I say "no" a lot. I mean I say "no" to my kids a lot. Around strangers and friends whom I care considerably less about, I seem to struggle with limits and "no"s, and yet when it comes to my kids, "no" is almost reflexive at this point.
Hey mom, can--
Hey Brittany, can you fly in to do this thing that you barely have time or available brain cells for in the name of career job brand jargon jargon money.
Um... yeah sure.
Hey Brittany can you hop on a video conference really quick despite being in the middle of something else way more emotionally valuable to you?
Yep, can do.
Not right now.
Hey lady, can I talk to you about our lord and savior Jesus Christ?
Am I a horrible mom? I don't know, ask me in five minutes.
The guilt from declining the needs of other people seems more immediate than the guilt from declining the requests of my kids, as I have a good five- to 10-year reprieve before therapy revelations. I write it off to exhaustion and stress and a heavy workload, operating under the promise that if I work hard now, later I won't have to.
Also, I have three kids. And that is a lot of kids. A gaggle of geese, murders of crows, what is a group of kids? A murdery gaggle? I have a murdery gaggle of kids. It's not that I can't handle them, it's just that when you have three, you know your limits. You know how to keep yourself out of situations that will end in disastrous tantrums or overall suckiness.
We go through a lot of drive-throughs. We road trip more often than fly. We have patterns and safe places we're comfortable with, our favorite restaurant where the servers know our names and keep quarters in their pockets so the kids can get temporary tattoos from the old machine next to the bathroom. The perfect row in the movie theater every Friday night. There aren't a lot of last-minute decisions being made with three kids.
Especially not on a Saturday morning when Andy is working and I have a murdery gaggle of kids stopped in a car on a country road waiting for parade floats to pass on the way to the hospital to visit my mom after shoulder surgery.
Oh mom! Can we go to the parade?
No, babe, we have to go to the hospital.
But they're having a festival with rides, can we please go?
I said no, we have to see Oma today.
In my rearview mirror I saw Jude slump down in his seat. Out of the corner of my eye, I saw Wyatt sigh and bat at the unattached tubes and wires from an unused IV pole and Gigi spinning in the empty hallway outside the darkened beeping rooms while the doctor explained arm slings and aftercare and pain management.
On the elevator ride down to the parking garage, I had a change of heart.
Yes. We are going to a festival today.
I hadn't showered or shaved or brushed my hair. I was wearing the same maxi dress (a maternity one from Old Navy that is really cute, f*ck you I don't adhere to labels, fashion industry) I'd been wearing the day before, and the kids had dirty feet and unbrushed teeth.
Despite being by myself with three kids in a town that's not my own and an iPhone with a low battery and barely any sleep, I said yes.
Yes, you can buy 30 ride tickets.
Yes, we can order a bucket of fries with salt and vinegar.
Yes, you can get on the roller coaster that will probably make you vomit. In fact, you can ride it twice.
Saturday was a day of yes. Especially to corn dogs and cherry pie pops on a stick. Which are a thing now. Thank God.