It has been a few weeks since my last post, and we have finally moved into our new house and out of our tiny rental near downtown. Being crammed into an old one bedroom duplex wasn’t ideal, and I was sure that once things calmed down (do they ever calm down with kids?) and the dust settled (we live in the desert and the dust, my friends, is blowin’ in the wind) our lives would return to normal.
With Jackson sleeping in the living room on a futon at the rental, I was looking forward to regular nap times like a I look forward to cake on my birthday. Having spent an unexpected 7 weeks in the rental where no naps were taken by anyone, ever, our schedule seems irreparably damaged. After an hour of screaming and crying, the kids are asleep against their wills and I am exhausted.
During times of stress, and on any given day after 1pm, I am prone to snapping. The morning’s coffee has worn off and I am unsure if an additional pot would be wise with my delicate stomach threatening to go haywire with the slightest provocation. I’m tired, overwhelmed with the amount of mess we have created since 7am but unwilling to clean before bedtime because I now know that is an exercise in futility. The kids are cranky because they’re getting tired themselves, but are somehow biologically predisposed to revolt against a nap.
*Kids, when I’m famous and you’re reading this at age 17, you will never believe you turned down a nap and woke me at 6 every day. And I, wealthy from famous authordom, will hire someone to wake you each day at dawn and chafe your nipples while spitting chewed up waffles onto the floor, all while I sleep in because I have earned it, damnit.*
There are times I’m not proud of myself for the way I handle stress and fatigue. I’m not always reasonable or patient. I don’t always think before I react. Worse, I’m not always sorry. Mostly, I am a controlling and obsessive person in a completely unpredictable and uncontrollable role.
If I could go back through previous scenarios and squeeze in three seconds to think before making the decision to yell, slam down a toy, threaten to cancel Christmas, etc., I find I might have handled things better. In the same way, when I’m stuck in traffic and tired, the kids are fussing in the back seat, and someone cuts me off or is driving erratically and putting my family at risk my instinct is to swear, make faces at the offender, and hysterically flail specific fingers out the window. I might think to myself in my spare three seconds “oh dear, that elderly driver probably fought for our country in (insert appropriate war based on approximate age) and the least I could do is cut them some slack for distracted driving. They might be suffering from the physical ailments that accompany noble age, or an aching back from bearing the burdens of working to support their family for 60 years.” Instead, I skip the reflection and shout “shrunken blue-hairs can’t see over the wheel of their Buick! GET OFF THE ROAD, GOMER!”
The same is true when parenting my children. When I’m exhausted from saying “no” fifty times, cleaning watermelon juice off pristine walls in our new house, comforting A after J smacks him with maraca, comforting J when A headbutts him, I skip reflection and just react. Often, it isn’t pretty. I sometimes feel like every second of my day is eaten up by caring for others, so perhaps I don’t feel I have three seconds to spare. When my kids don’t want to nap I feel personally attacked, since the little brats won’t grant me one frickin moment to myself. If I took three seconds to think, I would know that they are feeling nervous in their new rooms, lonely after 7 weeks of close quarters, afraid that we will move again and unsure of their place in the world. Or even that they are a bit thirsty and in my hurry to get them to leave me alone I have ignored their most basic needs.
Constantly thinking of others is exhausting, and my friends without children will say “you signed up for this”. Well, yes and no. If you started your own business because it was your dream to positively impact your community, benefit your family, and leave a legacy in your society, it would be incredibly hard. You’d give everything of yourself to the job, long hours, sacrifice relationships, completely change your lifestyle, and so much more. What you signed up for is the endgame, and the hardships are along for the ride. I didn’t become a parent because I love to hear myself say “do you need to poop?” and “stop kicking your brother!” I became a parent because I know that if I do a good job my children will grow up to benefit their communities and contribute to the world in a positive way. Maybe they won’t run for president (though it seems they let just about anybody do that nowadays), but maybe they will serve in other ways, or maybe they will be polite and courteous to the grocery checkout guy and make his day a little brighter. I signed up for parenthood, and the good absolutely outweighs the difficult, but when I decided to have children I didn’t do it for the tiny shoes and Pinterest photo shoots.
Parenting is hard, and I’m not always good at it, but I’m in it for the long haul knowing someday the children that bring me joy will bring joy to others because of the sometimes tedious work my husband and I are doing now. As I’ve had more than three seconds to reflect on my day to day work as a Mom, I know this job is important, and if I screw up I can always apologize. That, in itself, is a good lesson for my kids to learn.