I recently read a book called When Did I Get Like This?: The Screamer, The Worrier, The Dinosaur-Chicken-Nugget-Buyer, And Other Mothers I Swore I’d Never Be by Amy Wilson. Quite a mouth full, so let’s call it SDIGLTTSTWTDCNBAOMISINB for prosterity’s sake. Anyway, to put it bluntly, this book changed my life. I’d give it a 3.5 out of 5, but with a sub-category of Must Read. It was good, as far as books go, and if I were to have read it being anything other than a mother of difficult children, I don’t know if I would have thought so, but I am a mother of difficult children, so I am utterly grateful that I had.
As my kids get older, I feel more and more like I’ve come to this party woefully unprepared. I feel like I’m getting worse and worse as a mother and that my kids, after only four years of being a team, have won. And being an internetty person doesn’t help. No offence, but I have a sneaking suspicion that some of you are withholding information when it comes to your children’s behaviour. Either that or my situation is even worse than I thought. Have any of you found this? That you can read post upon post upon post of people’s kids doing amazingly angelic things, even about them doing silly or embarrassing things, but never (or very rarely) do you read about those poor parents, much like myself and probably you as well, whose kids are actively working to murder them via stress-induced heart failure? I know a lot of us blogging parents use these places of ours as a sort of baby book to document our lives and our children’s lives and immortalizing the bad times kind of seems…poor form, but what I wouldn’t give for some brutal honesty up in this piece. Have you said something regrettable while angry? Have your kids driven you to public tears? Have you ever swatted their behind when no other punishment seems to work *GASP*? Do you sometimes feed then pizza four days a week because you have no energy for anything else and at least pizza has all four food groups going on, if only technically speaking?
This is what I’m missing from the internet. Maybe I’m just reading the wrong blogs, or not enough blogs (because I do love the blogs I read), but I feel like I’m all alone. When I think logically, I know I’m not. I’ve seen your kids in public (not specifically; no need for a restraining order) and I know mine are far from the worst behaved out there. It just feels like I’m alone sometimes because I WANT to tell you people my frustrations, but then I feel like you’ll judge me for telling my daughter she’s acting like an idiot or for letting them have four Halloween treats after I told them only three because the fight about it would cause the vein in my forehead to explode or that I spend a deplorable amount of my day with my voice raised.
Amy Wilson’s book punched me right in the face, but in a good way. She’s a great mother, attentive and caring and loving, but she also trips on the toy mess in her living room and dreads bath night and phones it in when her kids need to bring treats to school. She even cops to having spanked her children. Not as a habit, but it’s there, in print. It doesn’t make her a bad mom and it certainly isn’t what makes her a good mom, but she’s a mom who is willing to admit that she doesn’t always have the answer. Like every one of us. It’s like a breath of fresh air hearing or reading that I am not alone. My kids drive me crazy. They’re messy and hate cleaning up after themselves. They fight all the time (ALL. THE. TIME. I am not joking) and the vocal volume in my house at any given moment is incredible. We really did have pizza four nights in a row last week. But is mine the only one like this? No. There’s at least two of us in this club.
This past week has been especially hard. I say that a lot. A lot of weeks are especially hard, so maybe I’m just not equipped for this level of stress. I know I’m not equipped to parent in the way my children require. If I knew what they need from me in order for us all to be happy all the time, I would do it. No matter what. If the reason why they are how they are is because I have two arms, I’d gladly cut the left one off right here and now. It’s pretty much just for balance anyway. I don’t know how to discipline them, I don’t know how to mediate, I don’t know what will consistently make them happy. I’m failing and it’s just that simple.
I have felt this way for a long time, but the difference now is I’m realizing, slowly, that it’s ok. It’s not storybook ideal, but what is? Nobody is perfect, and that includes parents. We can never know the exact right answer to every problem we come across while raising people who have been granted the privilege of free will and independent thought and that can be incredibly frustrating. Sometimes we let it roll off our backs, remember to pick our battles, and our blood pressure remains healthy. Other times we loose our shit, yell and send a kid to their room for wanting a particular book mark that is on another floor of the house that looks exactly the same as this other perfectly good book mark that is right here in front of us, and we plough through years of our life expectancy in a matter of minutes. But this is normal, I guess. Or at least I hope it is, as it happens to me at least once a day, in some way or another.
I’m still sad an awful lot, thinking about how poorly I react to situations and how I’m certain my children don’t respect me nearly as much as they should and how I’m probably the single worst mother ever to walk the face of the planet. I’m sad and I’m scared that this will be my life forever and I get depressed, however mildly, and overwhelmed by the whole parenting business.
And now I hope I’ve done for you what Amy did for me. Brutal, unapologetic honesty. You don’t have to follow suit if you don’t feel like it, but don’t feel like you have to hide anything from me. No one is going to think less of you or your skills as a parent. We’re all struggling, seriously. They don’t call this the most difficult business without a reason. And that reason? The kids. It’s always the kids’ fault. Until it’s not, and that’s why Jesus invented booze*.
* Or a nice cup of black tea, a warm comfy couch, and a book. Whatever calms your nerves.
This post is not sponsored. I read the book because it was on my shelf and I had just finished A Clash Of Kings and I needed something less…bulky.