Wednesday, March 23, 2005

I Shouldn't Even Say This

You know how you like to look as if you have things together? Or at least you try to keep from looking like a lunatic? You might be frothing at the mouth, screaming at your kids, but the phone rings and you say, "Hello?" in the sweetest voice imaginable? Or someone says to you in public, "How are you?" and you say, "Oh, fine. Busy, but fine!" when you are really thinking, "I'm drowning! If I have to wipe one more nose or smell one more stinky kid, I will throw myself out the window!"

Mostly, I strive to appear like a sane woman who has it sort of together. I mean, most days I don't wear foundation and mascara and blush, so my face is bleary and lipless and blotchy which is always embarrassing when someone unexpectedly stops by. And recently a mom-friend told me she'd never seen me in jeans, only sweatpants, which is purely coincidental, because I don't wear sweatpants all the time. Really. I don't. But I don't look like Sar*h J*ssica Parker, dancing my way through a Gap commercial, either. (Everytime I see that, I think, she's my age, which is clearly wrong.)

But I know people think I am calm and sedate and rational. And today I wasn't. At all.

I shouldn't even say this--after all, what will you think--but today my twins made me furious. All I wanted them to complete for school was one unit of spelling and a few vocabulary lessons. Simple, right? They both woke up with the emotional stability of a teenage girl experiencing premenstrual syndrome. TwinBoyA actually narrowed his left eye at me while snarling through a curled lip when I went over his science assessment from yesterday. Both twins refused to do their spelling. Their defiance is what set me off.

Pretty soon I was gritting my teeth and demanding that they work. They dug their heels in. The baby was fussing in my arms while Babygirl and DaycareKid squabbled over toys. At some point, TwinBoyA expressed his displeasure with me by walking through the kitchen and casually knocking a high chair tray and a couple other items to the floor. He has been throwing things in fits of anger since before he could walk. He used to throw furniture--the child-sized rocker was a favorite--but now, he just slyly displaces things--I will find a stack of CDs on the floor or a pencil snapped in two and discarded behind a chair.

When he purposely tipped things onto the floor, I went berserk inside my head. I pursed my lips into a tight line and then went to his room and opened his headboard and threw his stack of playing cards on the floor. I dumped his bedding (unmade bedding) on the floor. I tossed some books on the floor. I emptied a plastic container full of blocks on the floor. TwinBoyB watched me do this. He was completely shocked. I did not care. I took the folded laundry from the couch and deposited it on the floor between their beds.

Both boys went upstairs and I found them playing Nintendo. I took the controllers out and told them to finish their lessons. They tried to make deals with me: "We're not doing spelling. How about if we do music instead?" No. No. No.

I was so angry that I fantasized about grabbing the car keys and leaving the house. I imagined enrolling them back in public school next year. In fact, I called TwinBoyA over to me and I informed him how very close he was to returning to school. I said, "So if you'd like to be back in the halls of school, having people make fun of you, just go ahead because that's where you're heading."

I thought of Mt. St. Helen's . . . how it explodes when there is no easy outlet for its molten lava. I was like that volcano today--bubbling with fiery hot fury.

I thought I was such an easy-going, calm, patient, loving person. And then I had kids. Motherhood is a continual lesson in disappointment with myself. I thought I'd be better. I thought I'd have more control over how this situation turned out. I thought my kids would be more like me and less like themselves. I thought my kids would want to please me.

I thought parenting would be a stroll through a flower-filled park (quit laughing) and instead, it turns out to be an uphill climb in the rain. At night. Carrying four kids on my back. Without adequate footwear. Or a light. Or food. And all the while, they are chattering in my ears and arguing and calling each other "Stupid."

My kids are more like magnifying glasses than anything else. They have supersized spotlights which peer into the very corners of my being, illuminating the cockroaches and dust and mucky ugliness that lurks in me. I much preferred the public me that I used to know, the unruffled person who was unchallenged and unquestioned, the person who excelled at things she tried. My kids will never know that person. They only know the screaming me who retaliates like a child and who says things like, "STOP. TALKING. TO. ME."

For the record, I did clean up the mess I made. So did TwinBoyA. They also both finished their spelling units and we discussed their behavior later. They promise to be better, to do better, to work harder tomorrow.

When TwinBoyA said I overreacted, I peered at him and said, "Child, if you light a fuse, you just might set off a bomb."

I need a vacation.

14 Comments:

Blogger Judy said...

Wow. An honest Christian woman, you are!

I love you.

You don't know yet just how much you are actually HELPING your kids by letting them see you 'lose it'. It will truly help them as adults more than you will ever know.

I have a guest room at the ready of you ever need to get away...back to spring in Michigan, which actually looks just like winter, only worse.

4:45 AM  
Blogger Anvilcloud said...

Well, I admire your fortitude for doing what you do. You carry a heavy load. The only thing I can suugest is that you might need a response other than making a mess that you have to clean up. Dr Phil (sorry, but I must attribute because I am not smart enough to have made this up) that you need to find their currency -- that which they value -- and use it (calmly) when the situation calls for it. If the currency is their Nintendo game (or whatever), you remove it from their room immediately, and they get it back after the next day's successful lesson. Something like that. They need to know what will happen, and they need to not like it. They need to know that "when they choose the behaviour, they choose the consequence."

Isn't this terrible of me to get on my soapbox first thing in the morning? The kids came home last night, and we didn't get to bed until 2:30, and I was up at 7:30, so I may not be very lucid or discrimintaing right now.

5:32 AM  
Blogger Angi said...

I had to laugh all the way through this post. I'm sorry, I really am, but it sounded so much like me. I think I am just relieved that I'm not the only one with a "phone voice", who does pitch little fits when the boys are being especially hormonal.

As moms, sometimes, we have to lose control, to regain it. Especially when parenting boys. The only difference...I would have made the boys clean up my mess. lol.

6:14 AM  
Blogger WordsRock said...

Ah Mel. Sounds like a delicious day indeed. As long as delicious is defined as painful and unpalatable. Sounds like you crafted a productive ending though. Well done.

Angi makes a good point about having to lose control in order to regain it.

Hang in there. Your kids are fortunate to have you.

Suzanne

7:13 AM  
Blogger Lizanne said...

I can't believe you could hide a camera in my house and me not know! OK, so I know you didn't but that could VERY easily be our house minus one child. How amazing is it that many of us share the same struggle?! As I write this Christian(10), Hannah(8) & Micah(5)are dressed up as construction workers tearing apart the garage searching for tools to work on "who knows what" in my house. Christian is supposed to be woking on his state notebook, Hannah has a science notebook that she is supposed to be collecting pictures for and mounting them in her book, and Micah is supposed to be cleaning up the rescue heros he got out this morning. Ahhh, to escape it all and blog....Tee Hee!

9:35 AM  
Blogger Mrs. Darling said...

Oh my goodness! I do so hear ya! We're on spring break and I'm losing it. Everyone is sick. But I have to say, no matter how bad things get I never make a mess I have to clean up! I am far too lazy to do that! Oh my. It helps so much to know that others are in this with me. I'm trying to change the tenor on my blog because all I do is whine!

11:03 AM  
Blogger Visual-Voice said...

You are really brave... TWINS! My cousin has twins, and every time I visit her I come home exhausted. I have no idea how you do it without molten lava coming into the picture from time to time. Enjoying your blog!

12:41 PM  
Blogger Eyes said...

Kids can certainly bring you to your knees. I know. I have a wonderful mother and I think I was a decent child but that didn't mean I didn't bring her to her knees in agony! I did.

I remember one morning my mom "lost it". I've never held it against her either. I just somehow understood. I woke her up in 5th grade and told her I needed a dress that morning for a school day-trip.

She was furious I gave her no warning. Worse, I refused to try on or even buy dresses when we shopped but the note in my hand that morning said I needed a dress (old days!) - pronto. I should have given it to her a week before I suppose.

She had me put on dress after dress -- everyone that I had. I had outgrown them all. The clock was ticking, and she was at the end of her rope. I had nothing respectable to wear that was "dressy" enough for the event.

She started sobbing, and yelling and she hit me. Over and over again. Not painfully hard but ouch-like hard. No bruises or anything. She fell to the floor and wailed out crying. She threw a full-blown tantrum: A justified tantrum. She deserved it somehow and I knew it. My mom never ever hit me. She truly hit bottom that day out of frustration.

I was like 20 minutes late to leave for school so she drove me frantically so I wouldn't miss the field trip. I was wearing a dress that didn't fit, and crying so hard I couldn't stop. My face swelled from the emotions of the morning.

We drove around and saw the school kids getting on the bus. She looked at me as I went for the door handle and said do you really want to go? I said, not really. She said good because you really shouldn't go today. What have I done to you? I feel so awful! I let my anger out at you and I shouldn't have.

You are coming home with me, she said. We'll call in sick and we'll spend the day together. That day she told me of her frustrations and I was prepared to listen. I for the first time in ages actually listened to her.

We bonded that day and although she never forgave herself, I never gave it a second thought.

Don't be too harsh on yourself. You are ooooh-so-human and that doesn't make you a bad mom at all. On the contrary, you are very careful with everything you do -- and I am sure your kids know it.

I think you have your act together. You do an AMAZING JOB everyday...so don't let these days in between throw you for a loop.

I hope you win a trip to Hawaii ;)

2:15 PM  
Blogger cackmandu said...

Well, I am finally posting on your blog! I enjoyed this read. I feel like this all the time with my son. He is an insane monkey sometimes. My wife thinks it's bad when gets pissed and throws a tantrum. I tell her it's normal and to chill out.

I am glad to know that I am not the only Mt. St. Helens out there. I was like that the other night with him as it was bed time and he wasn't having any of it! He wigged out on me and I lost it. He had no idea what had happend but he started to cry and said he was sorry before I could throw stuff...lol.

5:20 PM  
Blogger Heather said...

Yet another Mom signing in to say... have you been taking parenting lessons from ME? 'Cause I had one of those days just yesterday. Funny thing was, I'd just read a parenting article that described what not to do in a certain situation, and then within an hour of reading it, I went and did the OPPOSITE! Call me obstinate! Or call me a slow learner!

Hey - we all have these days! And thank goodness some of us are honest enough to admit it so we don't have to live through it alone.

7:02 PM  
Blogger Toni said...

What a day! Sorry!
I've been there though!

I take this herbal stress stuff in the morning before my boys get up in the morning. It helps me get through our most stressful time of the day!

9:06 PM  
Blogger chosendaughter said...

Oh, I remember doing the same thing with my children. I was not a text-book mom but I did read "Children the Challenge" by Dreikers (?) One thing I learned is that everything our children do is for a reason - negative or positive and it's our job as parents to determine which it is. Sometimes that is very difficult.

Mine are grown now (27 & 29) and wonderful. Don't know what I did right but they amaze me everyday. I never had to ground them, although when they were small I did spank them from time-to-time. Peeing on the garage door, lying to me about why there was fruit cocktail between the garage and the storage shed when it should have been in their lunch boxes.

I always gave them a choice, if they wanted something that wasn't on the list of choices, it didn't happen.

You are doing a wonderful job. Telling us about it is very theraputic. Talking about it to your kids is paramount, they need to know why you behaved that way.

I don't know if they need to see that they can make you behave that way, some children will want to see it again.

I know that you are feeling the same way I did when I did it. I just think that as parents sometimes we do things that need to be done in order to get our point accross and yes, you need a vacation. You deserve it!

9:17 PM  
Blogger chosendaughter said...

Oh, I remember doing the same thing with my children. I was not a text-book mom but I did read "Children the Challenge" by Dreikers (?) One thing I learned is that everything our children do is for a reason - negative or positive and it's our job as parents to determine which it is. Sometimes that is very difficult.

Mine are grown now (27 & 29) and wonderful. Don't know what I did right but they amaze me everyday. I never had to ground them, although when they were small I did spank them from time-to-time. Peeing on the garage door, lying to me about why there was fruit cocktail between the garage and the storage shed when it should have been in their lunch boxes.

I always gave them a choice, if they wanted something that wasn't on the list of choices, it didn't happen.

You are doing a wonderful job. Telling us about it is very theraputic. Talking about it to your kids is paramount, they need to know why you behaved that way.

I don't know if they need to see that they can make you behave that way, some children will want to see it again.

I know that you are feeling the same way I did when I did it. I just think that as parents sometimes we do things that need to be done in order to get our point accross and yes, you need a vacation. You deserve it!

9:17 PM  
Blogger Carla said...

I found your blog through reading the comments at Amy's blog (Amy of the Humble Musing variety) and I just have one question:

How did you get the hidden camera in my house?

Your recounting of this incident sounded SO much like the things I tell my husband when he gets home... going on a long tirade about all the things the kids did during the day, and ending with such witty comments as "and if ONE more kid leaves a spoon outside, muddy boots on this floor, or gets into the permanent markers again, I'm going to snap and throw myself off the roof!... and how was your day?" He usually laughs and co-miserates with me for having such a hard day, then goes and talks to the kids about being good for their mother, and all that good Dad stuff.

Our oldest two girls are moved out, on their own now. They comment how it's so quiet in their homes. They call to tell me it's quiet.

We still have 5 at home, 4 girls and 1 boy, ages 14, 7, 6, 4 and almost 2. We homeschool, so they're all home, all day, every day. Yes, it's a nuthouse, a zoo... some days.

Other days, they all do their chores, they say please and thank you, they master a skill they've struggled with, and the baby doesn't cry all day.

Those days outshine the looney-bin days. But the looney-bin days still happen. It's required, they're kids, and they do kid stuff.

I said all that to say this... your home sounds very normal, from a very honest mom. I wish more moms would be so honest, it would really encourage the rest of us.

I didn't read the other comments so if I was repetative, just ignore me, I'm a 40 year old mother of 7, being repetative is what I do.

"How many times do I have to tell you.... (fill in the blank)!".

Be encouraged - this too shall pass, I promise.

5:40 AM  

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