is it worth it?

It started with potty training.

(It always starts with potty training, yes?)

We began on a Monday, planning to take full advantage of the rainy weather. Our house was stocked: juice boxes, salty snacks, tons of fiber, and two brand new packs of Cars undies. Bring it on.

At the risk of being that mom blogger, this is what I really want to say about potty training: the potty training was easy; the poop training is a whole different story. It’s all fun and games until your toddler gets constipated.

Moving on.

Picture this: Brett and I stuck in the house for an entire week with a toddler peeing on the floor and a newborn that needs to nurse every two hours and so much rain and so much laundry and nobody is sleeping well and is it okay to give your toddler a laxative?

I’m an optimist; always have been, maybe always will be. When I read a book about running a 3-day potty training bootcamp, I assume we will be done potty training in 3 days, maybe 4 or 5 at the most. We needed to be done quickly because on day 5, we had big plans—The Polar Express. We had dropped a serious chunk of change on tickets months ago. It was going to be our Big Family Christmas Experience: a one hour train ride to the North Pole, a visit with Santa, cookies and hot chocolate, and our best friends in tow. All the ingredients for a magical evening.

Poor planning on our part meant that on Polar Express day, Everett was still potty training and Carson was due for his two-month shots.

The day was sheer chaos, as you can imagine. Everett had a tummy ache and in a moment of preventative panic, we decided to put him back in a diaper so he wouldn’t have an accident onboard a one-hour train ride with no bathroom. Anytime Carson was awake, he was screaming like a banshee.

We left the house late, as usual, and our process of getting into the car was worthy of reality television. Sometimes I wish we had a nanny cam set up in our garage to capture the pure shitshow that is our family trying to leave the house with two kids.

While Brett put both kids in the car, I triple checked the diaper bag: burp cloths, diapers, pacifier, Solly wrap, extra change of clothes for both kids, sippy cup for Ev, snacks, wallet, phone. Check check check. I could hear Everett whining from the car for his hot wheels jeep because he simply cannot function with less than four toys in the carseat with him.

Forgot a jacket for Everett.
Forgot a sweater for myself.

Back inside.
Back inside.

My phone had 20% battery, need the USB charger.
Back inside.

(Heaven forbid my phone dies and I no longer have the ability to capture these impending magical memories.)

Carson woke up screaming bloody murder, red face, hyperventilating. Need Tylenol stat.
Back inside.

Where’s the syringe? We have no syringe? What happened to our medicine syringe?! WHY ARE WE SO UNPREPARED FOR LIFE AT THIS VERY MOMENT?

We pulled out of the driveway as Everett was crying and Carson was screaming. Brett and I looked at each other and laughed, not because anything was funny but because everything was stressful in a way that makes you laugh awkwardly as a coping mechanism. This better be worth it, I thought to myself.

We parked in the structure and started walking towards the ticket station. It was cold and just starting to rain and Everett was complaining that his tummy hurt and Carson was squirming in the wrap, attached to me with a permanent “shhhhhh” streaming from my lips. Our friends showed up and saved the day with a syringe, like drug dealers only better.

Once aboard the train, we all got settled. There were children everywhere. I shouldn’t be allowed to say this because I am a mother but when there are children everywhere, I want to evacuate. This is how I know I am not meant to be a preschool teacher or a childcare worker or even a nanny for more than three children. Our train was very, very loud.

30 minutes later we arrived at the “North Pole”. Carson was starting to fuss so I rocked my body back and forth, holding him close in the wrap and shushing him as best I could. I looked over to my right just in time to see Everett with his hands pressed against the window, taking in the sights. When Santa came into view he started waving in that adorable way that toddlers do, shaking his entire arm back and forth with excitement.

“Hi Santa! Hi Santa!” he said over and over again.

I stared at him, desperately trying to see Santa from his perspective. I tried to see the magic that he saw. The innocence. The belief. For two minutes, I forgot all about potty training and the rain and Carson’s shots and the drama of us leaving the house. For two whole minutes, I watched the world through my toddler’s eyes and my heart skipped a beat watching pretend snow fall over pretend elves wrapping pretend presents.

And then those two minutes were over.

And then Carson lost his mind. The only thing worse than a screaming baby is a screaming baby in a confined space, such as a train. I frantically ripped him out of the wrap, attempting to unwrap fabric from my body while simultaneously unsnapping my bra strap and arranging the nursing cover around my neck.

Santa was on the train now, walking down the aisle passing out bells. He nonchalantly threw two at me and made a joke about me having my hands full.

Getting off the train was just as much work as getting on it. Can you take the diaper bag? Don’t forget Ev’s blanket. I need to get the wrap back on. Is that your sweater? Where’s my phone?

We walked back to the car and Everett started to cry, complaining of a tummy ache again. Carson screamed while I wrestled him into the carseat. I wish I could scream sometimes and get away with it.

Brett and I climbed into the car last, exhausted and hungry.

What do you want for dinner?

I don’t care.

I’m hungry.

Me too.

Should we stop and get something?

With the kids melting down in the backseat? No.

We lament over everything: the potty training, our empty fridge at home, the diaper bag that is never properly packed. I tell him that sometimes I am tired of life feeling so hard. That in the grand scheme of things, our life isn’t hard, but that taking care of a toddler and a newborn is a special kind of difficult. I feel like I spend hours and hours and hours trying to get us to wherever we need to be, just so we can be there for 30 minutes and not fall apart. It feels like it takes all day to prepare for something like The Polar Express just so I can watch my toddler wave to Santa for two whole minutes.

And I am left with the burning question: is it worth it?

Truth be told, it would be a lot easier to stay home and turn on the TV than go anywhere with two kids. It would be much easier to be permanent homebodies, only leaving the house for an occasional run to Chipotle when necessary.

But what kind of life is that?

And this is where being a parent becomes tricky because when you are a parent, you live an entirely different reality from your child. When I talk to Everett about The Polar Express, he remembers going on a choo choo in his jammies and eating a cookie and seeing Santa. And to him, it was perfect. He doesn’t remember (or care) that it was chaos getting in the car. He doesn’t remember or care that his baby brother was screaming half the night. He probably doesn’t even remember that he had a tummy ache. Those two minutes of magic that I witnessed? Those two minutes were the whole night for Ev.

And maybe that’s just what parenting is in this season. Maybe this is what life will be like for the next couple of years raising two small children who seem to need something every second of every day. Maybe I will spend 95% of our days working and preparing and cleaning and packing and checking and double checking and triple checking that damn diaper bag. All so that we can have 5% magic in our lives.

Is it worth it?

You tell me.

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24 Responses to is it worth it?

  1. Yes its worth it. There are some bad days with parenting and even on the potty train. It does get better and it goes by fast. Treasure those moments because soon you will have a student in school. Hugs
    julie@m5monkeys´s last blog post ..Princess of Thorns

  2. Christina says:

    I only have one, and I completely relate to this. And please, never invite me to event that happens at 1pm when nap-time is at 12:30. I might just lose all ability to function just thinking about making that happen!

  3. Victoria B says:

    I have no experience with potty training, but I definitely think it is worth it. I also find it reassuring to know that I can be a good mom even thought I always want to evacuate when there a large groups of children near by! I’ve always been afraid that that will mean I would make a terrible mother.

  4. Paulette says:

    So, so, so worth it!! I cried as I watched the video. Wish I could have been with you all to share in such a magical moment. Cherish these moments, even in the chaos, because all too soon your children will be grown and you will be wondering where the time went!!

    Love, Mom

  5. Paula says:

    I teach junior high and yet you put me around group of kids under the age of 5 and I want to get out of there! I feel your pain with the shots. My daughter just had her 4 month shots and she has been cranky and not wanting to sleep. The job is so hard and with this being my first I can’t help but wonder does it get easier? Everyone tells me this is the easy part right now and just wait till she starts crawling and walking. Even though she has not been the most pleasant child the past two days when she wakes up and gives me that cute smile before she starts crying cause her legs are sore…..that makes it all worth it cause I can’t help but look forward to those little smiles 🙂

  6. Amy says:

    I can’t tell you how many times I have said “let’s just not go to X…it’s too hard.” It feels like it is an absolute miracle if we can all get out the door in one piece and ready to take on the “adventure.” In the end, I am always glad that we did, but I would be lying if I said that I didn’t question my sanity or if it was really worth it in the moments leading up to it. All we can do is keep on keeping on…day after day, and hope it will get it easier. It has to, right?

  7. Jen says:

    As I was reading this I was having an anxiety attack, lol. I only have one at the moment, who just turned 1, and I still feel like it’s such a hassle to get out the front door with him. Between food, diaper bag prep, working around naps, and car seat wrangling, it just stresses me out. So does the prospect of having more than one! But when I saw that little clip of Ev waving at Santa my eyes watered and your whole stressful day felt instantly worth it…to me! It really is about that 5%!

  8. Leslie Lee says:

    This was so helpful, Ashlee. Our first is 6 months old now, but those first 3 months felt like a never-ending screaming baby tour most days. Imagining that plus wrangling a toddler makes my brain parts hurt. You’re doing a wonderful job! xo
    Leslie Lee´s last blog post ..Mandy and Brad: Preview | College Station wedding photographer

  9. Lesley says:

    First, so impressed with you for making The Polar Express work! That video is so precious and I kinda feel like it was all worth it. Tummy aches and all. 🙂

    I am definitely one who thinks that there are some things, some activities, some times which just aren’t worth it. Large group playdates, for us, just aren’t worth it anymore. I don’t get time to connect with other moms (because I’m chasing kids in opposite directions) and my kids don’t really need the “socialization” because they go to preschool/church/gym childcare and have each other. I occasionally have 1-2 moms over but by the time they bring their 2-3 kids, it’s an absolute ZOO. Most of the time, it doesn’t feel worth it.

    I think you do a great job of cherishing the moments while also being realistic about how little children need to actually be happy–whether that’s new toys or unique experiences. So glad you’re surviving potty training!
    Lesley´s last blog post ..Motherhood + Writing

  10. Stephanie says:

    I never comment but always read your blog. I too live in the Sacramento area, have a 2 year old boy, a 3 month old boy and also just went on the polar express. I felt this same way the entire time. Like your experience, when santa was around, it was all smiles. The rest of the time was utter chaos. AND when we got off the train, we LOST my son for about 30 seconds (which felt like 10 minutes when it’s night time in old sac with a million people around and he’s only 2)! It was awful. Terrible. But somehow I’m still glad we did it. Parenting is strange that way. Just thought I’d lament with you a bit. 🙂 Thanks for your honest words on this blog!

  11. Anne says:

    We only have one kid and I totally feel this way every time we leave the house. With cold winter weather and a child who hates to get dressed it is a total work out to get boots, hat, gloves, coat on just for 20 mins tops outside. But I agree with everyone else, totally worth it in the long run!
    Anne´s last blog post ..18 Weeks

  12. This is beautiful. I’m pregnant with my first, and new stepmommy to a three year-old. There have been a few hectic moments, a few moments that I was utterly miserable, but it was all worth it to see him so happy. While I’m looking forward to having my baby, I know it’s going to be a challenge handling both of them!
    Christen Tyre´s last blog post ..BABY UPDATE | Weeks 27 & 28 Overview

  13. Laura says:

    Hi Ashlee- I have been reading your blog for about a year now but haven’t commented before. I really enjoy your writing and with a three year and one year old, I very much relate. This was exactly our chaos a year old with a newborn and two year old, and when we went to see Santa and our newborn was screaming and toddler was in need of his four matchbox trucks we came back to our car, smashed from a hit and run in the parking lot. Was it worth it? I’m not entirely sure. We haven’t been this season. That first year with two was a hard one and more often than not felt like/actually was a shit show, but either things have gotten easier or we are all a bit more adjusted as a family of four. Anyway, happy holidays and thank you for sharing your honest tales of motherhood.

  14. Emily says:

    Oh…this is just great. I love your perspective on this!
    The amount of time it takes to pack up and get out the door. And the amount of time it takes to unpack once home and recover from the outing. I sometimes fear that I take the easy way out, thus resulting in less fun outings for the kiddos. I wonder if I’m being lazy?
    I love this line: “That in the grand scheme of things, our life isn’t hard, but that taking care of a toddler and a newborn is a special kind of difficult.”
    Yes, if we have the right perspective, it’s not hard. But that doesn’t mean that it’s easy. 🙂

  15. michelle says:

    This is so true and honest, and I think yes, it is worth it, every time. Thanks, as always, for sharing 🙂
    michelle´s last blog post ..Uncommon Stocking Stuffers & A Giveaway

  16. Karina says:

    I always read your blog but have never commented. This post truly hit it right on the head. I have a 21 month old and a 3 month old and this is also our reality. I ask myself often if it’s worth the 5 minutes of happiness and often conclude it is. Thank you so much for sharing your experiences . It really means a lot to be able to relate to other people s reality as well! Thank you!

  17. Jen rosin says:

    You are so gifted. The words. Felt like I was there with you (I was crying earlier-girl moment-so I read your blog and laughed out loud several times: you describing your life with two children as a shitshow (so so good), “I need to evacuate” are my top two) love you ash! You are brave and wonderful. Thanks for writing.

  18. OMG, the first time I read this was through Bloglovin’ so I didn’t see the video. I thought it was a really wonderful story. I just came back & it’s still wonderful, but hearing all the commotion in that video stressed me out hahaha. I’m obsessed with my own kid but I’m definitely not a “kid person”. Maaad props.
    Stephanie Shar´s last blog post ..Babestagram :: The Many Faces of #treytreytrey

  19. I love this, Ash! Ask myself that question all the time, actually 🙂 And p.s. your writing is my favorite, I never want your essays to stop.
    Katie Blackburn´s last blog post ..graduation

  20. Callie says:

    Oh ny gosh. So so worth ut. What a beautiful family outing! Maybe give it a few years and youlk onky remember the cookies and santa too xxx

  21. Amanda says:

    I don’t have any kids yet, but when I think back on my childhood, I can tell you, yes, it is definitely worth it. I don’t have that many great memories with my family (broken family and all that stuff), but most of what I can pick out, I remember fondly, magically almost, and it’s probably that 5%.

  22. Pingback: For Your Reading Pleasure…Links and Books #2 - Morning Motivated Mom

  23. Karena says:

    I ask myself the same question. This season of having young kids (my girls are 5, 3 and 7 months) is tough. I feel like a terrible mother because most days, I’m asking myself, “Why did I think it was such a great idea to have kids?!” This phase in life is a special kind of difficult. And like you said, in the grand scheme of things, my life isn’t hard but right now, it feels very hard. I think about people that have it so much worse than me and wonder, “How do they do it?” I can barely get through a day even though I have a home, food on the table, my health and a healthy family and I’m still complaining about how difficult it all is.

  24. Lisa!! says:

    It’s pretty hard to beat Camp Patton…she us my favorite blogger to follow (been following get for a year or so). But Ashlee, I just found you and I can’t stop reading and sending your posts to my girlfriends. You are amazingly gifted with sharing your thoughts and experiences. Grateful to be one if your readers and happy followers. Keep on rocking it…you’re fabulous!

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