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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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.

Ain’t it beautiful

I think parenting can be summed up in three basic emotions. Love, fear and guilt. I mean, obviously there is a pinch of anger and sometimes a heaping serving of humiliation, but for the most part, at least in my world, I’m consumed on a daily basis with love, fear and guilt.

I am swamped with love when my kids wake up in the morning and roll into our bed, all snuggly and warm and wanting nothing but to be near us. I love their hugs, their smiles, their fingers, toes and eyelashes. I love when they laugh. I love their discussions with me and with each other and with the dog. I love reading them stories. And wrestling and tickling and even the moments when they get in trouble and they come to me with sad eyes and tell me they are sorry. So much love.

And, because of that amazing love, I am also swamped by fear on a daily basis. I see danger everywhere. All strangers are potential abductors. That ladder on the playground is a broken arm waiting to happen. The neighbor’s dog is a menace. The rake in the yard, the couch in the living room, the neighborhood pool, all electrical outlets, lightening, hot dogs and grapes, butter knives, anything with wheels, plastic golf clubs, PENCILS, you name it, I bet I can explain how it could seriously and irrevocably injure my children. It is all out there. Just waiting to inflict pain on the two most important people in my world. But, since I can’t let my kids live in a bubble, I have to just sit back, swallow the fear and let them go on coloring and eating with utensils and PLAYING (dang it). But the fear. It is always there.

And then we come to guilt. Ahhh, my sweet friend guilt. I am SWAMPED with it. I feel guilt about the amount of time I breast fed. About not ALWAYS buying organic. About losing my temper. I feel guilt about not always wanting to play whatever pretend game Kate wants me to. I feel guilt about needing me time. I feel guilt about serving my kids junk food because it is the only thing they will eat. I let them watch too much TV. I forget to give them vitamins daily. I can go an entire week without doing ANYTHING educational with them. I lie to them sometimes because it is easier than dealing with the truth. I’m not always happy. I don’t always teach by example. I yell at them for yelling at each other. I tell them gentle hands but swat them when I lose my temper. Guilt. I lay in bed each night and think over the day and chew on those moments of failure, rolling them around and around until I cry sometimes because the enormity of raising children that you LOVE so much feels like an impossible task. And I constantly fall short.

Today Kate started her second year of preschool. And I spent my entire morning feeling guilty. When our family moved to our current  home almost two years ago, we enrolled Kate in a great preschool that she loved. She fit right in, had friends and really blossomed. I, however, felt it was lacking. Class days were only 2.5 hours and it was completely secular (no holidays could be discussed, let alone any kind of beliefs).

After much thought, we decided to send Kate to preschool at our church this year. We want Kate to have a strong foundation of faith. To that end, we want her to feel like her church is a second home. Make friends with kids she will grow up with in youth group and be comfortable with the ministers and other church family.

I know all the reasons I chose to make the move are important. But when I took my wild and fearless child to her “Meet the Teacher” and she didn’t speak but one or two words, I felt guilt. When I took her to school this morning and I dropped her off, I felt guilt. When I peeked back in the room and saw her standing next to one of the walls instead of sitting at one of the activity tables with all the other kids, I felt guilt.

And when I got a call 30 minutes later that she had gone to the bathroom and thrown up, I felt guilt. Like, punch in the stomach, kick in the balls, guilt.

I know that it is only preschool. I know that ultimately, she will be fine. She will probably be more than fine. One she settles in at school, she will be a rock star. Because she is my Kate and she is amazing.

But that doesn’t stop the guilt. It doesn’t make it better. Kate has never thrown up due to nerves, yet I wonder if that is what happened. She doesn’t have a fever and bounced back to being her old self as soon as I arrived to pick her up. And so, because I can’t know exactly what caused it, the guilt of making a decision that possibly stressed my daughter out SO MUCH that she became physically ill, is making me ill. And afraid. That I did not make the best choice for my daughter. Because I love her, so very, very much. And I want it to all be okay.

Love. Fear. Guilt. Ain’t parenting beautiful?

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First day of preschool. Sassy kiddo, no signs of sickness here!

Not quiet

So Mr. EdelSpot has taken a new job. A new job where he may be allowed to work from home more. Which sounds like a dream. Or it did to me, until I thought back to the times he has worked from home in the past. It goes a little something like this.

“Daaaaaaaaaddy. Oh DAAAAAAAADDY. Why isn’t daddy opening the door. I can see him in there. He is looking at me and mouthing something, but he isn’t coming to the door. Oh well, I guess I could JUST YELL LOUDER!!!! DAAAAAAAADDDDDYYYYYY!!!!! You know what, he can’t hear me because he has that phone up to his head. Maybe if I rattle the door he can hear me. Here, just a little harder and I THINK I CAN GET IT OPEN. Nope, just need to kick the door a little maybe. Here, a big KICK!! What, No, Mom, I need to talk to Daddy. Don’t pull me away from the door. It’s my DAAAADDDDDYYYYY. (Insert shrill screaming as I drag her from the office doors). DAAAAADDDYYYYYYY!!!!!!!!!!!!!!”

Now, flash to 15 minutes later when whatever business call Ben was on has ended.

“LIZ. Seriously?”

“Um, yeah. Sorry about that. See, Beckett had a poopy diaper, so I had to change him and she slipped me. I mean, she saw that moment of weakness when I accidentally got baby shit on my knuckle and was scrubbing my hands clean and decided to make a break for the office door. I thought it might be quieter if you just WAVED YOUR DAMN HAND AT HER SO SHE COULD QUIT SCREAMING AT YOU, but I see how that was not an option. Because you needed your hand to do something important, like, oh, wait, NO YOU DIDN’T YOUR WERE JUST TALKING. So, tell me, why didn’t you just WAVE YOUR HAND AT HER? MY BAD for thinking that was an option.”

Obviously, Ben gets annoyed at my suggestion that he go jump in a lake, and I get annoyed that he thinks I can wrangle my children every time he gets on the damn phone, because that man is on the phone ALL THE TIME, and then we both quit speaking to each other and someone slams a door. And a preschooler or toddler then has to go to the door to peek inside and whisper, “Daddy? You mad? Can I come in? Want to play?” And he gives me THE EYE and I drag both kids upstairs to do something quiet. Like, um, hm, ummm, quiet, let’s see, ummmmmm, yeah. We don’t DO quiet. Guess we will go to Target for a few hours.

And then, as I’m letting the kids tear apart the toy aisle to kill an hour and fielding dirty looks from store employees, I’m all, “Hm. Maybe working from home is going to be a bit of a problem.”Image