Wednesday, 26 March 2014

The Mother Load

Oh lord, I am weary.

I want to do my best in this post to articulate the struggles I am having with motherhood at the moment. Not with LB. Though LB has made me a mother, so obviously my in-the-moment overwhelmedness with motherhood is directly related to our relationship as it is becoming increasingly the norm that our mild-mannered daily tangos seem to be more often turning into tangles. She is getting older and is more and more determined to show me that she is her own person who knows best. Who knows what she wants to do. What she should do. And she doesn't want to be told what to do. Ever.

I have a friend here who has a theory that if you only have one child, you only have a yellow belt in parenting. The more kids you have, the more belt levels you move up because every child--with their own unique personalities--brings a new level of parenting experience you can add to your repertoire. I think she's very right about this.

I have a lot of friends here who only have one, and when I talk to them about what I'm going through with LB they can't seem to fathom that these issues are 'real' because they didn't experience them with their kids at her age.

"She's just little. She can't be that determined yet."

"Tantrums don't start that young."

"Little kids don't like exploring on their own. They like to be with their parents."

None of these are true of LB.

She is little. She is very determined. A friend was over on Sunday, and the only thing LB wanted to do was bang the keys on my computer. My computer was turned on for work, and it's a pain-in-the-ass to close all my programs, shut if off, turn it back on, reopen my programs, so I had it in sleep mode for the two hours I was off. Putting it away was not an option for me, and she had to respect that.

Tricks don't work on LB. She will not be distracted with another toy, she will not divert her attention to a book, or playing with you, or chasing you, or being chased, or anything.

She wants what she wants what she wants.

Period.

My friend, who has a little one who is very easy to distract, tried to see if she could flex her parenting muscle with her powers of distraction and was confident she'd succeeded. Great. I am open to learning. We all went down to LB's room to admire Dan's feat of Brio train track engineering, complete with block structures, and as we looked at it we didn't notice LB sneak out. At this point it had been 1.5 hours she'd been trying to bang on that computer. I noticed she wasn't there and told my friend, "I bet you a $100 I know where she is."

"Surely not. She wouldn't be on there. She can't be that determined."

Guess where she was?

Dogged persistence is going to be her greatest strength, I just need to teach her how to harness it, and I don't know how to do this. I am at a loss.

Yesterday was a truly awful day, complete with the most epic tantrum she's every thrown, and every single calming trick I know wouldn't work. I stepped out of her room to count to ten and collect myself, and she threw-up. To say I felt like the shittiest mom ever would be an understatement. If only I'd diffused the situation earlier. If only I'd noticed the signs. If only, if only, if only.

The blame game, it goes on and on and on.

I am going to be very, very clear here: LB is strong willed. She is not developmentally frustrated. She is not on any spectrum other than, "Parents, I will do what I want. Period." Our girl has an amazing strength of will that I don't know how to work through with her. She is not a hitter, she does not shove, she does not bite. She honestly gets along fairly well with most kids her age. When she doesn't want them near her, she will scream at them. Fair enough, it's the only way she knows how to communicate 'back-off', though we're working on 'nay' being used in those situations.

Her strength of will comes down to being absolutely against whatever instructions her dad or I give her. She wants to show us she can do it. I allow her to do this within the safe confines of certain situations. Others are non-negotiable and that's where we tangle. It's my job to give her the tools to work through her frustration, but I have no idea what tools to give her.

There were other situations that arose yesterday (all on less sleep than I've had since she was a week old) and I found myself getting short-tempered. Yelling. Mirroring her frustration.

It's very rarely I read any form of parenting literature, and it's not because I think I know best. It's because I don't want my natural instincts for my child to be secondary to anything I read that might contradict what I know is best for my child. However, last night I logged onto a blog written by a child-psychologist, whose advice I respect within certain situations. But there wasn't any solace there, last night. She wrote that children who explore with disregard to their parents' location, who won't listen, or who are reluctant to follow their parents' instructions, are not emotionally attached to their parents.

Cue the crying.

I felt. like. shit.

LB doesn't feel attached to me, is what she was saying. So I found myself tossing and turning last night, feeling like I don't know what I'm doing and that I'm failing. I got up and wrote in my journal for her. Honest in the bad-day we'd had, and honest in writing out the verbal apology I'd given her earlier. "I'm sorry that I lost my temper with you today. We were both grumpy and we weren't our best selves. We will do better tomorrow. I love you so much, tiny Sparrow. You're my girl."

And as I wrote to her, I found clarity and belief in my own self. Of course she is attached to me. I am her mom. I am the one she runs to when she is hurt. She runs up to give me kisses, just because. She rests her head on my shoulder when we read stories. I have her heart, and she has mine. And we have bad days.

And she is her own person, and she wants us to respect that. And I do, but I am her mom and her safety and her growth are my job. We will tango again, but right now we are working through the tangle.

And that's okay.

That's life. That's parenthood.

But yes, it's hard.

5 comments:

T said...

Ugh. "Mom guilt" I'm beginning to learn that this is a real thing and that it never really goes away. Every time I catch myself feeling like I'm failing as a Mother, I do my best to remind myself of all the beautiful smiles Braden gives me or the times that he stops crying as soon as I take him from someone else. You are doing a great job Caitie, I can tell by the pictures you post of Lil, she is healthy and happy! I can imagine it is pretty rough when you have bad days, but I can only imagine that she is going to grown into a strong woman one day with the determination she is already showing! One thing I do know for sure, she will eventually learn that you guys mean business when you say no and that she needs to respect that...at least some of the time right?

I love that you don't let parenting literature guide you too much, this is something I am slowly relearning as I grow more comfortable being a parent. I started out trying to read everything I could get my hands on and then realized that all it did was stress me out and think that Braden was doomed to become an obese 2 year old who hasn't even learned how to crawl and prefers cuddles from the dog over me! While I hate that this "mom guilt" is a thing, it is comforting to know that it isn't just me - this also lets me know that we are all doing good!

Anonymous said...

Ahh Caitie, I love the honesty that you write with! And just when you think your kids do know better, they will definitely humble you in public somehow, someway! I look back on the days of new baby and no sleep and think "man, those were the easy days!"

Jana

Caitie said...

We are doing good, T. Great, even :) Did you see that HuffPost humor column I posted on FB? 'Become concerned the baby isn't clapping. Google. Decide maybe baby is just a late clapper.' Oh god, I laughed. Honestly, I think kids are like cars: a lot of different makes, no one instruction manual for all of them. We write our own for our own kid. Some nights just require a but more wine than others, though ;)

Caitie said...

Haha! Guru Jana! Black belt in parenting! You are my role model, as evidenced by all the 'WTF IS HAPPENING' emails I send you! xx

meg said...

Cait, you and Dan are rock stars. I love you guys so much. Nobody is more loved than LB, and she knows that. Wish I could be there to give you a big hug and tell you in person what a stand up mom you are.