Thursday, April 14, 2016

you're the worst mom EVER, I love you

Some days I wake up and it feels like Monday, even when it isn't. But some days I wake up and think, "Today is a new day!" This feeling usually dissipates around the 73rd time I tell the children to brush their ever loving teeth, but that glimmer of hope, or possibly it's just insanity (doing the same thing, expecting different results) - it feels nice.

Same thing with evenings. Sometimes, after a rough day, I drive home dreading the drudgery of dinner and bath and bedtime before it even begins. It's like a really maddening and mundane version of Groundhog Day. But sometimes I walk in the door and I feel refreshed and energized. I think, "It's only 3 hours. I got this. How bad can it be?" (LOLOL.)

The point is, 82% of the time, even when I start with the best intentions, an hour in I'm pretty much ready to impale myself on any vaguely sharp object within a ten foot radius.

[15 minutes later]
*Darth Vader Voice*
Credit: @lurkathomemom
It's nice having a helpful partner, and I thank my non-denominational god-substitute basically every day that I am so lucky in that respect. Usually, for whatever reason, when one of us is at the end of their rope, the other has enough reserves in their tank to step in and take over in order to prevent imminent injury to life, limb, and sanity. Hats off to anyone who does this solo and doesn't lose their goddamn mind. I salute you.

This parenting gig is really freakin' hard, no matter which way you slice it. There's not enough grace, patience, hands, or hours in the day to do this job the way we imagined doing it in our minds, before we actually had kids. I don't know about you guys, but some days, it sucks the life right outta me. By the end of the night I feel like a tattered, drool-soaked chew toy that my dogs divested of its stuffing.

Then I think about where that life-blood is being siphoned off to - it's raising humans! And I feel a little bit better. Then I get back down to the actual nitty-gritty-shitty of raising said humans and I feel worse again. A friend posted a link the other day - Parenting Advice: Don't Kill Them. The author writes, "I JUST WANT TO LOVE YOU WHY ARE YOU TRYING TO DESTROY ME?!" The struggle is real.

A good friend of mine who doesn't have kids sometimes says, "I just don't understand why SO MANY PEOPLE do it?! Like, almost everyone! It seems kind of awful! Why do you people keep doing this to yourselves, on purpose?!" As I say, it's the biggest mistake you will never regret. :)

DM and I frequently stress about all the ways we're falling short as parents. He and I had different upbringings, experiences, and expectations. But we're generally in agreement on what an "ideal" lifestyle would look like for our family, and we're not quite there yet.

DM's dad worked long hours as a doctor while his mom stayed home and took care of the kids. He had a plethora of cousins and aunties. He was picked up after school every day, and though she certainly had her hands full, his mom was around to make sure the kids were fed and homework was done. But as first generation immigrants and "new money" in an old money world, there were certain cultural and community cues that went under the radar, e.g. playing on the "right" sports teams, going to the best sleepaway camps, wearing the "cool" clothes, etc. It's funny, the things that leave scars so many years later.

My mom and dad were divorced, my mom remarried(ish), and all three of my parents worked full time. Us kids were in daycare from 6am to 6pm daily, and attended terrible summer camps until I was 12 and they decided I was old enough to stay home with my little brother and sister. (And by "stay home" I mean I actually held summer school for my siblings. I made them journal and do homework and everything. LOL. Sorry guys.) This one camp (that billed itself as an equestrian camp but didn't have any horses?) basically used the older kids (including me) as free labor to take care of the younger kids. W.T.F. My parents were never around to be room parents or chaperone field trips or help us with our homework or build leprechaun traps or come to cross-country meets or soccer games. However they did manage to feed us home-cooked meals every night, and didn't have a TV to use as a babysitter, which kind of boggles my mind. Gold medals all around!

The life DM and I are giving our children, for better or for worse, is more like my childhood than his. Poor Colby and Jack are usually the last ones to get picked up every day. I'm currently wrangling the unruly beast that is the YMCA Summer Camp Matrix (it's a thing) because what in the hell else are you supposed to do for those ten weeks between June and August?

Seriously, what is going on here? Nobody told me I'd need advanced degrees in engineering and mathematics to plan my kids' summer schedules.
The rational side of me knows that I had a similar upbringing and I turned out pretty alright. Yeah, I hated summer camps and after school care. I wished my parents could have attended my games and class parties and field trips. But I never felt like "someone else was raising me," and I never, ever doubted their love. When my brain's in charge, I think to myself, my kids are pretty damn lucky and they are going to be just fine.

But when my heart's calling the shots, I feel like a dick. I spend five or six waking hours a day with my kids, max. And 73% of it is telling them to hurry the hell up. Yes, as I've said before, I would love to be super chill Zen mom, turning each argument into a teaching moment, stopping to smell the roses along the way. And I do what I can when I can. But there are only so many hours in the day. We can barely get the kids to school and ourselves to work on time in the mornings, and on the flip side, every single evening is a grind: rushing to pick them up on time, dinner (like an eating contest, except the slowest one "wins"), bath, show, stories, and the "royal coronation jubilee" that is bedtime. We have been spared much homework thus far and THANK GOD because I honestly have no clue how in the world we're going to fit that into the mix.

I'm so wrung out from this groundhog day grind that it takes some serious (mental and physical) acrobatics to be the best mom I can be, to gird my loins for the endless stream of BS from the fruit of my loins. I know that when I have the energy and the wherewithal to use "positive reinforcement" and "redirection" and "love languages," when I wake up an hour earlier so I have time to prevent breakfast and tooth-brushing battles from becoming flat-out wars, when I pack lunches and backpacks the night before instead of frantically running around the morning of, everyone ends up happier. But the chasm between knowing this, and doing this, is deep and wide. Sometimes, I'm able to make the leap. Sometimes, I'm not.

More than anything, I am blown away by the fact that most people go through these exact same machinations, or worse, day in, day out, and the entire population isn't just walking around sobbing or stabbing people with scissors or sleeping under their desks every single day.

And don't get me wrong. I want to work. I sort of cherish arriving on Monday mornings. Settling into my comfy chair in my quiet office to drink an entire cup of hot coffee uninterupted is a little like heaven. And DM and I both are pretty freakin' lucky on the work schedule front, for lawyers, anyway. Still, I'd like to work less. Or, get paid more, so I could afford to give someone else money to raise my kids (and cook and clean) for me ;)

I'm well aware these are #firstworld problems. See, e.g., The Scale of Suck. A blogger friend of mine put it really well in a great recent post: "In the Colosseum of troubles, I know that I face lions that some people pray for..." Understood. But still. Lions are scary.

I don't really have a point, I don't think. Just a little insight into the conflicted ramblings in my jumbly brain: "You're a pretty good mom, give yourself a break! You're blowing it, pull your shit together! Work harder, get promoted, make more money, so you can go more places and do more things! Work less, (find someone to pay your bills?) do less things, BE THERE more! You survived, they're going to be just fine! I hope you're saving for therapy, they're going to need it! They're such good kids, we must be doing something right! OMG, we broke them, where did we go wrong?!?"

The other day we were running late (okay we're running late every day, but this day we were running extra late). Jack said "What will happen if you're late for work?" I replied, "Well, if I'm late too many times I would probably lose my job." Colby said "I wish you WOULD lose your job. That way we could all stay home together all the time." Knife. in. the. heart. I said, "Well if I didn't have a job then we couldn't afford to have a home to stay home in!" She said, "Would we have no house? Or just a littow house?" I responded, "A little house, probably. Or maybe an apartment." Colby: "Could we still have a pool?" Me: "Definitely no pool." Colby: "Okay then maybe you can keep your job." ;) Thanks for the cosign, kid.

Anyway, as I imagine my mom would say, "You're overthinking this just a little." What I try to remind myself, at the end of the day, is that I'm doing the best that I can, I'm giving everything I have to give, and that has to be enough. That IS enough.

The other morning, Colby was possessed by the devil. She refused to dress herself or let herself be dressed or allow anyone to speak or breathe. She started screaming like a bloody banshee and pinwheeling her arms and legs and then melted into an angry puddle of preschooler on the floor. Again, maybe if we'd had the time and the energy to calmly reason with this vicious imp, we could have solved things more amicably. And/or called in an exorcist. But in real life, DM and I both had meetings, attendance mandatory, and we needed to GTFO of there. So we basically had to tag-team the child and dress her spastic noodly limbs against her will. This was maybe the maddest she's ever been. But not sixty seconds later she latches on to me like a koala, looks up at me with her big round brown eyes, and says, "Mama, I need a snuggle."

Same thing happens with Jack all the time. He is SO sensitive and emotional, depending on which way the wind blows, the littlest things can turn into World War III. I actually got "I HATE YOU!" for the first time the other day. It was jarring and heartbreaking and a tiny bit funny, too. But in the midst of that fury, I ask "Do you think you need a hug?" And his answer is, always, "Yeah, maybe." <3

Anyway, whatever else we're building here, the foundation is love. (Well, love, glitter glue, and goldfish crumbs.) And one thing I can be proud of is that my children know it and feel it too. (The love and the crumbs.)

OMG you guys. I am literally incapable of writing a short blog post. This was just supposed to be a "quick" one. Whoops. The other night I was complaining to DM that the book I was reading was "aggressively wordy" and he said "Sounds like it's right up your alley." ;)

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