Adventures in Parenting

So, you know when something is so ridiculous, it’s actually funny?  I feel like I have moments like that, oh, every day as a stay-at-home mom.  Take today, for example.

What, me?  Think I'm going to cause trouble?  Yes, yes I am.
What, me? Think I’m going to cause trouble? Yes, yes I am.

Although I no longer go into the office, I still manage to do a bit of work.  This afternoon, when the kids’ naps magically overlapped for about 45 minutes, I managed to leave messages with a few people. Then, feeling pretty productive, once naptime ended I stopped by the—ahem—ladies room, with both kids in tow.  (News flash:  when you have small children, you never, never get to use the bathroom alone).

Just at that moment, what do you know, one of the people I’d phone called me back.  This was a very important call, so even though I have a strict no-phone calls-in-the-bathroom policy, I thought, “Screw it. I’ll answer.”  I picked up and, quickly excused the background noise by telling the caller I was at home with small children.  I left out the part about being on the toilet.  B-a-a-a-d idea.

I tried to rush the call, but nothing is faster than an inquisitive toddler.  Within moments, Kisan accidentally pulled something into the sink and started hollering.  He wanted it back and he wanted it back now!  I frantically motioned to him to be quiet (it didn’t work).  Unable to get off the toilet or to quiet toddler-zilla, I looked around in desperation for something to snap Kisan out of tantrum mode.  I found a plush bumblebee sitting in the baby’s lap and, panicking, I did the first thing that came to mind—I chucked it at Kisan.  No, it wasn’t my finest mommy moment.  I think I was trying to snap him out of his agitated state, sort of like slapping a hysterical person across the face.

Well, no need to judge me, because I knew it was a bad idea as soon as it left my hand.  You know when something terrible is about to happen, everything seems to slow down? Well, time now took on a movie-like quality as the plush toy slowly arced up in the air and, yep, landed with a soft “thunk” on Kisan’s head.

It was like I’d prodded a rabid dog with a stick.  Kisan’s voice rose at least five octaves.   If he could’ve foamed at the mouth, I’m sure he would have. Instead of being merely frustrated, Kisan was now incensed because, well, I’d thrown something at him.  And really, it was a dumb move on my part.  Oh, and the man on the phone?  At this point, he’d stopped talking (probably shocked into silence). So, as the last resort of the desperate, I picked Kisan up and locked him outside the door.  As I quickly stammered out an apology to the man,  Kisan (now in full Hulk mode) started to use his tow truck as a battering ram.  At this point, I just told the man I would be sending him the paperwork in an e-mail, and hung up the phone.

Hulk
I’m no longer your son. Hulk SMASH!!

I probably stayed in behind the door for another minute or two, gathering the willpower to deal with the weeping and wailing small human that was now trying, heart-breakingly, to reach me from under the door, pressing his face and hands as far as they would go under the one-inch crack.  I eventually opened the door and calmed him down, and we went about our day.  I wish I could say this is a unique episode—but it isn’t.  Each day is broken up with moments like this, so many moments where I am dealing with a child who is, by turns, irritating, then amusing; angry, then gentle and kind. It’s a constant emotional rollercoaster, and at night I’m so drained I don’t even have the energy to watch a favorite show, or write a blog post, or do anything but stumble into bed.

But today was better than yesterday; and, reluctant optimist that I am, I know tomorrow will probably be a little better than today.  If I’m going to have these crazy moments, I’m glad I can at least laugh at them now—not five or ten or twenty years down the road, when I’ve forgotten how bad the bad can feel.  I want to enjoy these moments now, the moments that are so over-the-top chaotic and (quite frankly, ridiculous) that you can’t help but laugh, because, hey, they make life endurable.

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Mommy Time-Out

 

Capture

You’ve probably all seen the “Mom on Strike” video (click on the video to watch).  Listening to her, I can feel a little empathy; what mom hasn’t wanted to go on strike, at some point?  There are some days I’ve felt so fed up with my children, I’m counting the minutes till Jang gets home so I can hand at least one of them off to him.

Even right now, I’m writing this post while my son is in his room for a time out, watching a few minutes of Frozen.

“What?!” You might think,  “Letting your son watch videos in time out isn’t punishment!”  And you’re right.  He isn’t in time out; but I am.

Even as a young mom, I’ve already learned there are times when children just won’t cooperate; punish them, cajole them, bribe them, threaten them—they just won’t do what you want them to do.  If your kids are anything like my toddler, they have the will of a tyrant.  When he wants something, you have to be pretty creative to get his mind off of getting that thing.  To reach things we’ve taken away, he’s made step stools out of everything–from clothes to boxes to toilet paper.  (So-o much toilet paper).

Of course, I can always force him to do what I want.  But that gets tiring. Sometimes, after a day of pestering and high-spirited behavior, I get so fed up that the slightest thing could tip me over the edge.

So, even though I’m generally opposed to parking your kids in front of the T.V. or tablet, there are times I just need ten minutes (or twenty, or thirty) to just chill out.

I do something for myself—blog, listen to an audiobook, or watch Downton Abbey.  I don’t worry about television rotting his brain, or really anything at all.  I do exactly what I want to do, just for a few minutes.

Then, when I’ve calmed down and retrieved my toddler from his media haze, something magical has happened:  he’s better-behaved.  Sometimes the time out was just enough of an interruption to make him forget his mischief-making.  Other times, I just have a renewed patience and can channel his energy into more constructive activities.

My mommy time outs have already had a positive effect on our relationship. When I’m calmer, my discipline is more consistent and less reactionary.  This helps him learn more quickly which is appropriate behavior, and which behavior that will get him punished.  He’s learning to control himself.

Don’t get me wrong, he still has a will of steel.  But we’re working on this parenting thing together.  Hopefully, we’ll be able to figure it out in the next 16 years or so.

 

Be Cool

I did something I’m pretty ashamed of this weekend. I yelled at a kid.  I made him cry. I thought I was a better adult than this.

Let me backtrack; on Friday, Jang, Kisan and I went to the Museum of Natural Curiosity, at Thanksgiving Point. Now, while it is very cool and has a lot of interactive exhibits, it is also very busy; and there is no employee supervision or crowd control in the busy exhibits. But Jang and I would be watching Kisan carefully, so I thought he would be safe with us. Boy, was I wrong.

One of the first rooms we visited in the new Museum contained large piles of foam blocks. Older and younger kids played side-by-side, building houses, towers and walls.  Then, after a while, someone would usually come over and use their hands to knock the buildings down.  It was busy, but the kids around us generally seemed well behaved.  Kisan was happily playing beside me with foam blocks. Jang was standing a couple of feet away from me, talking with his friend.  Losing interest in the blocks he had been playing with, Kisan walked over to a large foam brick wall, and I followed behind to make sure it was okay for him to knock it down.

Then, without warning, this a large, lanky kid crashes through the wall, propelling my baby backwards in a shower of foam bricks. The room was so loud, I didn’t hear Kisan hit the cement floor, but I saw him land on his back—hard—and heard his scream.  If you’ve ever seen your baby get hurt, you’ll understand the feelings of panic I experienced. Jang and I rushed over right away (like I said, I was only a foot away!) and while I tried to pick him up my mind raced with worry for my little boy. Was he okay? Was he bleeding? Jang quickly scooped him up in his arms, leaving me standing there with my fear and growing anger.

Then I saw the boy standing there.  He was almost as tall as me (no large feat there) and must have been 10 or 11 years old.  Bottom line, he had no place running through a block wall in a room crowded with small children. I turned to him with all the fury of a mama bear whose cub has just been hurt.

“What the heck are you doing?! Watch where you’re going!” I yelled at him, then turned back to examine my baby again.  Jang was cradling Kisan to his chest, so I had a moment to look over again at the offending boy again. He was only few feet away, talking to his mom.  I saw her ask him what had happened, and I saw his jaw quiver when he answered. You could tell he was pretty upset.  As he was talking, he looked over at Kisan and me and quickly looked away, misery evident on his face.

And just like that, my heart broke. I couldn’t be angry with this boy anymore; and I probably shouldn’t have been angry with him in the first place. I walked over to him, with his mom standing by, and I said (looking directly into his face), “I’m sorry. He’s all right. I’m sorry.” And I gave him a hug. He nodded his head and tears welled up in his eyes. I saw tears in his mother’s eyes too.  I felt like the most rotten adult—ever.  I’d scared this child and made him cry. I’d made his mom cry. In short, I’d been a big bully.

My fear for my baby did not give me the right to terrorize others. With my shame burning a hole in my chest, I quickly took Kisan from Jang and carried him (still screaming) into the other room to comfort him—which is what I should have been doing all along. He ended up being fine, just like he’s been fine after other tumbles.

As I thought about what had happened that night in bed, I realized my behavior was totally unjustifiable.  Yes, that boy’s mother should have been watching him better. But just like I had tried my best to watch my little boy, hadn’t that mom probably tried her best as well?  Sometimes, accidents just happen when kids play together.

What’s worse, I never would have acted that way if one of my friend’s kids had run into Kisan. It just wouldn’t be appropriate to yell at a friend’s child. But why was it okay, in my mind, to yell at a complete stranger?  Oh, I’d sniped at strangers before—on the road; when someone took my parking spot; when a receptionist had mis-calendared my appointment.  There’d always been some excuse why it was their fault; and since they’d been adults, my behavior hadn’t seemed so bad at the time. But now I’d yelled at a kid—someone who, even though he was a stranger to me, deserved to be treated gently by the adults in his life, not to be belittled and frightened. The truth is, in that moment I yelled at him, he wasn’t a little boy to me; I wasn’t thinking about him as a person; I didn’t care about his feelings. He was someone who had hurt Kisan.  That was all that went through my mind.

Just in case you think I have rage issues, I did moderate my behavior at the time. Somehow, lacking the presence of mind to act my best, I didn’t act my worst. I hadn’t tried to terrify the boy—I’d yelled, but not roared. I hadn’t gotten in his face. And I’d never dream of trying to physically bully a child. But I hadn’t moderated my behavior enough.

The truth is, I should have been my best self. Kisan had gotten hurt while playing before and recovered. The logical part of my brain should have told me he’d be fine again this time. But it just didn’t, not in the moment.  Even with my emotions taking over, I should have had the presence of mind to calm myself. If logic had failed, my morality should have restrained me.  After all, am I not a Christian? An adult? A mother? How would I have felt if someone had yelled at Kisan the way I yelled at this little boy?

If nothing else, this experience has been a wake-up call for me. You see, none of the incidents I described earlier were okay behavior for me. I should never yell at other drivers, make snippy remarks to a receptionist, or speak so harshly to another child. It’s just not right to behave badly and privately repent later. When bad behavior becomes a habit, it becomes your character. And I just don’t want my character to be this way—angry, mean, or hurtful to others. So starting this week, I have a new goal: to keep my cool, at all costs. I hope I can follow through, because I want my character and behavior to reflect all the best parts of me, not the worst.

 

Mothers, Mothers

To be honest, Mother’s Day makes me feel kind of embarrassed. Living in Utah where having large families is common, I sometimes wonder if, with my one child, I have the street cred that the moms around me do.  Yes, we’ve had some unique challenges with Kisan, but overall he’s a well-mannered and affectionate baby. What about the moms I know who have three, four, five, even eight (yes, eight) children? How do my experiences compare with theirs, and how can I possibly merit the same recognition today that they do?

Sure, being a mom has been challenging.  There have been days I’ve been so glad to leave Kisan with the sitter, while I work for a few hours. Or I’ve counted the minutes till nap time.  But you know what?  I always love it when he can be with me again. Funny how even a few hours away from your baby can make you miss him so much. And he is always so, so happy to see me. That unconditional love is like a drug. You can’t help but want to be around your baby when he shows you that much affection and love.

But I get the feeling that, with more kids, your free time shrinks. You don’t get the chance to miss your kids, because they’re always around. As your kids get older, they don’t love you quite as unconditionally.  Sometimes they might think they hate you. If you’re a mom of multiples, there’s so many demands on your time, so many needs to meet, you don’t have any time for yourself. And yet, through it all, you keep giving of your time and  yourself—through sleepless nights, frustration, and sickness—because that’s what moms do.

See, I’m still at the early stages of parenting, when my husband can really help share the load.  If I’m tired or sick, I can take long naps on the weekends (and sometimes during the week).  If I ever get too frustrated, I can bundle my little guy into the car and take him somewhere, because you can do that with just one kid. And since Kisan still naps, I have up to two hours of free time during the day to work on projects, or to rest.  Life has gotten harder since becoming a mom, but it’s still pretty good. I admire you moms who have taken the plunge and had larger families. My friends all seem to do it so well.

My college friends and their adorable families.
My college friends and their adorable children.  We’ve since added more to the bunch!

Having a kid seems like a very irreversible step to me; and I’d hate to get to the point where I have four or five kids and realize, “Holy crap! I can’t handle this!” What if they don’t feel loved and don’t feel important? What if I can’t be a good mom to them, and my kids then hate me forever? (This is the scenario that plays out in my head. Just planning for all contingencies).

You moms—particularly stay-at-home moms—what an immense responsibility you have. You’re the first person who teaches your children to love. Who helps them feel a sense of self-worth. You’re the first line of defense against a sometimes all-too-cruel world, full of bullies and peer pressure and negative media. You make them feel special, simply because they’re your child. That is a huge role to fill, and one I’m only just learning about.

If you have a good partnership, your husband will also rear and influence your children. But since moms are often the full-time caretakers of your children, you’re the ones with the most influence. You’re the ones who internalize every disappointment or hurt your child experiences. Multiply that times however many children you have; it’s no wonder the world feels like they need to honor you, for a day at least.

So, to all my friends and family out there, Happy Mother’s Day.  I hope you’re managing motherhood as well as I think you are. Maybe in a few years I’ll have earned a place beside you.