We’re both pretty exhausted. In an effort to be the “fun mom” and burn up the last of the 3-day So-Cal Disneyland passes we bought to use this spring, I took Curran there on a date last night. I have to be honest with you, I don't love the long lines and droves of people, but I think Curran had fun and we stayed late to watch the electrical parade. Watching him light up and wave at Mickey made it worth it but it is WORK to take this kid anywhere, let alone when there are two of them. They are both "spirited," as they qualify it in all those parenting books. I’m in a really tough phase with Curran. That's what I am surrendering to at the moment. I know there are seasons of parenting - just when you start to feel like you’ve got it, something or someone changes and you feel like you can’t pull it off again. We have good and bad days, on and off weeks. When we're good, it's so good! I can feel the tension in my body release and Curran and I play pretend with the legos and give each other giggly eskimo kisses. But my fuse is so short when he can't kick the whining or after I’ve repeated a direction for the 12th time. I yell often and say I’m sorry a lot. I have never cared for anything like I do my own children, but they simultaneously can put me on (or past) my last nerve. I've been thinking about why lately. On the rare occasion where I am in the car by myself, I don't listen to music or podcasts, I just enjoy the silence and think. Sometimes it's just mental list making, but the other day I was trying to be my own therapist and reflect on why I get so upset, with Curran especially (I haven't figured anything out, in case you want to jump ahead to the recipe).
We are both pretty persnickety and sensitive. Those things manifest differently in an almost 33 year old and almost 3 year old but the basic framework is the same. We like things how we like them and we get ruffled when our realities don't meet our expectations. I can manage those shortcomings as an adult, but to see them in your own kid is strange. How do I help you brush things off, when I know first hand that feels hard? What I have come up with is that we're both in need of more grace and if my job is anything, it is first to give that to him. I'd love to tell you that I've recognized my imperfections as a parent and am a new woman, or offer an easy 3-step solution to not loosing it on your toddler, but I'd been embarrassed by Curran's behavior the day I started drafting this post and already raised my voice before 7am today so I'm here in process, writing anyway. For the past three years as a mother, I have been responsible for keeping little people alive (Hugh is more than helpful, but this isn't about him). I make sure they are fed somewhat nutritiously, clean them and their messes, change diapers, look into preschools, stay up on the diaper stock, organize activities and time with friends, fumble around discipline, make sure they get the rest they need, take them to the doctors and hold them when they're sick. I scrub poop off the carpet and break up fights and literally save lives from someone running in the street or jumping off the top of a playground.
This job is intense and it is every single day and it is all day long.
So it is all these tasks that I have (some) control of that make me feel like I am doing an ok job. I take good care of them. I think it's ok for me to say that as much as women don't like to admit they are good at things. But my fuse runs out and I see red when it feels like I've failed at some point: taking someone's toy, not wanting to say hello to people, throwing tantrums when things don't go their way. Their behavior feels like a reflection of who I am as their mother. It feels personal. That all feels like my responsibility, when they are really just figuring out their own humanness. The work I put in, how exhausted I feel, there should be something to show for that right? I have been managing so much for these babies, and I can physically feel the fear of raising an asshole. It's the wrong approach, you don't have to tell me. I watch everything going on in our country right now and as small and guilty as I feel for being a person with privilege, the least I can do is put two more humans in this mess who are kind and empathetic.
So today, perhaps prepping myself for the backlash of last night's 10:30 bedtime, I'm trying to give us both a break. I can step back and see that Sara and Curran and Cleo are three separate people. My job is to guide them and care for them, but I don't get to choose how they react to everything. My toddler will push another kid at a park and life will go on. They are going to be people sculpted by so many influences and experiences besides me. I make mistakes, I say unkind things, and sometimes cry when things don't go how I'd like them to, so for now, all I can do is apologize when I get upset or yell or expect something better than their hands on approach to growing up. I can only focus on myself trying to be kind and patient and gracious and hope that instead of me telling them to be those things, they'll have experienced them. This job, sweet Jesus, it is not for the weak of heart.
I've learned to be specific with holiday and birthday requests as Hugh, God bless him, isn't huge on celebrations. This year my birthday and Mothers Day are back to back, and I am hoping to get an extra hour of sleep and not have to make food for anyone all weekend with permissions to change my mind day-of if I so please. I'll take one of these breakfast salads, delivered in bed, please. Then maybe we'll head out for a beach walk and I want to be by myself to take a few deep breaths. There will be tantrums and tears and poop anyway.