The Day I Failed

Have you ever had days when you failed? Times when you feel like a completely incapable parent who — despite trying moment after moment, day after long day — you can’t shake the fear that you’re failing your child? Well, I have.

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Yesterday was rough. It started out fine enough with the usual morning blips: “He took my toy!” “He’s sitting in my seat!” Standard sibling stuff. Then the day spun into afternoon and the brief firecracker bad decisions morphed into waves of whining and misbehavior, not listening and blatantly ignoring threatened consequences. It culminated in me hauling my 5-year-old offender out of the local family concert in a football hold (aka: “the carry of shame”) and to the minivan while my husband, 3-year-old, and 6-year-old stayed to dance and play in the sun.

My middle child squirmed and shrieked in protest against the car seat harness, his consequence. Meanwhile, I sat in the driver’s seat unable to fully focus on his lamentations as I was audience to an internal shaming of my own.

I replayed the entire day, focusing on each time I reprimanded, discussed, scolded, incentivized, redirected, threatened, complimented, and yelled at him. I couldn’t determine what to do differently. I felt helpless. I felt like a failure.

“Adults who make bad decisions are unhappy but adults who make good decisions are happy,” I tell my children, “and I want to help you learn how to make good decisions so that you can be happy adults.” “The world,” I remind them, “has consequences, and so Mommy does too. If you make good decisions, good things happen; if you make bad decisions, bad things happen.” I give them the power to choose their destiny, in a sense, through decision-making. Just like life does, but for now they’re learning in the relative safety of my cocoon.

My eldest knows this speech backwards and forwards. She often retells it to her younger brothers when they misbehave. My youngest prides himself in making “good a-cisions”, as his 3-year-old tongue pronounces it. My 5-year-old presently does not care.

I know my bright, creative, and kind 5-year-old is capable of making good choices and selecting reason over impulse. His teachers note how well-behaved he is in school. But right now he’s not.

“You’re a smart boy who can make good decisions,” I calmly remind my middle son multiple times daily, “make good decisions.” But he doesn’t! Rational me who has parented a 5-year-old before knows it’s the age. Reasonable me knows this is healthy and good… a sign of appropriate development. But mom me is sick of it. Emotional me feels like a failure whose setting her child up for a future of bad decisions, squandered opportunities, burnt relationships, and turmoil. Mom guilt is a bitch.

Then, during evening circle time it all changed. After completing her own circle time share, my eldest asked me to do my circle time after my middle and youngest children had retreated to a sudsy bath. In accordance with our circle time formula, I noted my three dislikes of the day, my three likes, and then I sighed and shared the one thing I would’ve done differently: I wouldn’t have gotten so frustrated with my middle child. “I don’t like yelling at you guys,” I told my daughter. And she smiled. She smiled in this knowing, kind way that stole my breath for a moment. “I know, Mommy. You’re trying your best and you are doing a good job. You NEED to do that so that he can learn to make good decisions.” It was as if all of my internal reason had gotten so frustrated being ignored in my own head that it spilled out through my 6-year-old’s mouth.

I hugged her and thanked her. I ended circle time with the last sharing point: what I was looking forward to tomorrow.

And told myself that tomorrow would be a better day.

Lessons of My Tantruming Toddlers

So this was my Target run this morning with my cute little, potbellied, snot-nosed companion.

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#3 Tantrums amidst candy and beer

Gold-star parenting, taking a photo of my raging 1.5-year-old, right? Pffft… the photo was worth it.

I remember back when my first child (now a sparkle-loving, highly articulate, graceful-as-an-elephant kindergartener) would throw public tantrums. Oh how I would shrivel! My face grew red, I could feel real and perceived eyes on me. I gave SO many shits about what others thought. Granted, when my bull-headed mini-me would rage she would do so for at least 30 minutes. No amount of distraction or redirection, ignoring or punishing would calm the storm. She just needed to let loose until the tides turned. And so she did. And so I learned.

Along came my second child. My daughter, but 20-months old at the time of his birth, was still in the infancy of her tantrum season. We’d walk the aisles of a grocery store and she’d wail. We’d shop Target and she’d walk behind me losing her ever-loving mind. Her infant brother, tucked neatly into his stroller, had been prepared for these animal noises in-utero, so he was utterly unaffected by her demonic yowl-and-flail maneuvers. I’d remain outwardly calm, inwardly reminding myself to stay steady, willing myself to pale the increasing blush in my cheeks. I’d nod at the reassuring smiles from on-lookers, I’d respond to kind words with a silently mouthed “thank you.” I’d ignore unsolicited advice to “teach her a lesson” or “get out the belt.” I kept on with my errand. I preserved.

My second child came of age and would tantrum in public. He’d sit down in the middle of a busy aisle or attempt to run across the street and I’d scoop him up into the crook of my elbow so that his belly rested on my hip, his squat legs kicking the air behind me. We’d go about our errand or family walk as he flailed in my arm, securely positioned in the “carry of shame.” Often both he and his sister would simultaneously unleash their inner demons. Onlookers would reassuringly smile and I’d smile back. Passersby would offer kind words and I’d respond in jest. After a few minutes, he’d relent, his sister would eventually follow suit. He knew his sister had calloused me; he could not win.

Then my third child arrived, 2.5 years after my second. He tantrums and I giggle. He hops with anger in a store aisle and I stop to take a picture. Do onlookers sneer or even notice? I haven’t the faintest. Do people seem unsettled by the fussing of a toddler in a public space? I neither know nor care. I’m just living the fleeting humorous moment, because this too shall pass.

Mom Confession: I Lost My Sh*t

Remember when I said, here, that I was not at all looking forward to homework? Well, homework happened about 2 minutes before bedtime on a Sunday evening after a long day. And I lost my sh*t… all of it.

6:55pm, my kindergartener realizes she hasn’t sharpened her pencils and crayons for school the next day. Her teacher is all about the kids taking responsibility for this task, and I am adamantly behind that perspective. The problem: my kindergartener hasn’t mastered the firm-yet-gentle pressure required to sharpen a pencil without snapping it, which means I have to help.

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So, instead of herding my trio upstairs for baths and bed, my daughter and I sit twirling writing utensils in a plastic sharpener. Then she realizes something: the class bear — which comes with a blank “all about me” poster and a weekend write-up to be completed with appended printed photos — was due back tomorrow, not the following week as she’d originally told us. Out come the project materials!

It is 6:58pm. My 1.5-year-old is melting down because it’s 2 minutes until his bedtime. My preschooler is repeatedly calling my name. I am at the kitchen table helping my kindergartener draw stick figures. This is not how I planned to spend my Sunday evening!

“Mommy! Mommy! Mooooommy!” My preschooler calls. I’m trying to hurriedly complete the ginormous blank poster that requires a sketch for each question. “What is your favorite song?” I read from the posterboard. How in the hell do you draw a song?  My kindergartener can’t remember her favorite tune. What conveniently timed senility!

My preschooler is STILL calling my name. “WHAT?” I growl. “I cleaned up.” My preschooler falsely claims, pointing at two books he returned to the shelf as he’s surrounded by toy calamity. I roar some unintelligible Mommy-has-lost-every-last-shred-of-patience retort. He shriek-cries. “Sia!” My kindergartener shouts. My husband stands in the middle of the kitchen bearing witness but not wanting to breathe for fear of drawing my wrath.

I take a deep breath and try to help my kindergartener draw her favorite song — we have a low bar… she writes the name “Sia” and draws a couple of  music notes — as my preschooler sobs. Now my 1.5-year-old is full-on crying too because it’s past his bedtime and our house is bedlam. I ask, with the gentility of a constipated bull moose, for my husband to comfort the preschooler as I coach our kindergartener through drawing a family portait. “Maybe you shouldn’t have yelled at him.” He says calmly. I shoot him a death glare. It is as if he wants to save money on the eventual vasectomy by having me castrate him right then and there.

Still, he’s right. I know he’s right. It doesn’t mean that I like it though.

I leave my kindergartener to draw a stick figure version of herself on a sliding board. I go to my preschooler, crouch down to his level, look him in his doe-like blue eyes, and apologize. We hug it out, him still crying in a mixture of exhaustion and release. I tell him to clean up the rest of the playroom, head back to the kindergartener, and shoot my husband one more glare to clearly communicate: “no more words.”

I sit down with a great exhale. “C’mon, let’s get this thing finished,” I tell her. “We’re aiming for ‘completed’, not ‘good.'” Parent of the year, right here!

By 7:20 my kindergartener has finished her portion of the project. Now I get to write a report about our weekend comings-and-goings while my toddler and preschooler serenade me in simultaneous fatigue freak-outs from the playroom. My husband takes the kindergartener and preschooler up for baths.

It’s 7:30… report complete. It’s a half-hour past my littlest’s bedtime. I decide to leave the photo collage until the morning and get my snot and tear smeared toddler to bed.

I apologize to my husband later that evening and thank him for being more patient than I. A hug seals the resolution. “I’m not that patient.” He says. “You’re a good mom,” He reassures me.

I lost my sh*t… all of it. I’m a mom. Moreover, I’m a human. It happens. Apologize, hug, and move along. This is life. It’s imperfect and so are we.

My Kids are A-holes: My Afternoon of Mommy Hell

When it’s 12:30 and you’re already wishing it was wine o’clock,  you know it’s bad.

I love my kids. I always wanted to be a mom. I’m immensely fortunate to have been granted the opportunity to parent my own biological children. Nonetheless, on occasion, my kids can be real assholes.

I knew my day was apt for a left turn when all of the kids were awake before 7:00am. Still, it was going to be a busy day complete with two school drop-offs, grocery shopping, grocery unpacking, preschool costume parade which coincided exactly with the inconveniently scheduled kindergarten early dismissal, lunch prep, breast milk pumping, and packing and shipping of frozen breastmilk for my milk recipient. There was lots to do but, fortunately, The Hubs was there to pitch to make it all work.

The Hubs took on school drop-offs and the yougest and I headed to the grocery store. Errand completed, groceries unloaded, lunch heating, and we had 15 minutes to spare before heading to the preschool parade. Just enough time for a nursing session. The Hubs manned kindergarten pick-up and the youngest and I drove to preschool. Perfection! That’s when the day went sideways.

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– We arrived at the school and the yougest was cranky. If he wasn’t attempting to waddle into the street, he was a fussy puddle of baby on the sidewalk. He repeatedly flung his chubby face at the glass double doors and streaked his way down the the glass in toddler melodrama.

– After the parade, the yougest and I headed to the classroom to retrieve the now-exhausted middle child.

– The middle child, dressed as the blue-haired merman from Nick Jr’s “Bubble Guppies”, refuses to leave the classroom or don his backpack until I put his blue wig in the backpack. Fine. Blue wig in backpack… whatever.

– We get to the car in the bustling preschool parking lot. He wants me to remove his costume pants right then and there. No. We live 3 minutes from school. You can survive. You’re wearing scale-printed leggings for goodness sakes! Get in your car seat.

– As I buckle the boys into their car seats, the middle child asks to hold his treat bag. I say he can but he may not eat anything from it. I hand him the bag. He flings it beside him in frustration because why look when you cannot eat?

– I pull out of the parking space and the middle child asks what’s for lunch. He throws his shoe when he hears it’s not noodles with meatballs.

– We haven’t even exited the parking lot when he throws his sock after I tell him that, no, I will not make him a separate lunch.

– We’re not even out of sight of the school when he throws his other shoe upon realizing, to his utter horror, that there’s a commercial on the radio. He shrieks that he wants music.

– Music comes on. I turn up the volume and he screams he doesn’t want music. I turn it louder and tell him I won’t turn it down until he stops screaming and whining.

– He eventually stops screaming and whining. I turn down the music.

– He wants his treat bag from the school party. It’s right next to him but he claims he can’t reach it. He can. He won’t. He freaks out and throws his remaining sock. Verdict: no treats for the rest of the day. He flips.

– I remind him of our in-car shoe removal policy: as soon as we park he has to collect his socks and shoes and walk inside as he is. He freaks out.

– We get home. The Hubs has successfully retrieve the eldest from school and is already back home. I unbuckle my youngest and unfasten the middle child. Within the seconds it takes me to walk around the minivan to let out the middle child, he has managed to refasten himself in the car seat and is losing his mind over being stuck in the car seat. I free him (though I really don’t want to.)

– I walk the emotional middle child through grabbing each thrown foot covering. He wails the entire time and walks barefoot into the house, the mermaid flippers appended to his scale-bedecked leggings wiggling with each step.

– The shoe-less Bubble Guppy melts as he gets inside. He remembers he didn’t want lunch.

– I put his treat bag on the counter so I can heat lunch, and he attempts to swipe the bag. I retrieve the bag and remind him that he doesn’t get treats today. Threat: his treat bag will be thrown away if he tries to steal it again.

– He complains about the lunch I’m preparing. I tell him to skip lunch then.

– He steals the treat bag. I throw the bag away. He screams. I tell him to go upstairs.

– He yells in the hallway that he’s hungry and wants lunch. He rips leaves from the fall garland and throws them down the stairs.

– Fuming, I put him in his room.

– I plate lunch. Everyone — minus the middle demon spawn — is eating. I hear him throwing stuff in his room (plastic hangers and stuffed animals) and yelling at me through his pacifier. Whatever. I’m eating.

– The tantrum is over. I send my eldest to fetch the middle child and to remind him that, if he’s good, he can come have lunch.

– Now wearing only tight whities, the middle child sits at the table, face red and puffy from the tirade, and happily exclaims that the lunch is yummy. The F… really??

– My eldest finishes lunch and goes to get a lollipop. I open the shrink wrap and lollipop shards fall all over the floor.

– I vacuum the lollipop bits. My youngest tips back in his chair (we have bungeed it to the table for just this reason) and gets stuck in the reclined position. I save him.

– My middle child can’t pick up the small pieces of lunch with his fork, so I have to feed him the rest. Meanwhile, my youngest demands immediate release from his booster seat.

– I clean up the middle and youngest children and get them ready for naptime.

– I send my middle child upstairs to go potty before naptime. He somehow pees in his underwear and in the toilet simultaneously. Skills.

– I go upstairs. I step in the pee puddle barefoot. Because, of course.

– I clean up the puddle and get my middle child ready for a nap.

– I nurse my yougest for his nap. Halfway through he pops off and wiggles down to the floor. No nap today.

– I put my youngest in the playroom where my eldest is chilling, and I get my breast pump together.

– I sit down to pump. 5 minutes in: “He stinks!” Complains my eldest. “Poo poo!” squeals my youngest.  I’m pumping so I tell them to hold on until I’m done.

– I finish pumping. Subpar output — a kick to the areolas for a pumping mom — but it’s reasonable given my stress level.

– I change my youngest: “poo poo” was an understatement. Total outfit change required.

– I have 15 minutes of break time before naptime is over. I pour a mug of hot tea and sit. Ahhh!

– 5 minutes later, the yougest is melting. He has decided that he wants to nurse and that it is now his naptime. Sorry, kid! You can nurse but you’re not napping.

– It is 2:00. Naptime is over. Post office, barber shop,,and dinner prep here we come! I unlatch the youngest and we gear up for the remainder of the day.

We survived. I didn’t lose my mind… entirely. I’ll call that a win.

 

 

 

 

“That” Mom

I was just “that” mom. I am accustomed to the looks of bewilderment and shock I get when I walk in public with #1 (4.5yrs) and #2 (nearly 3yrs) holding my hands as #3 (9mnth) is strapped to my chest. Today, though, I didn’t even bother noting the surrounding glances, gawks, and glares as we painfully selected balloons for #2’s upcoming family birthday gathering.

Three “Bubble Guppies” balloons… the errand should’ve been uneventful and swift. Hahaha!

#1 had to touch every single pink ballon in sight, got a nasty case of the “I wants,” and then came the back-talk. Mean mommy verdict: “No treats tonight!” Cue the 4.5yo elbow to my thigh which she regretted about 3/4 of the way through the swing. Mean mommy point and glare.

We head to the register… My Little Pony toys, Frozen t-shirts, candy… the party store gods loathe me. I decide to ignore the rapid-fire “I wants” for sanity’s sake.

We make it to the register — I’m still ignoring — then, as I swipe my credit card, #2 decides he wants a Rapunzel party. He selected the “Bubble Guppies” theme a month ago. We have the plates. We have the cups  He came with me to order the dairy-free ocean-themed cake. We just got our three freakin’ “Bubble Guppies” balloons. Get me out of here! Sorry, bud, you’re getting “Bubble Guppies.” #2 flails. Meltdown. On the ground. Complete loss of leg control. So I drag him toward the door in the manner least likely to cue a CPS call. Now, he’s demanding his birthday is today: “My burpday is April 7th!” “Yes, but today is April 1st and your family party isn’t until the 3rd.” “Noooooooo!!!!!” I contemplated the carry-of-shame but figured he might kick #3 who was strapped to my chest. So I tried reasoning with him. It worked enough to get to the car before he melted, body half in and half out of the minivan. #1 stepped over him muttering about My Little Ponies as I slid #2 on his belly inside the van.

Buy birthday ballons: check.