced my darling children with two hooligans who hit each other and bite when they argue. Screaming is the background music we live by most days.

My kitchen floor always needs to be swept, except when my socks have already attracted every piece of half-eaten food from beneath the table. My kids randomly peel off articles of clothing and leave them strewn about the house. So, I guess at least I don’t have piles of laundry on the floor. Just pieces. And naked children running around.

My daughter’s waist-length, gorgeous brown hair is usually in a tangled mess. Half the time I forget to brush it before we leave the house. Sometimes I’m at church and look down at my son’s face, only to realize he has breakfast and his own boogers caked onto his pudgy cheeks.

We went grocery shopping in PJs last week.

And we ate cereal for dinner.

And so, to my fellow parents, the gladiators of the arena we call family life: hang in there. Let yourself laugh when you want to cry. Go ahead. Punch your pillow when you can’t scream, because you’d wake the baby.

And make sure that at some point today you stop. Admire the little hooligans who stole your ordered life and filled your heart with more love than you thought possible.

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