ABOUT ME

About me: I'm 42 and added another gherkin to our pickle party of a family. My husband Chuck, our 9-year-old Junior, our 6-year-old Everett, our toddler and I live in a town in Connecticut I affectionately call Mulletville Lite (aka my childhood hometown). My friends call me Nutjob, and they're right. In my husband's spare time he dresses up as a Viking and chases ghosts (and I'm the nutjob?). When I'm not busy working as a graphic designer, I lie in a ball in the corner.

Monday, July 19, 2010

To everyone who said that parenting was the toughest job you’ll ever love: Screw you for being so right

Something happened this winter that changed everything.

Junior had been sick all of January and February and March with chronic ear infections and stomach bugs. He only wanted me. He was clingy and whiny, and I felt like a Siamese twin who desperately wanted her other half surgically removed.

The high point was when I took a shower as he body slammed himself against the stall door and screamed, “Mommmmy! Mooooommmmy!” The low point was on my birthday, when I pooped with him on my lap because he wouldn't stop crying.

Happy 35th birthday indeed
.



By the end of March, I was ready to see other people. Of course, you can’t divorce your child, so I did the next best thing: I took Junior hiking with my two friends and their dogs. The rocks were unsteady; I could make it look like an accident.

I’m kidding! I thought the fresh air and change of scenery would do us good.

Ten minutes into the hike things started to fall apart. Junior wanted me to pick him up. He whined. He stopped to examine every tree. My friends walked as s.l.o.w.l.y. as they could, but their dogs were pulling them. Soon they were far ahead of us.



To say I was impatient is an understatement. I told Junior to hurry up, that I was not carrying him and that he’d better M-A-R-C-H. I just wanted to hike, dammit. I wanted to do what I wanted to do. We’d almost caught up with my friends when Junior started moaning and dawdling again. I took him by the hand and pulled him along, but he still wasn’t fast enough. He was on the verge of tears. I was frustrated.

I left him and started walking.

I didn’t walk far—I’m not going to leave my kid alone in the woods, obviously—but I walked far enough ahead that he started running to catch up.

“Mommy!” he cried. “Mommy, wait!”

I turned around, and that’s when I saw him. I mean really saw him. His cheeks were bright red. His nose was running. He was scared. He looked so little. I felt like a monster. Junior had been sick for almost three months and here I was mad at him for not wanting to go on a brisk hike. Here I was ready to yell.

That’s when everything shifted.

I took a few deep breaths. I told my friends to go on without us. I knelt down and wiped Junior’s nose. I adjusted his mittens. We sat on a stone wall and ate a banana. We talked about the moss on the rocks and how the winter streams were starting to melt. We listened to the woods.

I let Junior be Junior.

When we were done with our snack, I gave him a piggy back ride down the hill. When we reached the bottom, we drew in the snow with sticks.

Was it my idea of a good time? Not exactly. After a sedentary winter, I had wanted to move my muscles. I had wanted to talk to my friends. But before I’d turned around and looked at my child and thought about what he needed from me—not what I wanted—I’d been trying to fit a square peg into a round hole.

Most often, I find that the moments I struggle most with parenthood are the moments I try to swim against the current; since that day, I’ve consciously been trying to have less and less of those experiences. Instead of rushing bath time because I have 20 other things on my to-do list, I make myself some cheese and crackers, grab a magazine and keep bath time off the clock. Instead of hurried grocery store trips that feature the word “don’t” a hundred times, Junior and I stop to say hi to the lobsters, and I let him help me put things into the cart.

Or I make Chuck go.

I’ve also been trying to say “no” less. Why can’t Junior pour small cups of water out of his little swimming pool onto the grass? The grass is dry as hell. It needs water. Why can’t he ride his truck down the hill? If he falls, he’s literally two inches off the ground.

I’ve looked hard at what I've been saying no to, which is the possibility of another mess to clean up or another bruise to tend to. But prevention can’t be parenting’s sole doctrine.

I’m not saying my mommying is so fragrant and purifying Massengill wants to buy the patent.



Some nights it just ain’t gonna happen. Bath time has to be 10 minutes. Junior needs to hear “don’t.” But our home feels calmer. I enjoy Junior more, and I think he enjoys me more.

So holy shit. One day before his third birthday, I think I’m actually starting to get it.

Course, everything will change when he's three, won't it?

Bastards.

28 comments:

Pricilla said...

Not being a parent I cannot totally relate but I do get the "don't sweat the small stuff" part.

As long as he learns the important parts an occasional fall from his fire truck isn't really gonna hurt him. It will probably hurt you more.

And with the second one on the way zen is good.

Sharyn Essman said...

No, it won't all change because you'll always have this tiny nugget to help you balance during the challenging times. I might print this glorious post, if I were you, and put it in a safe place where I might just run across it once in a while and enjoy a little refreshment.

Cleanup? Baths? I used to let my kids stand in the bathtub or shower and paint themselves with tempera and paintbrushes. When they'd had enough, they'd hop in the shower and wash off, giggling with the thrill of having been encouraged to make a complete mess.

Texan Mama @ Who Put Me In Charge said...

Wow, you learned it a lot faster than I did. It took me about 8 years and 3 extra kids to learn it. I finally figured it out when I'd had a break from CONSTANTLY picking up toys and diapers and clothes and... and... and... I saw myself like you did, and I thought, "Man, i would be PISSED if someone was treating my kids the way I'm treating them! And I'm their mother!!!" Humbling, isn't it?

Happy birthday to Junior! I remember my daughter's 3rd birthday. I took her photo and it was the first time I looked at her and saw her outgrowing that "baby" face. Kinda made me proud, kinda broke my heart. *sigh*

VandyJ said...

I, too am trying to yell less. The problem is that Turbo (seven) can push the buttons so well. I keep trying though and that's all you can do.

Keely said...

Yeah. The days Xander behaves the best are the days I roll with the punches more. Go figure.

(Though, I've 'left' him in the grocery store to prove a point, and I refuse to feel bad about it. He certainly doesn't wander off anymore.)

Your poor kid. That's an awful lot of Sick. Is there something else going on there or was just because of his daycare?

Beta Dad said...

I have to keep reminding myself that my one-year-old twins just don't know much of anything, and they're not *trying* to get on my nerves. That helps.

jana said...

Aw. I know that moment, when you push your own emotions aside and see your kid. I also work on saying "yes" as much as possible.

Great post!

Frogs in my formula said...

He wasn't even in daycare, Keely. He just had a rotten few months of being sick :(

Jeanne said...

This one made me cry--and I'm sending the link to my daughter, so my grandkids can benefit from your hard-won wisdom.

Lindy said...

I tried the "yes" thing too and modified it back to "maybe" - quitting "no" cold turkey was just too damn hard. :)

Eternal Lizdom said...

I've been writing a lot last week and a little this week about yt another string of challenges presented to me by my 5 1/2 year old daughter. Some days, I have it down. other days, I don't. And sometimes, I think the biggest challenge is figuring out when it's her and when it's me.

But yeah... sometimes, parenting sucks. Sometimes, making the right choice sucks.

The Mother said...

Yep. Hard. Hard to know when to say No and when to let them have it their way. Hard to decide when to stop being a drill sergeant and start being a friend. Hard to know when to let reality take a bite in the service of responsibility and when to swoop in and save the day.

The worst part?

You won't know if you did it right for about 20 years.

Sara said...

I think as parents the hardest part is letting go of the self and making the child the center while still holding onto that part of our own that makes us who we are. It is a sacrifice and a balance. Sounds like you are finding your rhythm.

Brandy said...

This almost made me cry. I have a hard time with this parenting thing. Before G came along I was SO selfish. And now it's all him him him.

Stacie's Madness said...

great post!

SmartBear said...

I can SO relate. I have had some similar moments to yours on the hike. It hits you hard and you just have to pivot....Mine turned 3 in March. Three is rough. Not to scare you but, I am hoping 4 will be easier. In the meantime, I do the same as you: stay in the moment and don't sweat the small stuff.
Great post!
Best,
Tina

Irrational Dad said...

How have I not read your blog before? I'm glad you found me, so I could find you.

I had the same realization recently that I had begun to tell Tyler "no" more often than I should. I always said I'd let him discover just about anything on his own, and did for a while. Then, it just became easier to tell him not to do this, or don't do that. Now, I only tell him not to do stuff that is strictly verboten, like touching the stove, or STEPPING ON MY IPOD.

Sha'ahn said...

OMG I have so been there where I began to "See" my son after a long time of him getting on my last nerve and me trying to do what I want to do for a change. But the good thing is you did have that moment of clarity and everything turned out fine.

Mama Badger said...

Oh, I'm right next to you. Somewhere about a week ago I just sort of threw in the towel on having an agenda. Now we're having fun and enjoying the summer. The funny thing is, I feel like the more control I give up, the more we're getting done.

楊儀卉 said...

Judge not a book by its cover.. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

KyungBivo中如 said...

做些小善事,說些愛的字句,世界更快樂。..................................................

Dysfunctional Mom said...

It's hard to remember but I think it's so much better that way, for you and the kiddo.

Grand Pooba said...

You know you are a good mom when you let your child sit on your lap while you poop!

Mrsbear said...

I notice that my kids' stress levels directly correlate with my own, most of the time. If I'm losing my shit, so are they, which just compounds the whole thing. Stepping back and rolling with it is one of the only things that works. It takes a conscious effort though.

jadenotjaded said...

I am so glad you are learning this on your FIRST child!! It took me till my THIRD! You're doing good - but still, it can be hard. :)

Lydia @ On The Verge said...

What a great post. I struggle with this daily. My youngest is two and trying and the others try me every hour.

Lydia

Lisa @ Boondock Ramblings said...

I can relate to this one so much. I've done the very same thing...the first year of Jonathan's life he had an ear infection every month except one. By his first birthday he needed tubes to drain all the fluid. He also had acid reflux. I used to just want to run away for awhile and get away from it all, but then I'd look at him, so pitiful and realize that it wasn't fun for him either and what he needed most was for mommy to understand that.

Kerrie said...

Wow...I am so glad I read this posting. I am a new mom and feel that I have been rushing everything I do with my daughter because I have so many "other" things to do. I am a control freak by nature, so I have even tried to put a 2 week old on a feeding schedule?! I've been driving myself nuts. Our home hadn't been calm in weeks, but amazingly I said I was "giving up" and letting things just be and well, things just are now and the home is somewhat calm again. Thanks for sharing