October 10, 2014 by Julia
I’ve already vented for five pages about our current parenting challenges, but there is no redeeming theme, and some of it is dull, so I’m starting over. I’m feeling like I want to get away from it all and write myself to a very quiet place where no one ever interrupts or debates my every sentence or flails wildly, but that’s where we’re at right now, so if I’m going to write this week, this is it.
Despite turning three years old a few months ago, Jack is still refusing to act like a mature human being and throws near-constant tantrums that are quite unreasonable, over things like putting on his shirt. He doesn’t care that we have to walk Fiona to the bus stop in chilly weather right this minute or we might miss the bus, or that he is kicking me in the gut while I try to put on his shoes. All he knows is that he hates getting dressed, and he won’t hear another word about it! Fiona screams at him and everything escalates and I am so mad I just want to leave him sprawled half-naked on the sidewalk until he realizes that he is alone outside and it is cold. AND HE SHOULD HAVE LISTENED TO HIS MOTHER. NOW THE DARK WOODS WILL TAKE YOU, UNGRATEFUL CHILD.
Sometimes, in public, Jack likes to make Dennis or I look like kidnappers. If he really doesn’t want to leave, we have to drag a screaming, kicking child away and somehow strap his rigid body into a carseat. It’s really fun, and not exhausting on a mental level to wonder if someone will call the police on you. It’s also not physically draining when your arm muscles suddenly give out, you drop him, and then have chase him when he tries to run away. It’s also not embarassing to watch your child writhing on a dirty sidewalk while pedestrians step around him and you give a little shrug, “Kids, heh! What are you gonna do?” Or if it’s really bad you just avoid eye contact altogether. This is not happening.
I’m not sure which is worse – the “hurry up, we have to get out the door!!” tantrum, or the “sorry, kid, but we have to get home now” tantrum.
He is also fully potty-trained at this point, but will throw a tantrum if we try to get him to go the bathroom at a convenient moment. It must be on his own terms – he has to tell us, we can’t ask him. This is a tough pill to swallow when he also has accidents every other day. I have reached the point several times where I am trying to force him to sit on the toilet, and surprise! You can’t control other people’s basic bodily functions! Every three-year-old knows this, and they hang onto that sliver of autonomy with the death grip of I don’t know what.
Also, the no-nap situation has contributed to a feeling of slight desperation on my part. There is so much I need to do, and want to do, that I can’t do…unless he is either watching a show or on the iPad. I play with him, and take him places to meet our friends, and we run errands together, but there are still so many hours in the day that can’t be spent entertaining him, and he hasn’t realized yet that sometimes he just has to play with toys by himself. Because I can’t get anything done through the whining/climbing on me if I suggest this, I usually give in and turn on whatever device will most likely distract him.
It’s been too much, though. I feel like I need my own adult time at some point during the day, and I also feel like he is watching too much TV, and I don’t see any solution other than waiting until he goes to school. It’s crappy to feel both things at once, though: that I am not getting enough time for myself, and that I am neglecting my child by putting him in front of a screen. I mean, in an ideal world I could find a way to be happier AND be a better parent, but sometimes the two things don’t seem compatible. Which is a depressing thought that I don’t completely believe. But it does feel like it’s my needs vs. theirs at least the half the time. I don’t like to think of it that way. I want to believe that I can be fulfilled through the love and sacrifice, that the good I do for them is good for me, too. And vice versa. I do believe that.
Believing is not always the same as experiencing, though, and right now I feel all at odds, out of patience, clinging to selfish desires.
There is also the current phase with Fiona, which has always been an ongoing one, which is that she is like a little (currently six-year-old) teenager. She wants to debate everything I say. She screams at me and says things like, “You’re not making any sense!!” and calls me stupid and slams doors and I am ashamed to say that lately I have been operating on the same level, to the point that I am hoarse from all of the yelling.
I have always explained “why” to Fiona, even when she was tiny. I am honest to a fault – about why I’ve said no to something, or what I am feeling, or how I decided what we would do that day. I think this is part of the reason she is so socially mature. We get into the complexities of human nature and our interactions with each other. And she has an empathy for others that is rare for a young child. But her understanding of social matters is also one of her best weapons against me. If I dare to tell her “no” – to another piece of candy, or a trip to the playground, or a toy in the store, she will argue all the reasons I have to say “yes.” If that fails, she goes with the kid-tested method of repetitive asking.
Sometimes you just don’t have the patience to explain something repeatedly over screams. Sometimes you just want the fact that you are the parent and you said no to be enough. Done. “Mom said no, okay. I’ll move on, then!” It goes against every fiber in my being to say “Because I told you so,” except for those fibers that are mad and tired of fighting and just want to be in charge. I have those mad fibers, too. The ones that have stopped caring about long-term lessons and talking through issues and resolving with patience. Yep, and it feels good for a split-second to say, “BECAUSE I AM THE MOM, THAT’S WHY, AND IF YOU ASK ME AGAIN OR EVEN BREATHE HALF A WORD THAT SOUNDS LIKE YOU MIGHT WHINE ABOUT IT OR DARE TO ASK AGAIN, YOU WILL GO TO YOUR ROOM.” Amazing the things you don’t know about yourself until you become a parent, like that how capable you are of expressing white hot rage! (Side note: she will then say she is scared to be in her room by herself. In broad daylight. Which is half-true, and surely half-manipulation.)
She does this growl/shriek that will make all of the hairs on your arm stand up. It’s like feedback on a microphone, and you just want it to stop. It’s as irritating as the cry of a baby, but not so much distressing as it is infuriating, because she is no longer a baby. And we are indoors. And it’s happening because you asked her the wrong question.
Anyway. Things are fine, really.
You know how you can feel like you’re at the end of your rope, but also feel like at the core of your life things are good and well, too? I feel that way at least two-thirds of the time: freaking out on the everyday level, reassurred that everything is okay on the big-picture level. Which is part of the reason we chose to have kids in the first place…they add so much to our big-picture lives.
I know that my children have just as many (or more) sweet, loving qualities as they have difficult ones. And I believe they understand on a fundamental level that they are safe and deeply loved by their parents. Plus, they are super cute and funny and delightful and this is a precious stage for us as family. Also a hard one. Sounds about right, I suppose.