Thursday, June 30, 2011

Surviving 5 Kids and Mommy Brain

As a mother of five small children, only one of my body parts has taken more abuse than my shredded abdominal muscles: my mind. The hormonal fluctuations that accompany each pregnancy, the sleep deprivation, the constant inane background chatter; it’s enough to sap the sanity from even the most evolved brain, rendering it a twitching, traumatized blob of grey matter. Formerly focused, capable women are left to become frazzled, emotional messes tweaked up on caffeine and stumbling through life in a fog of diapers and Disney characters. As if that isn’t humbling enough, there always seems to be someone waiting nearby to point and laugh at your loss of mental faculties.  

For instance: it was a typical morning of running errands with my children—grocery shopping, bill paying, gas station potty breaks. I'm driving toward town juggling my focus between a conversation with my 4-year-old about Santa Claus (after all, there are only six months left until Christmas) and navigating a road construction detour when I notice my Suburban making an unhealthy sound. So of course I pull over, pop the hood and take a look… Ha! Right. Have you seen the size of a Suburban’s hood? I’d need a step stool and the muscle mass of Madonna to pry that sucker open. In reality, I whipped out my cell phone, interrupted my husband at work and whined that the car was making a rattling sound and I was near certain that my carburetor muffler gauge was going to overheat and cause a fiery crash.

After 10 years of wedded bliss, my husband, Brian, was unaffected by my dramatics and began the usual run-down of Mr. Fix-it questions:

"What kind of sound is it?"

"Rattle-y... and muffled... like a vibrating tire that’s about to fly off while I drive."

"Is it constant? Do you hear it now?"

"Um... yes. No, it stopped.... wait, there it goes again... no wait, that one was quick."

"Well when does it make the sound? Try your brakes."

I spent a few minutes driving like a crazy person down a back road trying various maneuvers to see if I could cause this mystery sound to begin again. But to no avail; it occurred completely at random.

"Well where is the sound coming from?"

"The CAR!" I say, disgusted.

"What PART of the car, the front? The rear?" he replies, equally disgusted

"I don't know! Hold on let me try to get a better listen..."

So I turn down the radio and toss my purse into the back seat to halt my daughter’s ramblings for a nanosecond so that I can listen for the sound.


"Uhh... never mind. It's fine. I'll see you when you get home."

"Wait, what happened?"

"I found the sound."

"Well what was it? Where is it coming from?"

"Uhhh... Lacey was in the backseat blowing raspberries."

To avoid any unnecessary embarrassment for the rest of you moms out there, heed my warning: the muffled sound of a baby blowing raspberries in the third row of a Suburban full of toddler-chatter sounds a great deal like an impending car explosion. No need to call your husband.

Instead of being annoyed with me like you might imagine, I think Brian actually enjoys these little lapses of brain function on my part. It gives him further ammunition to add to his arsenal of material to tease me about. Not that he's ever at a loss, unfortunately.
My friends and family have a great deal of fun at my expense, and I can take the ribbing. But when it comes right down to it, how on earth could any mother—particularly of more than one child—still have their marbles?

First, there are the endless toddler conversations. Actually, "conversation" might not even be a good choice of words since that would insinuate that your input is valued. All that a 3- or 4-year-old child is concerned with is that they are speaking and you are listening to no one but them. To achieve this, they feel the need to interject "Mommy" before every single sentence, to which you must reply "What honey?" or else face a battery of insistent pleas for undivided attention. However, with preschoolers, getting too deep into a discussion with them feels like settling into a chair at the Mad Hatter’s tea party.

"Look Mommy a cow!"

"Yes, I see the cow."

"A cow say ‘baa.’"

"No, a sheep says ‘baa.’"

"Where a sheep, Mommy?"

"No, I don't see a sheep. I see a cow."

"A cow no say ‘baa,’ Mommy. A cow say ‘moo.’"

"I know! That’s what I said!"

"No, Mommy say ‘baa.’" (Other toddler nods in agreement.)

By the time I'm done second guessing my farm animal voices, the girls have already launched into a carefully scripted scene from Dora the Explorer in which they both seem to know exactly what to say next while I am hopelessly irritating when I try to jump in with the wrong words.

Then you have the tantrums. Toddler tantrums never seem to make any sense to the audience; however, to the tantrum-thrower, solving their problem is of the utmost priority. Therefore it's a mommy's job to decipher the fit and rectify whatever perceived wrongdoing has occurred.

Imagine coming upon an inconsolable 2-year-old in full blown hysterics. She is screaming "My tup!" and reaching for a sippy cup on the table. You revert back to pre-child days and attempt to solve this problem rationally. You hand the toddler the cup. She recoils in horror and her shrieks intensify. To undo this obvious error on your part, you put said cup back onto the table. Wails of "Nooooooo!" begin and tears flow harder. At this point, being a firm disciplinarian and ignoring the tantrum is no longer an option as your eyeballs are now pulsating in your ears. You scramble to grab a new cup out of the cupboard to appease the tyrant, only to have it whipped back at you incredulously. By now you are so desperate and disoriented that you begin thinking like a mom. You grab the original cup, unscrew the lid, shake it, show it to her, and then screw it back on and place it on the floor. Toddler tears cease immediately and you are rewarded with a cheerful "Tank you" before the child skips off to resume playing.

No, I have no idea what just happened.

Last but not least, in the quest to make moms certifiably insane; children’s entertainment. In this category you have two important sub-topics: preschooler television shows and toys.

Any television producer will tell you the key to a successful children’s show is repetitiveness. What they neglect to mention is the immense mental trauma that such repetition will inflict on the average adult. Watch the Wiggles enough times and you will dream of Captain Feathersword (a side effect that, I’ll admit, I don’t totally hate). Endure enough hours of Blue's Clues, you will instinctively get excited when you find wet paw prints tracked across the tile by your muddy dog. As you teeter on the edge of the Cliff of Sanity, Dora urging your children to "say it louder... louder... LOUDER!" is undoubtedly enough to push you over the edge.

Even when you manage to turn off the television, the toys are no better. Studies show that shrill, repetitive noises are an effective means of torture in times of war, so whose bright idea was it to equip children with such devices? The sirens, the beeps, the buzzes, the whistles, all of which only add to the already cacophonous sounds of toddler mayhem. Even in those glorious evening hours when the children are all asleep, you still can't escape the toys. Checking on a sleeping baby is like tiptoeing through a minefield. The slightest movement can set off an explosive jingle that cannot be turned off until it has run its course. Let's not forget getting woken up at 3 a.m. by the growling moan of a toy with failing batteries.

Add to all of this the tight schedule of extracurricular activities, physical exhaustion, and the emotional roller coaster associated with motherhood, and you really cannot, in good conscience, make fun of us poor befuddled mommies. So the next time you meet a mother who, like me, has melted her remote controls in the oven while her dinner rolls sat atop the television set, give her a break and pretend you didn't see anything.

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  1. Michele Matoushek-Propes6/30/11, 10:27 PM

    You just absolutely read my mind on every single blog you write! I have the horrible combination of Momnesia AND Fibro fog. You know the ONLY time I have a good memory is when I'm out drinking with my friends. I also have awesome hearing and can hear conversations across the bar with loud music and remember them years later. I think it's because we get so used to trying to hear over top of the constant chatter, crying, whining, inane questions. When I'm drinking and with adults I actually have a great memory because I don't have that constant conversation in my head trying to remember all my duties while cooking, cleaning, surveying fights. I really shocked some people at my Brother's bar. The first night I went there I heard (with my super Mom bat hearing)a couple talking across the bar. The woman asked the man if he found her box of "toys" at his house because she had lost it. A couple years later I got friends with the couple and jokingly asked if they ever did find that box of toys. She turned all red and asked how I could have known about that. I guess the moral to my story is a couple times of month get out and see if you can drown out those kiddy conversations and find a few of those lose brain cells! Booze to get back brain cells but it seems to work for me! You totally get me 100% Love your blog!

  2. I have managed to freeze mine but never melt and I hear you on the tantrums...OMG!!! I am amazed I havent burned the house down yet with my mommy brain.

    Good post!!!

  3. Hahahhah!!! Unbelievable!!! I really enjoy your posts. Have myself a 3 years old kid and had many times the animal farm voices conversation. I agree with you, "conversation" is not the good word to define this.


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