Parenting: Let’s Commiserate About the Hard Times

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Sometimes the best you get out of parenting is making it through the day and climbing back into bed.  

Sometimes the most you can say is that you all stayed in one piece.

It’s not much of a mantra, but there are some days it is the only one I’ve got.  Here is the story of such a day:

I wasn’t about to make it onto the covers of any magazines or anything like that, but I’d done a nice enough job on my makeup and my hair didn’t look that dirty, even though it was.

We were supposed to go out and get our Christmas tree and I thought maybe there would be a few family photos.  I still hadn’t given up on the idea of making and sending holiday cards to loved ones near and far, but we were yet to capture the perfect family photo.

So, I took my sweet time massaging dry shampoo into my greasy roots and tugging the mess up into a messy bun that I told myself looked hip and quirky.  I hadn’t wanted to waste any precious family time washing my hair, but I did take a moment to apply a shiny coat of lipstick.

For a moment, I felt great.  I felt pretty and full of hope for a day just as sparkly as my lipstick.

I know it sounds shallow and vain.  But every once in a while, I just want to be that perfect-looking mom of the perfect-looking family.

Jack was ready to go, and my husband was in the shower, but Emily was refusing to get dressed.  She’d been holding an unhealthy grudge against pants and socks for, and mornings were challenging, to say the least.  Jack started flying paper airplanes which caught Em’s interest far more than dressing herself.

“Come on guys!” I said, trying to remain chipper and thinking about how we would listen to the Muppet’s Christmas album in the car and maybe stop for donuts and cocoa.  “Let’s get ready so we can get out tree!”

The kids swarmed around me, tossing paper airplanes across the living and dining rooms.

Now, had Jack not recently knocked a photo off the wall and broken the frame and glass (for a second time I might add) because he was throwing something, I might not have added the bit about not throwing stuff in the house.  But I did.  And Jack countered by screaming:

“I hate you!  You never let us do anything!”

His words shot like icy, little daggers into my achingly festive heart.  I tried to regroup, and offered an alternative that he put on shoes and play airplanes outside while he waited for us to go.  He slammed into his room.

Meanwhile, Emily frenetically dashed around the dining room table in underpants.

By the time my husband came out of the bathroom, I had completely lost control of the situation.  The kids were both screaming, uncooperative and wild.  I was desperately trying to cajole, which turned into threats about Santa and canceling Christmas.

The fucking elf sat on the shelf and did nothing.  Nada.  Squat.

An hour later, the kids were still surly as trolls.  Jack had torn his bed apart.  Emily was still naked.  My husband and I looked at each other in a state of total confusion, trying to figure out exactly what had happened.

I decided that 10:30 in the morning was in fact too early to start drinking, but it was too late to make the trek out for the tree.  We decided we could not reward the poor behavior with a special outing.

Sometimes I really wonder why I had children.

I also wonder why I had such strong-willed, independent, smart kids who seem to never bend to my wishes.

And I wonder if I just completely suck at everything.

Parenting is hard.  I know it’s hard.  Other people commiserate with me about it, and we laugh and secretly feel relief curl up like a cat in our souls because we are not alone with this fear and stress.

In my work as a child and family therapist, I went to a seminar once where one of the sound bites was that “crisis with kids happen when the adult in charge loses control of the situation.”

This might have been the single most UN-reassuring thing I’ve ever heard about parenting in my life.  Seriously.  Sometimes we social workers say some stupid shit.

Because there is crisis and chaos in my house a lot.  Which must mean I lose control of the situation a lot.  Which must mean I am doing something wrong a lot.

It makes me look at my husband and think, am I really that bad of a mom?  Would my kids be better off without me?  

Fuck that.

That’s maternal doubt, depression, anxiety, guilt and angst playing full throttle in my brain.

I know “they” say you’re not supposed to zone out on your phone while you are parenting because you’ll miss all the richness of life while you are scrolling through Facebook or tweeting about parenting stress.

Fuck that too.

Sometimes all you miss is the nastiness of your kids chewing with their mouths open and talking about farts while they eat grilled cheese.

It’s okay to miss that.  Really.

Anyway, I took out my phone and started flipping through Twitter to pass the time while the kids were in time out and we were not chopping down a tree.  I found two things from a fellow blogger.

The first:  “Anxiety mantra.  Get comfortable being uncomfortable.  Live alongside the unpleasant feeling, without giving it respect and it will reduce.”

The second:  “Anyone struggling tonight, please remember life is fluid.  How you feel now is not how you’ll feel forever.”

I believe @butterflymum83 was tweeting about perinatal depression, but her words applied to my situation as well because I was indeed anxious and struggling.

Her words lent me some support and perspective.

Support and perspective are two of the things I’ve found I’m most hungry for as a parent, because they are two incredibly difficult things to find and maintain when you are in the forest of behavior, legos, snot, doll clothing, tears, and plastic food.

Kids are loud, messy, smelly, frantic, unpredictable, and unreasonable little creatures.  They are these things so much more than I ever imagined they would be.  Living with them and their constant chaos is not for the faint of heart.  For a highly sensitive introvert like me, it can be really hard to remember that all the noise, mess, and stink is par for the course and not a sign that I am failing at life because it all makes me so uncomfortable.

It’s really hard not to take things personally.  It’s really hard not to tell myself that my kids had a bad day because I am a crappy mom and I set off their behavior with my own bad attitude or crapulence.

I felt really sad and mad about not going out to get the tree.  I felt really disappointed in the kids and in myself.  And as I set a bad example and sulked about it all, I realized that the only thing I ever really wanted in life was to be a mom and now the only thing I really want is a break from the responsibility and stress of it all.

Please don’t misunderstand me; I love my kids.  There are no words that can aptly describe the hurricane of adoration that rips through the core of my being when I see their faces or hold their sticky hands in my own.  There is no sense in even trying to describe the depth of my obsession with them, how it keeps me up nights.

I even love their stinks, although I could live with a little less of their chaos.

Sometimes are just fucking rough.

I thought of all this as I washed off my makeup, and watched it swirl down the sink in a slimy stream of shimmering suds at the end of the day.

I’d given up on the Christmas cards.  One less thing to do, anyway.

Sometimes the best you get out of parenting is making it through the day and climbing back into bed.

Sometimes the most you can say is that you all stayed in one piece.

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5 responses »

  1. I totally get this and remember the days when our boys were all wild and throwing things and not cooperating and how plans would get ruined. The next day was ALWAYS better. Hope yours was too. (Loved the line about the elf on the shelf!)

  2. Yes. Yes. Yes. Its exactly how I feel. Motherhood shakes you to the core sometimes releasing yourself doubt demons into your mind and sinking you lower.

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