Most of the time, motherhood comes easily to me. The combination of household management, motherhood, and working outside of the home full-time can be a demanding challenge, but cuddling, caring, and teaching my children is second nature. I take that back. It is first nature; loving my children comes to me as simply as breathing.
Right now, though, I find myself in a difficult time. The love is still strong and present, but I feel this fluttering of panic, fear, and failure in the most tenderest place in my heart. Nothing is medically wrong with my kids; we’ve battled colds and stomach viruses and a good dose of chicken noodle soup and cuddles weather us through the tough times. I may feel a bit of panic or helplessness, but bronchitis is not caused by my failure — or perceived failure — as a mom.
Without being too terribly specific — as Hope is old enough to have a say in what is blogged — I’ll try to explain my current mom-craziness.
Basically — I have a toddler and a tweenager.
Let me say that again. A Toddler and a Tweenager — Tears? Yes. Obstinacy? Yes. Milestones? Yes. Constant need for attention? Yes. Feeling like you cannot protect your child from pain? Yes. Atticus is leaping off of things and climbing and constantly nursing physical hurts and Hope is navigating the emotionally fraught — and often painful — life of middle school. I can try to make the house safe for Atticus, but if he randomly decides to jump into a wall and bite his lip or bash his head all I can do is hug him afterwards and let him cry. If Hope forgets a school project, is mocked by the mean girls, or plays a “squeaky” note in band all I can do is hug her afterwards and let her cry.
This is just day to day worry; that my children are hurt or hurting and I’m helpless.
We’ve started a new rigorous study schedule with Hope in the evenings. I’m at a bit of a disadvantage because I was homeschooled and I didn’t have gobs of homework — all of my study was homework. Hope did really well in 6th grade. She had one teacher for science and social studies and one teacher for math and language arts. The entire class had classroom iPads to use and Hope never had homework. Fast forward to 7th grade: four teachers instead of two, no iPads, and expectations for her to work independently. She brought home her report card two weeks ago and it was not good. Really, really not good. Hope is exceptionally bright, creative, and vivacious. She is also disorganized and loves to talk in class. Now every evening Sam or I sit with her during homework time; we check her class notes, quiz her on vocabulary, pre-grade homework, insist on corrections, and push her to focus. It is helping her, but it is exhausting and sometimes frustrating. I’m impatient and I’m not accustom to the public school thought process. I want to go make Egyptian food and go to a museum and read The Book of the Dead… I don’t want to rattle off facts on a worksheet page. Now I’m wishing I’d homeschooled Hope, but I know that won’t work with my need to work full time and Hope said she’d “rather be dead.” Taking this social butterfly out of school would crush her and pair that with our stubborn head butting and I just can’t see it working. Now I’m working on a plan to homeschool Atticus and baby #3 when Atticus hits kindergarten. I don’t know if it will work and that is endlessly frustrating. I feel like an ineffective parent. Maybe I’d helped her all along, or homeschooled, or done something differently there wouldn’t be this nightly struggle.
Atticus is going through some weird love-hate relationship with me. He is so well-behaved at school or when I’m not at home, but when I am home or with him he is an emotional mess. He screams when I go to the bathroom, or have to cook dinner, or decide to hug Sam or Hope. He slaps me, pinches me, and bites me. Even when he isn’t angry, he will lean over and sink his teeth into me and not let go. I popped him on the bottom the other day, which is something I really, really, really don’t want to do. He wouldn’t quit biting me and he actually broke the skin. Now I know this makes him sound like a demon child, but he isn’t. He is only this way with me. Occasionally he’ll hit his sister when they are playing, but that is partly because Hope hasn’t mastered that toddlers don’t understand intricate games or detailed imagination play; all he knows is that Hope has his Thomas Tank engine and he wants it back. He also isn’t always in a rage when he is hurting me. We’ll be cuddling and reading a book and he’ll randomly slap the piss out of me. The only thing I can figure is that he knows I’m pregnant and isn’t handling it well. He is a sweet, funny, smart boy 98% of the time, I’m just getting the brunt of the mean toddler 2% and it is wearing me thin.
My day begins with getting both kids ready for school, handling work all day, picking up Atticus, rushing home to chores and dinner, supervising Hope’s chores, being beaten and yelled at by a 2 year old, putting the surly tot to bed and then spending 2 hours at the table with Hope monitoring her homework. Hope heads to bed around 9:30 and then I shower, prep for the next day, and fall into bed exhausted. In the back of my mind is worry that next year I’ll have a newborn too.
Then I feel inadequate. Sam helps out with kids, chores, and dinner. I will only have 3 kids and I know so many people with more children. How do they do it all?
Of course my nagging selfishness is present. Sometimes — okay a lot of times — during these intense parenting spells I think about how much I want to read or bake or write or stitch. I’d like to be able to take a crap without someone screaming at me through the door or yelling out for someone to focus and get back to Algebra. I’d like to take a shower longer than 10 minutes. I’d like to spend “time” with my husband and not be repelled by one more person touching or needing me. Hell, even the cat gets pushed off my lap.
I’m trying very hard to remember that it is nice to be needed. When Atticus nursed every 2 hours for an entire year it was exhausting, now he rarely slows down to cuddle and I miss those nursing days. I remember the first time Hope told me I didn’t need to tuck her in bed. That hurt. I felt superfluous. When Hope is in college and doesn’t need me to call out vocabulary words I’ll miss it and when Atticus is older and doesn’t feel the need to have me all to himself because he has friends and hobbies I’ll grieve to a certain extent. It is just so very hard to live in the present. I need to remember that life is about balance: each stage has challenges and joys.
And if anyone has ideas on how to get a charmingly sweet toddler boy to quit wailing on his pregnant mom or to inspire a 7th grader with interest in Taylor Swift and glitter nail polish to strive for academic success let me know. In the meantime I’ll keep on truckin’.