Today was a day when I wanted to throw in my mommy towel and beg to go…oh wait, I am home. And really, this whole week I’ve wished I were somewhere else. It’s a “calgon, take me away” week where it seems all I’ve done is deal with one bomb after another. My days are spent creeping around the landmines that are my toddler’s fragile emotions, hoping she doesn’t erupt into one more tantrum, and softly easing my baby down begging she won’t startle awake, screaming because she’s not being held or fed. Again.
It’s funny how, before hubby and kids, some women crave being needed…and then you have children, and everyone is pulling at you all the time–being needed going into overdrive. Then, the slow process of your children growing up and slowly “needing” you less and less… you take for granted what you have and the grass always seems to be greener on that other side. Thankfully, we know that life is full of phases, and what seems rough now will eventually phase on.
I’m in one big phase of learning patience right now. One of the best movie lines was from Evan Almighty–between the wife and “God” (Morgan Freeman)–in it God says:
“Let me ask you something. If someone prays for patience, do you think God gives them patience? Or does he give them the opportunity to be patient? If they pray for courage, does God give them courage, or does he give them opportunities to be courageous? If someone prayed for their family to be closer, you think God zaps them with warm, fuzzy feelings? Or does he give them opportunities to love each other?”
(you can read about this scene and a discussion here)
Well boy am I ever being given opportunities to learn patience and how to love my girls right now. What is going well for Ladybug Girl now? If it’s not a temper tantrum it’s waking up in the night, if it’s not that, it’s being clingy and not getting enough of me, if it’s not that, it’s her not wanting to share. Anything. (That includes me).
Today started off so nice. We played this morning, went to Target and picked out gifts for a birthday party, ate a nice lunch together (and Ladybug Girl ate so well!) and she went down for a nap like a saint. We picked out a matchbox car at Target that she would get when she woke up from her nap if she didn’t throw a fit. I put her down, and finally have a chance to work. Yeah right. Cue Snugglepuppy. I do the eat, wake, sleep routine, so she was hungry. Although she usually somewhat falls asleep while nursing, she is wide awake when finished. It’s hard for me to do much on the computer while I’m nursing, although when I set up at the table I can manage. When I’m done she’s fine. As long as I’m 100% focused on her–either holding her or engaging in play with her. Great for Snugglepuppy playtime. Not great for accomplishing anything with work. I get her to sleep and get a full twenty minutes of work in! By this point it’s nursing time again. Then playtime. Round 2. Finally get her to sleep. Cue Ladybug Girl.
It’s now been only an hour and a half since Ladybug Girl went down. When she woke up, she was just flat disagreeable, announcing her waking by wailing at the top of her lungs for no apparent reason. Snugglepuppy of course started screaming to be fed at the exact same time. I went in to give Ladybug Girl love and praise her for getting a smiley face for going down for nap so well. She proceeded to whine and say she doesn’t want a smiley face.
“I want a frownnnnny face.”
“Don’t you want to get your car we picked out that you get if you have a smiley face?”
“I don’t want nothiiiiiiiing!”
“You’re being awfully whiney…maybe we should just go watch a little bit of a movie since you
went to sleep so well. We can sit together while I nurse Snugglepuppy.”
“Okaaaaay…….I DON’T WANNA WATCH A MOVIE!!!”
(At this point I’m nursing El and can’t get up)
“Ladybug Girl, you’re having a hard time not whining. You need to go to your room until you can come
out happy. Go get all your whines out and come see me when you’re happy, please.”
“Okaaaaay….(makes it to the kitchen, slams herself down on the floor) I DON’T WANNA BE HAPPY!!”
So now I stand up while still nursing Snugglepuppy (so she doesn’t erupt into her banshee scream) and go in where Ladybug Girl is lying face first on the floor screaming. I calmly help her stand up and walk herself to her room where she again throws herself face-first on the carpet in there. Then I give her some time to calm down. A full 45 minutes later she’s winding down some, and I know my Ladybug Girl well enough to know that she can keep this up for the rest of the day. So, I wait for a moment of calm and go in and ask her if she wants to be happy. She does. I let her know I didn’t like her behavior and what she could do differently, and that crisis is over.
Of course, now that these crises are over, work still hasn’t been completed, dinner hasn’t even been thought of, (although I managed to clean up the kitchen while Ladybug Girl was screaming and I was holding Snugglepuppy with one hand), and Nathan is due home in 30 minutes. So what do I do? We read a book. If you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em. Hmm.
I have these moments where it all gets to me. I’m so thankful I have Nathan to help me–my deepest sympathy to those parents that have to handle parenthood alone. It’s a tough road sometimes, and I’m only 2 and a half years into it! Thankfully, I know we’ll go through phases. Phases of tough times with non-sleeping babies and toddlers with tantrums, and phases of cuteness that we saw at 8 months to one and a half with Ladybug Girl, and elementary school years of precociousness before they hit the scary teenager (and even preteen) phase… And thankfully there are moments even in the midst of phases, where Snugglepuppy’s whole face lights up and she’s just moments from erupting into her first big belly laugh, where Ladybug Girl wraps her little arms around me and hugs me and tell me “your my favoritist mommy in the whole wide world”, where Snugglepuppy “converses” with me with her coos, and Ladybug Girl dances like a princess naked throughout the house.
These are the moments that get me through the ugly phases. These are the times that make me see through a child’s eyes. Snugglepuppy knows the most comforting place for her is in her mommy’s arms–that’s why she wants it all the time. Ladybug Girl can get just as overwhelmed by hearing Snugglepuppy’s cries as we can in the car. She wants mommy’s attention, too. How can a 2-year-old cope with the fact that she likes this new sister deal but she doesn’t want to share her mommy and all of the attention?
There are times when I whine and complain–where I lose my patience and my temper and want to just get away from it all. And there are times where it’s okay for me to vent that. But there are other times when I can’t. When I’m with my kids, I can’t. And it’s dawning on me that what I’m teaching them now is the same thing I’m constantly reminding myself. There are times where you can let your feelings out–but you have to learn how to do it in a positive way–and in an appropriate place and time. Unlike Dorothy, I can’t just click my heels and be somewhere else. Ladybug Girl’s outbursts, well, I feel that same way too! It’s my job to help her handle them in a way that works.
The weight of my parenting job is heavy now, because I’m seeing that these moments now–these emotional outbursts and figuring out ways to cope are the foundations our girls will lean on for the rest of their lives. I want to make sure they are heard. I want to make sure they feel safe and loved. I want them to know that they need to respect others with their actions, but that doesn’t mean to bottle their emotions in. I think we can do this. I think we’ll get through this. Along the way, though, I know we’ll all be learning. Ladybug Girl has a “reflection chair” that she may fall back on when she’s in her twenties and needs a place to sit and reflect. She’s learning that Mommy and Daddy will always listen to her, but when we say no, we mean it. She’s learning to respect kids and animals by the Golden Rule. And I’m learning that parenting is hard stuff, but no matter how many “Dorothy” moments I have throughout the day, I’m hit with way too many moments I cherish with each of my girls to ever give this parenting thing up.