Thursday, July 30, 2009

So what was so bad about yesterday?

Today is better. I got a decent amount of (interrupted) sleep, and Andrew is home to enforce the toddler’s nap. And play with the toddler. And stuff. So I don’t feel like a horrible mother today. But, oh, yesterday.

I actually went down to the in-law’s yesterday so Jack could play with his beloved grandparents and swim in their pool and be entertained by someone other than me. This hour-long drive was possible thanks to the discovery of swaddling whilst in the car seat, a solution I did write about yesterday but which was cut off from my post for some reason. (That reason? My own failure to proofread.) I edited it today if you’re interested. Since Jack spent about three hours playing hard in the pool, I figured he’d fall asleep on the drive home and have at least an hour-long nap if not longer. Unfortunately, he heroically kept his droopy eyes open for the whole drive and then refused to nap once we got home. He did “rest,” but no nap, and that means no break for me.

Nevertheless, despite the lack of nap, Jack was basically cheery and easy to work with. A morning with Grandpa will do that, I guess. But I was hot, tired, and overwhelmed, so I started to cry – again – at about 4:00. Jack asked me why I was sad. “Because I don’t feel very well, today, Jack. I’m pretty tired.”

“Can I make you feel better? Do you want to take a nap?” asked Jack.

“I’d love to take a nap, honey, but I can’t if you’re awake,” I told him.

He nodded, then headed for his bedroom. “I’ll go take a nap so you can take a nap and feel better, Mommy,” he said.

Then I felt like a humongous jerk.

Now, I knew he wasn’t really going to take a nap, so I changed the dirty sheets on my bed. I was just getting started when he came in and said, “Do you feel better now, Mommy?”

“I do, Jack, thank you. Do you want to help me change the sheets? That will help me feel better too,” I said. So he helped. And he really did help as best he could; he held the corner of the fitted sheet so I could put the other ones on, and he tried to hang the flat sheet the way he thought it should go. (Draped over the “holy water;” he thinks the bedposts look like holy water fonts. They kind of do, actually.) Then he climbed up on the bed and said, “I’ll make you feel better,” and hugged me.

So while one part of me was saying, “See? Look what a sweetheart of a little kid you are raising!” the other part of me was saying, “YOU DO NOT DESERVE THIS GOLDEN CHILD.”

But then there was an incident after his failure to eat dinner wherein he dropped a blueberry on the floor and refused to pick it up and had a loud screaming tantrum while in time out. The first part of me started saying, “WHY DOES MY LIFE SUCK SO BAD?” while the other part of me was saying, “You should have made him take a nap! Now look at him!”

Now, I know I was being far too hard on myself. I know we’re none of us perfect. I even knew it at the time; I actually am able to keep at least one corner of my mind rational, even when I’ve completely lost the rest of it. But the mere fact of knowing I’m being irrational does not magically make the irrationality go away, and I spent some quality time after Andrew got home weeping about how horrible of a mother I am. Then of course, Jack came and gave me MORE hugs to make me feel better and then he told me he loves me, which just put me back in that first loop of what-a-good-kid-you-have-and-don’t-deserve. I’m even getting a little verklempt about it right this second – probably because the Nora-furnace is strapped to my body and I daren’t put her down if I want to finish this post.

Basically, I’m finding that on good days, the days when I’m on my own and still manage to get Nora to nap in her bed, Jack to nap at all, get dinner on the table, and keep the house from looking like it has been ransacked, I feel like I am superwoman. “I am amazing!” I tell myself, full of confidence and optimism. “I can do ANYTHING!”

But these days are counterbalanced by the days when it is all I can do to keep from screaming at my children. Yes, both of them, because, believe me, I want to scream at Nora too. And the thing is, on those days, I usually fail. OK, I may not scream at them, but I am certainly losing my temper on a regular basis, and they’re not even being particularly bad. Nora just wants to be held, after all, and Jack is pretty well-behaved as long as he’s not overtired. Of course he wants to dawdle and look at rocks before climbing into his car seat! He’s TWO.

Man. I hate to write in clichés, but it is just so so hard, you know? I am comforting myself with listening to stories of my mom’s difficulties after my second sister was born (apparently, she was… willful*) and Swistle’s post about having only two kids and how it was way harder than five. And also Paul’s comment about how “These are the best days to remember.”

Paul is a wise man, I think.

*Interesting side story: My eldest sister was astounded when she learned that my last sister (the second youngest in the family, played Kasey in The Movie.) and I thought that my mother never yelled and that our second sister is perfectly even-tempered. She had different impressions, you see. But Second Sister IS even-tempered NOW. She’s a special needs teacher, she’s so even tempered! I have never heard her raise her voice in my life. And my mother yelled at us now and then, but it always scared the bejeezus out of me because it was so rare. I guess she had gotten mellow by the sixth kid.


Di said...

I just wanted to thank you so much for writing about this experience. I'm 33 weeks pregnant with my second child, and the two-year old is going through some of the same stuff that Jack seems to be facing.

It's nice to know that in a couple of months, I'll be able to look back at your blog and see what I have to look forward to.

Anne said...

I've gone back to my posts after we had our second baby- I guess trying to prepare myself for the arrival of the third. And your posts remind me, too, that the adustment period is really hardest on Mom- but it gets better. I promise. It will really get better when you get those long nights of sleep. Hang in there. And- for the record- YOU ARE A GOOD MOM. Everyday.

Swistle said...

I know I know I know I know I know. I find three things helpful:

1) Going into Survival Mode: if everyone is alive, I am a huge success. If they have ALSO been fed, I am like some sort of GOD.

2) Thinking of the day when I will be looking back on this. It just CAN'T be permanent. It can't. For one thing, Nora will no longer fit in the snugli.

3) Thinking about how children don't store many memories until school days. Pre-age-3, almost nothing. This is discouraging when I'm being Truly Awesome (crafts! patience! cooking projects!), but nice when I'm being snippy and no-fun.

nicole said...

Well, you obviously know this, but I'll say it anyway. What you are feeling/thinking/doing is all completely normal! You are tired, you are adjusting, you will lose your patience. But you love your children and they know that. I had three babies in 23 months and I can honestly say that now that they are almost 6, 7, and 8 that I really don't remember the day-to-day craziness. I know it must have been crazy and hard, but I don't really remember it, so I think they likely don't remember it either. So, anyway, good luck and it will get better. But it will be hard sometimes too and that is okay.

Heather R said...

I have screamed at my children, even the newborn. I am not proud of it, but you are doing great if you haven't screamed at them!! I have also cried many times if that makes you feel any better....this is exhausting.