Friday, May 4, 2012

The Soul Crushing Minutiae of Parenting. And a Little New Order.

Two warring impulses in my life 1. I want to strangle my toddler and 2. I adore my toddler. This whole toddler thing is like living with someone with multiple personality disorder. Patience is important (and lacking on my part), but consistency and follow through with repercussions is even more critical. I blow it every single day. Right at this very moment it is after 10pm and my son is throwing a tantrum in his room. He woke up his little brother who is also crying. Z won't be home for two days, I took a chill pill a few hours ago and it isn't working very well right now. The last thing I told T was if I went back up there he couldn't go to play group tomorrow. I really want him to go to play group. I also really want to fucking go to sleep and get him to shut the fuck up. If I go up there I have to take away play group. And that sucks. It was the only major thing on the horizon that I felt he wanted enough to bring him to reason. Instead he is banging on his door wailing, "Mommy! Mommy, help me! Mommy!" I'm so done right now.
Ok, I'm back and all is quiet for the moment. I did go to T, he was so hysterical that I needed to try and defuse him. I told him I was angry, but I held him until he got the sobs under control. I asked if he could hear C crying and he nodded. I told him I was really upset because he woke his brother. He told me he really wanted to go to playgroup. Against my better judgement I gave him one more chance, and it seems he is taking it. Of course, I then needed to nurse C back to sleep. Waking at this time of night is highly unusual for him, so I'm not looking forward to the fallout from this development.

You know what? The story I was going to originally tell doesn't feel like it matters anymore-it was a rather funny one in which I lost my shit at him in a grocery store because he was messing around while holding my hand and fell down almost taking me and his brother (who was in my Ergo) with him. Like I slammed into the shelves, sending pill bottles flying. We were getting baby ibuprofen for teething C, not just hanging in the pill aisle for fun.
Another time jump, next morning here. Last night's bedtime was a perfect storm of all the reasons I want to strangle him. Yes, the story lacks the flair of the grocery store/public humiliation event. But that helplessness and fury directed at your kid, that second guessing yourself-is he having a tantrum because I did something wrong? Because I give in too much? Because I don't give in enough? is enough to drive you mad. Throughout the event I did take away other things-dude went from not getting a treat after lunch tomorrow (now today) to losing treats for the whole day. The more punitive measures don't work as well at night, it's just too far from the actual event to matter. No book before nap tomorrow? Tomorrow doesn't even feel real to this kid. And time outs don't work-the kid already is in his bedroom. The thing about the playgroup is he needs it to burn off energy so he can take a nap and sleep tomorrow night. But the flip side is I don't want him to think I'll just cave over the big things. Last night it felt like the only thing he'd listen to, but I should have realized he was way beyond listening to anything. His limited capacity to be reasonable had long left the building and I shot myself in the food when I brought up playgroup.

Of course, the first thing he said to me this morning was, "I want to go to playgroup." I told him it was still up in the air. But I told my friend who is hosting that I was bringing food, I really need him to run around with other kids for a few hours, hell it will help the day go faster for me.

So why am I making such a great big harry deal over a little tantrum? In the scheme of things this wasn't a big deal. But not only was it frustrating as hell, especially because I was solo, I also feel like these are the moments when we are shaping who he will be. How he will deal with disappointment, how far he can get with the whole parental manipulation, how he begins to understand what is expected of him. Every little situation builds on the next one and teaches him how to behave. If we lived in a vacuum it would be so much easier. Then I wouldn't give a shit that he was screaming hysterically and banging his door so hard the whole second floor was rattling. The problem is the baby he woke up. And if I'm going to be honest, my nerves were frayed. When I need him to be quite so the baby stays asleep, suddenly he has the power in this situation. That's what I've got to get past. Tonight I resolve to not cave to T and to just deal with C if he wakes up. Today I will try to do better. For all of our sanity.
Clearly I've gotten pretty carried away with the length of this thing, but quickly the pleasant story:
A couple of weeks ago I came across a mix CD in my car that I made years ago. I, like most members of my generation, am always trying to put together the perfect and illusive mix. I hadn't listened to this one in ages, but I find it supremely satisfying. Like all of my "Trying to Achieve Perfection" mixes this one includes my favorite song of all time "Temptation" by New Order.

So I've had the CD on nonstop in the car. Z plays his music for T in the mornings, think folk, old country, bluegrass, all the stuff a guy who makes cigar box banjos would love. I told T that it was time he started listening to my music. He seems to dig it. When "Punk Rock Girl" or "Birdhouse in Your Soul" comes on he asks me to turn it up. I was singing along (well, more like wailing, I don't have a voice to speak of) to "American Girl" and he told me to stop-said it was his music! But every time "Temptation" comes on I tell him it is my favorite. I crank it up and sing loud.

The other night at dinner we were talking about eye color with T. You know, Daddy has brown eyes, Mommy has blue eyes, what color eyes to you have? We told him his eyes were blue and he was talking about it, trying the words out. A couple of minutes later when we again asked what color eyes he had he said, "Blue, like in Mommy's song." My favorite part of "Temptation"? "Oh you've got green eyes, Oh you've got blue eyes, Oh you've got grey eyes". I know he's just being a little parrot, but my heart was bursting with pleasure. Sharing stuff that is important to you with your kid is one of the biggest highs of this parenting gig.

So for your listening pleasure here's the 12" version of "Temptation". The 7" is what is usually played, this was an early recording and it is much more Joy Division-y in feel. I love them both so very much.

Standard outfit: underwear, tool belt, suspenders  

Bubble bath! 

Brother time.
Bottom line, even though he drives me up the fucking wall, I do dig my toddler. Thank god for his adorableness. Makes it much less likely I'm going to feed him to the wolves. 


  1. Karen, I feel your pain. We're in the same boat in our house. Gavin (4 this month) has a TON of power when Sam (10 months old) is sleeping and I'm trying to keep him from waking the baby. It's beyond frustrating... Sometimes I stand my ground, sometimes I give in. Depends on the day and how much my patience has been frayed already. And it's even tougher if my husband is out or away and can't step in when he sees me about to snap.

    And then there are the moments of adorableness and joy when everyone is being laid back or G is doting on S. Those moments are when I remember that it's so incredibly worth it.

    Hang in there -- and we really ought to try and get together sometime. The boys would keep one another very entertained!

    1. I'm sorry that you guys are in the same boat, but it is comforting to know that we aren't the only ones going through it!

      And yes, we should arrange something. Stacey would feel like quite the matchmaker!

  2. K, you are not alone in the losing your shit dept. And sadly, it may not go away for a while. My 5 year old is as dramatic as a 13 year old girl. I can't imagine how it will get when she's actually a teen.
    My boy is usually very chill emotionally (when not changing his mind every second), though never ever stops moving. And it's amazing how strong a 3 year old can be, pulling on your arm. He hasn't knocked me down yet, but I have dropped him on his little 3 year old ass before. I feel bad about it, but I want him to see the consequences. And once they get a little older and can play by themselves, you won't fret over the nap time quite as much.

  3. Toddlers are little shits. Sometimes they know it and work it, sometimes its just they way they are......You're doing fine....

  4. Kids--especially toddlers--really really hate it when you make them do things they don't want to do. Tantrums are a sign that you're doing your job. Really! If you gave in to what they wanted (candy every meal, TV all day, no bedtime) you'd be a dreadful parent. Try to embrace them as a sign that you're actually teaching your kid how to be....