Shake My Sillies Out

Will is a part of our pickup and drop off routine with the babies. He has so much silly energy, I mean he is 6 years old.  But often looks like a maniac little kid, bouncing off the walls of the babies daycare room, creating instant panic for me, energizing all the other little kids, and leaving the teachers with a mess of crazy when we leave. We are literally like a circus coming into and out of people’s lives every day - we find a plot of land to disrupt for a few days, paint people’s faces, perhaps bring a bunch of different crazy animals for people to "ooh and awww" over, pump everyone with surgery treats and sometimes show off our juggling skills - work, life, family - and then we leave.

This particular pick up was difficult. It usually plays out like this. Walking into daycare, I usually start to mentally prep Will… "Ok, what do we need to do to help get the babies into school? Let's make sure that we can use a calm body when we get into the classroom" His response is usually,  "Of course Mommy, I’ll try my best" 

We enter the room: chaos ensues

Margaret and Henry, running to captivate attention, almost to say “look what I did today, mom!” And it happens, Will takes off like a roadrunner, darting to the nearest thing to climb on - a complete 180, in literally an instant - my “good listener 6 year old” is a terror. And I can’t blame him, I would love to roll around in the creative space that CCC carefully constructs to aid in learning, developing and exploring for our sweet toddlers. 

But right now, this isn’t cute. This isn’t a “look how cute my kid is” kind of moment. This is a teeth grinding moment. The kind that may end me in the dentist chair, the kind of moment I am not particularly proud of as a parent. I have prepped for this... so I start with: "Ok buddy, let’s try and remember what we talked about”. 

Ignore number one. 

Deep breath, my mental monologue starts up - take a breath, Nattie. “Hey Will, can you come be mommy's helper, I need to get the babies to the stroller.” 

Ignore number two. 

The sweat starts, I feel my face flush... you all know it, the bodily reaction you have when screaming kids are in public places, and your face starts to turn into that weird combination of frustration and apology - no one else really seems to care, the baby's teachers smile on. 

I can feel myself start to rise, both twins perched on each hip, and both twins wanting to move to their stroller - squirming and pinching. I start back in, “Hey, Will, it’s time to go, please stop rolling on that, we want to set a good example for the smaller kids” 

Ignore number three.

At this point I have two options, deep breaths or full on rage... the kind you look back on, shake your head, and say “eh... probably not the best Mom moment, Nattie”. It would be so easy, and the point would get across pretty clearly, I see it play out...  “Will!!! Get over here and listen to your mother! N.O.W.” 

You know when your voice gets there, the mom voice that snarls under a smile, the need to just be heard - this approach however, would land me in the disgrace of CCC, and also just doesn’t look good... for him or for me. So, I take the road usually traveled - a big deep breath, small beads of sweat on my temple, and two squirming kids on each hip...

“Will. I will count to 5. Mommy is being patient, please.. Come. Here. Now.” He hears it, and he knows. “K, Mom”.

All smiles, he exits the space like nothing happened, and I am exhausted - the entire ordeal lasted 7 minutes but I can’t let it go.

We get in the car, settled in, and I say, “Hey beans, can we talk about something? Mommy feels a little frustrated that you weren’t listening because it makes it hard for me to get the babies to the car safely.” He responds: “I know, mom, it’s because my body is full of silly shakes”. My mind bursts, "Ok, how cute is that? Still... stay the course."

“I know you have the sillies... maybe we can come up with a better plan for listening." Will bites, he seems interested and excited about this idea. (cool, internal mom high five). 

“Maybe I can run in place? Maybe I can take deep breathes! Maybe I can sing really loud!!” Ok... all good ideas, at least he is thinking about ways to keep himself busy. I respond “What can I do to help you?” His response: “Ask me if I am doing my best?”

Uh. Ok, y’all... ask me if I am doing my best?! It makes sense and resonates in that deep place in my heart. I respond, “Good idea, buddy.” 

Am I doing my best? In that moment, in the babies daycare, I thought I was doing my best... my best to not lose my shit on all three of my kids... but there is something bigger here, right? Six year old's are so smart.

We are always told to “try your best”, but what is the definition of best... how is that metric set? In work, it is set by goals, based on data and research that say this is what success looks like. In parenthood, marriage, friendships, there are no metrics. Certainly you can set goals, but there is no manual. So, how do we define “our best”.

Is it based on how we feel about ourselves? How others perceive us? “You’re killing it, mama!” - a phrase we all use to pump each other up. Is it based on how much time you spend with your kids, your spouse, your friends? Do we look back on meaningful conversations and chalk that up to "doing my best" at fostering a relationship? Is it measured on uninterrupted time with a spouse or family member? 

I think it could be a combo of a lot of the above. The authentic connection created in relationships, the meaningful and honest conversations with a boss or co-worker. Perhaps being vulnerable enough to say, "I am trying my best" in a time where you may have missed the mark, realized you let something slip through the cracks at work, allows for a different type of conversation to happen - an authentic one. One that looks more raw, more real, uncovering factors that may play into your ultimate success. Uncovering life. Now, I understand we can't use, "I tried my best" as a blanket metric - things would not get done efficiently or effectively. But, it did give me a moment to pause and think about how I can incorporate this into a daily mantra - at work, with my kids, with my spouse. 

Approaching a conversation, a meeting, a bedtime routine, picking up after dinner, sitting down with my spouse, catching up with a friend, with "am I trying my best?" may change these interactions. Also, understanding that "my best" will look different everyday, this framework may require me to be more intentional, more present, more authentic, in the everyday. A challenge, for sure. I know many times that "I'm doing the best I can" also has been used as a crutch - a get-outta-jail-free-card - that we may all fall back on. So, how can we re-position the idea in our mind? Can it start with intention? Can it start with authenticity and vulnerability and conversation? 

Will’s “best” will look different than Maggie and Henry’s “best”. But, at the end of the day it really isn't about "trying your best" at all, is it? It is about showing up, intentionally, with every interaction you have. "The best" will fall into place. How do you foster authentic connection in your life? Do you approach your day with a "do your best" attitude? Do you give yourself grace that it may look different day to day? 

A simple comment from a 6 year old. "Just ask me if I tried my best, Mom". Talk about an intentional question. Maybe we can hold each other accountable in this. And, maybe sometimes we just have to shake our sillies out. 

Raffi was onto something when he came up with that song: 

I gotta shake, shake, shake my sillies out and wiggle my waggles away. 


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