Handstands and Motherhood

It was a fairly typical Monday afternoon. My three boys tumbled off the school bus just before three o’clock, suppressed energy from a structured school day emanating from them like skin sweating an overindulged garlic meal.  They careened wildly into the house, shouting & shedding coats and boots and hats. The peace and serenity of taking care of a curly haired & lashed preschooler was lanced like a carbuncle and the pus-like mayhem was about to begin.

Afterschool snacks were the first order of business. Apple slices & yogurt were initially rejected but then begrudgingly consumed. Unfortunately, being a pediatrician’s offspring really does mean trying to meet that daily goal of five servings of fruits & vegetables per day and four servings of calcium & vitamin D. As my 7 year old would mutter, “A real bummer.”

Orchestrating an independent 4th grader’s homework (his accelerated fifth grade math problems necessitated MY use of a calculator) and then actively participating in a 2nd grader’s reading comprehension worksheets and multiplication flashcards was a sprint towards the extracurricular finish line. Sight words for my kindergartner were drilled. Books were read and the backpacks were repacked. This frantic homework dash is purely self-induced of course. Certainly no one forced me to sign my kids up for a myriad of activities. My daughter did not need to take dance class, gymnastics, a nature class and Taekwondo. My two older boys did not need to add thrice weekly swim team practice on top of their 5 classes per week of Taekwondo. The boys did not need to be musically stimulated with piano lessons.

Be that as it may, I was racing to chauffeur the four kids to 3 different extracurricular activities. I also had to squeeze in a packed home cooked meal for the two older boys while their younger sibs were at Taekwondo. Honestly, there are some foggy days when I just want to swing by Mickey Ds and succumb to the convenience of fried salty processed hamburgers and french fries. However, I have not yet broken down. Most likely this is because of the memory of bumping into a patient family at a McDonalds’ in Breezewood, Pennsylvania (200 miles away on a family trip enroute to Washington DC) and being told by the father, “See, our pediatrician feeds her kids McDonalds so it’s definitely okay!” I didn’t realize that an annual McDonald’s visit made me the pediatrician poster child for fast foods!

Consequently, I was a harried tired mother with insignificant first world problems, all of my own doing. I was feeling fractious and grumpy, like a toddler who had the post-nap crankies. My children were stoking my mental furnace by bounding about the house, gleefully screaming and wrestling like hyenas near the Christmas tree. They blithely ignored my initially patient requests to start getting changed into their Taekwondo uniforms. Instead, they were pushing each other around, wiggling like puppies and leaving messes in their wake that I had tidied up minutes before. And as always, I felt like I was going to lose it. The clock was ticking, the extracurricular activity was awaiting and the kids were oblivious to my ballooning temper. I felt my blood start to simmer and fizz like magma.

As a pediatrician, I am very patient and indulgent of my “kids” in the office. Unfortunately, a lot of the patience seems to dissolve when I parent my own children. My kids know what buttons to push and usually I can manage to remain calm when one or two buttons are detonated. It is when the third or fourth child is caterwauling that my temper overwhelms my composure. I counsel myself on all AAP recommendations regarding the discipline of children. I recognize my own parental vices and have made daily resolutions to be more patient and understanding of these four darling hellions. But more times than not, I don’t always succeed. Today, while the kids were squealing, somersaulting and parachuting about my house, I decided to try another approach. I started practicing ujjayi breathing that I use in hot yoga class and then did a handstand for 60 seconds. Amazingly, afterwards I felt calmer with this inversion and the emerging strident tone in my voice was quelled. Frankly, I was thrilled. I found a new outlet for my daily frustrations of raising four strong-willed  opinionated children.

I have already done three handstands tonight.  But no yelling.

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