This holiday I screwed myself in an unexpected way when Santa ordered a set of alphabet ducks off of Amazon for our youngest child. Midge adores baths, often takes two or three in a single day (and her skin is fine and not dry so shut up), so this fun, inexpensive gift seemed like a no-brainer. Each duck was costumed to represent something that starts with the letter emblazoned across its rubbery chest. Cool, I thought, a learning tool. Aren't I a good mom?
1. Alphabet ducks come in a disposable mesh bag.
2. The alphabet contains 26 letters.
3. Rubber ducks, if left unsqueezed post bath, fill up with gruesome chunks of moldy funk, aka "duck poo," that my 4-year-old son likes to spray at our sweet little Midge much to her shock and horror.
And so, mamas, that is how I've ended up spending infuriating amounts of time bent over a draining bathtub, knees dampening in the inevitable splashfest, naked toddler climbing on my back, while I meticulously squeeze out 26 ducks. Two or three times a day.
"26 ducks!" I've exclaimed on more than one occasion. Who needs 26 ducks? Whatever was I thinking?
Until this past weekend, when as I was hunched over squeezing ducks and silently sinking into the bed I'd laid for myself, my husband laughed and said, "You secretly love doing that, don't you?"
And suddenly, I did.
Something in me clicked and I was able to do that tiny-huge thing that so many of us overwhelmed, run-ragged mamas try to do every day. I shifted my perspective. Suddenly, I wasn't doing an inane, repetitive task. I was helping my child in a practical, tangible way. She had a problem, even if it was just an unfounded fear of rubber duck poo, and I was fixing it. What I wouldn't give, I thought to myself, in 10 or 20 years' time, to be able to so simply and completely fix the problems she comes to me with. When she is a teenager, a woman, a mother in her own right, what I wouldn't give to do some small thing to take away her fear. I'd do it 26 times a day -- gladly.
We've all heard the advice that when we're having a particularly bad day with our kids -- when we feel defeated, when the sound of their voices makes us rage and it's all we can do to make it to bedtime without psychologically scarring them -- we've all heard that we should pretend it's some lonely, unknown time in the future. To visualize the house empty, silent, clean. To imagine how it will feel to ache for their tiny bodies and to feel the hoarseness of our whisper as we ask the universe for just one more day, just one more...
It works sometimes. Sometimes it doesn't. But, if we can find and share these moments when we actually manage a genuine change in perspective, we can really get somewhere with this whole mindfulness thing. Because trust me, mamas, you got 99 problems but a duck ain't one.