Friends told me I had the “best of both worlds,” as a stay-at-home, as well as work-at-home, mom. But some days could seem like the worst. I recall a particularly bad one when lunch at “Donald’s House,” as my two-and-a-half-year-old called her favorite restaurant, seemed a great idea.
Children skittered about the bright playroom in their socks. Moms sat at the tables in the fast food franchise and talked. Usually, we shared these lunch dates with my friend Janet and her two-and-a-half-year-old Jonathan. One day my friend joked that she told her husband she wished for a divorce just so she could count on a break in parenting every other weekend. We laughed about the current difficult stage in our children’s development.
But on this day, my daughter Elizabeth and I just sat and ate. Even talking was too much multitasking for mom and daughter. I also felt the sting of a bad parenting moment the night before that sent her scurrying under the dining room table, as I took out my ire on her older brother, a high school senior, for dropping his soccer gear by the stairs, and her junior high school sister for dropping out-of-season Easter grass used for a science project all over the kitchen floor.
Not that a clean house and a little responsibility aren’t important. But when the wrath of Mom broke loose, the older siblings looked up from doing their homework, and I remembered they are good kids, and perhaps I had overreacted.
So, maybe that’s why one mom in particular got my attention. She seemed unusually attentive to her three young children. Her smile, straight-combed hair and a denim skirt with a crisp white blouse made her look the role of a model mom.
I watched as she scooped up a struggling toddler, set him on her lap and Velcroed his shoes in place as she chatted with him. Then she released him with a hug and a smile. She did the same with a slightly taller little girl in a yellow dress. With a kiss on the top of her head, she released this wriggling tot with a smile and a hug, too.
This woman seemed as if she were on display, as if she knew others were watching. Was this genuine? Or was she just showing off how attentive she was to her children, and I caught her on a good day? I’d like to see her when her children are taking charge of their own lives.
Soon I had the chance. She chased down another little girl, dressed a lot like the first, except for the color of her dress. Little green dress struggled. She kicked and screamed. It required that seat belt maneuver that every parent recognizes, where you hold the child facing the ground, with one arm under the shoulders, and the other between the kicking legs, locking your hands in the middle.
As little green dress loudly protested, her mom gently jiggled her daughter as she walked, repeating softly, “I know, I know, I know, I know….” She must be very tired, repeating that to comfort herself, I smugly thought. But she smiled as she released little green dress, too.
I was curious about how old her children must be. They all seemed to be close in age. I got my chance to find out as her child in the green dress played near my daughter. I commented on “how cute” and asked her children’s ages.
“They’re two and a half years old,” she said proudly.
“Oh, your girls are twins?” I queried.
“Oh, no! They’re triplets!” She beamed.
I was floored. I wanted to exclaim, “How do you do it?” But as the mother of two teens and a toddler, I got that question a lot too, and hadn’t figured out the best way to respond. Now I understood why she seemed on display. Everywhere they travelled, the entourage must have drawn attention — and my unasked question. I missed my golden moment to be enlightened. Little green dress went one way and Elizabeth another. I didn’t even get to see the super mom and her triplets walk out. Did any of them want to be carried? Did they hold hands? What if one — or all — didn’t want to leave “Donald’s House”?
It left me hoping to meet up again with Multitasking Mom Times Three. In the decade-plus that has passed since then, I never have. I’ve always wondered about her possible words of wisdom. But her actions already said it all. Be kind. Be gentle — yet use the seat belt maneuver when necessary, and always remember to smile and give hugs.
I think we would both agree to be patient — because nothing lasts.