Scene: My family of four is at the water park. My husband is monitoring our oldest as she tries to gradually increase the length of the invisible tether he’s keeping. He’s granting her freedom to explore and I’m hanging back at the picnic tables with our youngest. He’s completely worn out from water and sun, ready for a cuddle with mom in the shade where he’s most likely to share a snack.
From the bench at the picnic tables, I’m entertained by all bodies in motion and trying to remember every facet of these fleeting seconds I have in this carefree moment. My chin resting on my son’s head, his head on my chest and my arms are wrapped around him; the only thing that can warm a child cold from the pool. I’m breathing in intentionally, letting the happy screams and splashes around me meld into the soundtrack of that moment – and that’s when it happened.
That’s when I witnessed the BEST THREE SECONDS of FRUSTRATED PARENTING I’ve ever seen before or since.
My eyes made contact with her eyes.
She was following a line of unruly children, two gangly boys, loud with their limitless energy.
She was barely carrying (surf-board style) a screaming toddler over the hot pavement.
She was almost out of breath.
The boys were too fast.
The toddler, too heavy.
Just as she passed me, her head was moving from side to side faster and faster. Her eyes turned heavenward briefly just before she shut them and screamed out in relatable frustration, “Stop it. GO TO SLEEP.”
And then she was gone.
That GENIUS just left me there. In bewildered awe.
I mean, “Go to sleep.” That’s total genius.
I’ve heard moms (myself included) raise their voices in vain many, many times. I thought I had heard it all. Until this. We can all learn from this woman. I respect her quick analysis of the problem and brilliant solution. Her children were being unruly. In what state is a child the most submissive? The most docile? Quite frankly, the easiest to love?
“Go to sleep.” It’s genius.
Once my husband and I were reunited in the park, the children were fed and changed and ready for home, we got our quiet moment in the car. I shared about this woman, my new hero. I set the scene for him from my perspective and delivered the line just as she did, “GO TO SLEEP!” He got it immediately. He laughed a REAL laugh. He laughed because he understood.
To be clear, none of the children told to “go to sleep” actually followed those directions.
But WHAT IF THEY DID?
The genius I find in this woman’s approach isn’t just a relatable witness to frustration. She knew good and well that those boys weren’t going to lay down in the middle of the walkway in the middle of the water park and take a nap. No. She said it because it was impossible. She screamed into the void a command that wasn’t to be obeyed so she could relish her annoyance, so she could laugh in her head at the absurdity of the request but still wish it could come true.
We have a new go-to.
When the children are bouncing when they aren’t supposed to be bouncing or talking when they aren’t supposed to be talking or running when they aren’t supposed to be ………….. I look at my husband, smile and muffle my scream into the void, “GO TO SLEEP!” It’s a great reminder of the absurdity of parenting. It’s unconventional and funny so it can also remove me from a frustrated moment for a bit of perspective. It’s uber-genius.