Being Kind Is Not For The Weak.

Yesterday I read a piece that one of my very favorite writers, Glennon Melton of Momastery, posted on her Facebook page.

I don’t typically love wordy, scholarly-type pieces, but I loved the SHIT out of this. Perhaps it says something about me that I considered this article “scholarly,” but I’ll own that. Part of why I love social media is that other people can filter through publications like the New York Times or The Atlantic and pick out interesting articles for me. Facebook is kind of like my personal concierge of reading material. So thank you, everyone who takes the time to read through various articles and then post it for people like me who don’t have time to peruse or chop vegetables because I’m too busy looking for the green blanket or finding batteries for the magic elephant that makes the baby sleep. I don’t do much without a toddler attached to my leg.

This is 34.

The article says that happily married couples share one common denominator: they’re kind to each other. I immediately commented, because I’m a big nerd.

Screenshot_2014-07-09-09-23-17-1 Kindness. It’s so simple. But it’s so, so hard. I know this because I read that article that Glennon posted while riding in a car with screaming, tired children. I don’t think Robbie and I ever had a problem being kind to each other before we procreated. We are well-matched, enjoy each other’s company and call each other out on unacceptable behavior. I think we used to think the other person was hilarious and smart and hot and all of the things you think about someone when you’re madly in love with them. All was relatively smooth, easy, even — for a solid 5 years. And then we became parents.

All of the sudden, nothing he did was right. Nothing he said was right. There were times when I was convinced I married some asshole and I made a huge mistake and I’m sure he thought the same of me. Some of it was hormonal, some of it was just the reality of operating on very little sleep under very stressful conditions.

I saw every flaw, in both of us. It was hard to be kind. But we persisted, and we fought through that valley, came out on the other side and did it all over again two more times. It takes work and practice to be kind when you don’t want to be. When I’m trying to talk to him and kids are running and screaming, I get mad at them all, Robbie included. I want to yell at everyone, SHUT UP AND ACT RIGHT. Sometimes I do.

When Robbie forgets to take out the garbage, it takes work for me to be kind. I really just want to yell, WHAT THE HELL, MAN. THE KITCHEN SMELLS LIKE ASS AND IT IS ALL YOUR FAULT. Sometimes I do.

This is why they say kids are hard on a marriage. Children add a level of stress that is unmatched, and you just have to figure out how to deal with it and still be kind to the person who helped you create them.

Last week we took a family trip to the beach, and I was reminded once again that a vacation with small children is not a vacation at all — it is a TRIP and it is EXHAUSTING. We were on our way down I-10 and I was holding Robbie’s hand. No one needed anything. No one was crying. I let my thoughts drift, thinking how nice it was that we were all together and everyone was happy, when we heard a rush of air and realized that Asher had somehow opened the car door with his foot and was working on getting out of his carseat. “Lemme out,” he said.

Oh my God. These children.

I found myself yelling at Robbie, fuming at him for not PULLING THE CAR OVER RIGHT THIS MINUTE so I could tighten Asher’s carseat straps and put the child lock on. But we were on a bridge, and he was worried about me getting hit by a semi, so he kept going while I clung to Asher’s feet (to make sure he didn’t do it again) and yelled at him to stay put.

He responded by repeating, “Lemme out.”

Robbie drove to the nearest exit and pulled over, indignant over why I was so angry at him. He was not the one who caused the problem. He was just trying to keep us all safe. I wasn’t thinking about my own safety; I was only concerned about my child. The stress of the situation made me lash out at my partner, and I was not kind. I imagine this is what most couples go through, children or not. Life is stressful. Kids open car doors with their feet. Weird things happen.

It takes effort, real work, to be kind to the person that you love the most. I hope that when the kids are older and have a better understanding of things like gravity and the possibility of drowning, Robbie and I will have more time to hold hands and let our minds wander. It’s a good thing our kids are cute and my husband is hilarious, smart, and hot. Otherwise, I’m not sure I could handle any of them.

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My Middle Child.

I have to work to stay present. If I don’t stay present, I don’t enjoy my children; they simply become another thing for me to deal with.

So this week I’ve noticed that Asher has started that adorable, almost-three-years-old way of talking and I CANNOT GET ENOUGH OF IT. He’ll pipe up from the backseat: “Mommy! Look, birdses!” He says “catses,” “dogses,” and things like “What’s that sound is?” The first time he said “What’s that sound is?” I think I blurted out, “Who your daddy is?” And he said, “Huh? Daddy? Daddy at work.”

Sometimes I miss having other grownups around to get my humor … like when I told him the sound he heard was crickets because nobody was laughing at what I said.

“Cwickets?”

That’s right. Cwickets. They chirp when it’s silent, so … we never hear them.

Sometimes he pats me and asks, “You alright?” if I stub my toe. He wraps his arms around my legs and says “Sowwy, I sowwy Mommy,” when he does something wrong. He says “I wuv you too,” when I put him to bed. It. Is. Adorable.

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Asher at birth.

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Asher’s first birthday.

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One year old.

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Two years old.

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Almost three.

My Asher … he rockets around like he’s been snorting kiddie speed, constantly getting bumped and scraped. He’s my toughest child, rugged with a chipped-toothed, dimpled grin that can win over even the grumpiest cashier at Walmart. I worry about him the most, for very different reasons than the other two. They are all three so special in such unique ways, I know this even though we don’t know exactly how just yet. It’s a knowing that I have, and I just hope I am up to the task of guiding them.

Sometimes it feels like an eternity since he was born, and I guess in a way it has been. So much has happened — we moved, had another child, and moved again. But when I look into his cherub-like face and force myself to be present, I realize it is zipping by faster than I’d like, and before I know it he will be saying “sorry” instead of “sowwy.”

And that kind of breaks my heart a little.

The Things I Do For Milk.

The key to effective parenting is emotional energy, of which I have a limited supply. I have to hoard some from my children so I’ll have a little left over for my husband when he gets home, but when I’m out, I’M OUT.

I used to say that parenting was more physically taxing than anything. I did something to my back last week when Asher threw an epic tantrum in the mall Food Court because the carousel ride ended and I told him it was time to get off. He freaked out, requiring me to lift him up and twist to maneuver around the big metal tiger he had been riding on.

I carried him like a stack of firewood all the way back to our table and my friend Jamie tried to help me jam him back into the stroller. She commented that it’s like he is made of rubber; you push him down or pull on his legs and he just snaps right back. I don’t know how long it took to get him strapped in, but I was full-on sweating by the end of it.

A few years ago, I would have been mortified by that kind of scene — his angry screams echoing throughout the entire mall — but now, I feel like I’ve been hardened against embarrassment by an ongoing series of experiences. I don’t really have time to dwell on anything that happens. We get through it, and we move on. I think that is why so many women have trouble recalling what it’s truly like to live with small children. If you don’t take the time to dwell, the memory doesn’t stick. And then we have more children.

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Mothering is obviously physically demanding, but the emotional demands are what really get you. If my emotional energy is off, the kids pick up on it and things get shitty fast. Sometimes, even when I am emotionally capable of dealing … things get shitty fast. This afternoon was the perfect example.

After nap time, I herded my children through eating a snack and changing diapers/going to the bathroom. I told them we had a few errands to run; most important was the grocery store. Ever since I started transitioning Pepper to milk, WE CONSTANTLY RUN OUT. I’m a milk snob and prefer to give the kids organic, which seems to only be available in half gallons. I need a five-gallon jug. Where can I find that?! Someone please tell me.

So anyway, I cranked up the van and Maverick climbed in. The baby pooped her pants. I changed her and put her in her car seat. I went back inside and find that Asher has also pooped. I tell him it’s time to change his diaper. He screams “NO!!!” because he’s two. He also screams that he wants milk. I tell him he may not have milk, and I leave to get a fresh diaper.

When I returned, I found him standing in front of the open refrigerator guzzling what remained of the milk, directly from the carton. He was displeased when I took it away, and even more displeased when I wrestled him down to change his diaper. He was so displeased, and he fought so hard, that poop pellets rolled away and disappeared in between our couch cushions.

This is when I yelled.

I cleaned up the mess. I put him in the van. We drove to the store.

In the parking lot, I got a shopping cart. Not the big kind that I needed, that looks like a police car. Those are kept inside. I had to get a regular one, and I put Asher in the big part of the basket. Maverick got out and I instructed him to stand right next to the cart with his brother. They were right next to me. I turned to unbuckle the baby, and look up to see Maverick give the cart a hard shove. As it rolled into the road with my middle child in it, Maverick yelled “Look Mommy! Asher’s rolling away!” Presumably he was acting out what took place in January when Asher really did roll away. But who can say.

This is why I feel it’s important to try hard not to be judgmental of the mom you see on her phone at the playground, ignoring her children as they play … or the mom who is drinking before 5 pm … or the many, many mothers who let their kids eat whatever they can find and watch back-to-back episodes of whatever is on Nickelodeon. Those mothers have probably run out of emotional energy. They need to recharge. Let them do what they need to do. If your emotional energy level is high enough for you to look on with judgement, then you might consider offering to help.

Because I love my children, I do things like make special trips to the grocery store to get organic effing milk. But because I did that, the cart thing happened, and I ran out of emotional energy. When we got back home I sat in one place for a really long time and stared at my phone while my children did God knows what. I eventually found all three of them in a closet. Don’t know what they were doing. Probably hiding from me, which worked out well, since I was hiding from them too.

Later on, Robbie asked him, “What were you thinking when you pushed Asher into the road?” And he said, “I was thinking that Mommy would believe me when I said the wind blew him out there.

 

Something Worth Something.

I made it through Spring Break. Wow. I guess it was just a preview of what this summer will be like. A lot

A lot of good, a lot of bad, a lot of tears, a lot of laughter, A LOT OF CHAOS, and a lot of life. As hard as this is and as much as I struggle … and believe me, I struggle … I came away from that time exhausted and sunburned but feeling that good kind of tired that I feel when I know I’ve done hard, worthwhile work.

Maverick is 5 years and 7 months old and he now knows how to make his bed, take out the kitchen garbage, put a new bag in the can, set the table, and make his own sandwiches. He can also sweep and steam mop the kitchen with some help. He learned how to climb trees, which caterpillars are the stinging kind, and we’re working on tying his shoes. He can wash his own hair, takes a shower on his own and is pretty much all of the sudden a big boy.

Brothers sharing an afternoon snack.

Maverick picked a bouquet for me every day.

Climbing.

These are the things I had in mind when I signed up to be a stay-at-home mom. It brings me joy to sit outside on a blanket and watch my kids discover the world right there in their front yard. I love watching my younger kids watch their big brother. I love fostering independence in a safe environment.

We don’t have much money, so everything we do is simple — but it brings me so much happiness to see the magic that unfolds when you put a child outside and just let them do their thing. So while I may be nervous/terrified about the three months I’ll have this summer with my children, who will be 5, 2, and 1 years old … I think I can handle it? 

I was totally cringing with fright as I typed that sentence. I probably just jinxed myself for the next 7 years. Yikes. 

Anyway, clearly it’s not going to be easy, but I hope we can pull through it in one piece. And while I am certain the house and my eyebrows will be a hot mess, I hope I will feel kind of like I do now. Like I did something worth something. Because I did. I really, really did.

Watching big brother arduously drag the garbage can up to the house.

Just Step Over Me.

Ever since the time changed in October, Asher has been waking up at ungodly hours. He has always been sort of difficult with his sleep, just for the record. And he’s still little, just 2 1/2. I have to repeat this aloud several times a day so I don’t completely lose it.

Anyway, I have a whole series of early-morning photos like these on my phone. Every single one of these were taken before 5:30 a.m. I don’t know how else to cope with what is happening other than to just laugh at it. Okay, sometimes I cry too.


I know it’s a phase. I know there might not be a solution. And yet … I keep trying to fix it, because I simply cannot accept that nothing can be done. My day began at 3:30 this morning, and after a few failed attempts to lull him back to sleep, I said “Asher, you don’t know what you’ve done. You’ve gone too far now. Mommy has been pushed too far.” And he just smiled and said “Far?”

YES. FAR. TOO. FAR.

The mushy part of me thinks that this is a blessing, this is my time to cuddle with our middle child. He is probably still adjusting to having a little sister and maybe he needs that extra reassurance. I’ll probably look back on this fondly one day, when I have forgotten what it is actually like to survive on 5 hours of sleep for months on end. 

That’s around the time I’ll also know what day/date/year it is, I’ll finally feel rested and alert, and I’ll begin chirping at young mothers to “Enjoy it!!! It goes so fast!!!” With a lot of exclamation points because I’m so chipper.

Indeed, it does. It does go so fast, especially when your days are like 19 hours long and they all run together into a nonsensical blur. That’s when you know it’s going fast — when it’s blurry. It’s blurry because we are on a wild, out-of-control ride, we can’t sleep, and we are disoriented. 

When I finally get off, I’ll just crawl to the platform and lie there for a long time while everyone else steps over me.