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.