By Guest Blogger Lisette Hoschek
As we entered the local pizza joint in the small town we were visiting for the weekend, my husband and I felt a tantrum brewing. Our youngest, Charlie, was already in tears in the parking lot. Less than a minute after we walked in, he was arguing with one of his older brothers. When I attempted to redirect him, he started to yell. We scrambled to our table and prepared to tackle the buffet. My 3-year-old wanted control but I couldn’t give it to him. A room full of customers turned their heads as he let out some kicks and yells because I did not allow him to help himself to the salad bar (it was over two feet above the top of his head). I tried to get him to our table but he crumpled to the floor screaming. My husband whisked him out of the restaurant as I managed to get drinks and plates of food for the other two boys. I was already covered with sweat.
A few moments later, they came back into the restaurant. Charlie immediately tried to grab an entire plate of shredded cheese. He yelled and screamed again. My husband removed him again. My heart beat faster as I felt every set of eyes staring at us. I wish I could say this was an unusual evening for us. It isn’t though. This is I why we rarely eat in restaurants these days. It is also why we choose restaurants with buffets when we are out of town. Don’t get me wrong- I love being waited on in a sit-down restaurant. But right now- this is our life. I have three small boys under the age of 9 and being waited on at a restaurant is a luxury I simply do not enjoy with my family. And if I can, I avoid it.
I reminded myself it won’t always be like this as I felt the sweat dripping down my back. I wondered when my husband and Charlie were going to come back in.
As they reentered for the third time I unintentionally held my breath. I let it out slowly as Charlie sat in the chair with tears still visible on his red cheeks. He started to eat and I silently prayed the rest of the meal would be calmer. Moments later, as he grabbed his drink to take a sip, he spilled an entire cup of ice water onto his lap. The shrieks were even louder this time. I gathered napkins and attempted to dry him the best I could. No longer even caring about the sideways looks and stares I was getting, I just wanted to eat my meal.
I avoided eye contact with anyone and silently willed this lunch to be over quickly. And then, as my poor husband finally went to get a plate of food for himself, an older lady came over to our table. She smiled knowingly at me and said, “I remember those days.” I wondered if she was going to tell me it gets easier. Maybe she was going to empathize with the difficulty of dealing with an irrational three-year-old. After a pause, she continued, “They grow up though. And then it gets hard. Much harder. THIS- THIS IS EASY.” And then she walked away.
I choked back tears as I looked straight ahead trying to figure out why a stranger who could clearly see I was anxious felt the need to come over and tell me that as bad as this situation feels right now- it will only get worse. I will never understand this phenomenon that has been occurring to me since I had children. I am a stay at home mom. I spend almost every hour my 3-year-old is awake with him. I wipe his tears, I fix his food, I entertain him, cajole him to clean up his messes, bathe him, and do my best to teach him to be kind. I mediate arguments between him and his brothers, I attempt to foster a love for learning, try to limit his screen time while allowing him to explore his creativity and also teach him to navigate in this world. I am exhausted, often feel overwhelmed, and doubt myself almost daily. I JUST wanted to go into a restaurant and eat lunch without every single person in the restaurant staring at me. And when my child yelled, screamed, and acted a fool and my husband systematically removed him until he sat appropriately, I felt the judgment of all the other people in the room.
I know these moments with small children are fleeting and I know that as they get bigger they have bigger problems. But this is my life right now. And showering by myself, getting out the door without someone screaming and melting down (myself included) and eating in public without tantrums are extremely rare. While the difficulties of raising children will no doubt expand as my boys grow, it does not make where I am sitting right now any easier. And to walk up to a complete stranger who is clearly struggling and tell them that it only gets worse seems like rubbing salt into an already scraped knee. And I will never understand it.
Parenting is hard. The hardest job ever. When you think about shaping the lives of these tiny little beings that you love more than you ever imagined was possible, the pressure is almost unbearable. The baby phase when no one sleeps is crushingly hard. The learning to walk phase where playgrounds and fireplaces seem scarier than a den full of hungry lions brings anxiety out in even the calmest parents. Raising strong-willed children can challenge the patience of even the calmest human being (my husband is an example). Each child and each phase brings its own unique sets of challenges and beautiful moments. And right now, every day, I feel the pressure of each decision I make with my little ones. Because we are building the foundation for when they are teenagers and face those bigger problems.
My sister has described it to me like this- when they are little it is physically much harder, but when they are older it is emotionally much harder. That makes so much sense to me. But difficulties that come in the future do not make the current difficulties any easier.
Because here is the deal. I see my friends sending their children off to middle school, to high school, and even to college. Intellectually I understand that one day I will miss having young children who are innocent and need me. I can not comprehend what it will feel like to watch one of my boys drive off in a car. But this does not negate my current situation and it does not make dealing with an irrational three-year-old any easier.
Sometimes I imagine parenting as a series of mountains we are all climbing. No two mom’s paths are exactly similar but we all have valleys, hills, and steep slopes we must learn to navigate. Sometimes we stumble, many times we fall. I see the experienced fellow mothers of teens on the next mountain ahead of me. My friends sending off their children to college are on a mountain even further in the distance from me. Someday when I reach the top of my tallest mountain, I imagine myself looking down below to the fellow mothers just starting the steep climb. And I will have a choice. I hope I will see them with compassion and understanding. And rather than telling them “That part is easy. It is only going to get harder. Much, much, much harder,” I hope to extend them a hand and help them climb up the mountain.
Lisette Hoschek is a writer who has a Color Street side business and holds a Master’s Degree in Psychology and an LPC in Ga. Her ten years of experience working in mental health failed to prepare her for the hardest job she has ever loved- being a stay at home mom to her three young boys. After struggling with an eating disorder for over 23 years, she finally chose recovery and found her voice. She has been writing for Recovery Warrior’s online magazine since April 2017. She is a Lead Contributor who has over 45 published articles that have been shared worldwide over 7,000 times. When not drowning in Super Mario or choo choo trains, you can find her clogging, reading, learning about astrology, taking long walks while listening to podcasts, or watching true crime documentaries. She also loves the ocean, the mountains, unicorns, any kind of art project, and all things sparkly. She is currently working on her first book. Lisette lives with her husband and three boys in the suburbs of Atlanta, GA. You can follow her website at lisetteh.weebly.com or find her on Instagram or Facebook.