Resignation

Dear Sir;

Please accept this letter as notice of my resignation, effective immediately. While I have enjoyed this position at times, I have come to the conclusion that your children are completely, and without a doubt, un-parentable.

The many, many books I have read skimmed have prepared me with classic and time-tested approaches to address nearly ALL the challenges of raising children. YOUR children, however, are a troublesome case.

Today I took a privilege away from the children. And while all the books assured me that this would set them on the path to righteousness and correct their wayward behavior, it was hardly the response. Instead of coloring and playing demurely during my evening meeting, the children revolted. Instead of focusing on the goal of good behavior to win back their iPads and screen time, they prepared an assault on my meeting in a direct tactical response to the consequence I had sanctioned.

Doors were opened and slammed. Crayons and markers were thrown. Shouting, running and LOUD WHISPERING — SUCH LOUD WHISPERING were executed with lethal precision. Tantrums were thrown. Friends were pulled onto the battlefield and used as emotional hostages. Chairs were dragged, loudly, through a quiet auditorium in front of an audience of other, more successful parenting figures.

Sir. To put it in the most direct and honest way I can: Tonight was a shit show.

And so, it is with a heavy heart that I must admit that I am unable to parent the children any longer. Tonight they won. In an epic and unforgettable way. They won.

I will never forget my time with the children. Mainly because of the gray hair and drinking problem I have acquired during my time with them. But still. They look sweet when they are sleeping and I will miss that. Sometimes.

If you need me, please look no further than the closest adult-only resort. I’m taking a break from children (all children) for the foreseeable future.

Kind regards,

Mom

 

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Outed by dinosaurs

toy_story_3_rex_poster-p2282518722292700628phc_500A few days ago I was driving around with Beckett, only half listening to his chatter. Which you can’t judge me for, because he is a talker and talks about EVERYTHING and so help me, if I listened to every single word he spoke, I would have to be committed. He once sang a song he made up about poop for 33 straight minutes. THIRTY THREE MINUTES. I mean. YOU GUYS. Of course I don’t pay attention to everything out of his mouth. It’s for my own mental protection.

So I wasn’t completely sure what we were talking about when he started asking me questions but normally I can just fly by the seat of my pants when that happens. Because let me be honest, we aren’t talking about politics or the economy here. We are typically covering such riveting topics as how a bird goes to the bathroom when flying and why clouds are sometimes different colors and if an animal would be able to break in the window of his bedroom and eat him.

But flying by the seat of my pants didn’t work out so well for me this time. Our conversation in the car when like this:

Beckett: MOM. I asked you a question. I asked what you know about Dinosaur layers.

Me: Layers? Like, layers on a cake?

Beckett: What?

Me: Honey, I don’t know anything about dinosaur layers. Are you sure that is the word you want to use? Do you know what layers are? They are like if you are stacking things, you get layers. Are you maybe talking about when you dig for dinosaurs, there are different layers of the Earth?

Becket: NO! I mean DINOSAUR LAYERS.

Me: Okay, so like, stacking dinosaurs on top of each other? Like that? You want to stack dinosaurs?

Beckett (now shrieking): MOM!! NO!!! Layers are not STACKING. I am not talking about STACKING DINOSAURS. I am talking about the secret hideouts that dinosaurs live in! DINOSAUR LAYERS!!!

Me (totally dumbfounded): Oh.

……..<DING!>……..

Me: OHHH. YOU MEAN LAIRS NOT LAYERS. Lairs. Dinosaur Lairs. ‘Cause, see, I was just thinking you were talking about layers.

Beckett (sigh. Like, BIG sigh): MOM.

Me: Wow, sorry. I get it now buddy. Lairs. Secret Hideouts. Got it.

Beckett: So? What do you know about dinosaur lairs?

Me: Not a thing.

Beckett (mumbles under his breath): You don’t know ANYTHING Mom.

Well crap. Y’all, he just figured me out.

Good parenting

Man y’all. Parenting is hard. And I was having one of those days. You know, the days where you question if you are doing right by your kids. If your best is enough. And you fret and worry and spend hours with an aching heart because you just want to know that you are raising your kids right, that they are happy and healthy and going to grow up to be awesome, productive adults and not jerk faces.

And then your kid’s Daisy troop leader sends you a picture she took at the last meeting and you are all…

Parenting. Nailed it.

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This is Kate using oranges to give herself boobies. Clearly she is pleased with herself. Thanks to Tracy Lyle for the photo. And for confirming that I’m killing it in the parenting department.

A reminder

I’m pretty sure God does some kind of sorcery on parents that makes us forget the worst parts of having kiddos so that we are dumb enough to do it again. And for some, again and again and again. He is a tricky one, that God. Making us focus on all the LOVE and the JOY and the FULFILLMENT and the blah, blah, blah WHY HAVEN’T I HAD A GOOD NIGHTS SLEEP IN FIVE YEARS AGAIN!?!?!?! Oh, yeah. I have kids.

Most recently I am being reminded that three-year olds are total jerk faces. And I’m allowed to say that, because I love my jerk face beyond all reason, but sweet mother when I tell Beckett not to jump off the back of the couch and he proceeds to do JUST THAT while maintaining eye contact to ensure I do not miss one second of his defiance I want to wrap him in a red gift bow and leave him on some other family’s porch. MERRY FREAKING CHRISTMAS NEIGHBORS.

There is just something magical about the age of three. Like, black magic. Seriously, half the time it is like they are the babies you know and love, snuggling and kissing you and the next minute their heads are spinning in circles and they are screaming so incoherently you think a priest might be in order. In a mere five seconds, a three-year old can go from pure happiness to utter despair, usually for reasons beyond a sane person’s understanding, like because the word “blue” sounds weird or you didn’t tap your nose three times before you asked them to wash their hands.

And God help the sibling of a three-year old. Because those poor kids are up against an unreasonable enemy. I mean, Beckett loves his sister. Like, LOOOOOOVES his sister. But he is three. So instead of being kind or just playing nicely with the one he loves, he torments her. His snuggles are aggressive. He makes annoying noises or, his new favorite, interrupts her repeatedly when she is talking. If he gets her squealing, either out of pain or irritation, he lights up like a Christmas tree. I don’t think there is anything more important in his whole, three-year-old world than getting a reaction from his sister. Nothing. Except maybe snacks.

The good news is that I’ve had a three-year old before. So while my memory of how terrible it was when she was three is foggy thanks to divine intervention, I very distinctly remember how lovely she was when she STOPPED being three.

Eight months people. Eight. More. Months.

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The goose

Yesterday, when I picked Kate up from school, a group of kids were playing Duck, Duck, Goose outside. Kate ran over and jumped in the circle, as did a few other children. She sat perfectly still. Legs crossed. Small smile on her face. I wasn’t close enough to tell, but I wouldn’t have been surprised if she was holding her breath. I could read it all over her. Her eagerness. Everything about her said, “Pick me, pick me!” 

Several rounds passed and the children who started the game picked the kids they knew and were friends with to be the “GOOSE.” I saw Kate’s smile fading but she continued to sit perfectly still. Not really making eye contact with anyone. Just waiting. HOPING.

A few rounds after that, I saw some of the kids in the circle getting impatient. One raised his hand, “PICK ME!!” and of course, that time he was picked. A few other children who hadn’t had turns did the same. And they got their turns. But Kate continued to sit perfectly still. Only her face had changed. It had no joy. She was the only kid who had not been picked.

My heart ached for her. I wanted to scream, “SOMEONE JUST PICK HER!” I wanted to march over there and tell the other kids to give everyone a turn. I wanted HER to be brave and tell someone to “PICK ME” like the other children who weren’t being chosen. But she just sat there silently. And so did I.

Parents were ready to leave, and the game disbanded. But Kate didn’t move a muscle. There was no one left in the circle. And yet she just sat there. It was like she couldn’t believe she hadn’t gotten a turn. That surely, if she just stuck it out a little more, she would be given a chance. I finally walked over and crouched down next to her.

“It’s time to go home Katie.”

“Okay.”

“Kate, are you okay? Are your feelings hurt?”

“Yes. No one picked me. Why wouldn’t anyone pick me?”

“Well, honey, a lot of times people will pick their friends, so the same people get picked all the time. But you don’t have to be afraid to ask for something that you want. If you want a turn, you raise your hand and say that. You just say, “PICK ME!” and maybe it will happen.”

“Okay.”

“I’m sorry your feelings were hurt Kate. I love you.”

“I love you too Mommy. Let’s go.”

I still have that image in my mind. The one of her sitting. No one left in the circle. No joy on her face. She has probably forgotten it by now. To be honest, she probably forgot the sting of not being chosen about five minutes after we left the playground. But it has stuck in my mind.

It is stuck because it is a reminder of what is to come. Of hurt feelings and bruised egos and tears and sadness. Those things that we, as parents, pray our children won’t have to suffer, but really are simply a part of growing up.

I wanted to say something during the game. I wanted to intervene for Kate. Save her that tiny bit of pain. But I just watched. And waited. Because I’m not going to be there on the playground with her all the time. I’m not going to be able to make kids pick her, or play with her or be nice to her. I’m going to have to give her the tools to stand up for herself. To ask for what she wants. To treat others the way she wants to be treated. To be fair, and loving, and compassionate.

I knew parenting was hard. But I didn’t really realize how much it was going to hurt, too.

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That thin, thin line

Lately I’m walking a pretty thin line between keeping it all together, and completely, totally, losing my shit. It’s pretty super.

Just ask my kids.

While they are (mostly) innocent bystanders, my poor children are usually the tipping point that takes me from a stressed out, slightly depressed momma to a raging maniac. You know what I DON’T need when I’m deep in thoughts of how to describe illness and loss to your sister? I don’t need you TO BE A TWO YEAR OLD. That’s right. You heard me. STOP THAT RIGHT THERE. The stomping and arguing and yelling and learning to be INDEPENDENT. I don’t NEED THAT RIGHT NOW. I need you to be sweet and pliable and still prefer snuggles to running into the street pell mell, like you have a teeny tiny death wish. THAT CAR ISN’T SCARED OF YOU. You are not actually a T-Rex. You also can’t wear underpants if you are going to poop in them constantly. Oh, and P.S., we AREN’T out of juice, I was just tired of arguing with you about it SO I LIED.

A few weeks ago when I was knee deep in self-pity and worry, I was in the office writing and researching some fun old CANCER stuff when B wandered in. He had been watching a show with Kate, but since he has the attention span of a gnat, he decided to come and see what I was up to. I was up to CODE RED emotional state, nearing tears or a nervous breakdown. When I didn’t pay him enough attention, B sidled up next to me in a quick snuggle fake-out and then with a mighty ‘WHACK!’ he slammed his hand down on the computer, effectively erasing everything I had just written. I let out a mighty sound. I’m not sure what exactly how to put this sound in words. Part primal shriek, part groan, part exasperation and part anger. I put my head on the desk in my hands and squeezed my eyes shut and pretty much started to hyperventilate.

Beckett of course hit the ground sobbing. I was too wrapped up in my own emotions to comfort him. Because, you know, thin line. I kept my head down on the desk and tried to keep from lashing out, because I knew it wasn’t really what B did that I was angry about. Without lifting my head I told him, very sternly, “You need to leave. Now.” He literally crawled out of the room and I couldn’t raise up out of my emotions enough to care.

Not my finest moment.

My head was still on the desk when I heard some shuffling at the office door. I raised my head, ready to let loose with my anger. Make myself somehow feel better by making him, a poor, tiny toddler, feel worse. I just had so much inside me and he was the tipping point.

But when I looked up, it was Kate in the door. With a slightly terrified expression on her face. The look on her face struck me, and I lost my anger immediately. It drained away as quickly as it had come and all that was left was sadness, shame and that hollow feeling that sits in your stomach when you know you’ve done something you can’t take back.

Kate stared at me for a second and then said to me, “Um, Mom? I don’t like it when you scream at me, and I don’t think you should scream at Beckett either. I tried to wipe all his tears and snot off, and I got him to stop crying. You should probably say sorry.”

Wow. My first thought was to quibble a bit, because her words put me in such an ugly light. I mean, I didn’t SCREAM per say. I mean, lets call a spade a spade. It was more a reaction than a scream. I mean, sometimes I YELL. Maybe that was a YELL?

No. Lets call a spade a spade. I screamed. I took my anger, fear and sadness and balled it up into a tight wad of emotion and threw it at my two-year old. And it hurt him. As much as if it were a physical thing. And my daughter. My little warrior. She cared for him. She helped him. And then SHE CAME TO ME and stood up for her brother. Even though she was afraid I was going to… SCREAM… at her next.

Oh my heart.

A friend of mine who has been faced with an unexpected and terrible loss recently, wrote to me with these wise words. “What I have learned (the hard way this last year) is the constant challenge of trying to be present and emotionally available when you are so emotionally raw and stripped. It’s such a backwards situation. How is any human supposed to deal with very real adult emotionally heavy and suffocating concerns and still have the emotional fortitude to crawl on the floor with your littles, parent with patience and not be a blubbering mess.”

I could not have put it into better words. What it feels like to have such a heavy weight of pain and sadness within while you try to parent. Her advice to handling this was to be honest. Instead of trying to hold it all in where the only option is to lash out when it all becomes to much, she let her children see her heart. Her hurt. Her sadness. And it seems to me, that has to be the way. Because I would rather my children grow up knowing and understanding emotions and how to deal with them in a healthy manner, than seeing mommy fall off that thin line, causing damage to their little hearts and sweet souls in the process.

How blessed I am to have such wise friends. Now if I can just be a little more like them. I think we might just all make it through.

The long game

A week and a half into our school year and Kate is already pulling the, “I don’t want to go,” card. She seems to truly enjoy school now (thank you GOD), so I’m chalking it up to her not being a morning person. Like, at all. She takes a lot of time to get revved up. Usually a show or two, some milk, some cuddling with the dog, some books, maybe half a frozen waffle, a glass of water, a trip to the play room for some mindless entertainment and then a trip to the bathroom. And then, AND ONLY THEN, am I aloud to suggest, ever so sweetly, that it is time to get dressed for the day. If we are in a hurry, and she is not allowed to warm up in her very own way, be prepared for some hysterics. I could tell her we have to hustle because we are going to go to Disney World and MICKEY HIMSELF with all his angels princesses were coming over to the house to fly us there personally with MAGIC FREAKING PIXIE DUST and she would throw herself on the ground and scream, “BUT I HAVEN’T WATCHED WILD KRATTS YET!!!”

So THAT is what I’m working with. So far this year she has been pretty okay with the whole process of getting out the door, which I attribute to the newness of school. But apparently that wore off this morning.

When I told Kate to get dressed, she told me no. That she didn’t want to. That she hadn’t played yet. So I informed her that it was a school day, and that she had to get dressed and she would play at school. That’s when she brought out the BIG GUNS.

“I don’t want to go to school.”

“Why?”

“I just don’t.”

“Is something wrong?”

“No. I just don’t…. (searching for a reason…) I just don’t like that I have to lay down there.”

“Well, you have to do quiet time here, so just think of it as your quiet time there. I can talk to your teachers and see if you can read a book or something instead.”

“NO.”

“Kate, you have to go to school, so if you have a problem we should talk to your teachers.”

“MOM NO, Don’t talk to my teachers. I just don’t want to go.”

At this point, I am lost. I mean, I’m pretty sure she doesn’t want me talking to her teachers because she doesn’t really have a problem with school, but for the life of me I’m not sure what to say next. Do I threaten? Force? Stuff her, leg by skinny little defiant leg into her clothes and strap her in the car? Do I bribe? Plead? Frankly, I haven’t had enough coffee for this. Ben overhears and comes in and picks up his little girl and sits on the bed. They put their heads together and start having a quiet little conversation and I throw my hands up and walk into the kitchen to feed the child that is currently NOT testing my patience today.

Not three minutes later, Kate comes, skipping out of the bedroom fully dressed and ready to eat breakfast. I stare, in pure wide-eyed amazement at my husband. He smiles and I mouth, “WHAT DID YOU SAY TO HER?!” He shrugs the modest shrug of a man who knows he has done something truly amazing but doesn’t want to let on that HE thinks he just performed a miracle. I make a mental note to buy him a beer and give him a good smooch the next chance I get.

We finish getting ready for school and get loaded up in the car and start down the road. It is quiet for a bit and then Kate says,

“Mom. Do you know what Daddy told me?”

“No, what?”

“He said that if I go to school every day, and then go to school every year, that someday I will get to go away to college. And then, after I go to college, I can have my own house. And when I have my own house, I can FINALLY get my kitten or a puppy.”

A lightbulb went off. Genius. My husband is a PARENTING GENIUS. He used bribery, but in the best possible way. He played the long game. He took preschool and packaged it with a lifetime of education and topped it off with the one thing she DESPERATELY wants but can NEVER have, as long as she lives under the same roof as my highly-allergic husband. A cat. He bribed her with the hope of a CAT in TWENTY YEARS. The man should belong to MENSA.

“But, I’m really going to miss you when I go away to college Mom.”

Ah. There it is. Out of the mouth of babes, a gentle reminder that I don’t have forever. While I struggle to make it through the here and now, sometimes I need to think like Ben, and focus on the long game. And try to find joy in every difficult, head strong moment as it happens.

Now you’ll have to excuse me. I’m going to buy my man a beer.

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