When people find out I have four kids, the question I usually get asked the most might surprise you. Overwhelmingly, people will ask, "Are you going to go for five?". Really. This is what people ask. This same type of question gets asked though when you have zero, or one, or two, and I am going to assume if you have 6, 7, etc. My response is to usually just laugh, because, well, that brings me to the next thing I hear all the time, "You must have your hands full".
And the truth is, I do. Pretty much all the time. Full of sippy cups and lacrosse gear and books upon books upon books ranging from Star Wars to Magic Pony to Babar, full of tiny socks and so much laundry I wonder how it ever even got accumulated to such a degree. My hands are full of little hands, helping them cross the street and climb up steps, helping them tie shoes and stuffing forgotten homework into backpacks.
Sometimes, my hands are full of a tantruming toddler, mid-rage and full volume, stiff legged and red faced in the middle of the store, some people politely just pretending to ignore me, some shooting me sympathetic glances, and some telling me "Oh boy, do you have your hands full".
I don't know why, but sometimes it rubs me the wrong way when people say this. I try to tell myself that people don't mean it to be negative, and they probably don't, but sometimes it comes, from a stranger usually, when I am my most overwhelmed, or tired, and it just serves to highlight that handling four kids (or let's face it, one or two on any given day) can sometimes be a little much.
That brings me to the other day when I was in the grocery store with all of the kids, hoping to make it as smooth as possible. The first struggle came with deciding who would get to push the small cart. JUST ONE SMALL CART I pleaded with them, but two of them were adamant that THEY should be the one in control of the adorably small yet surprisingly hazardous toy cart so I caved and let them both take one. So here I was with my little armada of tiny people, one in the big cart, one tagging along getting on and off the front of the big cart, and two shiny red children's carts careening dangerously near shelves of glass bottles and threatening to overtake my ankles painfully at any moment. Oh and I was actually trying to grocery shop and remember everything on the list I accidentally left at home. Plus, it was one of those not quite yet fall days where you leave the house in a sweater and jeans and live to regret it while sweating by noon as it hits the mid-80s.
The big meltdown came somewhere near the cookie section, when we just could not agree on the number of cookie boxes that should be allowed in one day for one family. They said four, I said one, and we had reached a tense stalemate in the aisle. Jack finally gave in and threw himself on the floor, increasingly unsure of what, exactly, he was protesting. Talley decided this would be the best time to throw her sippy cup overboard repeatedly, and the older children were just over it altogether. Did I mention how hot and sweaty I was? So let's just go with the obvious, I was a hot mess. The whole situation was a hot mess.
I saw an older woman hovering nearby, and steeled myself for any comments. I could just FEEL the "Hands Full" admonishment in the air, ready to be fired, ready for me to totally take it personally and just ruin my own day. I was locked in that moment where you consider just abandoning your entire outing and trying again later, I mean, ordering pizza again for dinner wouldn't be such a bad idea, right?
As she approached, she picked up Talley's cup for me, and as she reached to hand it to the baby once again she said it, "Boy, you sure do have your heart full, don't you?", she said smiling. It took me a second to realize what she had said, that she hadn't spoken the dreaded hands full words, and it was so sweet, and so touching, and so exactly what I needed right in that very moment.
I laughed, and shook my head yes, and looked around at my little chickens by my feet, even the one who was squawking rather loudly at that moment, and was so happy for the gift of a shift in perspective.
"Enjoy them", she said, patted my hand, and walked away, giving them all a little wave. Jack waved back from the floor still in his tantrum position. I didn't abandon my cart in the aisle, we toughed it out and made it home with nearly everything on our list, and I decided to write this post to be able to pass on that kindness of that woman to one of you. It might be chaos sometimes but it is a beautiful chaos, isn't it? xoxo