Five years ago, my husband and I took our two young sons and baby camping for a weekend at the beach. Upon arriving for our first night there, we set up our sleeping bags on the sand and got ready to settle in for a good night’s sleep. However, my plan to relax quickly changed when a local fisherman came and warned us about the terrible scorpion problem they’d been having lately.
“You’d be better off sleeping in a tent,” he explained, “unless you want scorpions climbing all over you.”
I gasped in horror as I pictured scorpions crawling onto my two little boys and my darling baby, stinging their little legs and arms. Two hours later, I returned from a faraway store with a newly purchased tent, feeling annoyed from the long and unexpected drive, but optimistic about the next day’s adventures with my family.
At about one in the morning, the wind started howling, blowing large gusts of sand into the sides of our tent. Everyone woke up, and the baby started crying.
The windswept sand built scratchy piles of rubble on our pillows, surrounding our heads. We had to keep our eyes shut tight to prevent the sand from blowing straight into them. The sides of the tent flapped so loudly, it sounded like excited giants clapping in our ears. Miraculously, my husband and two older boys threw their sleeping bags over their faces and conked out for the night.
The baby and I weren’t so lucky. He was uncomfortable and fussy and needed to nurse non-stop, making it impossible for us to fall back asleep. After about an hour of this, I’d finally had enough. I got up with my baby and climbed into our minivan, careful not to step on any scorpions lurking in the night.
With tears of frustration running down my face, I drove around the campground in an attempt to lull him to sleep with the sounds of the engine. The baby was just starting to calm down when a security officer pulled me over, wondering why I was suspiciously driving circles through the campsites at three in the morning!
Finally, an hour later, I got my baby to fall asleep in my lap, both of us curled up awkwardly in the front seat of the minivan. I awoke a short time later with a sore neck, a terrible headache, and the sleep-deprived realization that I had only slept for about two and a half hours the entire night.
I was so upset the next day that I vowed to never go camping again. I decided that this was the worst mothering night of my life. I swore I would never, ever forget my decision to not go camping again!
This past summer while we were camping at the beach with our now three children and small baby, I laughed out loud as I remembered how bitter I was about that previous camping trip, and how I was never going to go camping again. I giggled remembering the hopelessness I felt driving my baby in circles and my anger at the scorpions, the wind, the sand, the officer, and the minivan seats.
While I laughed about this experience, I looked over at my little children playing happily in the sand and realized that throughout my journey as a mother there are doubtlessly going to be many difficult experiences like that one, but how wonderful it is that I can look back and laugh at them. The smile on my face was genuine as I reminisced about that terrible, funny night once more.
I made a goal to remind myself that through whatever hard, frustrating, or extremely hair-pulling experiences I might have as a mother, someday I will be able to look back and laugh. This motto to look back and laugh reminds me to not get too angry or overwhelmed when hard things happen. It also reminds me to not get down on myself or my children when things don’t go perfectly as planned. Instead, I try to make a mental note that in one year, or three years, or maybe even ten years (in some situations), I will be able to look back and laugh at that experience and find humor in the trials I faced as a mother.
When I asked a few fellow mom friends what sorts of experiences they look back and laugh on, I got some funny responses. One mother said, “The time the toilet was clogged with popsicle sticks, and we had to use the bathroom at the park for two days.” Another said, ”The time my son got his arm stuck under the fridge when he reached for a toy. My husband was at work, and I couldn’t lift it by myself. I had to go next door and ask a neighbor to help!”
Yet another mom revealed, “The time my daughter got a marble stuck up her nose, and I had to rush her to the ER.” Lastly, one of my favorite, most heart-wrenching tales was, “The time when my toddler pooped his pants and got it all over the floor from the kitchen to the bathroom. I put him in his room while I was cleaning up, but he pooped again, getting it all over his bedroom! Finally, I placed him on the kitchen table to finish cleaning, and he dumped the entire salt shaker all over the table. Worst day ever!”
For these poor, unsuspecting mothers, not one of these situations was funny at the time. In fact, some were downright horrifying! But the ability to look back and laugh can make all the difference in how parents approach new challenges and put difficult times behind them. I hope I can continue to see the humor in my hard experiences, even if it takes a few years to do so!
QUESTION: What have been some of the hardest challenges you’ve been through as a mother that you can look back on and laugh about now?
CHALLENGE: Next time you’re faced with a hard, frustrating, or extremely hair-pulling experience, remember that someday you may be able to laugh about it. Also, remember to tell these stories to your children, so they can laugh along with you.
Edited by Lisa Hoelzer and Becky Fawcett.
Post images provided by the author.
Feature Image from Shutterstock; graphics by Julie Finlayson.