Imagine looking out your window and seeing a naked toddler sprinting across your lawn in nothing but a Batman mask. Well, that was my life. EVERY DAY. Austin is my youngest child, and he was by far my most spirited toddler. For some reason he wasn’t a fan of clothes, but he WAS a fan of being outside. And he was sneakier than a ninja! Many mornings I would fix him a sippy cup, put on Little Einsteins, and try to squeeze in a quick shower. And on a good number of those mornings my phone would ring….”Austin is running down the street naked again. Do you want me to bring him back?” “Yes! Yes, I want you to bring him back! Why are you even asking me that?!” I began wondering if I should just boycott showers until he was school aged. I mean seriously, what would he do next?! Oh, and did I mention I lived two doors down from a social worker, and sometimes he would streak through her yard, and pee on her flowers? Yeah….good times.
I began to think of how I could get the child to keep his clothes on. I knew it would have to be creative if it had any chance of working. So I hit the local Target, and bought every left over Halloween costume they had. Perhaps he will want to dress in super hero costumes? Oh he did! He wore his Spider Man costume EVERYWHERE. I took Spidey to the grocery store, out to dinner, to a neighborhood block party (They were just happy he wasn’t naked.), and even to the pediatrician. We lived with Spider Man for about a month, with me washing the little costume each night while he slept. Then one morning he woke up, and was done being Spider Man. He was a dog. Like for real….He was ALL IN. He didn’t speak. He barked. He crawled around on all fours, shook his butt like he was wagging his tail, and nudged you with his nose. A DOG PEOPLE!!!!! I was raising a dog! He wore this little furry headband that had floppy ears and a dog nose. Thankfully this phase only lasted a week. Any longer, and I would have had to check into the Betty Ford clinic! Then came naked Batman….
I had gotten smart, and gone to the local hardware store to pick up alarms for our exterior doors. That’s right, every time you opened the door it sounded like Armageddon was upon us. But at least it kept him inside. So Austin had now taken an interest in his Batman costume, but it was pretty hot outside. Austin knew just how to remedy that. Just wear the mask! AND NOTHING ELSE…Since the doors were now wired for sound, I felt safe taking showers again. I came down one morning to find him climbing the pantry shelves in nothing but a mask. “Austin, what are you doing, and why are you naked?” “I’m not naked Mommy. I have on my Batman mask!” I just stood there wondering how many bottles of wine it would take to raise this child as I watched him scale the shelves like a spider monkey.
Raising Austin wasn’t just about surviving his streaker phase. Oh no, he wanted to test my friends too. “How much do you REALLY love my mommy?!” We were blessed to live in a neighborhood littered with toddlers and stay at home moms. We all forged such a special bond. There were play dates, zoo outings, and many girls nights. But my child had an uncanny talent for pushing people right to the edge….I lived next door to my best friend, Rebecca. I’m sitting in my sunroom, and I hear her voice, “Austin!!!!!!” I cringe just a little, then I pick up the phone. Yeah, I know what I have to do. “Becks? What did he do now?!” “Katie, he’s throwing poop over the fence into the pool! And we’re IN THE POOL!” This is bad. This is really bad. “Oh no! He was just in the sandbox two seconds ago. I’ll go get him. But Rebecca, you still love me, right?” Rebecca sighed the largest sigh I think she’s ever sighed. “Yes, Princess, I still love you. Now get your kid to quit throwing poop!” I swear, I was living in the circus.
Now if you still don’t feel like I deserve the mother of the year award, let me tell you one final story. We lived in this sweet little neighborhood for 3 exhausting, yet blissful years, and over those years we ladies continued to get together as often as we could. And each of us was assigned something to bring to our backyard get togethers. This time I was assigned jello shots…I’m not a very good cook, and they all figured this was something I couldn’t mess up. They were right….sort of… I made about 2 dozen jello shots, put them on the top shelf of my refrigerator, and went upstairs to get ready. It was late afternoon. My other 2 kids were home from school, and all 3 were playing together. What could possibly go wrong? Why do I ever ask that?! I don’t even know how long I was up there when I hear this giggle. It’s loud, high pitched, and doesn’t seem to be stopping. I get to the bottom of the stairs and see Austin running in circles through my dining room and kitchen. My heart lurches into my stomach. This is exactly how I act when I’m drunk. Surely not. No no no no no!!!!! I race to my fridge and fling the door open. “Look Mommy! You made tiny jellos just my size!” I peek down into the jello cups as my brain is saying, “This is the mother fail to top all mother fails.” Sure enough, he has scooped out the center of 3 jello shots. Don’t panic. It wasn’t poison. Give the boy some water, a cracker, ANYTHING. I put on my best calming face, and turn to face my drunk toddler just as he pukes at my feet. That’s right boys and girls, all that jello just swimming around my feet. “Well at least you got it out of your system.” I cried and carried around guilt over that one for a long time. Why hadn’t I anticipated that?! But then I got older, and I learned not to beat myself up.
Austin is 12 now, an honors student, and a pretty sweet kid. I survived streaking, poop throwing, Batman, and one crazy drunken afternoon. Rebecca and I are still best friends. In fact, her daughter and Austin text and snapchat now. It’s really adorable. Momming isn’t easy. It’s messy, exhausting, and sometimes we fail. But if we survive, it is all worth it. Now when I look at my kids all grown up I miss the squeaky little laughs, the handprints on the walls, and taking Spider Man to the grocery store. Let them be little. I promise you both will survive.