It’s 6:10 pm on a Friday evening and I am eating M&M’s in my really messy house. The two kids who are home with me are mad at me. Okay, I’ll admit that I have put them both to bed. Confession time. Because I remember reading in the hospital literature after one of these many births that if your baby is screaming and you start feeling rage, to put them down and walk away. Much better than hurting them. So I don’t know what age that wisdom extended to, but I’m claiming it for my 3-year-old and 18-month-old tonight. The 3-year-old because he just threw a fit at my daughter’s volleyball game; and the younger guy because he learned how to escape out of his crib last night and proceeded to spend the rest of the night screaming and tormenting his father and me. And because he learned how to get out of the play pen at nap time today, continuing the torment.
I’m sure this all boils down to bad parenting. With our first few kids, for example, we would have forced them to eat their supper. But Joe made chicken soup tonight and instead of force-feeding Reeve (said 3-year-old), we let his bowl sit at the table untouched while he helped himself to the microwave popcorn somebody (undoubtedly one his older sisters) had fixed. We were trying to get out the door to the volleyball game. So then when we got to the game, a sweet little girl and her mom were selling girl scout cookies outside the door. Reeve and Enie (8 years old, the only other child I had with me) asked for some and I just said okay; I have no explanation as to why. After four chocolate mint cookies each, I put the box in my purse and that’s when my son’s dark side emerged.
“I want another cookie!”
“No Reeve, you’ve had enough.”
“I want another one!”
This went on for several minutes, including a sly unzip of my purse to help himself. I hid the purse behind my daughter and pretended to call Joe to tell him Reeve would need disciplined when we got home. That calmed the matter somewhat, but then Reeve decided he wanted water from the fountain … three times. The second time, he got his coat wet and cried for me to take it off. Fine. The third time, he got his shirt wet and demanded I take that off too.
“You have to leave your shirt on, I don’t have another one here for you.”
“Take it off! I need my shirt off!”
Back and forth.
“Reeve, I said no!”
“I said yes! Take it off!”
“You’re being bad, I’m going to take you home.”
“No! Take my shirt off!”
He stuck his tongue out. He called me names. So we left, and he cried the whole way out of the building. I’m sure the other parents were thinking the same thing I think when I see someone else’s child acting out like that: ‘What’s wrong with that woman? Can’t she control her child?’ I’ve been on both sides of that dialogue, and really it’s a joke because I think all moms know that none of us are very good at this. It sure feels good to hear someone say how well-behaved your kids are, but when the very same kids start screaming bloody murder five minutes later, you feel like a loser.
The kid screamed the whole way home.
“I want to go back! I want to watch Nevaeh (our 13-year-old)!”
None of my tricks worked this time.
“I guess I’ll have to help you scream … I WANT TO GO BACK …”
I’m pretty sure trying to out-scream a 3-year-old is on a clinical list somewhere of signs of mental instability. But the real crazy thing is that sometimes it works. Some kids would rather be silent than be part of a screaming chorus with Mom.
I also tried singing and threatening discipline, but I’ll admit it was all half-hearted. All I really wanted to do was get home as quick as possible and throw a pull-up on the kid and send him to bed.
My husband was waiting in the driveway for me when I got home so he could leave for church. I grabbed the baby from him and gave him Enie.
A one-year-old who barely slept the night before or napped today would undoubtedly put a nursery worker or two in tears, so Joe was happy to hand him off.
My neighbor, bless her heart, lent me a “wearable blanket” for Avram (the 1-year-old) when I told her earlier today of our crazy night last night. Have you seen these things? Oh my goodness!!!
Our little guy is all set to be an Olympic climber (not sure if that’s a thing), and is extremely determined and strong and assertive. But I actually don’t think he will be able to climb out of the crib with that thing on. So we’ll see …
He actually went down without too much fuss tonight. Half an hour has passed, and think they’re both asleep. Thank God!
The part I don’t understand about all of this is, how can I be putting so much effort into this mom thing, and for so long (15 years and counting) and still not be good at it? As my fellow homeschooling mommy friend Emily said recently, “I’m about a B- on a good day. Usually with my best efforts, I’m at about a C.”
That’s how I feel. We’re doing okay, but I don’t think Joe and I will be gracing the cover of Parenting magazine anytime soon. Just as well. Those parents usually only have 2-3 kids, which is fine, but I could have probably faked it too when I just had 2-3 kids. Real parenting is tough! It’s not a bunch of pat answers and systems. It takes really showing up every day, ready for ridiculously hard challenges, giving it your all, knowing that at the end of the day, you might not have anything to show for your labors. The laundry pile might be higher than when you woke up that morning, the clutter might be deeper. But I think that’s when faith comes in. I have to believe that God is working in my children in spite of me. I have to believe my kids are better off with me than they would be without me. And I have to believe that a B- is still a passing grade in God’s eyes.
“And let us not grow weary while doing good, for in due season we shall reap if we do not lose heart.” Galatians 6:9
Your a wonderful mom, and great friend that I miss talking to dearly…glad to see you writing from the heart