Me: Excuse me, I signed my kids up for story time, but I'm not sure when the session ends...
Librarian: It will end May 13th. Do you want me to write that down?
Me: No, I've got it. I may not remember the day but I'll remember that it's a teen and I'll go from there.
Librarian: Really? Because you look like you might forget.
Me: I've got it, I'll get the right week, thank you.
Librarian: Really? If ever there was a person who might forget, it would be you. You have your hands full.
In that moment I literally had my hands full, I was carrying seven books (they each get to pick their age), two DVDs (one for each), a baby, and a wallet. But my kids were behaving, my kids were wonderful in fact. And that day was wonderful: I got to take a shower. Hell, I even shaved my legs, put on make up, actually did my hair and put on some cute new clothes. I ran errands, made appointments for the baby, picked up my kids from school (I was there early), and made a trip to the library. Sure, the Librarian was correct, I did forget the date, the 13th, but I knew it was a teen and I knew that it had to end on a Wednesday. I looked at a calendar, used the information she gave me and figured out that our last day was the 13th. Personally, I chocked that day up as a win, but still her comments really bothered me.
Today, the same thing happened. Another comment was made about me having my hands full and while today was not as wonderful to start as the previous, before we left the house I paid two bills, did a few things for work, investigated an ENT, got my kids dressed, made breakfast (eggs even), fed a baby and myself (for once), took a shower, did my hair, got dressed in cute clothing and arrived early to story time. It wasn't the librarian this time who made the comment, but it was another mother. My kids were wonderful at the library, they were using the appropriate level of noise in the children's section as they waited their turn to enter the story time room. They picked out the books they wanted to take home, we read a book each all while the baby sat up on my lap and was quietly listening to the stories and playing with a toy. We entered the story time room and my kids sat front and center behaving and following directions, participating and dancing along. My daughter fell asleep in her front carrier. I sat there for 30 minutes smiling at my children because they were being so wonderful and it's rare that I get to see them in a classroom-like setting, and you know? I was impressed! As we were leaving and I was getting coats on everyone, I felt like I kept getting stares. I was asked by another mother the ages of my children, I told her, "almost five, three and 4 months". She replied, "that's a lot, you've got your hands full." I just smiled back. I didn't have a great answer.
After story time my kids and I were hungry, so we went to a restaurant nearby. There was a little spat over where we would all sit, and I had to remind the oldest to sit on his bottom, and I had to quite a baby who needed to burp, but all in all, it was a great meal. I kept getting stared at by a mostly male environment as I nursed my daughter, encouraged my kids to use great manners, and reminded them that we had to use quieter voices in a restaurant. They weren't yelling and screaming, in fact, they were trying to make conversations with those around us. They were counting people with hats on, they were counting how many males and females were in the building and so on. It was constructive conversations, but we were stared at nonetheless.
When we went to our swim lesson I wore the baby in the front pouch and carried the swim bag. Henrik held my hand and Theo held his. We were in a nice line, no one was being silly, we were just walking. "Oh, you have your hands full" said another member. I just flashed a quick smile as I entered the locker room. All was well as they prepped for class but after class it was a little more challenging as I got the two boys showered, dressed and brushed their hair all while holding their sister. We were started at again. Maybe it was because the boys look like twins, maybe it's because they both happened to pick out blue shirts which made their twin-ness more of a possibility, maybe it was because I was no longer baby wearing and I had to do all of this single handed. Maybe it's because I have three kids. I'm not sure but I felt watched and for the first time really felt uncomfortable as a mother.
A while back a friend (who also has three children) was told that she had her hands full, and her remark back was, "yes, full of love". And I liked that answer a lot. But it's not my answer. Of course I love my children. Of course I dedicate my daily life to their education, their safety and their comfort. Of course I would do anything for them, but answering that my hands are full of love isn't want I want people to hear when they make a comment about my life. My hands are full. They are literally full of keys, a phone, a diaper bag and my infant daughter. But they are also full of keeping track of my two sons. They are full of exhaustion and little hope of a full nights sleep. They are full of comfort that everything will be OK while their dad is away. They are full of strength that I can not only carry seven books, two DVDs, and a baby and not drop anything, but also strength that I can take care of myself in the process. They are full of worry that one of the boys won't stay close as we go into a parking lot, or that they will get lost as we make our way through a busy room. They are full of fear that I won't succeed in this process. They are full of artwork made for me from school, things they want to mail to their dad, and their soggy, muddy gloves from the playground, but they are also full of hugs and kisses for my return at pick up time. They are full of love, so much love that it makes me beam when I think of them.
My hands are busy every second of every day tending to boo boos, keeping their treasures, congratulating achievements, high-fives, wiping noses, directing clean ups, changing diapers, making food, cleaning the house, putting away laundry, doing my job (yes, real work), doing "mom school", reading books, building Legos, wiping up baby spit-up, doing butt checks after they go to the bathroom, stimulating three kids, connecting with my friends in group texts and talking to my husband. My hands are full of of snuggles, kisses, and soft, chubby hands just waiting to have their turn at "mom time". My hands are full. They are sticky, they are dry from washing them because they are covered in snot and whatever that is over there. But, they are well used, and they are full of life.
I'm hurt and a little offended that society thinks that my third child, or maybe the fact that I have two boys so close in age, means my hands are full and I can't function at life. My kids are good kids, they are wild at times, they play off one another and become silly, they don't always listen, and they are curious. But they have kind, wonderful hearts that stand up for the people they love and question the things they don't quite understand or don't believe to be fair. They are full of life themselves and are eager to share it with all of us. I, like all of you, have days where I don't get to eat a real meal, take a shower and cannot wait for nap time. But I am making it. I am doing it. I am living each day like it's meant to be lived. I want my kids to know that life is hard, it's always throwing curve balls at you, but I want them to see that their mom can handle it all and still make time for them, herself... and even have a little fun together. So when people tell me, on days that I think I'm kicking ass, that I'm struggling at life. I want them to know, I'm not. I'm living. And I'm doing it well. My hands may be occupied by three kids under five, a host of other objects and covered in baby puke, but my hands are full of life, and that's exactly what I wanted in this world.
So the next time I'm told by complete strangers that my hands are full, I'm going to look back and them and smile. I'm going to stand up taller, pull my kids in closer and tell them, "yes, they are, very full of life". Then I'm going to move along with my kids dressed as super heroes and give them each an air high-five as we exit the building because, we are kicking ass at life. We made it out the door on time or early, no one peed their pants in public, and we probably brushed our teeth. We are together, they are laughing, I'm wrangling, and we are off on an adventure that will bring us closer to one another, and hopefully, when they are older, and perhaps when they have kids of their own, they will remember to live. To live in the moment, to cherish what we are given and to give life all we've got. Because if your hands aren't full of life, then you're not doing it right.