Good gravy, yesterday was tough.
My brain is still numb, my shoulders still clenched in an upright and locked position. I just now realized I forgot to call my sister back last night. And I do believe I didn't go to the bathroom yesterday until I was getting ready for bed. (I developed a bladder with camel-like properties when I was working in the newsroom. Because if there's breaking news and you're in the control booth calling the shots, potty breaks are not an option.) (Too much information, perhaps? I can't tell anymore.)
But as grueling as my day was, it was worse for my good friend Mindy.
While I was sleeping in Saturday morning, Mindy was driving across Wisconsin, with the plan to spend a week visiting friends and family in Minnesota.
Then, life turned. Her tires snagged on an uneven shoulder. She over-corrected. Her car rolled like a tumbleweed, eventually coming to rest in the highway median as a tangle of shattered steel and glass.
Miraculously, neither she nor her kids sustained life-threatening injuries. Her two-year-old walked away without a scratch. Her six-year-old only had scratches and abrasions from her seat belt and flying glass.
Mindy escaped without any broken bones or internal injuries. But it took about 60 stitches to close the gashes in her face and arm, and she's sporting more bruises than a peach shipped from Georgia to Wyoming by USPS.
Her sweet husband, who wasn't accompanying his family on this trip, rushed to the scene. I first heard about the accident from him. Rightly horrified, I offered to help any way I could.
Thus, I found myself parenting five children yesterday.
Let the chaos begin.
First, I want to say that Mindy's kids are absolute delights. They are sweet, creative and compliant. Her six-year-old and my six-year-old would be best friends if they lived closer. And her two-year-old boy is like a towheaded package of love; he's just a snuggle-monster with a smile to melt your heart.
But having them here yesterday reminded me -- with startling clarity -- that I would be the worst child-care provider in the history of mankind. When I'm responsible for other people's children, I'm a nervous wreck. I'm jumpy. I can't focus. I feel completely out of my comfort zone. I find myself stalking the clock, willing it to move faster so I can discharge my charges.
It's the reason I never babysat, why I'd rather clean the church bathrooms with a toothbrush than work in children's ministry and why I adore my sister. (I would say worship, because it's close to that. But it seems sacrilegious, somehow.) Emily is like a Pied Piper of children. Ever since she was in middle school, kids have followed her around the church hallways, vying for her attention. Cries of "Emmy! Emmy" echo off the walls. When I was 15 and she was 9, I passed off all (read: two) of my babysitting jobs to her. And I think the parents involved in those situations were more than grateful. Today, Emily works in the children's ministry department at our dad's church, a job which perfectly fits her skill set and passion.
And then there's me -- the woman who has to fight the urge to hide in the laundry room while other kids play like angels with her own kids in her own home.
I've felt guilty about this for years, and the guilt only intensified when I had my own kids and was amazed to find that I actually enjoyed them and my new role as mother. Shouldn't I be able to deal with all kids now that I understand, on some level, what a gift they are?
But I've come to realize, we all have different gifts. Children aren't mine. I can certainly step up when I need to -- and watching Mindy's kids yesterday was a blessing to me, because it's what I could do to help her in a teeny-tiny way.
So I try not to dwell. But some days, I just can't fight the angst. Am I the only Mom in the history of the world who is kid-a-phobic?
Originally posted at Kelly's blog Love Well.