Some of you may think that I have this mothering thing totally figured out. I have three boys under the age of two and I am still standing relatively unscathed?!?! I must be a mothering genius! Well, not so people, not so. There are some days I feel like I did a good job, the kids are all in bed asleep, we had fun, the house is clean and I am still standing. Those days it is good to just drop the mic and walk out, carried like a champion on the shoulders of imaginary moms everywhere. But on a lot of days, I get it wrong, and I mean, not the I-gave-them-cake-for-breakfast wrong, but really, really wrong. Today I am bringing to you the first—of many—in a series called “Mom Fails”. Here, I will be highlighting some of those not-so-amazing times for me in mothering.
Disclaimer: Whilst these stories have some great discomfort for both mom and child, no one was harmed in the writing of this post, and we have come out the other side and are friends and healthy, although professional counseling in the future may be required on both sides.
Whether you know it or not, there is a creative bone in all of us that urges us to make something beautiful. There exists a place online where people share ideas, beauty, art, much like the steps of the Acropolis in Athens where the philosophers of old would gather to listen to Plato teaching about life outside the cave. Such high and lofty thoughts about the way life could be and look and taste are shared in this magical place, called Pinterest.
As a mom of toddlers, I long to create the most educational, brain-enhancing, imagination-inspiring, active, fun thing to do that will make my boys love me for being the coolest. mom. ever. On Pinterest, there are a million ideas for something called ‘textured play’. (Moms of littles know what I mean, but back before Pinterest was born, it was called playing outside in nature with mud and sticks and stuff.) The modern, internet-connected mom, creates things for the kids to do with their little fingers to make their brains bigger, mostly under the pressure of social-media and tales of Montessori. One time, we dyed a whole bunch of rice different colors and put it in the water table outside. It was cool, but didn’t change my life or make my kids read at a 5th grade level just yet, but we will see… Anyways, here is my story.
On no particularly special day, I decided to try something I had seen another mom do on Facebook, which inevitably was traced back to Pinterest. I saw that someone had made a dense play foam, simply by putting dish soap in a counter-top mixer for a few minutes. I thought to myself, “Hey, that’s easy enough! Why don’t I just do that to kill a half hour with the boys before lunch. What a fun mom I will be!” Famous last words.
So I lugged out my mixer, put a few teaspoons of soap in with a little water and some yellow food coloring—because I am just so much fun—and voila! After ten minutes on high speed, I had this lovely chunky foam and I was pumped to give it to the boys to play with outside in our water table.
I brought out the mixing bowl full of froth, along with cups and spoons for scooping and dumping, and stirring and whatever. All three were slow to get into it, poking it and watching each other for a reaction. But after a few minutes, they had settled into a gentle play rhythm, dotted with giggles and screams of delight.
It was at this point, I decided to pop inside to get a change of clothes for each of them, as their t-shirts and shorts were already starting to get slimy from the foam. I walked inside and paused listening to their little laughs and congratulated myself on being awesome and bounded upstairs in a cloud of self-satisfaction. After digging through the drawers for thirty seconds, I hopped back down the stairs and heard the boys screaming.
It took a few seconds for me to realize that they were not the screams of delight that had caressed my ears before but they were screams of pain, from all three boys. I ran back outside to see what was happening and found that they had covered each other’s heads and faces with the foam, which was now, no longer foam but, a slimy, soapy substance. They were clawing at their eyes and mouths, only exacerbating the situation. This non-tear-free, Costco, environmentally-friendly dish soap now covered their faces and I thought to myself, WHAT. HAVE. I. DONE.
I frantically tried to plead with them while trying to figure out a way to get the soap off.
“CLOSE YOUR EYES!
DON’T TOUCH YOUR FACE!!
I’M SO. SO. SORRY!”
My pleas were only met with more screaming, their tears mixing with the soap and creating a film on their eyes. They were too upset to listen to my instructions and too young to really understand, especially Silas who was only 20 months. I had to get the soap off! I ran inside to get towels and tried to wipe their faces but they just kept clawing at their eyes and mouths, like a scene from a child-sized Shakespearean tragedy. I then ran to get the hose and started to run water on their faces but more water just made them angry and scream louder.
Finally, I decided to take off all their clothes and run them upstairs to the bath. So one by one, I stripped their soapy clothes off and carried them up from the back yard to our second floor bathroom. Scampering up and down the stairs as fast as I could, making my screaming child deliveries to the tub as fast as a momma can move. After three trips, I had three naked screaming boys in the tub, still covered in soap. I started running the water and filling the tub with water, which soon became very foamy itself, taking the excess soap off of the boys’ fingers and slimy bodies.
My biggest problem now was trying to rinse them with soapy water and again, only making the problem worse. My kids have never liked the shower, but I knew it was my only option. I turned the shower on, only intensifying their tormented cries. I turned it off immediately and was distraught. I decided to turn on the tub faucet and just rinse the boys using a bowl and water direct from the tap. I did this for Reuben and Eli, having to empty the tub in between because there was so much soapy water that tub almost overflowed. Silas wouldn’t have it though. Having rinsed the twins and calmed them down with the extraction of the dish soap from their eyes, hair, mouth and ears, Silas was still crying and totally resistant to rinsing. So, I grabbed him and took him, myself still fully clothed, into my stand up shower and force washed him, through his cries and protest until the soap was all gone.
After this, I wrapped each of them in their towels, placed them on the couch in front of a movie and tried to appease their trauma and my own guilt by giving them pieces of chocolate. There they sat, red-eyed from the soap and exhausted from the crying, in their hooded towels and I felt relief. I collapsed on the couch next to them for a minute and checked my phone. I saw that my neighbor had called and left me a message, having heard the cries from across the street, wondering if everything was OK. What a mess I am and my life!
I went down stairs and I could barely face the crime scene that the back yard had become, towels thrown here and there, slimy clothes piled around and small traces of the yellow foam that had been unquenched in the hubbub, that had started this whole fiasco. I sat down on the back step and put my head in my hands. And the questions and constructive comments started to roll through my head: How did this get so out of hand, so fast? Am I a bad mom? I should have been watching them all the time! I am so stupid for giving my kids dish soap to play with, what was I thinking? Did they ingest a lot of the soap? Should I call poison control? I can’t believe the neighbors heard, I mean I can believe it because they were so loud, but I am so embarrassed that this happened and now other people know what a bad mom I am and how I can’t handle this!
Of course, I went on with the day, as I had to, giving them lunch, putting them down for nap, all the while apologizing for what had happened. The trauma of ‘the foam that went wrong’ still lives with me and the kids. To this day, Silas won’t sit down in the bath and cries every time we wash his hair. My husband tells me that I broke bathtime. I ruined soap for my kids. How great is that? Ugh. But we have moved on, and thankfully, the kids are too young to remember all the details except for their adamant cries during bathtime, “NOT IN MY EYES!”
But I tell you this story, not so you can call social services—please don’t—but so you can know that we all get it wrong sometimes. Sometimes pride goes before a whole bunch of soap gets in the eyes of the three people you love the most, and then you really learn those valuable lessons like, "don’t give your kids something to play with that is hazardous and leave them alone, no matter how pretty and idyllic Pinterest makes it look."
I am a mom who loves her kids and wants what is best for them, but I am not perfect and no matter what we see in our very limited glimpses into someone else’s life, there is not perfection there either. Today, and everyday, I am grateful for grace. Grace from my kids when I get it wrong, grace for myself when I fail, and unending grace from Jesus when I do it all over again.