Wednesday, October 14, 2009

am I really cut out for this?

I don't know where or what the tipping point is, but there are moments, days, hell, weeks where I think, "How did I get here?" and "Who put me in charge of these angry, screaming, tired, fighting, loud, chimpanzees kids?"
I am exhausted and annoyed. I need five minutes to myself where I am not listening to the caucaphony of children and their arguments as a soundtrack.
I try to be level-headed. Think empathetically. Be calm rather than reactive.....But then Liv starts spraying her brother with the garden hose, the dog knocks Briar over in his attempts to grab the jet of water with his mouth, my camera narrowly misses a shower and both kids are screaming at me and each other that some terrible injustice has befallen each of them. I attempt to breathe and 'get to their level'. I try to sort out how we can find some sort of resolution. Some compromise involving spraying away from others. Putting the dog inside. Helping siblings up when they fall. I attempt to speak quietly over their screams and try to hold back limbs that are aimed for siblings fury-filled faces. I try to be the grown-up. Teach by example. Breathe. Just breathe. Just fucking breathe.
Then I lose it. "Why the hell are you doing that?! Get your bloody foot out of your brother's face. NOW!!!! Stop slamming that door! BE QUIET!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!"
I am not the poster child for NVC. I am not even close to being a 'functional mother'. I watch as Liv stares at me with something akin to contempt while she tells me, "You don't care about me as much as Briar!!! I want my dad back!" and know that this is just the precursor. I know that this train is on the track to kids who spraypaint their bedrooms black and wear olive green long johns and black overcoats for everyday attire. I can already imagine Liv with a pierced eyebrow/nose/tongue and some foreign sounding dark music spewing from her mp3 player. How the hell do I stop this? How do I even educate myself? I spend every moment of every day, awake or asleep, with these kids. I know that those pro-conventional schoolers are thinking smugly, "She belongs in school. That'd teach her. Jackie's gonna have her hands full!"
It makes me want to scream foul sounding choice words at the world. I need help. I need a few minutes to myself that I can count on. I need a break. I need to know that I can take a course in latin or dog training or bowling, for all I care, as long as I can have a minute to decompress.
I truly want to have a compassionate, functioning, and enjoyable relationship with my kids. But, if I am honest, often times, I feel like I am stumbling, tripping and existing as a parent. I was once a totally aware and conscious parent. One who thought out many of my 'reactions' with my kids. One who had theories and words that adopted for calm interactions with my kids.
Is it that I have two kids now?
Is it that I am always taking care of more children than just my own?
Is it that Jeff is dead and I don't have as much time/energy/resources/rest?
Is it that Jeff is dead and my kids are scarred and going to morph into angry goth teenagers?
Is it that I just suck as a mom?
Is it just that everyone feels like this sometimes and I don't really get the depth of their frustration until I am living it and think "No one else must feel like this. I suck!"?
So tell me, do you have these times? Are we 'normal' or completely dysfunctional......


Bonnie said...

You are normal!
I do the chant in my head often..."keep calm, talk softly, figure out what they need right now, take a moment to think about your response"...right up until I shout at them to "get a grip!"
I know I feel a lot more out of control though when I haven't had a break in a while. Is there any way you can schedule a regular break for yourself? Without having to put them in public school? - haha

Suddenwidow said...

Well, I hope that you're normal 'cause if not I'm right with you on the road to goth teenager hell!! Even though my kids go to public school I am with them there all day so I can kind of relate to the notion of never getting a break from them. I wasn't a perfect mother before Austin died but I am far from perfect now. We have sweet moments now when they are really trying to help and I am so overwhelmed with the fact that they have been put in the position of needing to do more than others their age because their Dad died and I can't do everything. I am just awash in love then, like I probably never was before because these little souls are trying to help me, like they never did before. And we have sweet moments when we're reading together and I'm just overwhelmeed with how much I love them and how lucky I am to have them in my life, especially now. But there are more moments when I'm so frustrated that I could scream, and often I do. I'm tired of kids fighting, being disrespectful to each other and me, of pushing their independence so damn hard that somedays it's a constant battle and of always wanting to do the opposite of what I think they should be doing. But mostly, I'm so damn tired of having to do this parenting job alone. That is not what I signed up for when Austin and I decided to have kids. And it pisses me off!!!

Ok, now I feel better. Thank you for posting this. I'm sure we're both normal. Dealing with our grief, our kids grief, our kids normal behaviour, their behaviour stemming from the fact that their Dad is dead and the fact that we are on our own as parents can be extremely overwhelming. But we will make it and so will our kids. Because at our core, we are both good Moms. I've seen you with your sweeties and you are a wonderful Mom. I think you need some time on your own once in a while. I know I do. That's why I'm escaping to the coast for a few days in Feb. during our school break. Want to join me for a night on a sailboat for a no-kids evening with wine or some similar beverage? No sailing involved, since I can't do that on my own yet, but lots of room to sleep and just enjoy a night off. Let me know.


Anonymous said...

Oh, man, do I have those times. Lots and lots and LOTS of those times. I do far more yelling than I would like to do. I desperately wish for just 3 minutes peace. So I hide in the bathroom, but then both the kids pound on the door and scream and I feel bad but also very, very angry.

You are normal. It sounds like your kids are normal. And I bet they're gonna be OK. When I am at my low points my mantra is, "Kids need much less than we think they do." And I believe it, because I know my own mother lost it more than she wanted, but I bear no lasting signs of damage, because that wasn't the whole and entire story, you know?

Anonymous said...

I sure remember these feelings! That horrible state where you feel like you're trapped in a nightmare and it will never end. I'm living proof that it does! My kids are young adults now, two are back living at home, and we almost never have fights. There used to be fighting (sometimes really scary fighting) on a daily basis. This too shall pass. But if you could find a way to get more time away from the kids, with other adults, it might seem to pass faster. Hang in there, honey.


Jen said...

Ah Jackie, you capture those angry, out-of-control feelings, and the guilt and doubt that follows, so well. I have been there with you! As other posters have said, I think you are completely normal. No matter how hard or easy the road may be, all parents lose it sometimes. And you have a particularly hard road right now. Please be gentle with yourself, find a friend to trade babysitting with to get an hour or few to yourself once in a while, and know that you are the best and perfect parent for your children. They will thrive and struggle and grow and challenge you, just like all kids do.

Hallie said...

I too think your feelings are normal and even if they aren't...I'm right there with you! Today has been one of those days I just want to call out "do over" in my life...I love the way you word it and can totally relate!!! Hang in there! I've been sitting here with a bag of funyuns telling myself that they are making my day better...altho naps are just about over and I know that funyuns don't really have that kind of power! lol Hope your day starts looking up!

Poppy and Mei said...

I was that "angry goth teenager".
I turned out...well...let me see...
But I tell ya, "those days" are definatly there. More often than not.
I have no idea what we are supposed to do. Except maybe listen to each other & understand...XXxx.

AndreaRenee said...

So normal, Jackie. I hope, anyway, because otherwise I suck, too! XOXO

Joan Hager said...

The scenario actually sounds pretty similar to when my two kids were little (and I wasn't a single mother). Liv reminds me of our daughter, whose temperament we
always thought had to do with being a first-born female. My husband says his older sister was
the same way. Neither of these
girls were going to put up with any shit.

As her mother, she and I argued all the time and I was guilty on more than one occasion of gently goading her until she would storm off to her bedroom and slam the door shut. Ah, finally some peace for all of us.

She was much more difficult to parent than her younger brother but
I always felt that the characteristics that were hard to parent were also the same characteristics that served her well as she grew older out in the real world.

She is now 31 years old and is in management at a national television network. She still doesn't take any shit but somewhere along the way she learned how to be a bit more civilized in her interactions and she seems happy and I am very proud of her.

Take good care of yourself, Jackie,
in whatever way will work. Everything is going to work out fine because you love them.

Jenn said...

My kids fight a lot too...and we homeschool. I think that being around each other 24-7 makes them fight more, but love each other more and for sure, they are much, much closer than they would be if they were both in school with separate friends, in separate grades.

See, we haven't hit the "pay off" yet...the reward is coming someday, way off down the line, when they are grown. Sometimes it's hard to remember that...when we are in the midst of the fighting and day-to-day chaos. THERE WILL BE A PAY-OFF!

It's not always immediate (often not) But someday... they will remember that it was the three of you, through all the hard times and the struggles. Close, loving family...
And that means SO MUCH!

Anonymous said...

If it's not normal, then I'm right beside you in the sucky mom club. And thanks for your honesty - so many other moms 'appear' perfect, but I'm sure if you look behind closed doors all is not as it seems (I know when I scream I sure hope that the neighbours don't hear . . . ). I always plan to be calm, then BLAM, out of no where I'm a screaming banshee because no one seems to listen when I speak nicely.

Just today in the car Eibhlin was asking me the same question over and over and didn't seem to want to accept my answer of 'I don't know'. She instead seemed to believe she just needed to keep asking me louder. So I got louder. Cue yelling. She doesn't react like Liv though, she drops her head with a sad face which makes me feel like the worst mom ever.

It really helps having someone you can rely on to take the kids for a few hours a week if you can, and make it a regular thing. I have amazing friends who take the girls every Monday, and as much as I love my girls, I really love Mondays. It took a bit of getting used to, but in the end I noticed that it helped me be a better mom by having that bit of time for me (though it hasn't stopped the sucky mom bit entirely, I 'think' it's toned down???).
I also heard recently that vitamin D can help your mood, especially during pms which is when I'm the worst, so I'm giving that a go.

CJ said...

I'm with everyone else - you're normal. My oldest went off to university this year and when we were driving home after dropping him off my husband said, "You know, I always had plans of being a better parent than I ended up being." I just nodded my head. We all fall down, the trick is getting back up and trying again.

Anonymous said...

Please don't be so hard on yourself! Parenting is an ongoing process and your kids won't judge your parenting by only the little tidbits of time where you lose it. They feel your love in all that you do for them and will be fine. As parents, we all do the best we can at the time. I hope that you can find some time that is just for you because in the long run this will be good for your two kids also.

IamDerby said...

I often feel like this. And I have a husband who helps alot, and my kids go to school. So I would say you are normal, even more normal than me... sometimes I feel like I am the world's most suck parent ever. Well except for the crack head moms, I do feel I do better than they do ;) Hang in there Jackie!

Ashley Tinius said...

I haven't left a comment before, but I read your blog all the time. Let me tell you, you are perfectly normal in your disfunction. I have 2 girls, and most days I think to myself, "Who put me in charge of these people? I'm a fucking terrible mother. They'll be scarred for life." Most days I have no clue what I'm doing. Some days I react to them and can't believe I said/did that. It's good to know that other mothers feel the same way. Let me tell you, you do need time to yourself. Find a way to get rid of them for a day every now and then, you'll be amazed how much it helps. Maybe they'd like to take a class, like tumbling or something? That would buy you some time. And also, as an unconventional mother myself, tell the mainstream moms to keep their mouths shut about what you "should" be doing, or what is best for your kids. What you think is best IS the right thing.

Anonymous said...

Jackie, I have not even come close to realizing what your situation is - happily married 31 years to the father of my 2 children. So please don't think I am trying to be in your shoes and giving you advise - just suggestions.
I've been reading your blog for quite some time and from what I read, you ARE a good mom. You have much more patience than I do - so what is/was my excuse. We all wish we could be better moms and we all have our trying times but from what I have read about you, you are a much better mom than I am. BUT I will tell you that time away from your kids is not only good for you but it is good for them. You get to recharge your batteries, have adult conversations, adult beverages, and time to just think and have fun. Your kids will look at time away from you as special too and when you reunite everyone is so happy to be together again. It might make it easier for you to accept if you put it on the calendar and then stick to it! It is SO important for you to take time for yourself - you and your kids will all benefit (and the other kiddos you look after also). Keep up the good work!

Anonymous said...

Hey girl

It was so great meeting you at the LLF Gala! You are more beautiful in person..and your speech was very moving...You are doing a great job with your little ones. Hell, I have a husband and one kid and feel the same some days, like yesterday when McKenna wasn't happy for anything and the night felt like it would NEVER end! I was like "I can't do this anymore" but it is better today...uugghh. How come noboby warned us?!? Love to you xoxoxo

Abigail said...

So, so normal. It takes years of screaming children, siblings fighting to be your favorite, of breakdowns, of just completely loosing it.
But then something odd happens. You realize that through all the hell, you have been honest with your children about your emotions, and they respect you, and might even like you occasionally. Your friends begin to talk of the nightmare that their children have become and you think, huh! Mine still talk to me and I still know (at least a lot of the time) what they are up to. And you realize that the war you have been fighting against grief is finally in cease-fire and your trench mates are right there with you, closer than they would have been without the war.

Hang in there my friend. Take that class. Find a way to have time for yourself. It is the only thing that will keep you sane.


Anonymous said...

I am having one of those days right now - thank you for putting the feelings into words. I really needed to read this right now. Hopefully our afternoon will be better than this morning... hugs to you....

Kathryn said...

I often have days like this too, so I'm in the "this is normal camp". But I do know that I also react a lot more harshly or over react when I've had little sleep. Since my daughter has been sleeping better (and you know she's not a newborn or a baby, she's 4.5 yrs old!) life seems better and I'm better able to deal with what life throws at me. Is there anyway you can start to transition your kids back to their own beds and rooms, so you at least have the chance to have some restful sleep at night?

Kate said...

Luke is in terrible two mode, but amongst my friends who have kids that are older, it's totally normal. I don't think it matters where or how you choose to educate your kids, they're going to push back, sometimes, and parents are going to tear their hair out wondering where they went wrong. It's the fucked up circle of child rearing.

indybarb said...

Oh are COMPLETELY normal. I have teenagers and I have moments where I really want to bash their heads together. There have been times that I have totally lost it with them over the years and I always feel so guilty afterward. The only thing that sometimes saved me is that they have a father living nearby and I could just say "go to your dad's" and I could take a breath. I wish I were there to take some of the pressure off for you (even though I don't know you I can relate to what you are feeling). make you feel better, even though I sometimes think I suck as a Mom my teenagers often tell me I am "Quite possibly the greatest mom ever". Your kids realize you are normal and they will forgive you your shortcomings so try, try, try not to beat yourself up over it. Big hugs to you stranger/friend and I hope this day the kids are acting like little angels!