I knew to expect idiotic comments from well-meaning outsiders. My fellow triplet mamas posted long, angry, sobbing, rants over statements people made about their “situation” in our social media group. The rest of us rallied around them, consoling, sympathizing, coming up with responses, and offering to post bail.
But I had yet to be on the receiving end of such comments. Chris and I hadn’t started taking the Tagalongs out until they were around 18 months old, and most of the people we’d encountered had directed nothing but positive remarks toward us. “You have your hands full!” was the most “controversial” thing I’d heard. So the statement that came from the customer in front of me at Costco caught me off-guard.
Matters at Hand
It had been a day to rival Alexander’s terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day. The Tagalongs were only 18 months old, but already, we were starting to see signs of the trying twos.
Caleb postponed his regularly scheduled middle-of-the-night shenanigans until 4 a.m.—right when I was getting my workout on. One hour and three trips upstairs later, he finally fell back asleep.
Danae woke up an 1½ hours later MAD. In fact, she was so angry that when Chris emailed later that morning to ask how the kids were doing, I told him that someone had peed in her Cheerios.
The toys we bought the Tagalongs with our hard-earned money were apparently not up to snuff anymore. In the 20 minutes it took me to clean up after breakfast, the kids threw every toy out of the playroom and stood at the room’s gate whining in boredom.
The coloring activity I moved them to didn’t go over very well either. They didn’t want to practice scribbling. Instead, they wanted to hone their throwing skills and kick their crayon-eating careers into high gear.
The play kitchen I dragged out after that was met with much excitement—probably due to the scorpion I found perched on it. The next 20 minutes involved dragging two children across the floor while screaming, “FOLLOW MOMMY!” to the third; dumping three scared, angry, screaming toddlers into a pack ‘n play; sending Chris a video laced with unChristianlike words about our pest control company; dragging the play kitchen outside and violently shaking the vile creature off; and soothing three hysterical toddlers until their screams were merely teary hiccoughs.
Lunch (tuna sandwiches) was met with disdain and ended up all over the floor and walls.
Afternoon nap ended 1½ hours early when James and Caleb woke up at exactly the same time screaming bloody murder. They were so loud that they woke up Danae in her room across the hall. I spent 20 minutes trying to get Caleb calm enough so that I could set him down to soothe James and Danae.
Chris arrived home from work in the middle of the cacophony but was unable to help because he had 2 weeks left on his posthernia surgery lifting restriction. When all was calm and right with the world again (read: the Tagalongs were shoveling a snack in their faces), Chris begged to “sit for a few” because he’d had a bad day himself. I sniped that my “sit for a few” had seen me plan meals and budget for groceries—not kick up my feet and enjoy a snack without an additional appendage attaching its sticky fingers to me.
The Tagalongs, picking up on our tension, started whining again. At my wits’ end, I decided to drag them to Costco to exchange the moldy tomatoes we’d bought 2 days before. Maybe the car ride and a change of scenery would do us all good.
Making Matters Worse
And it did! The Tagalongs were pint-sized celebrities. They lapped up other people’s fascinated stares, whispers, and waves, contentedly swinging their dangling feet from the cart as we made our way through the store. And me? I got a break from entertaining them.
Then we got in line to check out. The kids were fine. The cashier and boxer were fine. The customer in front of us was fine—until she wasn’t.
Customer. “Are they triplets?”
Customer. “Oh wow! You have much more patience than I would.”
Me. (not wanting to be given more credit than I was due) “Most days. Some days, like today, my patience wears thin.”
Customer. “Oh I bet!”
Customer’s turn comes up. Cashier tries to figure out who the cart with kids belongs to.
Cashier. (gesturing to the Tagalongs) “Are they yours?”
Customer. “Oh no! They’re hers (gesturing to me). I’d have killed myself a long time ago.”
Me. (in my head) “F YOU LADY!” (throat punching her as I drag her to the ground)
Me. (in reality)
Mad as a Mother
The customer’s comment made me angry—but not for the reason you think. Yes, I was angry at what she said. I know that people insert their feet into their mouths when they come across triplets because they don’t know what to say. But in what setting is it appropriate to say you’d kill yourself for having kids? No, I was angry at my lack of response.
How could I have not say ANYTHING? An obscenity would have put me on her level, but even it would have been better than the silence that met her comment.
Did the silence mean I agreed with her? There are certainly days in which I could contemplate the action. Heck, the previous 12 hours had laid a pretty good case for possibly wanting to do so—especially since they’d been preceded by a week that involved two urgent care trips in one night, two cases of the cold, 6 hours of sleep in a 3-day period, and one 3-day battle for alpha triplet status. And this was a tame day compared to other days I’d had with them. I mean, I didn’t eat my way through a carton of ice cream and cry myself to sleep that night. Have I asked Why me?! Yes. Have I told God that His plan is whackadoodle? Yes. Have I thought about killing myself? No.
And I want my kids to know that. I want them to know that no matter how much they push my buttons, no matter how frazzled they make me, no matter how many times I say that they’re driving me to drink, I love them more than life itself. And I pledge to them that if I get to the point where thoughts of self-harm take up residence in my mind, I’ll ask for help.
Children are a challenge—whether they come as a single pack or a multipack. Is my situation more challenging because I have triplets? Some days—usually days on which I take the Tagalongs to story time—I think so. Other days, I’m not so sure. I know life with triplets; I don’t know life with a singleton or with multiple children who are different ages.
Taking Matters Into My Own Hands
But I do know that the thoughtless comments ended with the Costco customer. My response didn’t need to involve swear words, and it didn’t need to be a diatribe recounting my journey to motherhood. It needed to be something that made the speaker aware of the meaning behind their “harmless” comments. Thankfully, I haven’t had to speak up since that incident, but I’m ready to rise to the occasion when it does.
Mama said there’d be days like that. She didn’t say that people shouldn’t think before they speak. And she didn’t say I had to take it.
*Coming soon! A post on 10 things you don’t want to say to a parent of triplets. You’ll laugh, you’ll cry, you’ll gnash your teeth, you’ll definitely roll your eyes.