(WARNING: This is another one of THOSE POSTS. Read at your own risk.)
Before I was a mother, going to the grocery store used to be dangerous to my emotional state. It seemed like every trip, I’d see some mother ream her kid out, hollering and scolding for no good reason. Every time, I wanted to grab those women by the arm and shriek, “How dare you speak to your child that way? She’s not doing anything wrong! Appreciate the freaking gift you’ve been given! I would give ANYTHING to have what you have!”
These days, I try not to take the kids to the grocery store. Because I turn into that mom.
Four kids later, I realize it’s not just about what happened at the store. It’s about the behaviors and attitudes that pile up through hours and days. It’s about mom being worn down by constant barrage of kids taking each other’s toys, pushing each other, disobeying, making everything a battle. All the reasons why the age 2-4 is my least favorite.
On the way home from the store Friday, following Julianna trying to appropriate half a dozen people’s carts as push toys and Nicholas opening every door in the refrigerated/frozen cases even after being told four or five times to leave them alone…following that, I let out a comment I couldn’t believe I’d voiced. For a moment I had a surreal half-out-of-body moment in which heard my own voice and thought, Did you really just say that? What if THAT is what they remember?
I apologized, but the experience shook me.
I remember this phase and the beginning of its resolution with Alex, although the catalyst moment with him was different. I can feel us hunkering down on opposite sides of the Battle Of Wills. Every day I feel more worn-out by dealing with it in duplicate. Nicholas answers every question with No! (isn’t that supposed to be a two-year-old thing?), even when he means yes, as if testing whether I’ll ask again. And Julianna lowers her head and rolls her eyes up to make sure I’m paying attention–her defiant look. She knows if I say “look at me, please,” and she does, she has no excuse to pretend she didn’t hear.
I doubt myself constantly. I say she understands everything but likes to pretend she doesn’t. But then I think, Does she, really? Am I demanding obedience when she doesn’t even understand the instruction? I remember that little smile while I’m counting down from five, the way she waits till one to comply. Yes, she gets it.
But I’d hate to be crushing her spirit by imposing demands she’s not ready for.
But I don’t want her to be a brat who thinks she can get away with anything she wants, just because she has a disability.
This is my all-day, my every-day right now. And it’s exhausting. I don’t handle it with the grace I want to. I know this is an inevitable stage of childhood, not a reflection on poor parenting. I also know the stakes are high, and I have to handle this right. I have some successes. Nicholas helped me cook all afternoon that day, and we thoroughly enjoyed it. He was a great helper. (Hint: slow, methodical, lengthy hand-stirring yields amazing pumpkin pie.) But it seems like those moments are scattered and hard to catch among the shrieking and shouting and throwing things and breaking things and disassembling things just because they’re there.
At times like these, my mother’s (and grandmother’s) worries that we had our kids too close together seem well-founded, indeed.
But other people have had kids 2 years apart through the generations. Many others. Why does it seem so much harder now?
When I confess these difficulties, I feel like I’m providing fodder to the multitudes who insist they can’t possibly have more than two kids. I want to ask my (other) grandmother, who raised ten, if she felt this way. Surely she did! But I have a feeling if I asked she’d frown and say, “I don’t remember.”
You know, maybe mommy brain is a blessing, after all.
I’d like this to be a little better organized, a little more upbeat. But darn it, we have chores to do this morning. Time to quit navel-gazing and be a mom. Prayers welcome.