You know, I’ve tried five different times to write some sort of proper introduction paragraph here, and I officially give up. So let me just tell you who I am.
I’m a mother of two who comes from a bizarre background that I’ll most likely only get into in dribs and drabs, because I want you to trust me before you catch on to what a muddled mess I am. My two kids are four and two, a boy and a girl respectively, and I’m fairly certain they’re going to grow into pretty cool people. Or a brother-sister serial killer team, I’m still not sure. But at least they’ll be working together on something.
I have raised these two as a full-time stay at home mother in stints. Usually for a year at a time, I’ve quit a full-time job to come home to be with them because life hates me that’s why.
This most recent stint began about two or so months ago. I quit working in insurance to raise two toddlers, so I basically traded in getting yelled at on the phone eight hours a day with getting yelled at to my face eight hours a day complete with more sticky hands and poop. This time, I’m also obsessively cultivating a growing portrait photography business and nurturing the very website you’re reading right now. See, I decided that wrangling two tiny people wasn’t enough. I needed to ensure that all of my hair fell out by the time I turned 40. I always felt like I could rock a bald head.
“So how is that going, Arianna?” You ask. “Are you enjoying it? Is it all of the domestic bliss that you hoped it’d be?”
Well, disembodied voice, the answer is a layered one.
I’ve mentioned before that I originally hated being a stay at home mom. A lot of needs weren’t met, and as much as I love my children, they aren’t the greatest conversationalists. Now, though, I’ll say it’s much better. I live in a house as opposed to a tiny, 1100-square-foot basement. I don’t have to drive an hour to sit in a cubicle every day. When I ask for some time to myself, I often get it because at this point, we’re all aware that the alternative is for me to grow snakes for hair and to start turning my neighbors to stone.
That being said, I still don’t think I’ve learned my lesson. Not completely. For example, I still believe Pinterest sometimes.
Pinterest. What can I say that probably already hasn’t been espoused by many a tired but wistful mother who dreams of a kitchen decked out in decorative mason jars and a couch made of shiplap (I’ll admit I’m not 100% sure what shiplap actually is)? All those boards of perfection from across the internet, promise that I, too, can sew a quilt of our family tree with the fascinated help of my two tiny children. The bright, white photos of granola, cranberry, and coconut bars with promises of only taking five minutes are too much to ignore, even for a dyed-in-the-wool skeptic like myself. Every time I tell Pinterest that it’s over, that our relationship is unhealthy and I’m leaving, it pulls me back in with a whispered promise that this time, it’ll be different.
This time, Pinterest promised me this adorable-yet-simple painting project. We would make ladybugs, it cajoled, and it would be the cutest thing ever. Just cut two potatoes in half, dip them in paint, and stamp. Then add little white or black dots. Then hang to dry. Voila. Kids 2+ are sure to love it!
I believe it was Albert Einstein who said that the definition of "insanity" is trying the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. I feel personally attacked.
I buy the potatoes. I show the kids how to stamp. To which they respond by stamping for about a minute before my two-year-old daughter decides she’d rather finger paint. My four-year-old son, not to be outdone, starts to follow suit. I bristle for a moment, thinking of those picture-perfect little ladybugs on Pinterest, before I decide that I can live with this development. Fingerpainted art is still cute, right?
“I’m ok with this,” I say, “but only if you keep your hands on the paper. Touch nothing else. NOTHING ELSE. “ I look down for no more than two seconds, and immediately hear my son gasp.
My head snaps up to look at my son, who points at his sister. “Look at Sissy!”
I look at my youngest and she’s staring at me with what can only be described as an “oh shit” expression. A tiny, red handprint is on the wall directly next to her face. Now that I think about this, I don’t get why she looked so shocked. Was she not aware of what she was about to do? Was she not there the whole time? Was the need to disobey so strong that she actually blacked out in a moment of civil defiance? I’ll never know. Admittedly, I don't ask. Because I lose my damn mind.
See, in my arrogance, I’d figured that my children would be so engrossed in making perfect little Pinterest ladybugs that it didn’t matter that I didn’t have any totally washable Crayola paint left. I’d figured the poster paint from last year would be enough. I was a Grade A dum-dum.
Needless to say, I whisk my kid out of the room, holding her in front of me at arm's length like a radioactive potato. Before leaving, I turn to my oldest, and I tell him to STAY HERE. I tell him I will be back and that he is to TOUCH NOTHING. I then close the door and rush my daughter to the bathroom.
Pulling her shirt off spreads the paint more. Wiping it with toilet paper spreads it more. It goes from her hands to her face and neck. I'm not going to be able to get around it: She needs a bath. I tell her to stand right where she is and start the tub. To her credit, I think the kid is aware she's in a world of trouble, and she doesn't move.
As the bath is running, I hear my son's tiny voice floating from the other room. “Mommy? What’re you doing?” My stomach drops. In order to hear his voice that clearly, it means he's opened the door. With his hands. Covered in paint.
If the world was in trouble, and the only thing that could save it was my son minding his own business for five minutes, we would all die before we had a chance to set the timer.
I rush out to the hallway, and Kid is standing there with paint all over the walls, the door, and himself, looking like he’s just realized that perhaps he did not just do the smartest thing. I drag him to the bathroom, now scolding him for not following directions. I strip him down and put both kids in the tub. He’s staring at me funny.
“WHAT?” I ask exasperatedly.
“I have to pee.”
As I reach to take him out of the tub, my son decides instead to try to help by climbing out of the tub himself. More red paint all over the edges. I shriek and grab him and put him on the toilet. Then he tries to pull his own squares of toilet paper. We now have the only roll of red Charmin in the country.
“WHAT PART OF STOP TOUCHING THINGS DO YOU NOT SEEM TO GET?” I want to say I roar this with authority, but at this point my tone is more one of pleading and desperation. Kid looks at me like I’ve grown a third head. I flush the toilet and put him back in the tub. The water is completely red.
After the bath, both children are banished to their rooms until I finish cleaning. It takes me an hour and a half, and there is still red paint in certain hard-to-reach parts of the room where it all started. The table they used looks like it was used to murder something. Y’know, besides my recurring dreams of being a Pinterest Mom.
So I’ve broken up with the platform again. At least until they come up with something else I like. Because I’m here to give my children wonderful memories of staying home with their mother as she slowly loses her mind.
And really, who can ask for more?