My oldest daughter was 5 when her little sister came along. By the time she was 7, she had two siblings who were 18 months apart and often had to be dragged to all her extracurriculars…..usually WAY past their bedtimes. My husband has a demanding job and was often gone from 5:00 am until late in the evening or sometimes the next day entirely. My husband also worked many weekends. I was often flying solo and this made for some interesting “juggling,” when it came to navigating playdates and extracurricular activities with the kids.

My daughter’s basketball schedule would often take me to a multitude of far-away schools throughout Connecticut, while singlehandedly dragging two littles under the age of 2. Most games were arranged to begin later in the day and with both littler ones having a 6:30 bedtime, it was not ideal………but it had to be done. It was such a joy and not stressful at all.  (insert eye roll here) I would attempt to schedule a sitter as often as I could, but this wasn’t always possible. My husband would attempt to make each game, but it was often a very last-minute thing because his work schedule was always unpredictable. Inevitably the baby would poop just as we would be leaving the house and the two-year-old would throw a massive tantrum over wanting to wear shorts and no shoes in 20-degree weather. My husband would be texting me to assure me that he would be making it at the last minute.  Are you there? How is everything going? Why aren’t you answering me? BECAUSE I AM DEALING WITH POOP AND TANTRUMS AND I AM (SHOCKINGLY) RUNNING LATE! We were ALWAYS late.…. TO EVERYTHING! It was fun to be the hot mess Mom. Not even hot. Just…… a mess. (sarcasm aside: my husband genuinely was always trying to help me out in any way that he could, but it just wasn’t always possible)

One evening, we had to attend a game about 40 minutes away. The game began at 7:30. No sitter. No husband. My littler kids’ bedtime was 6:30, so you can imagine how NOT AT ALL EXHAUSTED they were by the time we made it to the game. Both had screamed and cried the entire drive. Some people have nice, quiet, and calm mannered babies who can easily sit and chill out, or just fall asleep when they are tired. My kids were never those children. If you do not have children who are spirited and always in need of movement and stimulation, or just have kids with different, more specialized needs….….YOU. JUST. DO NOT. GET IT. I was always being offered up unsolicited advice on how to better “control” my kids. When you are stressed out, barely hanging on, and just trying to make everything run smoothly, some guilt-inducing advice that was never asked for is usually just what you want. Judgmental stares and whispers as your child writhes on the floor screaming are also helpful. How about a kind word or a helpful hand? Novel ideas. It is always absolutely terrific to attempt walking and feeding an infant, while carrying a giant diaper bag and trying to scrape a two-year-old on meltdown mode off the floor. Tantrums, baby feedings, and judgements galore, all while your older daughter is begging you to hurry into the gym so she can join her team as the game is about to start. Help or compassion might be nice. Good times. Seriously good times.

We managed to make it into the gym just as the game was starting.  We were asked to always arrive at a game 30 minutes prior to start time but this just was not happening for us that night. At this point in our lives, being on time rarely happened anytime that we had somewhere to be. Did I mention that already….the always being late thing? I tried to permit myself some grace, but I did feel horrible at how my oldest daughter had to listen to screaming the entire ride and then frantically run into the game without any warmups. It would give her strength and resiliency…..right?  Sure. Sounds good. I’m not really sure of much that happened during that game (or at any point during that time in my life)  but I do know that I was distracted and couldn’t really watch. I was too busy attempting to keep two small children from completely losing their minds at having to remain awake while being overstimulated and overtired. I was also attempting to appear as if I was watching, for my older daughter’s sake. I was doing the best that I could.

The baby was becoming seriously agitated and couldn’t settle down. A few years later, I would begin to understand that he has sensory issues. The poor kid was strapped into a baby carrier, while being assaulted by harsh, bright lighting and loud, startling noises; two things that I would later learn he couldn’t tolerate like other children. The binding winter clothing probably did not help the situation either. I didn’t fully understand what was even happening at the time. I just knew that I was overwhelmed, and he WOULD NOT CALM DOWN. While I tended to the irritable wailing banshee, my 2-year-old toddled off without my noticing. Cue the shrill whistle of the referee and a stern shout of “WHOSE KID IS THAT?” I looked up in horror to see both teams barreling towards my chubby-faced hellion who was shrieking with glee….red curls in wild disarray…..running across the gymnasium floor unaware of her impending pummeling.

I had no choice but to leave the baby unattended in his bucket seat, with a propped-up bottle. I ran out to my sleep deprived, scarlet haired demoness and reached down to scoop her up and out of the way of the oncoming  players. Just as I had secured “Little Red” in my grasp, I heard a second shrill whistle and the referee yelling “NOW, WHOSE KID IS THAT?”  Yup! The other kid now crawling about on the court…….ALSO MINE. Of course. The game had now been halted and I was left standing facing an entire gymnasium of mostly strangers with two  disgruntled children tucked like footballs under each arm. Well………if footballs could squirm, kick scream and wail. You get the point though.

After collecting my little runaways, I went back to my seat not at all feeling defeated and embarrassed. No, not at all mortified. I attempted to hold and soothe my two writhing, overstimulated and loudly protesting kiddos while trying to process whether I should laugh or cry (I’m pretty sure that I looked like a complete maniac and was doing both).  A friend who had seen the entire baby escapee debacle on the court had at this point joined me to help out. She grabbed one of my feisty buddies and I looked down to catch my breath and composure. The crowd began to cheer, and I looked up to see my 7-year-old looking excitedly at me, jumping up and down with her fists clenched in victory. I smiled and gave her a thumb’s up. Already knowing what my answer would be, my friend teasingly asked  ”You didn’t get to see her score that basket did you?”  Nope. I most definitely did not. I also may….or may not, have seen her score any of the other baskets she made that game.   

Jenn Miele Leslie lives in Woodbridge, CT with her husband, three kids ages 8, 10 and 15 and two bulldogs who likes to fart and snore. Originally from Long Island, N.Y. (yes, that IS how you say it – if you’re from there you just understand) she misses being able to find a decent bagel or breakfast sandwich. Once an Art Therapist specializing in working with adults with various developmental disabilities, Jenn now spends her time shuttling her minions to: school; playdates; dance classes and competitions; occupational therapy; coding classes; and what feels like a million additional places, on a daily basis. In her occasional down time, Jenn enjoys photography, painting and an iTunes playlist that boasts way too many 90’s alternative songs.

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