Losing It

Most of the time it’s easy for me to remember that this little kiddo has no idea how infuriating he’s being. Besides some things he does that should be aggravating (and certainly would be if anyone else did them) are even a little charming. So, while I wouldn’t describe myself as patient, I’m much more tolerant than I ever thought I could be.

However, sometimes, usually when I’m running late and ALL my buttons have been pressed all morning long, I just lose it and start screaming like a banshee. It’s not often, it’s not effective and I feel like an idiot afterwards, but I honestly think it’s my only choice in the moment.

Scene:

After trying to dress a child who has played collapsing noodle boy, run away constantly and changed his mind 16 times about what he wants for breakfast, we are dressed, 10 minutes late and heading out the door. He decides he wants to bring two of his action figures in the car.

C: I want the two that I don’t have and/or haven’t seen for the last year.

Me: You don’t have him and the other one is missing.

C But I WANT them.

Me: Pick something else.

C: OK I’ll take the one that does not exist.

Me: That does not exist.

C: But I WA

Me: PICK SOMETHING!!

C: Um

Me: THAT’S IT WE ARE LEAVING

C: NOOOOO

ME: THEN PICK SOMETHING PICK SOMETHING PICKSOMETHING!!!!!!

C: You don’t have to scream at me.

I get to work 15 minutes late with a sore throat and he gets to spend the day with the image of his crazy-eyed mother shrieking nonsensically at him.

Human, Not Rational

Like all parents (I’m sure) I spent most of Christopher’s nonspeaking (small baby) time, trying to interpret and sooth his crying. When he started using actual words, I was SO relieved. It’s like a mystery was solved, and because he could talk, there was much less to cry about. I feel like we spent most of his second year, chatting and getting to know each other. I can honestly say, I found the time delightful! I think he did too.

Now he’s three and the crying is back, along with much of my own bewilderment.

I think I sometimes make the mistake of believing that because my son can now talk like a rational human, he is a rational human. That is not the case.

The other day we had a conversation during which every single thing I said sent him into a fit of despair.

C: I want to go swimming.

Me: Well, it may rain soon, but we can go for a little while.

C: NOOOOOO!!!! sobbing

Me: It’s OK, we can go. It’s not raining right now.

C: NOOOOOO!!!! It’s not going to rain!

Me: OK, it’s not, do you want to go swimming?

C: NOOOOO!! It’s going to rain!!!

Me: …..

Then I realized, I was looking at me. This is exactly how I would react if I wasn’t forced to act like a reasonable adult. And it is an act. Sometimes I will be talking to my husband and I’ll be in a bad mood, and my inner 3 year old will shout, “say NO.” Now, I have just enough power over my inner toddler to understand that it’s being unreasonable, but not enough to stop it, so I say “no” like an adult.

Husband: This looks like it’s going to be one of the rainiest years on record.

Inner 3 year old: No!!!!!

Me: Well, actually, we had much more rain at this point last year.

Understanding this about me, should help me deal with tantrums better, but instead, I think it just makes my inner three year old jealous.

C: I WANT IT!!!

M: I told you no. Now we need to be quiet

C: NOOOO!!!

Inner 3 year old: I WANT TO SCREAM TOO! I WANT TO!!!

No lie, sometimes she wins.

Wahhh

I think there are many who would argue that I have no right to feel overwhelmed. I have ONE child, and he is a good one. The best ever, in my experience. He’s also now potty trained and can express himself, so in actuality, I’ve got it made. It’s true, too. I don’t really have a good excuse to feel overwhelmed, but since that is just how I feel sometimes, I’m just going to have to accept that I don’t need a good excuse. Sometimes I feel overwhelmed because I am a mess, and so is my house. I do what I can to make sure my kid isn’t, and my husband is his own man. If he wants to be a mess, that’s up to him.

This weekend, we got sick again, all of us, and it was all on the heels of rearranging our furniture, so the house was in chaos, I had zero energy and we were all coughing and hacking. I had to call in sick, and that makes me feel guilty. Since Chris was sick too, I didn’t get a chance to relax or recover myself. Wah wah wah.

It’s stuff like that that makes me feel overwhelmed. The unplanned and unexpected. I’m a solutions girl and I like to fix problems. There’s no way to fix a cold, you just have to wait. And, with no energy, there’s no way to fix the chaos that is my house. Large, unexpected bills, sudden travel expenses, real or imagined threats to job, day care or home all these things make me feel anxious and overwhelmed. I actually think there are people who enjoy challenges like that. I’m glad I’m not one of them, except that I suspect I’d be rich if I was.

I used to think of myself as mellow, but I don’t actually think I was. I was just kind of resigned or apathetic. The apathy is definitely gone – replaced by real and honest delight by my son. But since I care about so much more stuff now, it is impossible to be mellow. Oh well. It’s a good trade.

When I feel overwhelmed, I just do what comes naturally. I mean, literally, nature designed us to do this: I conserve energy by letting the housework go to hell and Chris run around in his underwear and a cowboy hat, and I eat a lot of cookies.

I should look into prayer or meditation, yoga, exercise, juicing, crystals, chanting… But I’ve got a fluffy blanket and a box of Oreos, so I’m set for now.

Shhh…. Don’t Tell My Mom

shhh

Don’t tell my mom:

I don’t know what I’m doing.

I don’t know how she did it.

I’m just as scared as I am independent.

I don’t think I’m quite a grown-up.

She was right.

I know I broke her heart.

I’m sorry I broke her heart.

I should call more.

I still try to make her proud.

She made me strong.

Being a mom is the scariest thing I’ve ever done.

I don’t know how she did it five times.

I try to be as strong as she is.

I love her so much.

That, at least, I will tell her myself.

Yes/No

I think I’m generally a pretty laid-back in my parenting style, and I also think that my husband wishes I was a little less laid-back when it comes to discipline or giving Chris things. I was sure I was going to be a super stern mom with a laser-like evil eye even badder than the one my mom used. I didn’t account for my kid’s voodoo, though.

He totally has a spell on me. When he wants something, I want him to have it. When he cries, I want him to feel better. It’s a constant war inside myself trying to determine what’s good for him in the long run versus what’s he wants. And sometimes I think where I draw the line is totally arbitrary and based more on my mood and energy level than on anything concrete.

Interestingly, I always thought my mom saying no was arbitrary and unfair. It’s a relief to know I was probably right about that, but not such a huge one since I am exactly the same way.

There are the basic guidelines of course: No to anything dangerous or destructive or to anything that could be repeated and frowned upon at daycare: bad words, drawing on oneself, peeing in the yard, etc. Yes to reading books, invitations to play, offers to help cook or clean, requests to snuggle (always).

Then there’s everything else, all stuck in the middle somewhere.

And I have to face it, sometimes it just feels good to say yes. A popsicle for breakfast? Why not? They are the 100% juice ones, right? (like that matters, it’s just pure sugar but I grasp at anything I can to be OK with my decision.)

Sometimes Chris will ask for something and if I turn him down he says, “Baybe tomorrow??” In a wistful way that breaks my heart. Have I brushed him off so often that he’s living in the future? (With a much nicer, more accommodating Mommy?) Then I hear the hundreds of mom voices in my head, “Cherish this time you have, it goes by so fast.” And, sobbing, I give him anything he wants. I can be the weird, crying hero mom of the moment and let the future me deal with the potentially spoiled little jerk I am creating.

Devil May Daycare

This is absolutely a touchy subject; to be a stay at home mom or not. Go-to-work-moms, feel judged for leaving their kids with strangers — stay at home moms feel judged for not having a career. I should say, as a GTWM, I am not judging SAHM’s for not having a career. Any negativity you might feel coming off of me is pure jealousy. I do apologize, it’s irrational and involuntary.

I would have loved to be a SAHM, and I sobbed when I had to return to work and drop my baby off the first time. Whether or not to return to work was about as much of a choice for me as whether or not to pay our bills or buy groceries. My husband and I earn about the same salary, and cutting our income by 50% was never really an option. Yes, we could have economized; we could eat bulk rice and dried beans, and give up the luxury of fueling one of our paid-for 8 year old cars. But I had lived on the razor’s edge of bankruptcy before, and that was without a small, cute mouth to feed. Plus, the economy was in the toilet when our kiddo was born, and Jeff’s job was no more guaranteed than mine.

Sense the defensiveness? Totally a touchy subject. There are studies that talk about the benefits of having a parent at home and there are studies that talk about how going to daycare is not harmful in any way to a child. Here’s the thing, though: The benefits of either choice are entirely individual and can’t be made or judged by anyone. Why? Because maybe there is evidence to suggest that the best place for a kid is home with mom, but there is not yet any evidence to suggest that the best place for a kid is home with me (full time). I’m not entirely sure I’m a good influence on small children. And the intimate knowledge of my own short-comings truly helps me make peace with my “decision” to go back to work. That and my ability to purchase and serve noncatfood to my child for dinner (whether or not he eats it).

My son is happy, articulate, well mannered (for a toddler) and imaginative. I love his teachers and his daycare. I always imagine a pioneer woman with a toddler; yeah, she was home with the kid, but she was also grinding wheat and baking bread and weaving clothes and stuff. That kid was not looking at flash cards all day and taking educational trips to the local art museum. And maybe she had to foist her kiddo off to a neighbor for a while so she could go out to the field and thresh or some other old-timey farm thing. They say it takes a village to raise a child, and I think that’s true. I just happen to have to pay for my village.

Snot Police

We all know kids are leaky, germy little petri dishes, and in a daycare there are dozens of little “patient zeros” for every kind of bug, cold, flu and virus in existence. Not only is your kid going to get sick, but he is going to be a carrier of all that crap and cause you to get sick. Without developing debilitating, germ-related OCD, there is almost no way to avoid it.

I know there are lots of people who get great peace of mind from a strict regimen of hand santizer, twice-hourly hand scrubbing and avoiding physical contact with anything or anybody. And maybe that works for them. If they actually avoid getting sick, more power to them.

I just don’t have that kind of stamina. I play the numbers. The way I figure it, if I allow myself to experience emotional anguish over the thought of human contact, and spend a significant amount of time battling situations that could possibly lead to exposure to sickness, I’m letting the germs win, anyway.

We wash our hands regularly, maintain clean eating surfaces, try to avoid the most peaked looking kiddos, wipe down shopping carts and take vitamin c.

I’m not being cavalier, this is my prevention plan for two parents with office jobs in suburbia USA. If we lived in a plague infested area or one of worked in a biological waste dump, I’d like to think I’d handle things differently.

As it is, I understand that my kid is not always going to be eating food off of surfaces designed for food service. I also understand that he, as a boy, will go from washing his hands to (for example) touching the cats butt in the blink of an eye, and I’m not always going to catch him. Sure, I’ve considered loading a squirt gun with Purell and hosing him down every few minutes, but I’m doing what I can to keep him from being weird.

His school, THE source of all of his illnesses, has a very strict policy for sick kids. Which is HILARIOUS because, did I mention it is the source of all of his illnesses. My husband and I both work in small offices, and we have absolutely no social life. Given that we don’t regularly come into contact with the drool of our colleagues or people on the street, we have to assume, when one of us comes down with something, that little drippy red-eyed kid in Chris’s class is the source. But somehow we end up being the criminals if we try to send our guy in with a runny nose. Fevers, I get. Spots, sure, but having a runny nose? Mucous is like a toddler’s career.

Never in my life, could I imagine that I would have lengthy, heated negotiations about the consistency and color of snot, given my chosen profession as a business writer.

Your son has a runny nose

Yeah, he got it when the other 7 kids in his class has a runny nose.

Well, I looked at it, and it’s cloudy.

You looked at…? Um….I thought it just couldn’t be green.

It’s green-ish.

So what, now I have to hold a paint-chip up to my kid’s mucous in the morning? Most of the times, it’s not even running when I drop him off. I don’t know how to predict what’s going to come out of there during the day, heck I’m exhausted from just making sure things don’t go IN there. I didn’t even know this was something I was going to have to think about. Now, I have to be all tactical, so I can avoid censure by the Snotzis.

If I give him nose drops and Triaminic an hour before school, that should stop the running until after lunch. Best case scenario, I only have to take a half day.

Lyrical Profanity

My dad swears like a sailor. In fact, he used to be a sailor. I actually never attributed his cursing to the Navy. Angry and frustrated, my dad was a master profanitarian; thunderous, lyrical and awe-inspiring. Scared as I was of his tirades (although he was all bark and no bite, then, and is neither bark nor bite now), I was also a little proud of them. I felt sure that nobody could do what he did.

marktwain

Despite being around such language as a child, I never had any doubt which words I could use and which were entirely off limits. Maybe that was my mom’s influence, or maybe it was just context. I don’t think I could have imagined feeling angry enough to attempt one of my dad’s interjections. Anyway, he doesn’t use four letter words. My dad swears in compound phrases, with a delicate balance of adverbs and adjectives, and startling combinations of the mundane and profane.

There have been moments as an adult I have needed to copy him to express my feelings, but unlike him, I always stumble or make a ridiculous combination. I often wondered if he practiced and revised his rants.

“Maybe next time I’ll say___in’ ___ hole before son of a ___in’ ___master. I think that would have a greater impact,” he might think, while chopping wood, unaware that soon, he would need to put his plan into action after smashing his thumb.

Anyway, given my upbringing, it’s not surprising that I can be a little foul mouthed, and I actually think profanity gives some statements the emotional boost they need. (But I do have the decency to understand I’m supposed to feel ashamed of that.)

cursing

Of course I try not to swear around my kid, especially now that he is repeating things. I have been mostly successful, but sometimes I slip.

Recently he was trying to do something, and it wasn’t working out so he exclaimed, “Bad Damage!!” I was startled, then pleased to have been misunderstood in such an innocent way. Until I realized that if what I said, sounded like “bad damage” then him saying “bad damage” would sound like what I said. So I had to tell him not to say it.

That was a little challenging, because neither of those words are bad. It’s hard to explain how two non-bad words can sound like bad words to someone else, so I just told him not to say them. Then I feared that I have caused some future problems when he’s say, explaining a homeowners situation to his insurance agent. (Yeah, I’m a trouble-borrower.)

There are other situations that are less questionable. Like when he walked up to me, looked me in the eye and said, “FOCK.” He said it just like that, and there was no doubt in his mind that he was going to get a reaction. Funny as I found it, I didn’t smile, and I mustered the most shocked face I could manage. We talked about why it was a bad word and made it clear that he was never to say it again.

Then Jeff and I took to playing the blame game. Must be one of the older kids at school. He didn’t hear it on TV, we don’t even have HBO.

The next night, I realized I had left something on downstairs after I was all comfy in bed. I sat up and said, “FOCK!” only I didn’t say it just like that. It seemed I owed that “older kid at school” an apology.

Cut me some slack, I told you how I was raised. And even though I wasn’t in the Navy, I was in the Army Reserves. So, now I know I have to be more vigilant with my self-censoring… bad damage.

Sleep Crazy

When I was pregnant, people would tell me, “Say goodbye to sleep!” One particularly bitchy woman said it frequently, with a stupid grin on her face, like she was enjoying picturing my impending misery. I never liked her.

Let me just say, I am CRAZY about sleep. I mean that in the conventional way: I enjoy sleep a lot. But I also mean that literally: When it comes to sleep, I am crazy.

Portions of my pre-baby life involved long periods of involuntary sleep deprivation along with occasional bouts of insomnia. Once I got the hang of sleep again and had a life that involved a normal day-night schedule, I was not looking forward to giving that up.

People’s warnings were pointless and unhelpful, because you can’t imagine the kind of sleep deprivation that comes with a new baby. It’s impossible to warn anybody, and there is no reason to. It’s not like you can build a slumber stock-pile.

After the first difficult few weeks, we got into a pretty good rhythm, and then I started responding to a full night of sleep like a superstitious sports fan responds to a win. “I was wearing the blue shirt, the night he slept for 5 hours in a row, better put that on.” Anything we did the night before a good night of sleep, I repeated. I have always been terrible at establishing any kind of routine for myself, and I was often irritated with myself that I couldn’t. At least, I thought, I’m too lazy to develop OCD. Not for Chris, though. I developed a schedule so strict, it would have been the envy or a military establishment.

7:00 PM: Bath with soothing lavender baby bath – NO! You got the Target brand? That’s not soothing enough, Dammit! What were you thinking??

7:15 Dry off with the hooded puppy towel, the TV tuned to “soundscapes” (soothing tunes for the high and anxious).

7:30 Dress in special overnight (wishful thinking) diaper, long-sleeved onesie, cotton socks.

7:45: Warm bottle in darkened room, fan on, white noise machine on in the background, glowing sea horse playing lullabies.

8:30ish: We have sleep. Steal away stealthily, like ninja mom, ease the door closed.

8:30-11:30: Hover nervously by the baby monitor.

Now that he’s a toddler, the ritual hasn’t changed too much, no bottle, diaper or sea horse and bed time is a little later. We’ve ditched the lavender baby bath or Mr. Bubble, but the rest is pretty much the same. And I still stay with him in his room until he falls asleep. Of course, I wonder if that’s weird. If I’m hovering, if I’m making him too dependent. I know people would have opinions about it, so I tend not to mention it. The thing is, I like it. It is this quiet time we have always had together. We sit together and talk for a little while or read stories, then I just sit near him and read or write until he falls asleep. Now that he can talk, I get some of the cutest little insights into who he is during these times.