“I love people who make me laugh. I honestly think it’s the thing I like most, to laugh. It cures a multitude of ills.”
— Audrey Hepburn
I ran across this quote after a particularly stressful morning last week. We were packing up to leave at lunchtime for our much-anticipated vacation, a road trip to the beach. And my 18-month-old, Gabriel, was having a rough morning.
A really rough morning.
Everyone has rough days every once in a while. I’ve already come to the conclusion that this rule of thumb applies to babies as well. It’s just that toddlers, in particular, seem to hurt themselves a lot when they’re having a bad day.
I know they can’t help it, at their age. They simply charge headlong off the Precipice of Self-pity and don’t look back.
My recent rough morning is a case in point:
Gabriel follows me around the house, whining constantly, his normally steady little walk deteriorating until he starts tripping, falling and hitting his head on normally benign household objects like doorways, tennis shoes, and the water bottles he’s pulled off the bottom shelf of the pantry.
After tripping over the water bottles, he starts sobbing (even though he didn’t really hurt himself) and rolls dramatically over onto his back, right into a puddle of bright red Koolaid I spilled on the floor when I heard him trip over the water bottles.
I pick him up, cooing and humming a rendition of “Hail Mary” that does double duty as a lullaby and a prayer for sanity. I’m doing this at the same time that I’m stripping off the new white polo he’s wearing and furiously looking for my last bottle of stain remover in the laundry room (which I ultimately can’t find because I used it up a couple of days ago).
When I’ve changed his clothes and calmed him down, I put him down next to me while I finish packing (I’m trying to pack for our trip, remember?) After a couple of minutes of cheerfully tracing the designs on our living room rug, he suddenly starts whining, runs toward me, and flings himself at my head, knocking off my glasses and simultaneously obliterating my carefully folded and separated underwear and teeshirt piles.
Once I pry him off my leg, refold my underwear and teeshirt piles, successfully set him up playing with his favorite airplane toy, and turn my attention from him for 10 seconds, I turn around to see he has been so kind to unpack the carry-on bag I just finished putting together. When I finish packing the carry-on again, I realize he’s walked off with the right shoe from the bag, so I spend the next 10 minutes looking for it, finally finding it under my husband’s dresser. Next to my wallet, which has been emptied unceremoniously partially inside the shoe.
By the time Michael arrives home from work at lunchtime, I’m frazzled and quickly reaching Shut Down Mode, but everything is actually packed. A tiny miracle.
With Gabriel fussing the entire time, we manage to load up the van. As I’m on my way back into the house after my very last trip to take luggage out to the van, I spot Gabriel out of the corner of my eye, toddling matter-of-factly down the driveway by himself toward the street. I realize he had opened the back door by himself to make this escape, a “first” he chose to present to us today of all days.
And as I scoop him up in my arms, all of a sudden I laugh. Because the morning and the situation is so absurd, so completely beyond description at this point. And because it’s either laugh or start crying. I make my choice.
I think that laughter can be a secret weapon in motherhood. At least for me, in this season of parenthood. Even if it doesn’t quite “cure” a stressful Toddler-Having-a-Rough-Day situation, it certainly helps me regain my cool.
The St. Michael prayer is a daily one in our home, and I’ve recently been appreciating it more.
Saint Michael the Archangel,
defend us in battle.
Be our protection against the wickedness and snares of the devil.
May God rebuke him, we humbly pray;
and do Thou, O Prince of the Heavenly Host –
by the Divine Power of God –
cast into hell, satan and all the evil spirits,
who roam throughout the world seeking the ruin of souls.
The “snares of the devil” are all-too-often disguised as the rough mornings in our daily lives. With one toddler and a little one on the way, I’m still a young mom, but I can already see where the challenges of domestic life can be a real battleground for those evil spirits “seeking the ruin of souls.”
I feel like I’ve started to learn that abandoning my will and emotions to God, keeping my cool, and–sometimes most importantly–making sure I have the last laugh on those rough mornings can make all the difference.