Self-Restraint Can Be a Bitch

Tonight was rough. Again. Not bedtime though, before dinner. Someone was in someone elses way which caused someone to fall. Someone was touching someone else which caused someone to get kicked in the head by someone else. Which nearly caused Mama to lose her shit. Everyone went to their assigned Time Out Spot with threats of no TV, no movie with friends the next day, no video game time, etc. Of course, there are always threats, threats which are big fat lies and my lame attempt at maintaining this facade of control. Who am I kidding?  The only control I have is over myself. I have to constantly hold myself back from screaming things so inappropriately horrible that sometimes, I think I could explode. So, in an effort to avoid combustion, I have compiled a list of responses to the most fucking annoying questions that I am dying to say but can’t. Enjoy:

Why does he always take my toys? Honey, I don’t know why your brother is such an asshole but I think it has something to do with you being an asshole to him.

Why do I always have to brush my teeth first? Because you can do it by yourself, which buys me a few more minutes of sitting on my ass.

How come he got to choose the book? He gets to choose because when he doesn’t he throws a much bigger fit than you.

Why do you get him dressed all the time? He can do it by himself.  I get your brother dressed because maybe he can stand wearing his underwear backwards, but I can’t stand to watch him dig them out of his ass all day.  Also, it’s incredibly annoying to me that he is so damn slow.

Why do I always have to have a vegetable? Because. Now shovel it in before I give you some more. And take away your video game time. And TV time. And you’ll have to sleep in the basement with the child-eating rats. Now eat damn it.

He’s hitting me! Well move out of the way so he can’t reach you. Your brother is a manic monster who takes great pleasure in hurting people– which worries me and Daddy but we are hoping that with time and avoidance, this will go away.

Who do you love the most? You, of course- just don’t tell your brothers.

Of course I would never say any of these things- well except the last one.

What do you wish you could say to your kids?

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The Easter Interview

We aren’t the family who frequents church. Our attendance comes in spurts- generally following a major holiday.  And then we fall (or jumping freely) off the wagon again.  My husband and I had a Catholic upbringing- which we clung to until our social beliefs were no longer aligned with the faith we were born into.  So we broke up with the Catholics and hooked up with the Congregationalists.  It’s open and affirming and lovely.  Now, I am not going in a direction of religion here- just to say that it’s because of our split from Catholicism that we lack the structure of regular attendance.  We have become what my mother used to refer to as “C and E’s”.  Whoops.  So my children have only peripheral knowledge of how religion connects to holidays.  It’s turned into more of a cultural experienced in my house- for the last two years, we have celebrated both Christmas and Hanukkah- and I am confident and happy with the choices we have made for our family.  No judging, please.

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All that being said, her is the Easter Interview:

Why do we celebrate Easter?

  • It’s the day Jesus dies.
  • Because it’s the Easter Bunny’s birthday.
  • Mama, want toast.  (Ugh, no kid.  Mama wants to sit down for 10 damn minutes.)

Who is the Easter Bunny?

  • He’s a Bunny that gives kids candy and a little bit of toys.
  • He is a bunny who is nice and big and has a bag of candy for us.
  • Mama, toooaaasssttt.  (Shit.  He’s not forgetting.)

Why does the Easter Bunny come?

  • Because it’s like when Jesus is born, Santa comes.  He is really helpful.
  • Because you don’t give us enough candy and he feels bad.
  • Mama.  Tooooaaaasssstttt!  (C’mon kid!)

Where does the Easter Bunny live?

  • In a cave with his kids.
  • In a hole.
  • Owside.   (Yeah, now little guy is playing along- and forgotten about that fricken toast!)

What is the Easter Bunny going to bring you?

  • Candy and some other stuff.  You don’t get as many toys as Santa because the Bunny doesn’t have elves to help.  So you get mostly candy and maybe a couple toys.
  • I want the Empire of Ice pack that comes with Slam Bam, Hotdog, Gillgrunt- those are Skylanders, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles- we already have two but we need more.  And a Chima set, you know the ones with the lion and the eagle?  (Dream on kiddo.)
  • Candy.  Trasha.  (Tractor- shit, I have to make an emergency run to the toy store now)

Where does Jesus come into all this?

  • Well, the Easter Bunny wanted to celebrate the day Jesus died.  When he gives toys to little kids, they won’t  be sad that Jesus is dead.  (I can barely contain myself with this one.)
  • Oh and I want that other Chima set- the one with the Laval’s Royal Fighter- it’s like a giant truck with treads on the wheels and a lion face in the front!
  • Mama, toast, want.  Mama!!!  Now!  Tooooaaaassssstttt!  (Shit.  Toast.)

And there you have it.  Not sure my Mama would be proud- nor Sister Irene who force-fed me graham crackers and apple juice when I was six and called me Jennifer for a whole year- but it’s the truth.  And real is all I ever promised to be.  Should I teach them more?  I don’t know.  Maybe.  Probably.  Some parents believe it’s lying to tell their children that a human-sized bunny sneaks in at night with candy and eggs.  Or that an obese elderly man with elves breaks in to leave presents while they are sleeping.  (Okay, when you break it down it’s kinda creepy…)  Is it deceitful?  Sure.   But it’s so fun.  We all celebrate differently- or not at all.  And that’s just fine.  Me, I am lying.  And it feels really good.


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Breathe. Breathe. Breathe.

A true test of the No Yell Challenge was placed in my path tonight.

There was the usual Phases of Tooth Brushing Revolt but the craziness of bedtime was accompanied this evening by screaming, kicking– and  there was no lack of attitude.  It peaked with a Mama sitting on a child’s back to pack his violently striking feet into jammies.  Oh holy shit, did I want to yell.  I also wanted to throw them out the window from the second floor bedroom.  But neither would have been productive and one may have won me a bunch of free evenings in a quiet room with my own bed and a guard at my door (hmmm…).

The whole time, all I could tell myself was: Breathe. Breathe.  Breathe.  And the truth is, it hardly did the trick.  How did we get like this?  My oldest now taunts my No Yell Game.  He pushes me to the point of breaking; testing every limit I provide.  He even throws in his recently acquired skills of making my rules seem like trivial jokes.  My middle child seems to be the only one marginally benefiting from this whole thing: I am so busy dealing with his brothers, he can do whatever he wants.  And then there’s the little guy- who I have grave concerns that he’s either in need of an exorcism or having a psychiatric break.  The tantrums and fits and irrational episodes, oh my.  (He is also now creating Lego men with sniper rifles jabbing into their skulls- should I be concerned about this?)  

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I used to be the Mama who closely monitored television- no one watched before age two (okay, that’s a lie but only when I really needed a shower).  And everything was age-appropriate and nurturing.  I used to be the Mama who was calm and rational and took time to explain what we did wrong and why we shouldn’t do that again.  What rot.  Because then we had Number Three and everything changed.  Some for the worse, a lot for the better.  But this Mama became so overwhelmed that she kind of forgot how to parent.  Sounds dumb right?  Somewhere in the transition to a family of five, we went wrong.  I yell first, ask after.  Where was the wrong turn that led us to Fuctupville?  And which way is Home?

Breathe.

I’m really trying here and I am having some success.  But.  It’s really hard.  It just doesn’t seem like I am making a dent in all of this.  I feel like the Lego guy with the gun in my skull.  Is this really going to work?  Why are they fighting me so badly on this?  Do they like the yelling?

Breathe.

The night ended with cuddles, Pumpkin Soup, kisses, warm hands on my face.  And a glass of wine as big as my head.  And I think, maybe I can keep going.  I’m not giving up.  Just struggling.  Like Day Eight of quitting smoking, it’s not going to get a lot worse than this and if it does, I am going to be that much stronger to fight it.  I didn’t yell.  And that’s about the only way I can measure my success today.

Breathe.  Keep on keepin’ on, Mamas.

Something a Little Different…

My little guy is in love.  With boobs.  My boobs.

I have to begin by saying that there may be some naysayers out there- some of my closest friends and even family.  I am nursing my 28 month old.  Some friends have nursed past six months, some past a year, and some still past two years.  I am aware though that I am a minority.  We nurse before nap and bedtime every day.  And most mornings.  And when he’s sick.  And when he takes a wicked head-knocker.  But that’s it.  Promise.

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Co-workers: Some know and some don’t.  The ones who know may talk behind my back or not.  The ones who don’t, well they may now.

Family: They know.  Most support.  Some judge.  Some pretend they are cool with it- and those usually ask way too many questions.

Friends: Well, there are two camps.  Camp One: Supporters.  Camp Two: Non-supporters.  Nuff said.

I didn’t ever make a decision that I would nurse long term.  When he was born, I remember thinking we’ll just go as long as we can.  The La Leche (nazi-breast feeders) says that children will wean themselves by a year, two at the most.  Lies!  These are lies!  No child of mine has ever “self-weaned”.  It’s a forced week of crying and husband hating.  But still.  Let’s try this.  A year came and went.  Well, let’s see what happens.  Eighteen months.  Huh.  He surely will wean by two!  Two years old.  Um.  Where exactly are we going with this?  I have no clue.

And people want to know.  They seem to really want to know.  Oh, you haven’t weaned yet?  How long are you going to go?  Well, he’s got to stop by kindergarten!  No wonder he’s so attached to you…

The truth is that I shouldn’t care.  I shouldn’t let stares, comments, questions bother me.  Because I am not nursing other people.  I am nursing my child.  But it matters to me.  I can’t help but feel insecure.  It’s not enough to make me wean him but it’s enough to make me more guarded about who I tell.  It’s enough to make me feel insecure.  And it’s enough for me to ask myself Should this be over?

Whatever we are doing seems to be working for us.  So please.  Unless you have nursed an older baby, unless you have seen that little latched smile, unless you have had your breasts kissed goodbye, and even if you haven’t: please don’t judge.

We Mamas make choices that we think are the best for our children and we feel strongly that these are the safest, smartest, most logical decisions.  We scour the internet, read books (and books and books!), take classes, talk to our friends, listen to our Mamas, our sisters, teachers, babysitters.  We buy stupid stuff that people tell us we need, or that we see others using so it has to be useful, right?  We bend over backwards to make sure our kids will have the best shot at life.  That they will grow up to be smarter, more secure, more independent, stronger, softer, healthier, more successful then the generation before.  So why do we judge the decisions of others so harshly?  I believe it’s because we are insecure.  We need some shred of assurance that we did the right thing.  And we get that by shooting down the choices that others make which might differ from our own.

Be secure.  Your child is alive.  Your child is strong.  Your child will be smart and independent and healthy.  Because of you.  And mine will be because of me.

A beautiful thing has happened because of this blog.  Mamas are coming together. I am not taking credit for this- it’s merely happened that women with children have been brought together because we all yell at our children.  We all know we shouldn’t.  We don’t judge each other.  I feel the strength from my closest friends when we trade texts about how our kids are driving us up the wall and it seems not quite as bad.  It seems comforting, reassuring, comical even.  We need each other.  We need cheer each other on.  Let’s try to do the same with sleep training, homeschooling, potty training, curfews, breastfeeding.

Peace Mamas.  Feel the love of Mamahood!

Mama Fail.

Well, it happened.  It came early in the morning of Day Three.  I yelled.  I yelled bad.  And maybe it wouldn’t have seemed as bad if I hadn’t raised my voice in 61 hours. But here’s the worst part: It kinda felt good.  To let it out.  To let loose.  But then it felt bad.  Really bad.  

The incident was over a boot.  There was an itch inside that boot that couldn’t be reached without removing said boot along with the sock.  Moments before we needed to walk out the door.  Mama already had her coat on and coffee in hand.  Mama was hot.  Long story long: The boot needed help coming off which forced Mama to put down the 27 million bags on her arm, the two pairs of snow pants, nap mat, cell phone and coffee.  Following the scratching of the itch, Mama picks up the 27 million bags again, snow pants, nap mat, cell phone and coffee.  But there’s a new problem.  Child “can’t” replace the boot and the sock is “sticky”.  Child needs help.  I yell.  You don’d need help!  You can do it by yourself!  You need to put that boot on your foot.  We are going to be late!  I am going to be late!  (Again, totally about me.)  I storm out the door, throw the 27 million bags in the car and spilled my damn coffee.  Fuck.  I take a breath.  Okay.  Going back into the house, now, I am sure I’ll find the sock nicely smoothed out, the boot back on and a smiling child waiting for me to whisk him off to school.  Ha.  Dummy. There was more yelling but it was coming from him now.  My yelling of course provided him with ammo and permission to let me have it.  I got bitched out by a four year old.  And then I smoothed his sock.  I replaced his boot and whisked him off to school.  

Why the hell did I not help him to begin with if I knew I was going to do it in the end?  He couldn’t get the boot off to begin with.  He asked for help and I yelled at him.  He yelled at me and then I helped him.  Then it occurs to me: See, honey!  I taught you that yelling gets you what you want!  If you yell, people do the things you want them to do!  Mama Fail.

So what did I do?  I apologized the shit out of our car ride to school.  I explained in ways (far too advanced for him) why yelling is wrong.  Why I was sorry and why I’m going to try not to let it happen again.  As we pull into the parking lot, I look back at him.  I’m really sorry buddy.  “Mama?”  Yes?  “Did you pack me the pizza bunny crackers for lunch?”  And there you have it.  Resilient parents have resilient children.  

Here’s to getting back on the horse!

Bedtime Sucks a Little Less.

So what is the worst time of day for my family?

Hands down: Bedtime.  Bedtime can be brutal.  Let’s break it down: they are tired but don’t want to go to bed, you are oh-so-close to that coveted quiet time.  Meet the perfect storm.  Sometimes I look at the clock and think In twenty minutes this will all be over… Rally woman, you can make it!  That might make things worse- and I am realizing this as I write it but I am not sure it’s possible to not perform that mental countdown so I am just going to move on.

Our bedtime routine consists of 1. Brush Teeth, 2. Jammies, 3. A Book and 4. Lights Out.  Now there are multiple phases in between- but I’ll get to that.  (You mama’s who do the whole bath/shower deal… Well, let’s just say, I’d rather have dirty kids than deal with that every night.  The screams of “water in my eyes” are enough to push me over the edge!  Seriously, I am not using acid to wash their hair.  Man up- it’s water.  I digress.)

My cheerful voice says Time to brush your teeth!  (Can you picture the stupid smile I have slapped on my face?)  First comes Phase One:  Blatant Push-back (no, not now, a few more minutes, etc.).  When that doesn’t seem to be working, we move on to Phase Two of push back which addresses the issue of who brushed “first” last night and who is going to go “first” tonight.  Now tell me something, is it really a surprise that we are brushing our teeth before we go to bed?!  We do this every night.  Does it really matter who goes first?  Phase Three: (should we make it that far) The Toothpaste’s Rating on the Spicy Index.

I am usually yelling before we get to Phase Two.  Why?  Because I am frustrated.  Because, I am tired.  Because I can’t understand why they won’t just get up off their sweet little asses and get in the bathroom and brush their damn teeth.  Because I am tired.  But it’s not about me… Or is it?  Shit.  It’s totally about me.

Last night, I didn’t yell.  I didn’t even give that meanish snarl that we all know is just like yelling but pretend it doesn’t really count.  But it counts.  I didn’t do an arm grab or rip a toy out of someone’s hand.  I just knelt down and looked right into said child’s eye.  I know playing is important to you so I am going to give you two more minutes and then I need you to brush your teeth because it’s important to me that you get to bed.  “Fine.”  And that was it.  I provided one more reminder and then we moved straight past Phase Three (the toothpaste Spicy Index rating) to Phase Four: Jammies are Too Scratchy.  Progress is progress, people!

The rest of bedtime routine was better because we laughed.  I purposefully tried to make it fun and funny.  We played.  It was fun.  It was longer than usual by about 20 minutes but there was no yelling.  No yelling.  And no one hyperventilated, had a melt down or threw anything.  And I was still downstairs in plenty of time to dig out my well-hidden snacks and find out whether Kourtney is going to let Kim talk her into a spray tan for her six month postpartum bikini photo shoot.  (Which by the way, are you fucking kidding me?!)

Bedtime.  No yelling.

How did you do today?

The Birth of the No Yell Challenge

A good mama doesn’t yell.  Okay, there’s no truth to that.  You can still be a wonderful mama and yell.  A lot.  I have been for the last seven and a half years and not one of my three children has been fucked up past the point of no return.  So, yes: I think you can be a good mama and yell.  Sometimes it just feels good to let it out.  But then it feels really bad after.  When I am alone at night, I think about the day.  Think about the lows and highs.  Think about the interactions that bring a smile.  And the interactions that bring a cringe.  Most of these are images of my yelling.  It feels bad.  All of us mamas do the best we can ninety-nine (okay, eighty-five) percent of the time.  But those remaining moments are the ones that stick out like big jagged, guilt-ridden spikes in the day.  I want to try to round those edges and eliminate some of that guilt.  The birth of the No Yell Challenge.

Things that make me yell:

I have three boys: seven, four and two.  There are really tough things about a two year old.  He yells at me, hits me and snots on me.  But the worst is when he wants me to do things that I just can’t do; when he hands me something and says “Do, Mama!”.  Do what?  “Do, Mama!”  Do what?  What do you want me to do?  “Do, Mama!”  You get the idea.  Then comes the yelling, hitting and finally, the snotting.  As his voice gets more frustrated, mine gets more frantic.  What?!  What do you want me to do?!  Show me!  What?!  See, can you feel your blood pressure rising just by reading that?  Seven year olds are tough too.  Nothing is ever fair.  Nothing.  Is. Ever. Fair.  Ever.  His little brothers get more [insert snack, quantity of time, treat, new toy] than him.  They get away with more too, right?  He’s right, they do.  We depend on our oldest to do the right thing, set an example and help us out.  Talk about pressure.  Four year olds: part child, part baby, part emotional monster.  So sweet, so loving, so dramatic.  Learning how to get away with things his dumb older brother gets in trouble for.  Soak up all the new (obscene) words, (gross) noises and (annoying) habits of his older brother and trains his little brother on all the basics of (bad) behavior.  They are a well-oiled machine of terror.  And I adore them. Madly.

Will any of these behaviors cease when I stop yelling?  Nope.  Not one.  So why?  Because of all the things that will begin if I stop.  I tried this once before and got to about three weeks before I fell off the wagon.  I could probably tell you in hours at the time because that is the most appropriate unit of measurement when you try not to yell.  It. Was. Hard.  Really hard.  But something began to happen.  I started being a better listener, a better negotiator, a better communicator.  I became what I wanted them to be: calm, rational and articulate.  So now I am starting again.  And chronicling it.  Hold me accountable people.  I have no promises other than to be honest.  Honest about how hard it is, when I fail, where I have success and how it feels.  And hopefully there will be results.  Or I will add a “Donate” button to this page for the therapy fund.

If there is anything I have learned about being a parent it’s that when we feel alone, we are worse at our job.  Knowing there are others out there who struggle with the same things, make us beat ourselves up a whole lot less.  We are able to focus more on our strengths and less on the things we do wrong. We need each other.  So this is your formal invitation to join me!  And if you can’t join us brave (crazy) mamas (and Dads, if you are man-enough!), we could really use some cheerleaders.

Three, two, one!  On your mark, get set!  No yelling… starting now.

Are you up for the challenge?