No one told me that I would become a hostage when I became a Mom. Who left this out of the child birthing classes? Where was the warning that my life would be completely taken over by poop, snot, vomit and tears? Why didn’t anyone tell me that each child you create in the world can take years off of your lifespan, remove the clear thought processes of your mind for at least 18 years and forever claim your emotional well-being?
Mothering, by myself, as a divorcee and having no family in the state in which I reside, has taught me many great lessons. I have learned to fight for a few things in my life like I have never fought for anything before. I would like to share a few of those personal victories (well, almost, kind of, sort of..maybe one day).
I get to take a shower.
What? Yes ,I wrote that. I have three kids 10 years old and younger. I get to take a shower, by myself, without constant threat of the world ending. Maybe it is a lot to ask, but I ask anyway.
I paid my dues when I comes to showering with an audience. I have done the “swing in the bathroom at an angle so I can see the first born while I shower quickly before she cries because she can’t really see me” game. I have done the “put one in a play pen and another in a bouncy seat” while I shower format many times. Then when the third came along, it was, bring-one-(or two)in-the-shower,-have-one-in-a-bouncy-seat-and/or-the-other-occupied- with-toys-while-I-quickly-shower-and-wash-whoever-is-in there-with-me-before-something-catastrophic-happens, routine too.
Or wait until Dad came home, as I was still married then. Or just give up completely and smell.
Those were my options for a long time. Then they were all mobile and older and all three would come in with me. Then older, so two came and the other was fine, then one.
I did my time. I can now shower alone. Sort of.
I have certain rules that are in place when I am attempting to shower. The set up for such an event, begins long before I get to enter the bathroom and close and lock the door. You may recognize some of what I have to do to set up taking a shower when I am home with my three children.
I begin by announcing that I will be taking a shower to each individual child. I look them in the eye, and tell them I am going to take a shower. Eye contact is important. It allows me to think they may have heard me. I then ask them to repeat back to me what I have just told them. This begins approximately one hour before I am going to make it into the bathroom. I do not plan on it being an hour. That is just how it always seems to work out. My kids hear this and instantaneously begin to come up with things that need immediate attention as soon as they have said the words back to me.
It is like saying “You are going to take a shower” turns on their brains. This “turning on”, accesses a folder in which the have a running list of items that MUST BE DONE immediately, if not sooner. Those items begin to flow like a river of consciousness from their small mouths.
Most of these I can delay. There are, inevitably, a few I can’t delay. I do not feel the need to give examples here. Just know, I do my best to remove all obstacles in my way for taking a shower.
After those items are dealt with or delayed, I then make a larger pronouncement.
“I am going to take a shower”, is bellowed from whatever floor I am on, to be heard by all three children.
Then next step is to set each child up with an activity. Said activities include homework, music lessons practice, a snack and various other items, including but not limited to; TV and video games if I am desperate. Yes, I said desperate. If you have kids, you know what I mean by that statement. There are times when I need to get away from them and have a moment to have my own thought(s). I may also just need a shower. That is a legitimate reason to shower as well.
After I have made sure all are occupied with things to do, or stare at, I move toward the bathroom.
As I move toward the bathroom, I announce expectations like the following list shows.
Do not answer the front or back door!
The doors are locked!
We are expecting no one!
Do not touch each other (mostly for the boys, but sometimes applies to ALL)!
I will only be a few minutes (maybe..hehe)!
You can only bang on the door if it is an emergency, which means any or all of the following (and all include the necessity of calling 911 first):
Someone must be bleeding – severely, or
Someone must be knocked-out,
Someone must be trying to break into the house,
If a fire breaks out in the house, not on TV or down the street,
If a large piece of furniture falls on someone,
The floors have turned into broken shards of sharp glass,
A UFO has landed in our yard,
A vampire and/or zombie has gotten into our house and is hungry,
The walls are closing in and about to crush all inhabitants,
You (the children) have found a portal to another dimension in the basement and want to check it out (DO NOT!).
Otherwise, I do not want to hear from you for a full 10 minutes.
I know, it sounds incredibly cruel, but when your sanity is on the line, it is actually kind. Think how much I would demand if I went over the edge… (umm, it could be bad).
Then, I step into the bathroom. As soon as my foot crosses the threshold, I remember something I have been meaning to do all day in anticipation of this moment. I did not bring up more toiIet paper. I am out of clean towels and they are all awaiting me in the basement. I did not grab my clean clothes to change into after I shower. FUDGE!
I don’t want to go back out there, because they will smell me and know I am still wandering around. They WILL KNOW that they can demand more of me.
I run for it like a Zombie is chasing me.
While I run through the house to get the needed item(s), I yell “I have not taken my shower yet, going in right now, I just forgot _______ (whatever it may be)”. Then I quickly grab said item(s) and ignore all protests, unless they fit into above list, run back to the bathroom.
I admit, once I close the door and let out the breath that I have been holding to get inside and close that door, I am not longer in a hurry. I suddenly hope I can extend my stay. I start to think in the silence of the tiled floor and kind lighting, that I deserve a nice long shower. I deserve a break. I slow way down.
Right at about ten minutes (hey! It took me years to get it to be that long), there is a knock. I know they are not watching the clock. I know they are not counting the minutes consciously, but there is some subconscious thing inside of them that just knows when time is up and I have to get back to them. It is amazing! If corporate meetings were cut and scheduled by children like this, we would get so much more done.
“Mom!!!!” comes the yell.
“I am in the shower! Is it an emergency?” I ask, knowing that they know the rules. It had better be an emergency because I am getting shampoo in my eyes trying to turn enough to hear them.
They are far too smart for my tiny little brain.
“Mom!!!!”, followed by an unintelligible muffle of words.
There is a way that kids yell “Mom” that can kick in a Motherly (or Fatherly) instinct. You can tell by the tone that it is serious situation. Someone is really hurt. This also applies to when your child cries. Moms and Dads know by certain cries if the child has hurt feelings, true physical pain, humiliation or the child is just ANGRY.
They use the “serious” tone when I am in the shower. Or else it just sounds like that tone through the door, and the water and the stinging soap in my eyes and the fear beating in my heart.
“Are you bleeding?” I yell through the steam and noise and muffling of the door.
“Mmmftgh” comes the reply.
This is where they start talking softly so that I can’t hear them and I wonder what is really going on. My children (all children, I would guess) are so smart and wise to the game, I am just a patsy, here to abide by the wishes of my captors. My little adultnapers.
Of course, it has NEVER been an actual emergency. It is always something about a video game or someone not sharing something, but the damage is done. Or they even run off and yell “nevermind” by the time I can hear them (argh)! My shower has been hijacked and I am completely out of my relaxed state.
I get a shower, but not quite like I am working toward. I do deserve a relaxing shower everyday. And I will continue my quest to achieve one that is as blissful as it can be.
2. I am allowed to take a phone call.
It is amazing how children can be completely occupied with their own stuff, and as soon as their echolocation picks up on the slightest movement of my hand toward my phone, they are next to me pulling on that arm with an emergency.
I think we underestimate human capabilities and connectivity. Children are a prime example of having super human abilities to KNOW when Mom may get to do something that she wants to do. They have animal-like instincts and they kick in at both random and predetermined times based on situations. They are bat-kids, spider-kids, super-kids.
The rules for a phone call are the same as far as allowing me to talk. However, it is so much easier to derail a conversation on the phone than in a shower. They know, with their siren-kid emergency voices, that any extra loud noise, ruins a conversation on a phone.
I have to say over and over and over – I can have a phone call. They inevitably shake their heads and say “no” or “not right now! I NEED YOU!” and they stick that knife in your heart and twist it a bit.
OMG. They need me. That is like waving a full crack pipe in front of an addict when you are a Mom. I MUST FULFILL as many needs as I CAN! I MUST!
So, again, my adultnappers have gotten to me with a diversionary tactic straight out of Quantico. Where do they get these amazing techniques?
I still try to have conversations, but I have found that texting must have been created by a parent. It is short and can happen when you have a second and does not have to be consistent. Thank you for texting!
3. I get to go to the bathroom ALONE.
Now, this is true. My kids are now too old (in my opinion) to allow them into the bathroom with me. I do try to teach them boundaries to carry out into the larger world and this is one of them. It also started to creep me out when they asked very specific questions about things a few years ago. Things I had never even thought about until it came out of their little lips.
Like I said, way smarter than I am.
I do get to go into the bathroom alone, but, of course, any length of time is cut short, inevitably. And the list above applies to this situation as well. Too bad for them I can hear them better. Too bad for me, I can’t hear my own thoughts like I am to hoping when I go in.
I love my children dearly. I would not trade them for anything, ever. However, when did we allow our children to hold us hostage until their teen years when they only want us part-time? My parents were not this entangled in my life. I did not shower with them or have them in the room when I took a bath when I was five (probably even younger, but that is the age I remember doing it alone clearly). We are so afraid of anything happening to our children that it is like a hostage situation (I am included in this category). We (not everyone, but enough of us) are conditioned to over parent and over watch and micro manage. If I am not micro managing my kids, I feel like they may die or get hurt seriously.
I think part of this is our lack of community feeling. I think people watched out for each other more “back in the day”. Our parents or grandparents could count on other adults guiding our children if they saw kids doing something dangerous or just plain awful.
Now we are so inside our own heads and worried about ourselves and our own kids, we have nothing left for anyone else.
I am working on this myself. When a child comes to my house, I know what they are doing and if they are okay. I treat them as my own if they are near or with me. And I have told other parents that. If I am at a playground and I see other kids there, I am watching them as much as my own kids. We are a community. We just forget. Lets remember. Let me help your child if they need it, and please help mine. They are all the children of our world. I truly believe that and I work to live that every day. How about you? What do you think? We are all responsible for all of the children of our community. We are all meant to help one another.
Wow! I had no idea that this article would end up discussing our need for community. I feel strongly about needing communities. However, I was planning to write something that made me laugh. I love it when something that entertains me, ends up in a completely different place!
We need to trust our guts more, for our own children and others. Please reach out to kids that you see needing help. Don’t send your child into something that your gut says is not right. Yes, there are a few awful people out there, but there are many more that are kind and loving but afraid of being sued or upsetting an overprotective parent. If we work together, we do not have to do it alone.
Side note: I can’t really actually comment on the teen years yet, as I have not lived them. If there is one thing I HAVE learned, it is that you can’t REALLY KNOW until you have lived it in parenting. No one can tell you, or explain it enough to truly understand.