I have to help myself first right now

I just experienced something very strange.

I picked up my son from school today and from the moment he put his little hand in mine he was asking about his toy ice cream truck. This was the toy that he was focused on playing with today (not the school bus, not the microwave, not Peppa, but the ice cream truck and only the ice cream truck).

So I told him that we would look for it.

We looked in the kitchen. And then the Living Room.

No ice cream truck.

We checked his room, even under his bed, and then Boppy’s room where he sleeps.

Still, no ice cream truck.

We checked the upstairs playroom which, let me tell you, is a feat. The closet has been organized, but there are so many toys. I poured through the bins. I found his Yo Gabba Gabba nesting dolls. I found more members of the Pig family than I can count. A mailtruck.

But no ice cream truck.

So we trekked down to the basement, where most of their toys are kept. This means that this is the hardest place to find things. And we looked and we looked and we rummaged and we moved things around but no ice cream truck.

And then, he started to get whiny. Fussy. Three-year-old-y.

And at the very same time, I started to get lightheaded.

I felt depleted. As I wrote about quite candidly, I am working very hard to get back to a place of physical health, but I am far from being there. And all of the trekking and the rummaging and the stair climbing was too much for me.

“We need to stop looking for a little bit,” I told my crying son.

“NO! We can’t stop looking! I NEED MY ICE CREAM TRUCK!”

You know the angry 3-year-old face? I got that, along with shouting, and tears.

“Love, I will help you find your ice cream truck, but I am not feeling well. I need to go make a little snack.

I have to help myself first right now,”

I told my little boy, who cannot really fathom that sentiment or understand the implications.

He stomped his feet and cried.

“I love you, but I need to take care of myself right now,” I repeated.

I recently wrote this piece for The Mother Company about Mom Guilt and my desire to rid myself (and others) of this epidemic as part of a New Year’s resolution.

But I have written about “mom guilt” for years, and so if you click that link back there you will see post after post in which I talk about needing to put my own oxygen mask on first and how I need to take better care of myself and how I can decide how to establish my values as a parent. (It may be worth a click, I think, if you are looking to read about of my evolution as a mother and also as a human.)

And so I had to listen to my son cry as I went downstairs to my kitchen, poured myself a tall glass of orange juice for electrolytes, grabbed a Clif bar for some quick nourishment and sat down.

Am I really doing this? Did I just tell my three year old that I am putting my needs before his?

It seemed so wrong and so right at the same time.

In this scenario, I had tried to help him, but in the process I started to feel depleted and so I paused in order to put on my proverbial mask.

But there is another scenario that could have happened:

I could have listened to him, my tiny dictator. I could have tried to assuage his upset by continuing to look for his ice cream truck, ignoring the signals from my body,

and passed out.

And if that had happened then he would have been stuck with me, passed out, and no idea as to what to do. No one would have been there to get my daughter from the bus stop. It would have been a nightmare.

I am a mother and I put myself first.

It is now two hours later and we have yet to find the ice cream truck…

but I think that I may have found myself, at least a bit…

and that is the sweetest find of all.

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