Not too long ago, I had five sons ages 8, 6, 4, 2 and newborn at the same time. I was burning the candle at both ends all the time. I was cooking, changing diapers, homeschooling the eldest three, coordinating enrichment activities for the eldest two, and trying desperately to keep the house in order. In short, I was bonkers.
There was one moment when I was at a park with the boys. I was in the middle of changing the third messy diaper in 30 minutes and I hit serious emotional overload. “I am so tired of looking at poopy diapers!” I exclaimed, brandishing the offending article over my head. (Which is, in retrospect, pretty mild for an emotional overload moment.) A man who was standing nearby uttered something that I’m pretty sure he meant to be clever: “Excuse me, but didn’t you sign up for this when you decided to have kids?”
That was my sense of self-worth hitting the concrete pavilion where I was crouched changing my child’s diaper. Right then, I felt about an inch tall. Even well-rested and unexasperated, I am not fast enough or witty enough to point out exactly what is wrong with such a question. Exhausted and on my last nerve, I didn’t stand a chance. I finished the job, gathered the kids up along with the remains of our picnic lunch and the four diapers I had changed while at the park (because the infant in question was not the only one who needed his business changed), stuffed everyone in the minivan and drove home.
It was days later that I realized what I should’ve said. Okay, the truth is it was a year or five later. I told you, I’m a slow processor. My response should have been this: “I’m up to my elbows in poop and frankly I’m a little tired of dealing with it. It does not mean I love my children any less, it just means I’m imperfect like you and everyone else here in this park. Please show me a little grace and I’ll extend the same grace to you and assume that you were trying to be funny instead of being judgmental. Now, duck!” (Because that’s when I would’ve thrown the diaper at him. I’m kidding! Mostly.)