Actually, they were all really, really nice, thoughtful, caring people who did their very best to soothe my bawling 3-yr old, but in the end, it just backfired on me.
I took the kids for two full hours of open gymnastics this morning to wear their little psychotic asses out. That was awesome. Then I decided to draw out the day a little more and knew everyone was hungry so we headed to Jason’s Deli. Everyone was in a good mood. We ordered our food and took our receipt & plastic table number with us. And then all hell broke loose.
My 3yr old escaped mental patient has a penchant for numbers. Numbers are everything. Today, he decided he didn’t like the table number we were given (32 in case you just have to know) . He wanted a number in the 100’s. As I carry him away screaming, I barely make it to the end of the counter line before three different staff have asked me if he needs a coloring book and crayons. I say ‘sure’ but I know that’s not going to appease the monster. I find a booth table. Another worker comes over to me and tells me to go grab some food from the salad bar for him, anything I want. Again, super sweet. Everyone is trying their best to make him happy and I finally explain what his problem is. Sure enough, they run off and come back with a glorious yellow number – 142. They hand it to him and he thinks it’s Christmas. We sit and have a great meal together. All good.
The manager comes over to us, to check how we are doing and I thank her for the attentiveness of everyone. Really, they were very good. But now I am thinking that the next time we go to Jason’s Deli, he’s going to demand a specific number and Momma ain’t playin’ that game. I like Jason’s Deli too much to turn every visit into a dramatic affair. They’ve got such great food and the free ice cream is to die for. We’ve had a few near misses there regarding the numbers but I always prepare him that the numbers stay in the restaurant. They don’t come home with us, but I guess I hadn’t prepped my 5yr paroled mental patient because while the manager was talking to me, my daughter piped up, “Can we take this home?” My eyes shot wide open in disbelief and my jaw almost hit the floor.
I respond quickly that we cannot, it belongs to the restaurant, other people need the numbers, yadda yadda yadda. I finally take a deep breath and relax when the manager says to her, “well, since you asked, then yes you can take it home.” Oh bloody hell. While the excitement is temporary for today, the battle for future visits has ratcheted up a few notches.
Five minutes later, the same manager comes back and says “we can’t have only him having a number,” and hands my daughter number 143. Oh.My.God. I get a sense of foreboding in the pit of my stomach. I know what’s coming and it’s going to be bad. The same sense of doom one has when perhaps walking through land mines. My daughter is squealing with delight, kissing her number. Actually kissing and hugging it.
We leave, and I thank the manager again for her kindness. She was exceptionally kind, all the staff were. But I know that hell is around the corner. The ride home was delightful and I allowed myself a glimpse of hope that maybe this had all worked out. Maybe it wasn’t a disaster after all and that it was worth the crap I’m going to get from the illogical little beasts next time I go there.
But then we get home. And within an hour, my escapee decides that he wants 143, not 142 and the tantrum that ensued was epic. Twenty minutes later, the puffy faced, hyperventilating midget is not letting go of the notion that his number is 143, even though he was specifically given 142. After he had calmed down, twenty years later, I explained that 143 was his sister’s number but that he could have a turn holding 143. The beast was assuaged but the stage had now been set for a whole afternoon of territorial battles and trying ever so hard to find each other’s buttons. Unfortunately, they succeeded. A lot.
Now that the afternoon has come to a close, neither child gives a flying crap about their number and I’m opening a beer. Lots of them.
For a couple of days there, I thought this whole motherhood thing was getting easier. The 3-year-old escaped mental patient has been a little less crazy this week. I upgraded my 5 yr old to a paroled mental patient. And then BOOM! The paroled one decides to “not listen” to anything and suddenly we are at battle stations. Having a spirited child is draining, but when said child decides not to cooperate with anything, it’s a nightmare. It’s not simply a matter of not doing what she’s told, it turns into very blatant, intentional defiance. If she was allowed to use adult words, it would have been a morning of f**k you.
I realized I was about to explode, really, really explode, and her behavior was horrid enough that I actually didn’t want to be around her. That’s an odd feeling for a mother. I told her so, and that she was being sent to her room for a long, long time. She argued with me about that too but I issued the ultimate threat. We are doing a girls-only weekend, leaving tonight. No Daddies or brothers allowed. We’ve done this before and it has been absolutely heavenly. To be able to fully devote attention to just her, without the escapee grabbing me for something, is absolute gold. It fills my soul, and it clearly is something that she needs too because she often gets the raw deal of things with him around.
So, I told her I wouldn’t bring her on the weekend if the behavior continued. To be honest, it would have utterly killed me to follow through but I had already prepared my husband for the possibility. I really didn’t want to be around her when she was so obnoxious and she needed to know there are consequences to her actions. Her choices will directly affect what happens to and around her.
She stayed in her room for two hours. Don’t worry, it’s not a death sentence. There are toys and books in there, and she’s allowed to come out for potty or water. I fully needed that time to cool off. Godzilla shrank to human form. It appeared that she needed that time too because a different child emerged. The sweet one, excited for our trip, and back in control of herself.
We only have to make it another hour or so, before we can take off. Hopefully we can both keep it together to make it there!
I saw this post and loved it enough to repost. There are few articles that I feel nail it on the head when it comes to small children and this succeeds.
1. It really is this hard. You’re not doing anything wrong.
“If I could go back, I would say, relax. Tantrums, running away, accidents, lost belongings, mischievous nap times… it’s all a normal part of toddler life. I wasn’t making life harder than necessary. Raising two toddlers really is just that hard.”
Something I am struggling with lately is the epiphany that I have to be the person I want my children to become. I try to demonstrate kindness, caring for others, love, patience, etc. However, more important than the kids seeing me like that with others, is me being that way with them.
Those wonderful characteristics fail me when all hell breaks loose. When every button is expertly pressed, over and over, and I loose my temper. I often wonder, if I can’t be the person I want the kids to be, does that mean I’m a horrible person? I’d like to have a quick answer that we are all imperfect and being imperfect doesn’t equate that someone is horrible. Great. Off the hook. But I don’t want to be a perfect person. I want to be a kind, loving, warm parent and there’s just a lot of times that I am not.
I am hard on myself because it’s the most important job I’ve ever had, and will ever have. I need to shift my mental priorities. Keep working, keep trying. These golden days of two young children will be over soon, and it will break my heart if I don’t surround them in the love and warmth they deserve.
Maya Angelou’s quote has resonated deeply with me and it’s sinking into my parenting a bit. I think back to my childhood memories and yes, mostly I remember a person by how they made me feel. How do I make my children feel? In thinking about parenting from that aspect, I’ve begun to change how I communicate with the kids. Not always, because my temper still can get the better of me, but overall I am improving. A little. It’s surprising how quickly we can lose sight of this. Just having an awareness for their feelings, mentally acknowledging that their heads are full of swirling emotions and some sort of logic (at least to them) will change how you approach them.
How do they feel? How do they feel? Yes, they’ll be sad when a toy breaks or they don’t get what they want. Being mindful of feelings doesn’t involve shielding children from their usual daily crises, but it absolutely creates an awareness of how I interact with them. It’s not about making your child happy or making sure they feel good, it’s communication based on a deep level of respect. How I cope with something is how they’ll cope with it later on. How I talk with them, comfort them, teach them, will turn into their very foundation. It will become their inner voice. It’s getting down to eye level and calmly talking about things. Asking questions and getting answers. Often those little people have more answers than we realize.
Please. I am done with pee and poop. It’s been years. Did you hear me? YEARS! Not only do I have a blind dog that randomly pees around the house, I’m onto year number six of cleaning poop from bums. And now we are potty training. Odd as it sounds, I think I almost prefer diapers to this potty training business. At least it is predictable. While my three year old does a great job of using the potty when he’s naked, the little mental patient doesn’t understand that underwear isn’t a diaper and without fail, will soil himself. The unmistakable scent of urine wafts permanently through the house now no matter how many loads of laundry I do. So we live in a constant state of red alert. You never know when those accidents are going to happen. Asking him if he needs to go potty just antagonizes him. He’ll go when he’s ready, and refuses to think ahead on these matters.
I understand this is a transitional phase. But it’s as much fun as when kids transition to dropping naps. Napping is great, not napping is great. But that hellish phase in between? Oh yeah baby!
So please look down kindly on us. My washing machine could do with a break and my sanity could do with saving.
The Ragged Mommy.
P.S. Seriously, how does one get rid of this smell from clothes?
I salute you. I tip my hat to you. I raise you above my shoulders in celebration, because I have no idea how the hell you do it.
My husband has been away for a week, so it’s just been me and the kids. And it’s by the sheer grace of God that they live. There is no break. No one to vent to. No one to field the ever present tantrum to. No one else to do bedtime, breakfast, bathtime, playtime, you name it. Our bedtime events have been nothing short of catastrophic because by the end of the day, I’m a disastrous mound of stress.
In the morning, the hours spread out ahead of me like a looming guillotine. Hours that I have to fill, balance and moderate until the mental patients are asleep. And then we do it all over again the next day. I have a hard time managing even when I know this situation is only temporary. To do this permanently would send me to the same mental institution that my children escaped from.
It astounds me, you astound me, that you do this every single day with no respite. You simply are amazing.
Whether it’s exhaustion or just frustration from two young children (seriously, how does anyone do more than two?), I’ve come close to reaching my limit. It has strangely coincided with my son roaring his way into the Threes. Now, things have morphed to where I am beyond sensitive parenting. I’m past caring what damage I do. Sometimes I just have to shut behaviors down. For example, today my son was joyously jumping up and down that he had peed in the potty. I give him my best ever happy face, a cheek-splitting-smile while telling him how happy I am for him. He bounces his way over to me and then he bites my leg.
Immediately, I tell him no biting. Instead of being sorry, or even looking sheepish, he defiantly says “I bite Mommy.” Well then, thank you very much. After this behavior, I’m a whole lot less likely to care when he has a tantrum. I wonder if this is nature’s way of pulling me back emotionally. He’s not so endearing when he looks like Dracula. There is no logic to this three-year old beast. His repeated outbursts of ridiculousness remind me daily that he’s an escaped mental patient. The constant exposure I have to this has also somewhat numbed me to the screaming (mine and his).
I will admit that more often than not, the answer to his tantrum is very simple. Sometimes, when I calm down and look straight at him, he will lower the decibel. And then I close up the issue, whatever it was, by asking him if he wants a hug. Because he always does. He screams and freaks out regularly, because so much of this world is beyond his control. When he is frustrated or angry or sad or simply not getting what he wants, the outpouring of any emotion is a tantrum. As if the intensity of the emotion is too big for his little body and it has to come out somehow. Which leaves him feeling drained and sad, and in need of some loving. That’s where the hugs come in. As a mother, you know when that moment is – when the fight is over and they just need a hug. Sometimes I don’t want to give a hug, but I do it because it lets him know that I am there for him, even if I want to strangle him. Inevitably, 30 seconds later, he is back to his old happy self, as if nothing ever happened (how do they do this??).
Mother nature has a funny way of working. This struggle may be her design or it may simply be because I am clueless as to what I am doing. I never had the twos- or threes-issue with my daughter (her fours were another matter of affairs!). Either way, it’s kicking my ass.