Courage doesn't always roar. Sometimes courage is the little voice at the end of the day that says I'll try again tomorrow. ~Mary Anne Radmacher
Almost every morning, I find myself downstairs in the kitchen with three separate kids having three separate meltdowns and think to myself "Only 14 more hours till bedtime!" The truth - I'm not at my best right now. Physically or emotionally. Everything is building on that and in the end, it shows. The kids are out of control, the laundry is out of control, and I have almost completely given up on keeping the kitchen in any semblance of order. As long as we have enough spoons to keep mixing the chocolate milk, I feel we're in business. And at nightfall, I argue, nudge, and cajole through what is supposed to be an enjoyable, relaxing, wind-down ritual of putting my kids to bed, and end up curled up on the couch too drained to even fold the basket of laundry at my feet. I don't like it. But I just have no motivation or urge to try and change it. Because changing it just leads to fighting.
I am completely at a loss as to what can be done at this point. That whole united front of parenting has turned into a baton race, because I am constantly three paces away from throwing the stick into the stands. I feel like I'm in a parallel universe with my kids. Monkey is an argumentative, mean spirited, nagging dictator of an older sister. But at school she just won a golden award for being an exemplary pupil, and got a prize from the class treasure box for earning Bee stickers (bee polite, bee kind, bee respectful, etc.) I felt gypped. I wanted to email her teacher and ask if this is the same kid who comes home everyday, berates Scootch, and then body checks him over a toy rake and holds him down in a headlock. The elaborate fanciful storytelling method of evasion is in full effect as well. Instead of a straight answer or confession, we get a long and winding tale of what so-and-so did or said at school/the other day/on the bus, etc., that usually ends with some nonsense about lions and elephants or there being 100 kids in her classroom today. Frustrating doesn't even begin to cover it.
And then there is Scootch. Taking after his big sister in all the worst ways. He likes to goof around with his food at every opportunity. Mealtimes are a minimum of an hour at the table, and then hand washing afterwards takes at least another 15-45 minutes. He also is already sporting the selective male deafness. When I talk right at him, or make a request, I get "What, Mommy?" Yet if I'm in the kitchen talking to Daddy and he's two rooms over, he will hear certain words clear as day and comment or come running. He is also becoming more exuberant in his physical affection, much to Little Bear's detriment. Kissing and hugging his little brother almost always also comes with the added caveat of a wrist bend or chin pinch or plain knock over resulting in the baby's head hitting the floor, tears being shed, and mommy losing her temper. There are only so many ways I can tell him to be more gentle and careful with his brother, to which Scootch usually responds, "But he likes it!" Regardless of the fact that Little Bear is in tears and absolutely not enjoying himself.
And I just kicked Little Bear out of our bedroom because his screaming periods between three hour sleep stretches all night long were driving me to the brink of insanity. So now the three kids are shoe horned into one bedroom. Did I mention bedtime was the highlight of the day? Me having to zombie walk to retrieve the shrieking baby at 4 am, however, is not a benefit of this arrangement. Although, to be honest, that really seems to be the only time he still consistently wakes up, so his sleeping stretches are longer (or my sleep is just getting deeper).
The worst part about all of this is the hopelessness. I literally feel like there is nothing I can do to improve anything. I've read parenting articles, three books on discipline methods, trailed through blogs and news features, all to no avail. Against my better judgement, we even instituted a rewards chart for good behavior a 'la the Kazdin Method. The novelty of earning stickers to buy prizes fizzled within two months, though (exactly like I thought it would.) Lately, anywhere I've looked for help has just felt like a validation that I'm terrible at this job of being a mother. The most recent little un-helpful article in the Family magazine had 5 tips that I already employ, but without the benefit of getting the same results. The killer was the small author bio at the end of the read that stated "Sarah and her children are often out and about, and she never counts to three to extract good behavior." Well good for Sarah! For the record, I don't count to three. I change it up between three and five to keep the kids on their toes! But seriously, its enough to make me feel like a failure. Other kids enjoy outings and are taken to the mall or the store. I dread leaving the house with mine in tow, wondering when I'll be defeated once again by a tantrum or sullen attitude that ruins the fun activity I was trying to do with them in the first place. My oldest comes home chattering about how they had a puppet show about respect in school, then interrupts me at church three days later to tell the friend I was chatting with that she has a fat face and fat belly. The middle child tells me he wants me to take Little Bear out of the playroom so he can play in peace, but as soon as I get out something to keep the baby occupied, here comes Scootch to rip it away from his brother and decide he needs to play with the baby toy instead.
People tell me I have lovely children. Most of the time I just don't see it. My MIL had something optimistic to say about it though. She told me I have to be doing a good job, because my kids are well behaved and show the effects of my teachings around others. I told her I need someone to tape it for me next time, because I would love to have some proof.