Back on the Wagon… Again

My name is Sarah Russell.  I am a yell-aholic.  I have been yell-free for eight days.

So here we are.  Day Eight.  Many, many events have taken place in the past month or so.  Mainly summer vacation hit me like a ton of bricks.  The first couple weeks were quite euphoric.  I was craving the lax of no school, no obligations, no pressure… Until that’s just what I got.  Sure, the relaxed nature of our days is easier in some ways but I am not sure the pros have outweighed the cons because something happens when you don’t have to answer to school, sports practices, preschool pick-up and bus schedules: You get lazy.  And I am not just talking about lazy like Oh I’m just going to lay around— no, no.  Lazy like, I’m going to take a little break from parenting.  Lazy like, I’m going to ignore the bickering for just a little bit too long.  Lazy like, I’m going to say sure to that (store bought) cookie because you can get it for yourself and I don’t have to get up from Pinteresting to cut you up a goddamn piece of fruit.  You want to watch TV for an extra hour?  Sure.  You want to play video games past the 20 minute limit?  Go for it.  Your brother kicked you because you– oh nevermind.  Get another cookie.

And as I am sure you can imagine, the cart plummeted off the cliff at the intersection of lazy parenting and children gone wild.  Ugh.  Something had to change.  I was unhappy.  I felt like shit.  The summer was passing us by and I was like an indifferent, stinky high school student on summer vacation.  And then it hit me.  This isn’t my summer vacation.  It’s theirs.   What was my problem?  I was so looking forward to slacking off and then I realized I was wasting their vacation by being self-absorbed and lame.  Mama Fail.

So we went on a trip and spent a week at the ocean.  It was amazing.  On our last day, we had a very stressful travel itinerary and I knew that to keep us from living in a constant state of chaos while one humiliating meltdown blends into another, it was gong to take everything I had in me– which was not a whole hell of a lot considering the steady BAC I was able to maintain for six straight days (impressive, I know).  The night before, I panicked and fell back on the No Yell Challenge.  It was the only tool in my cloudy, liquor-saturated box.  I needed the No Yell Challenge.  And I needed to get Husband on board.  We needed to work as a team- not as ring leaders of t this dysfunctional circus we had operated for  the last couple months.

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Despite the whining, crying and annoying complaining of the next 24 hours, I managed to remain in control.  I did not lose my temper.  And when I was close, Husband became quite adept at identifying the bulging vein in my forehead and stepped in as needed.  We even high-fived each other.  Twice.  As I sat, crammed in between a sweet child and a fat, crabby Canadian (both snoring with drool hanging from their lips), I realized that I can do this.  And I owe it to these amazing little humans I brought into this world to be better.  Better at playing with them.  Better at listening to them.  Better at  guiding them.  

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So here we are.  Day Eight.  I’m doing it.  I have not yelled.  I have taken deep breaths.  I work so hard every day to be patient, kind and attentive.  It’s tough, I won’t lie.  But I feel so much better at the end of the day.  Instead of the guilt-stricken recap, I wrack my mind thinking of little things I can do to make them smile the next day.  And then I do them.   I have left tasks unfinished to read to them.  I have forgone errands to take them to the beach.  I have put my phone down to play with them.  Relishing the feelings which swell as they grab for my hand, turn to smile at me or as I catch them pretending.  This is their summer vacation.  My summer vacation is over.  Or maybe it’s just now beginning.

Peace, Mamas.

Mama Needs to Rally

Do you ever just feel like giving in to this chaos?  Like you are walking around in circles and into walls all day long?  Yeah?  Well join the club.  There are many wonderful things about motherhood.  And I do so adore my children.  And sometimes I want to throw them through the wall.  The whining is what’s been getting to me the most lately.  And with the end of the school year, I am feeling like I just don’t give a shit anymore.  Cub went to school twice this week with a jelly sandwich for lunch and guess what he’s having tomorrow… Sorry little dude.  Although he looks at this like a treat, I’m still feeling shitty about it.  I wonder what those lunch ladies think when the see what the kids have to eat at this time of year… Who else sorta gave up on packing a lunch encompassing the different food groups?  C’mon.  Where’s my slacker Mamas at?

The truth is I’m just tired.  Husband forgot to grab a key item required for dinner tonight so Mama had to stop at the store on the way home from work- along with 40,000 other Mamas whose husbands forgot shit too.  Do you switch lines when the competency level of the cashier is revealed or when you notice a handful of coupons in the customer’s hands in front of you?  Normally, I am not a switcher but my anxiety about getting home, dinner, showers and the bullshit that would greet me at the door got the better of me.  I made two bad switches before I realized it made no difference.  I was stuck in a suck line behind a suck customer and a suck cashier.  Great.  My husband calls while I am pulling out of the parking lot.  I can hear screaming in the background.  Shit.  The high point of my day came when my dear friend texted me to inform me that (thankfully her children are nearly as screwed up as mine or I’m not sure we could be friends) her son told another child at daycare that she smelled like a penis.  Boys. Rock.  And that actually gave me some of my energy back and lightened my mood a bit.

When I pulled in the driveway, I could hear the screaming of the “chase game” from the driveway.  Rally.  Dinner was nuts.  Zook is crying.  Why is he crying?  He wants a spoon.  Wait he wants a fork.  Wait he wants ice cream.  With a fork.  Ugh.  Unload dishwasher, load dishwasher, pick up the corn and rice off the floor.  At this point, I actually almost started to cry.  I think because I realized that there wasn’t a clean kitchen towel in the drawer.  And I knew there wasn’t one in the basket upstairs either.  And yes, it sounds trivial but the absence of the kitchen towel midst the crying and demands of Zook, the whining and arguing of Mooch and Cub and the fact that I still had so far, so far to go before the calm could set in, really, really started to get to me.  Suck it up Mama.  Rally.  Showers, screaming , soap in eyes (it’s the tearless kind for God’s sake!) clip 60 (yes, 60) nails.  Read an Elmo book.  God I hate Elmo.  Quiet.  Snuggling my babies with warm soft hands on my cheeks.  Almost there.  Lights out and done.  Breathe.  And good news folks!  We get to do it all over again in 24 hours!

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There are just not enough hours in the day- so cliche right?  So true.  I am barely getting by here.  Summer has got to come.  No more homework, no more projects, no more searching for library books or forgetting sneakers on gym day.  No more hunting for the perfect item for Share Day.  Oh sweet summer.  I think I am craving the serenity more than my kids.

Rally.  That’s what I feel like most of my life has come to lately.  I am so tired.  Stretched to the point of exhaustion.  And I know that’s the reason I yell and have a lack of patience.  I know it’s me and not them.  But (I am about to admit something terrible here) sometimes I feel like I just don’t want to care anymore.  Like I am just done trying.  I know I shouldn’t yell and sometimes in the moment, I even think Why am I yelling right now?  Stop!  Stop it, Mama!  But no.  I yell and spend the next hour feeling like shit.  That’s more the cycle I speak of.  More than the chores and endless whining from the kids.  It’s me.  Mamas (and the Papas) reading this who have toddlers and babies… I used to be like you.  Said I wasn’t going to yell.  Said I wasn’t going to lose my temper.  Read all those Zen parenting books and blogs.  And then my kids could talk back.  And that all went out the window.  This is a judgement-free zone.

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So where do we go from here?  We start over.  Tomorrow the sun will rise again.  The cycle might start again.  Or it might not.  I am not in control of their behavior.  But I need to be fully in control of my own.  And of my responses to their behavior.  Breathe.  Tomorrow I’ll be back on the wagon.  It won’t be perfect but as long as I keep trying to make things better.  As long as I keep giving a shit.  I can do better.  I owe it to them (and myself) to be better.  And that’s all I can do.  Rally.

Peace, Mamas.

Sunday Reset: The Weekend Recap

End of the week again… Time flies when you have three little animals you aren’t allowed to cage.  If Saturday was an indication of the weekend as a whole, I would have been in trouble.

Saturday:

Does it seem that no matter how much you give, it’s not enough?  I know I am not alone on this one.  We Mamas do and do and do all day, everyday and still we come up short.  No matter how much laundry we do, the shirt they want to wear is never clean.  No matter which playground we visit, it’s still boring.  No matter what is served someone isn’t happy, something looks yucky/gross/disgusting/weird.  And another thing about food: how does it happen that regardless the meal, they can take one look at the plate and pick out the one thing they don’t want?!  And complain.  I mean seriously, can’t they ever just say something like I love everything on my plate!  I can’t wait to eat everything without negotiating how many more bites to dessert!  And by the way, I don’t need dessert tonight because I want to brush my own damn teeth tonight and go to bed right after I finish eating this lovely meal!  So I’m on my second glass of wine tonight.  Sue me.

Nothing was enough on Saturday.  And when I have days when nothing is enough, it goes one of two ways: (1) I continue to break my fucking back to achieve unattainable perfection or (2) I quit.  And on Saturday, I quit.  I abandoned (for you mandated reporters out there, not literally abandoned) them and threw myself into a task that could be accomplished, one that I couldn’t be judged for; a task that would help me to feel productive and confident: I caught up on laundry.  Completely caught up.  Like clothes-in-the-drawers-and-no-baskets-caught-up.  Like towels folded in the-bathroom-cabinet-caught-up.  Like sheets-changed-and-beds-made-caught-up.   (Only to have my darling sister- with no children- show up to say, “Wow, haven’t seen the floor in here in years…” Sorry chica, I adore you but it took every ounce of me to not punch you.  Or cry.  But don’t you worry that pretty little head of yours!  You will soon have children, my dear.  And then I will come visit you.)  I’ll admit, there was a fair amount of fights which were refereed from the top of the stairs.  There were some which required no referee at all and there were some which got worked out.  By the largest child.  But when I came down, they seemed a little happier to see me and since I had just placed gold in the Laundry Olympics, I was feeling pretty good.  So they were feeling pretty good.  Tummy bugs aren’t the only thing contagious around these parts, come to find out…

Sunday

Coming off my win yesterday, I carried the momentum through to Sunday.  Began my morning by asking (bribing) my husband to feed the boys breakfast so I could go for a run, follow by kitchen clean up (alone time).  And then for the rest of the day, I did nothing other than play with, read to and laugh with these wonderful children.  Dinner came… Waffles and sausage with fruit?  Sure!  Everyone gobbled it down like it was the best shit they’d eaten in years.  Score!  After dinner, they all went out to play, leaving me with kitchen clean up (more alone time) and the most peaceful 42 minutes all week.  Music on, menu planning and a little Facebook time.  Oh and that’s where the vino began…  Ahhh.

School vacation is this week.  Tomorrow is a full day of grocery shopping, hair cuts and errands.  Let the public meltdowns flow but for tonight, my angels are sleeping with smiles on their faces, clothes in their drawers and a content, calm (half-cocked) Mama on the couch.  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.

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.