Wednesday, August 29, 2012

And You Shall Be My Twitchy

Dear Kids,

I love you boys dearly and I treasure the time I'm able to spend with you while you are so little.  Nonetheless, if you could just hurry on past these toddler years, I'd be grateful.  My eye twitch is starting to freak people out.


Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Parenting Siblings as an Only Child

My husband and I are only children.  We have no concept of what it's like to have brothers or sisters.  We don't understand the dynamics between siblings and we have no idea what is normal and what's not.  As far as we're concerned, it's a constant party with your very best friend right! next! door!

And so, having two boys 20 months apart is... interesting.

We are constantly astounded at the vim and vigor with which siblings would, apparently, like to kill each other.  It appears that the Big One's greatest desire is to beat up the Little One and take his toys.  Except that it isn't.  It's like a switch.  They'll be happily playing together (or across the room from each other) when the Big One turns around and must think something like, "Hey!  He looks happy.  I should fuck that up tout suite."  What in the hell.  He jumps on the Little One, sits on his head, runs over to take his toys, whacks him out of nowhere and tackles him about 65 bazillion times a day.  It is CONSTANT.  We tell people about it- how aghast we are at what appears to be his random, focused rage and violence.  And those people invariably raise their eyebrows and laugh at us.  "Yup," they say.  "They're brothers."

Meanwhile, the Little One could not adore the Big One any more.  He runs to him when he wakes up in the morning or from nap.  He attempts to share and bestow gifts upon the Big One.  He absolutely lights up when he thinks he's done something that may impress or tickle his big brother.  He is a hardcore groupie, yo.

The Little One's only recently started to fight back when the Big One harasses him, but it is something to behold (as we knew it would be... this kid does EVERYTHING big.  No middle ground).  He hits back, hard, and usually in the face.  He's mighty proud of his abilities- probably because he thinks it makes him more like the Big One- but I'm just envisioning the hundreds of ER visits we'll have in the future.  I'm terrified.

On top of all this hitting and screeching, it is exhausting trying to keep them from killing each other.  I know I'm not supposed to intervene too much; they're supposed to learn to work things out.  But I'm having a hard time figuring out when that's supposed to happen.

I've heard, "Only intervene if someone's going to get hurt."  And, well, that's super duper helpful except that I have two homicidal toddlers here and SOMEONE IS ALWAYS GOING TO GET HURT.

I've also heard, "Give them space to play together alone so that they learn to compromise and share."  This would be all well and good if I lived in a house where I could kick them out into the backyard to, quoth my father, "Let the wind blow the stink off 'em" (aka: run around in circles until they were too exhausted to scream and beat each other anymore).  But I can't.  I live in an apartment.  We have neighbors that- I'm virtually positive- we terrify on a regular basis.  If I leave the two of them alone in a room together for more than two minutes, I'm going to come back to shattered glass, broken plumbing, and hummus smeared on every surface.  And that's best case scenario.

And then finally I've heard, "Don't worry about it.  It'll all work itself out and they'll love each other later."  Except, I CANNOT HELP BUT WORRY ABOUT IT.  This very issue fills every second of every day with yelling and throwing and hitting and crashing and Oh. My. God. Make. It. Stop.  I can't just "not worry about it."  I have 17 years to get through before they like each other enough to stop trying to kill each other.  And even that's a gamble.

And so, Dear Siblinged Ones, I ask you.  What do I do?  How do I ensure the survival of both children and minimize the gaping wounds?  And how do I remain somewhat sane for the next 17 years.  BECAUSE I AM FINDING IT DIFFICULT HERE, PEOPLE.

P.S. If you tell me not to worry about it, I will find you and leave you with my kids for a full 24 hours and then YOU can not worry about it.  K?  K.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Mama Said There'd Be Days Like This... Kind of.

I failed as a parent yesterday.

I don't actually feel like I'm a failure at parenting in general, but specific days of feeling like a failure are becoming more commonplace.  I don't like it.

Here's the thing: I feel like a pretty decent parent, actually.  I love my boys and I know they love me.  They are confident, strong, playful, joyful little fellows.  They get along pretty well (as far as I can tell as an only child parent with boys 20 months apart).  We have regular family meals and trips to the park.  I feed them good food.  We have 90s jams dance parties.  We laugh a lot and there are a lot of wonderful parts of each and every day.  Every night I find myself thinking wistfully of them after they've gone to bed and I often go and peek at their adorable little sleeping bodies and peaceful little faces.  I adore my kids and I love being their mama.

But there are also the days when I've used up every last wisp of patience by 9:30am.  Days when I repeat the phrases over and over that I repeat every single day, "Please stop jumping off the couch.  Please stop jumping.  Stop jumping.  Stop jumping!  STOP JUMPING!!!!"  Days when, the second I turn around from pulling the Little One off the table, the Big One has climbed on top of the same table and jumped off.  Days when I literally watch the clock waiting for meal times when I know they'll be strapped down in their seats, or nap time when I know they'll be contained, if not peacefully asleep.  Days when there are no naps and they are beyond cranky and obstinate.  Days when I seriously consider going to a bar- by myself- when my husband gets home at 10:30pm just so I can be somewhere where no one is asking anything of me.  And there is beer.

I used to have a shockingly large amount of patience.  My students used to comment on it.  I was described, repeatedly, as serene.  As a teenager.  But somewhere along the line, my patience disappeared.  Perhaps while teaching I used up the amount allotted to me for the early years of parenting.  Perhaps, along with iron and calcium, my babies absorbed my patience into their own bodies.  Perhaps every parent of two young children feels this way.

All I know is that I do not have the same level of patience I once had.  I hear my own voice coming out and think, "Ugh.  She needs to chill out."  But holy begeezus, people, I CANNOT CHILL OUT.  I try, but I fail more often than not.  It's just so much some days.  These little creatures are 19 months and three.  They are Dennis the Menace all the time.  Having two boys with a serious case of the naughties test the boundaries every second of every day is a lot.  It's a lot.

I'm exhausted by the end of every day.  Some days I'm exhausted by the time breakfast rolls around.

A friend messaged me the other day asking for advice on keeping his two and half year old occupied and happy now that she was out of preschool.  When I got the message, I literally laughed out loud.  I thought, "Holy shit, brother.  If I knew how to do that, my daily life would look very, very different."  But as I sat down to craft a helpful response, I realized I DO know how to do that.  I know how to do all the right things and plan a day for a restless toddler.  I've done it.  I was pretty good at it, actually.

It seems it's TWO restless toddlers that have me thrown for a loop.  They are just far enough apart that they can't do the same things and neither one is trustworthy yet.  Going to the park gives me a coronary- I have to choose which kid to watch on the play structure (answer: the Little One) and hope that the other one doesn't leap to his death.  Trying to do art is risky- paint is out of the question (unless it's finger painting with yogurt in the bathtub, which is actually kind of awesome), and crayons are pitched across the room and at walls by the Little One (thank you, Magic Eraser).  Regular puzzles are instantly destroyed by the Little One and the Big One is too old for peg puzzles.  The Little One pours out bubbles and sucks on the wand.  The Big One doesn't want to sing Itsy Bitsy Spider seventeen times in a row.  The Big One could read for a solid hour, but the Little One yanks books out of his hands.  They can't play blocks next to each other without destroying each other's creations and then trying to rip each other's faces off.  And the Big One tackles the Little One any chance he gets.

And so some days, I turn to the almighty quieter.  The babysitter of shame.  The magic box.  And I swore I would NEVER do this.  I was going to be SO conservative with how much T.V. my kids watched.  The Big One almost never watched T.V. before the Little One was born.  But then, I had two kids under two.  And I had to figure out how to keep the Big One busy while I put the Little One to sleep.  Enter: PBS Kids.  And now, the Big One ADORES the T.V.  Begs for it.  He usually only gets his pediatrician recommended top dose of two hours, and even that seems like a ton.  But then those days come along and I have to find a way to make dinner without the Little One getting pummeled... and then he gets more.

I hate it.  I hate that sometimes it's a relief to turn on the television.  I feel like a fraud.  A bad mom.  A failure.  I know that a lot of people would roll their eyes at me for feeling like this.  I know that a great many kids were raised on Sesame Street and they turned out just frickin' fine.  I know that ultimately it's not a big deal.  But I intended to do other things with my kids.  I intended to have the patience and the forethought and the goddamned time to be a parent that doesn't rely on T.V.  But it ain't working out that way.

Yesterday was not a good parenting day.  I'm not proud of my "solution."  I know it's not a solution and that it's not good for my kids.  But I felt like it was a preferable alternative to yelling.  So there we have it.  Another Mother of the Year award for me.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

The Goblin King.. er, Queen?

You know those days when your two kids feel like 64 goblins?

Yeah.  That.

We have been awake for all of two hours and the Little One has already tried to chop his fingers off with the box fan, electrocute himself by removing an outlet cover, cover the house (and himself) in both my Rosebud Salve and cream blush, and has participated in a 20 minute cry-a-thon.

This combined with the fact that my children have decided to listen to me never has made me feel a lot like David Bowie's character in Labyrinth.  (Oh, I'm sorry, is my nerd showing?)

Perhaps this should be my solution:

Well... laugh.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Something Like a Phenomenon

There are a great many inexplicable phenomena that take place once you become a parent.  There's the Can't Complete A Sentence problem, IPSS, the Mount Vesuvius Laundry phenomenon, the ability to completely phase out screaming, and a great many more.  Including the one where I Can't Finish Anything.  Ever.  I have started and stopped this post 3 times now.  Wait, what?  Who?  Where?  What was I doing?

Anyhoo, one of the more puke-tastic, yet unstoppable among them (for me anyway) is the Overexcited Mom phenomenon.  I cannot explain it, but I know it's taken me in its sticky little grasp and I am helpless against its powers.  I CAN'T STOP TALKING MOM.  It's gross and annoying and a little bit embarrassing.  And yet I can't make it stop.

Yes, yes.  I AM a mom.  Yes, yes, I'm a 98% stay-at-home parent.  Yes, yes, motherhood is a huge part of my life.  In fact, it's pretty much been my life for the past 3 years.  BUT.  I should be able to talk about other things.  I shouldn't get so bloody excited to talk about another person's child's sleeping habits.

But I do.  I totally, totally do.  I am into other people's children's sleeping habits.  And their poop habits.  And their eating habits.  And pregnancy.  OMG, PREGNANCY.  I am no longer pregnant.  I do not intend to be pregnant again.  I have only been pregnant for 20 months out of my entire life.  And yet.  I somehow feel like I'm an expert on pregnancy?  Or something?  Because I cannot stop talking to pregnant people about being pregnant.  Or formally pregnant people about being pregnant.

And then there's the accessories that go with being pregnant.  Or with being a mom.  I literally have a list.  (And if you ask me to, I'll totally post it for you.  I'm that person.  Because, OMG, PREGNANCY!!!!)

There are theories and practices and discipline techniques and potty training techniques and pedagogy and psychology and philosophies ALL CENTERED AROUND BEING A PARENT.  There's what you should do and what you might have done and what you should think about doing soon and what you probably waited too long to do and now you're screwed and there's who to talk to and when and why you might have already broken your children for life.  There's what happens to your body when you're pregnant and what happens to your body when you're nursing and what happens to your body when you're done being pregnant and nursing and then there's what happens to your brain and your psyche during all of this and OH. MY. GOD.  The stuff.  So much stuff.

It's exhausting.  It's exhaustive.  But I cannot stop talking about it because there's just so much to talk about.  Guess what my kids did today?!?  Your kids did what today?!?  You're gonna have kids?!?  YAY KIDS!!!

 Ugh.  On the rare occasions when I get a moment alone with my husband, or night out with a girlfriend (who?  where?  what's happening?), I can't seem to stop talking mom.  And when I hang out with my friends who don't have children, I still can't stop talking mom.  And when I find out my friends will be having new children?  OMG, PREGNANCY.

Dude.  It's a sickness.  I'm way too momcentric.  I need a hobby.  I need time for a hobby.
Actually, I just need sleep.

P.S. This phenomenon has been explained beautifully and better than I ever could here.