Mama is Fed the F*ck Up

I don’t know how I got here but I am really struggling.  Patience are none existent.  Rationality has been exhausted.  My last nerve has been on extended leave.  What the hell is going on?  Well, I’ll tell ya.  My two year old has made a liar out of me.  Up until now, I never believed in the Terrible Twos.  Three was the worst in our house.  Three was the age of talking back, and fierce independence.  I thought the Terrible Twos were a load of shit.  Until I met Zook.

His whining has become the soundtrack to my life.  I swear, the crying and wallowing haunts me in my sleep.  He wants to help with everything.  Which is fine.  Takes a few extra minutes but I can deal with that.  If that was it.  But helping doesn’t even begin to scratch the surface of my frustration with this child as of late.

Tonight was taco night.  Zook wanted a soft shell with shredded cheese.  Rolled inside.  Wait, on the side.  On the side of the plate.  Actually on the plate.  Yes, on the plate with sour cream to dip it in.  No, sour cream on the tortilla.  Okay, cheese on the side with sour cream in the taco.  Got it.  Nope, change of plans.  Sour cream out of the tortilla.  With cheese on the side.  What?  There’s still sour cream on the tortilla?  I can’t get it all out.  Now the tortilla is on the floor.  Now he wants a new tortilla.  With cheese.  And sour cream.  And tomatoes.  What. The. Fuck.

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I just can’t win with this kid.  I am certainly not a rookie Mama but lately, I am feeling like I am flailing through my interactions with this child.  I have no clue what is going to piss him off.  A dribble of milk spills next to his cereal bowl.  He wants cake.  In bed.  He wants me to fit the baseball through the egg-sized hole.  He doesn’t wait to sit in his carseat.  His shirt has a picky part.  His sock has an itchy part.  He wants to crush every Lego ship in the save-spot.  Please don’t hit Mama with the hammer.  Please, Mama!  Hit Mama, please!  Are you kidding me, kid?!

Being a Mama is so hard right now.  Tonight I literally felt like I could have shaken him.  Can they still get shaken baby syndrome at age two?!  I didn’t… But I could have.  I feel like I am on edge.  Like I have some kind of sick mental illness where I try to anticipate things that will piss him off and prevent them so I can alter the future.  You really don’t want to flush the toilet this time?  Really?  But you really like to do it.  Are you sure because if I flush we can’t have a do over.  Okay…  Maybe we’ll leave it for a minute if you change your mind…  What is my problem?  Am I enabling this?

I feel like I am failing him and myself.  And it’s really not fair to my other two.  I get that.  I feel like I used to be so much better at negotiating this kind of stuff but I am really sucking.  Exhausted, depleted, defeated.  Mama is tired of trying.  Tired of the whining, begging, screaming.  Tired of the meltdowns (his and mine).  Beyond tired of the struggle.  When is this going to get better?  I know this is a phase.  But honestly, the next person who says that to me should guard their throat because I’m not sure I can control the urge to punch.  It is a phase but we’ve been in this fucking phase for months now and it’s not really getting better.  I need an intervention.  (Self-medicating with alcohol has proved to be only marginally effective…)

We will overcome.  We will get through this.  The silence tonight is my therapy.  I need peace so that I can convince myself tomorrow will be better; that I will have more patience; that we can make it through this.  I need to hear  all of these things to convince myself I really don’t need to pack that bag and sneak out in the night.  I need to look in on his sleeping sweet face.  I adore this child…  Why does he have to be so fricken adorable?!  They really are cuter when they’re sleeping, huh?

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Peace Mamas.

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So It Was a Bad Night…

I’m not sure bad night really captures the essence of disaster that went down this evening.  It. Was. Bad.  And it really began the moment I walked through the door.  Complaints.  Complaints about dinner.  About homework.  About brothers wielding swords, eyes getting poked, arms being scraped.  To walk in the door to negativity greeting you with a kick in the shins kind of sets the mood for the next few hours.

My oldest is my complainer.  Nothing is ever fair.  Ever.  He’s seven and very smart.  But can also be a little negative.  My expectations are higher for him (we put all our faith in the oldest, right?  I am just hoping my other two won’t be playing video games in the basement when they are 30…) and because of this, nothing is fair.  But tonight, it was more about him being in a shitty mood and taking it out on everyone.  He has a bit of a cough so for the first 20 minutes or so, I chalked the attitude up to post nasal drip and fatigue.  And then came the name-calling, talking back and general meanness toward his brothers.  And me.

We barely got through dinner.  His meatball sucked.  His spaghetti was too long.  He didn’t get to share about his day first.  His brother was sitting to close to him.  Buddy, what’s up tonight?  Stop saying that to me!  Why do you always think it’s my fault.  He’s the one looking at me like that.  Really.  Finally got through dinner.  Consequences racked up by meal’s end included: no video game time tonight (or tomorrow, but that was just dumb- who takes away privileges for the next day?  Dumb.), and threats of a cancelled playdate.  But to no avail, the attitude continued.

Homework.  He didn’t want to do it.  Refused to sit at the table.  Threw the pencil.  Crumpled the paper.  That. Was. It.  I yelled.  That’s it!  No outside time.  No homework.  You can do it in the morning.  Straight to bed.  NOW.  He went stomping up the stairs, claiming that I didn’t love him.  That no one loved him.  That if he fell off a the edge of a cliff, no one would care or look for him.  I do love you.  I don’t love your behavior tonight.  You must be feeling really frustrated and angry.  And I’m really disappointed that you made these choices tonight.  (For those of you who don’t know, I am a social worker for my day job so I can empathize, paraphrase and use ‘I statements’ like a pro- yes, I am well aware of how annoying this can be.)  He stomps up the stairs and yells over his shoulder to me: Wimp.  Wimp?  How am I wimp?  I want to tell him that was a ridiculous thing to say but I resist the urge to further infuriate the fuming dragon.  Door slams.

All is quiet.  I finish picking up the table and decide to go up for a chat.  I knock on his door.  Waiting.  “What.”  Said as more of a statement than question.  Can I please come in?  I’m ready to talk.  Are you?  The door creaks open without an answer but clearly it’s an invite.  Breathe.  We sit down on the bed.  What’s up honey?  Help me to understand why you are having such a tough night.    Nothing.  Is everything okay at school?  Did you have any disagreements with friends?  No.  Were there any parts of your day that made you nervous or sad?  Well, we needed to finish writing our book by today or we have to finish it during free choice tomorrow.  Did you finish?  No.  Everyone else is done and I’m not.  I don’t think I will even be done tomorrow.  I get it.

We connected.  He’d had a really stressful, upsetting day.  He feels insecure.  He carried that like a boulder on his adorably delicate back all day and all evening.  Let it out.  He cried.  Said he had been looking forward to free choice all week and now, the last day before vacation, he’s not going to get to play with his friends.  His tears rolled down his soft innocent cheeks as my eyes filled and I tried to swallow that ache in my throat.  I’m sorry you had such a bad day.  It’s okay, he says and buries his forehead into my chest.  Breathe.  Can you read to me?  He asks.  Sure.

He had a bad day.  He lashed out.  I yelled.  We talked.  I understood.  He forgave me.  It was a tough night.  I’m so glad I took the time to talk it through.  I didn’t give in and he couldn’t go outside after dinner or have his video game time.  He will have to finish his homework in the morning before school.  And he will miss his free choice tomorrow.  But now I have a reason for his angst tonight.  God, I adore this child.  He can be a tough kid sometimes.  But he makes me want to be a better Mama.

Peace Mamas.

Sunday Reset

Our week has come to a close.  The babes are sleeping.  The house is quiet.  For now.  During the last week, I yelled on Wednesday and Thursday nights.  Thursday was rough.  Kids were crazy.  No one was listening.  I stepped on a Lego ship.  Need I say more?  Wednesday, there was a fight about homework (really with the math games?!  Is there not another way for him to learn less-than, more-than?  Whatever happened to the alligator eats the bigger number?!) and it ended with a thrown pencil, crumpled paper and then bed.  No one was happy Wednesday night.  No one.  Overall, I have to say that the week went well (aside from the above-mentioned incidents).  This week, I renewed my pledge to a rule I made about seven years ago: Commit to No.

The rule is pretty simple.  If you say no, commit.  Don’t give in.  If you can’t commit (or don’t have the energy and know that you’ll give in,) don’t say no.  Here’s the thing: You will actually say yes more.  If you Commit to No, you will have to evaluate everything in a different light.  Is this really a big deal?  Can I really commit to no on this?  If the answer to either of these questions is no, say yes.  

About a year ago, I read an article in one of those parenting magazines written by a dad.  You know, those ones that you read and think, Who the hell is this guy?  God, I wish my husband would read this…  Are there really dads out there who write this shit?  The article started out with the dad read something about what children remember the most from what their parents tell them.  The dad decides to ask his son what he hears him say the most.  The dad, expecting his son to say I love you or You are smart or Share!,  is shocked when his kid says the thing he hears his dear old dad-di-o say the most is No.  I re-read this about five time.  Why? Because my stomach had a sick ache.  I was sure my kids would say the same of me.  So sure, in fact, that I never wanted to ask them for fear that they would confirm my worry.  I say no all the time.

Why do I say no so much?  I have no idea.  Because I am lazy:  Will you put chocolate in my milk?  No. Can I paint?  No.  Because I am tired:  Can you chase us?  No.  Can we walk to the playground instead of drive?  No.  And sometimes for no reason.  Now Mamas…  I read back over the above questions and I am ashamed.  But I am being honest.  So please judge me quietly… And then look at all the questions you say no to.  Maybe you’re perfect and always tell your kids yes.  Or maybe you’re like me and say no too much.

Using the Commit to No rule, as I have for the last week, you I can guarantee that you will say yes more.  You will be required to do more, run more, deal with bigger messes and make a shit-load more chocolate milk.  But, your kids will be happier.  And they will do more of the things you ask them to do.  And you will yell less.  Committing to No will enable you to say yes more.  And it’s freeing.

I am definitely more tired at the end of this week.  All this saying yes-shit is exhausting.  But I didn’t yell nearly as frequently as I was at one point.  And my kids are happier.  And they did help me more, beg less, stop whining and… oh hell, they are still whining but I think they are whining a little less.  I think I am going to Commit to No again next week.  I want my kids to remember me saying Yes.

Peace Mamas.

Mama’s Still on the Wagon. Barely.

Well it’s been five days and I am still on the No Yell Wagon.  There have been a couple close calls but somehow I have managed to hold on by my fingernails.  Pressing my buttons the most these days is my youngest.  The tantrums are pushing me over the edge.  Most frequently, melt downs happen when someone does something irreversible like flushes a toilet, throws something away, someone goes through the door first- you get the idea. When something can’t be undone, we have a situation.  The situation usually includes screaming, repetitive sobs of “No, mama.  No, mama.  No, mama.”  Or, “Me do first.  Me do first.  Me do first.”  This can last anywhere from 10 minutes (never less) to 40 minutes (sometimes longer).  The situation also may or may not include rolling, kicking, throwing, hitting or pushing.  Or pulling clothes.  Which for some reason enrages me.  Why?  I have no idea.  When a child pulls on my clothing as I try to walk away or move, I just about lose my shit.  These situations occur 4-5 times per day lately.

I was in Old Navy a few days ago when a situation came about (He wanted to pull clothes off the shelves and I wasn’t really cool with this so he was strapped into the stroller.)  The screaming lasted the entire time I was in the store.  I needed to finish the errand and couldn’t take time to cool down in the car, outside etc.  As I walked through the store, looking for the last fucking pair of size 7 slims they had in inventory, the screaming became so loud that a salesman approached us an produced a golf ball.  He asked if it would make him happy if he held it.  Yeah, sure dude.  I hope you have dental insurance because I am guessing you’ll need it after he hucks that ball at your chops.  Seriously?  My child doesn’t need a fucking ball.  He needs an exorcism.  And a tranquilizer.  Um, I mean, no thank you.  The sobbing continues.  “Mama, out.  Mama, out.  Mama, out.”  In the check out, we waited for the cashier-in-training to reload the register paper.  Would you like to sign up for an Old Navy card, ma’am?  Really?  You read my mind!  That’s exactly what I want to do right now!  Just like I want to chew through my own arm and beat you with it.  Um, I mean no thank you.  We left the store and I swear I heard applause as the door shut behind us.

Getting into the car, I was forced to use the hold-child-secure-with-elbow-technique while buckling the five-point harness that should have come with a muzzle.  “Mama, peas.  Mama, peas.  Mama, peas.”  I kissed his sweaty, snotty cheek and shut the door.  And stood in the parking lot next to the car.  Wanting to cry because that was really hard.  Because I didn’t think I could make it.  Because that was embarrassing and terrible and stressful and awful.  But also proud that I didn’t freak out.  That I made it.  That I didn’t lose my cool.  Breathe.

I put the stroller in the trunk and got in the car.  The crazed animal looked at me from the back seat, quiet now.  He had stopped crying but looked like he could relapse at any minute.  I sat there, looking at him in the mirror.  Hi, he said.  Hi.  And we smiled.  That moment.  The smile.  The relief.  I can do this.  Breathe.  Want to grab a bagel?  Yes.  Hungry.  Let’s go, little buddy.

So I think we are getting there.  Slowly.  Slowly.  It’s not easy.  And it’s not even getting easier.  But I feel a little better each time I don’t yell.  Maybe one of these days it will be easier.  Or maybe we will get sued because someone eats a golf ball.  Ya never know what tomorrow brings.  Peace, Mamas.

Mama Project: Dirt

Today the sun shone.  It felt particularly essential because on this afternoon, my grandparents’ house was sold.  I desperately needed the brightness of the sky to lift me from despair today.  On May 22, 2012, my grandmother, the center of my family died after a long struggle with Alzheimer’s disease.  One year ago today, she was alive.  And I never imagined that the hole she’d leave would seem so deep, so painful, so hallow.  Their home was a gathering point for holidays, meals, visits, family, laughter.  So many of my most fond memories from childhood are in that house or yard.  This morning, I took a long walk in her yard, chased my own children around the sandy, grassy space.  Watched them lean against the fence, look up at the planes overhead just as I had done for the last 31 years of my life.  Both my grandmother and grandfather were given the gift and privilege of passing on within the walls of their home, in the comfort of their bed, with the strength of family around.  It’s hard to think of them anywhere else.  So it’s difficult to fight the abandonment aching in my throat.

I cling to the items she once touched.  Smelling blankets, cradling her coffee mug, running my hand over a piano stool, watering a plant.  All these items, once hers are now all I have left.  There are no words.  Just deep sadness tonight.  An era in my life has ended.  This afternoon, I took the time to watch my children play in our yard.

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These short moments seem all the better today. A little bitter-sweet but better. It sounds cliche to say that this was surreal.  So surreal.  One day, many, many years from now, their children may walk my yard.  And hopefully, the same feeling of comfort will pass over them.  Peace Mamas.

Sunday Reset

Sunday is the day of reflection on the past week.  What worked, what needs tweaking and what was a total failure.

What worked:

Talking things through, approaching things from a resolve-oriented approach, trying to get my children to talk to each other instead of me about what is bothering them, spending more time reading to them, getting more outside time.

What needs tweaking:

My approach to getting them to talk to each other needs to be more involved (suck).  I need to take more time to help them work through things until they get the hang of it.  I was just telling them to talk to each other about the issue but they ended up going in the room yelling and things went to hell from there.  Also requiring tweaking is roping my husband into all this.  Dad loses temper = Mama loses temper.  We need to be better about this- honey, I know you are reading this… right?

Total Failure:

Ignoring the behavior I don’t want to deal with because I am too exhausted to deal with it.  I have got to summon the strength after working a 10 hour day to come home and parent effectively instead of being permissive.  My struggle to have energy translates into their struggle to get my attention.  So many times, I looked at my children over the last week and thought Just leave me alone for two fucking minutes.  Not in a mean way (of course, you can hear me saying this in the sweetest voice, oozing with kindness and love… right?  Right…?) but in a totally exhausted, beaten down, surrender-type of way.  Mama is tired.  Mama needs a break.  Mama needs to suck down this glass of wine to get through the rest of this homework.  And why the hell are they teaching you math like this?!  Maybe Mama needs some meth… Nah.  Mama needs to dig deep.

And dig deep we shall.  My goal for this week is to reset.  When I am feeling the exhaustion set in and the mean, tired Mama come out, I will dig deep to demand from myself, motivation and patience.  My kids deserve better than what I have been giving them.  They are children and sometimes I am fully aware that I expect them to understand far too much.  I ask them to overlook far too many of my shortcomings.  This Mama is feeling a bit defeated but from desperation comes hope and new energy.  I’m going to dig deep.  And it’s going to be a good week.

Peace Mamas.