There are times when I don't want to pick my kids up from school. I'll sit outside of whatever building they're in and finish the podcast I'm listening to or check my email for the 800th time. I know that what lay ahead of me is sibling rivalry, tantrums, and an incessant refusal to go to bed. For months at a time, it pans out the same way. Sometimes, I feel like Sisyphus. As I pick up the same towel off the bathroom floor for the twentieth time that day while my kids get in a fight over who gets to play with the cardboard part of the toilet paper roll, I fear I'll never make it to the top of the mountain.
I was recently in one of those places where evening routines and rituals with my kids were wearing me down. I was, also, working on a piece that included a reference to the TV show 20/20 from the late 80's/early 90's. To make sure I remembered the apocalyptic feeling of the show accurately, I watched an episode from 1991.
20/20 episodes would always start the same. They'd hit us with some mildly disturbing, yet straightforward, facts about life. This was their way of warming up the crowd, which they would then expose to increasing horrors as the episode wore on. In the episode I watched recently, there was a segment towards the end about difficult kids.
Every person on the panel was a mother, and every woman discussed how horrible their children were.
"I had wanted a baby so badly," a woman says, a voiceover to an image of her two-year-old daughter screaming and flailing on her bed. "And then here she was, and she was giving me such a hard time, and I was saying 'why is this happening to me' you know? This isn't the way it was supposed to be."
Her monologue ends with a shot of her daughter laying on the kitchen floor, wearing nothing but a diaper, and screaming. After noting that the woman must've been an actress because her voiceover work was amazing, I realized that her kid wasn't very different than my kids. They've been known to scream on the floor in just their underwear on more than one occasion.
The segment continued as other mothers talked about what little shits their kids were. Every single one of those mother's said, "I can't take this anymore."
Something about watching these woman, with their bowl cuts and blazers, discuss how their kids were driving them to the brink of insanity, comforted me. I saw myself in these early 90's moms even though I would've been 9 when they declared how frustrated they were with their kids. It made me feel a lot less alone; I'm not the only mother in history who is wholly depleted by tantrums and obstinant children who tear apart their house every day. It's as if these women were sending a message across the decades saying, "your frustration is justified. You take all the time you need staring out the window before you walk into that school to pick up your kids. They're not gonna make this night easy for you."
I assume that all these women lived to see their children become adults. And I, also, assume that their kids are starting to have children of their own now. I'm sure they're all feeling the same way their parents felt 27 years ago because, as we all know, karma is very real and can destroy lives. I'm sure the mantra of these former terrible kids is also, "I can't take this anymore."