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S has memorized the How To Be An Annoying Younger Sibling Handbook. Hell, she may have revised the thing, adding new chapters such as “Sitting on Big Brother’s Head – Appropriate Situations to Employ This Most Dangerous Tactic,” and “When Hurting Yourself is Worth it in the Spririt of Getting Big Brother in Trouble,” and “Let’s Make Sure Mom Drinks Tonight.” My sweet little girl pulls hair, claws eyeballs and puts her own fingers into L’s mouth for him to bite. In her defense, she only does this stuff when she’s bored. And she will handle a whole minute of boredom before resorting to these measures.

She’s most bored when L watches TV. This is problematic for me because I plug L into the TV when I have something to do. Like cook dinner, make a phone call, or not kill him. So while I’m super busy cooking, talking on the phone, or not killing, S is in the other room stirring things up. She’s instigating a monster, and she knows it. She will sit on his head, (keep in mind, she’s usually not wearing anything on her bottom half,) pull his hair and claw at his eyes until he retaliates. In his defense, he has a HUGE tolerance for this type of crap. I have seen him watch an entire Wild Kratts with his sister on his head. When he does retaliate though, he does so with gusto. A swift twist, push and throwing maneuver and S is thrown from the couch altogether. He may leave it at that, or he may leap down after her and then the two are a blur of legs and arms as they wrestle it out on the floor.

L weighs 45 lbs. S weighs 23. Fighting is in L’s DNA. S doesn’t stand a chance.

This morning, L is plugged into a movie while I try to pack up all of our stuff as we can finally head home after a week of living with my parents. We have our electricity back and I can’t wait to get back to our normal lives. S does not want to watch a movie. So, naturally, she grabs a handful of eyeball. Like a pitbull, once she’s latched on, nothing can get her off. L is screaming and I’m yanking on S but she’s glued onto that eyeball. I finally free L from her clutches and put S into a time out. She does not stay in time outs so I am re-putting her in the corner again and again and then something strange happened.

A man came in and scooped her up. He gave her a hug and asked her if she will promise to be good. Through pathetic fake tears, she promises. He then releases her back into her freedom. WTF? Who is this man? He looks like my dad, but can’t be.

When I was growing up, my dad was the scary one. When we were naughty we quickly asked our mother, “Please don’t tell dad??” I think he still doesn’t know about the brand new ski jacket I lost in the 5th grade. (Sorry, Dad.) So who’s this softy letting my daughter out of her time out? I could have used this guy 30 years ago.

I guess the moral here is that we all have to wait about 30 years. Then when our terrible children have terrible children of their own, we can do whatever the eff we want. We can be the nice guy if we used to be the mean guy. We can give them Sugar Puff Honey Crack O’s for breakfast and then give them back to their parents. We can babysit and keep them up way past bedtime. All this is to say, that one day, we will have our revenge. Good things come to those who wait.

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L comes up with new, crazy-ass ways to be bad on a daily basis. It’s 9:45 PM and we hear him walking around after he had been sleeping. I go upstairs to check on him. He’s happy, gives me a big hug. His hair is wet. Really wet.

“Why is your hair wet?”

“Because I’m so cold.”

Hmmm. Not a good answer. I go into his room to tuck him back into his bed. His bed is soaked. The whole bed. From pillow right on down.

“Why is your bed wet?” No answer. “Did you pee?” (All over it?) No answer. I need to investigate further. I go into the bathroom where I find a soaking wet towel in the sink. Shit. What did he do??

Back in his room I begin to strip the bed. As I do I feel my blood pressure increase. My temper rises. Suddenly I’m seeing red. Here I go. I’m about to lose it…

“WHAT IS THE MATTER WITH YOU? YOU CAN’T BE TRUSTED TO LIVE IN A HOUSE WHERE YOU HAVE ACCESS TO A BATHROOM??? ARE WE GOING TO HAVE TO START LOCKING THE BATHROOM DOORS? WE’VE ALREADY LOCKED AWAY YOUR SOAP AND YOUR TOOTHPASTE BECAUSE YOU CAN’T BE TRUSTED WITH THOSE, BUT NOW YOU CAN’T EVEN BE TRUSTED WITH PLUMBING??!!”

I can tell I’ve lost it completely. I am now officially crazed. I can’t stop. My anger is overwhelming. I keep screaming. It’s like a freight train. Unstoppable. L is crying. As I move around his bed, remaking it, I step on something wet. Underpants, lying next to a wet pair of shorts.

“What’s this?” No answer. “WHAT IS THIS?”

“I peed.”

“How did you manage to pee in underpants and shorts when you’re wearing a pull-up?” No answer. Uh-oh. Here comes the red again. I can feel the surge, my heart pounding. Suddenly I’m screaming again…

“WHAT IS THE MATTER WITH YOU?? WHY DO YOU DO THE THINGS YOU DO?? WHY DON’T YOU THINK? DO YOU THINK I WANT TO BE HERE SCREAMING AT YOU IN THE MIDDLE OF THE NIGHT? DO YOU THINK THIS IS WHAT I WANT? WHY CAN’T YOU JUST BEHAVE?”

I went on and on with no sign that this tirade was ever going to end. T finally came in and ushered me out of L’s room. And now I’m here writing this while T finishes with L upstairs and puts him back to bed. Adrenaline flows through me. My hands shake as I type. I still don’t know the full story of what happened: what was water, what was pee or why. All I know is that I seem to be hanging on to the very last shred of the last tiny millimeter of the end of my rope.  I no longer have a cushion of patience, understanding or perspective.

I am well aware that I overreacted tonight in a big way. I screamed like a crazy person. Like a very bad mother. My throat hurts. I’m sure my neighbors heard through the open windows, even though their houses are far from mine. L is now back in bed sleeping, not 15 minutes after this whole episode. Clearly he was not terribly distressed by my tantrum, which only means that he’s seen it before. That he’s not shocked like he really ought to be.

This is The Ugly. This is what happens here that I’m sure doesn’t happen in your houses.

I’m so sick and tired of fighting all the time, of the constant vigilance I have to keep with L, the nonstop battles over every little thing all day long every single day. It’s just too hard. It feels so unfair sometimes. Like I was given the wrong child. This kid needs a better mother – someone with more patience and kindness. I give up.

Hello, Universe? You made a mistake. You didn’t give me a challenge I could rise to, but one that has totally destroyed me. Please check your records and make the appropriate adjustments. 

OK, the adrenaline has subsided. My tantrum is over. Now I’m just stuck with the shitty emotional cocktail of failure, weakness, guilt and sadness. Really, what was the big deal all about? He played with water? What the fuck is the matter with me anyway?

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I want you all to know that I read every comment I get here and on my FB page and every single email. I can’t tell you how much I appreciate all the feedback, support, advice and points of view. There are too many awesome points for me to respond to each one, so I’m writing this as a general response:

  • Yes, I am still going to go forward with having L evaluated by someone who is not that douche-bag doctor we saw the other day. My objective is to find out what makes L tick, so I can help him tick in a way that will not piss me off is more socially acceptable.
  • You’re right, all kids behave worse at home. I should be happy and proud that L can behave so well at school. It does mean, at the very least, that he’s not a psychopath, sociopath, or any other kind of terrible-path. And it also shows that he trusts me enough to never really sell him on eBay.
  • I will try to look at L’s ransacking the baking/junkfood cabinet and the freezer at dawn today as a step towards his becoming an independent, self-reliant man. (Damn, some of you are very glass-half-full people!)
  • I had an aha moment today when I read this comment:

….I’ve found my kids doing the exact same things. They ignore rules they’ve known for years, make messes just for the sake of being messy, and misbehave for me while acting the angel for everyone else. I’ve also come to realize that every time they act this way, it’s because they know they can get away with it. I realize I’ve fallen into the parent trap of frustrated speech, not following through, and trying to plead with them to do what I told them. When I follow through with discipline and kind words, all goes back to normal…

Dean is totally right on. Things were bad with L a year ago, I got really strict and mean, things got better. Things were so good that I thought I was out of the woods. I let my guard down. I let small things slide. Small things snowballed into an avalanche of bad, and now I’m here. Time to bring back mean mommy. This will not be fun, but will probably provide blog-fodder.

So, watch out, L! Mean-Mommy is back. And Daddy’s going to bring back Hammer-T. I will try very, very, very hard not to react emotionally. I will suppress my inner combustible self. I will be nonplussed, calm, and mean.

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I don’t really think I suck, and I don’t really think that I’m fucking up my kids (any more than every parent fucks up her kids, anyway). I wrote yesterday’s post immediately after blowing up at L so I was feeling maximally emotional about it. I pounded it out on the keyboard while L screamed for me upstairs and S screamed for me at my feet, while my throat still smarted from my own screaming. I’ve written a few posts in similar situations and they always seem to resonate with other parents.

The first post I wrote in the middle of a bad moment was scary, (read it here). I hit “publish” and then thought, “well, there goes my blog!” certain that revealing my real truth would repel any readers my fledgling blog had acquired. But the opposite thing happened, and it took my blog in a new direction.

I started blogging thinking I’d write wildly funny posts about parenting. It started out that way, but then I ran out of funny and was left with L shitting his pants (it took under a month). So I hit publish and I learned something: it’s one thing to read about a bad parenting moment after the fact, once the writer has regained a cool level head. It’s still nice to read about it, still relatable, but it doesn’t have the same oomph as something written mid-tantrum.

I love the responses I get to my angsty posts. I feel so low and angry and then out of thin cyber air comes tons of support, empathy and others willing to admit that they’ve been there, done that. For that I thank you. I can’t tell you how grateful I am, and how lucky I feel to have this platform and my readers.

So Motherhood, WTF? isn’t the uproariously funny, side-splitting blog I imagined I’d write. Instead it’s much more honest. I’m not always funny. Sometimes I’m pissy, or upset, or bitchy, or angry, or feeling out of control. Sometimes the responsibility of parenting weighs heavily on me, and other times I can see it all as a huge prank the universe plays on us and I’m just waiting for Ashton Kutcher to come out laughing “haha, you should have seen your face!” So, I’ll start another day stealing myself for the former, and hoping my hair looks nice enough for the latter.

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Dammit. Another parenting fail here. I just overreacted and I don’t know how to take it back. It’s 6PM and I just sent L up to his room for the rest of the night. He’s already eaten dinner, but the punishment is still overly harsh for the crime(s). I just lost it. Damn.

It was one of those afternoons of a million little things. I kept choosing not to choose each battle. A tongue stuck out went ignored. So did a fresh comment. I even only responded with a stern look when he (very lightly, but still obnoxiously) hit me for insisting he return to the bathroom to wash his hands again after a pathetic fake out attempt. I just was not in the mood to get into it with him. Seems like my choices are to either fight it out all day long, or let a ton of shit slide.

Then he hid his food on the floor under the table and told me he ate it all and asked for dessert. When I asked if he hid the food under the table he said no. When I asked him to pick up the food he said “I’ll only pick it up if you give me dessert.” WTF? That’s still not what did it.

What did it was a pom-pom. My ever-tidy S has a container full of little craft pom-poms to dump out and refill. I come into the living room to find them everywhere. Just everywhere. Strewn around in a very non-S fashion. I ask L to help pick them up. When he insists it was S to made the mess, I just said that we’ll all work together. Instead of collecting them, he grabs handfuls and chucks them around creating a bigger mess. I tell him to stop it and he sticks his tongue out at me.

That was it. The proverbial straw. I yelled that he has to go to his room for the rest of the night and that’s where he is now, sobbing.

So now what? Go back on my word because I think I overreacted? The truth is that I under-reacted to the rest of it, but it was still building up inside me. Then I blew at a relatively minor infraction.

Why doesn’t this job come with more training? Or kids come with instruction manuals? This sucks. I’m not able to just be good at this all the time, and the result of my being so bad at it is potentially fucking my kids up for life. That’s a pretty big consequence. Ugh.

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Another Thursday, another miserable day. Instead of having fun at the Children’s Museum, like we planned, we’re still home and L is in a time out. Why the F he has to F with me on Effing Thursdays, I have no idea. (I’m doing a good job curbing my swearing. I already emptied our checking account into my swear jar.)

Clearly something BIG and BAD happened to send L over the edge into obnoxious land costing him a trip to the museum. Right? Of course. The BIG BAD thing was that I asked him to wash his hands after peeing. That’s right. I’m such a bitch. Not only did I ask him to wash his hands, but then when he crumpled on the floor into a puddle of whining misery, I did not acquiesce and come help him wash his hands.

This is after a morning of walks and a bike ride, giving him his favorite lunch (a Nutella sandwich) and letting him watch a show while eating it, all with the promise that afterwards we’ll go to his favorite place ever. All he had to do was pee first.

Another special day, another huge disappointment for everyone. Maybe L and I just shouldn’t spend any time together. I’m so pissed off. I told him that if he made one more fresh face or comment that we wouldn’t go to the museum. He promptly stuck his tongue out at me and said “No, YOU won’t go to the museum.” So, up to his room he went. Apologizing, crying, wailing against the injustice.

And now I have to follow through. In order to be a good mom, I have to find something else to fill the next few hours with. Something certain to be harder for me and less fun for him than a trip to the museum. This sucks. And will he learn any lesson from this? Will he actually internalize anything about actions and consequences? About how mommy is serious when she threatens something and you’d better listen to her? Not likely. He’s missed out on so many things, been dragged out of so many fun places. I always follow through. And he’s still the worst behaved kid I know. (When he’s being bad. When he’s being good he’s a freaking angel.)

Thursdays always suck.

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Why should my kid know the alphabet? Because “the man” says so? Well, fuck the man. I don’t like the letters C, P or U so I’m not going to teach them to my kids. If they decide, at some later date, that they do like those letters, then they are free to add them into the alphabet, wherever they please. My children are special small people and I believe they know what’s best for themselves.

That’s right. My kids know what’s best. That’s why L has cookies for breakfast and is allowed to use the stove. If he burns himself, which I doubt he will, he will learn organically that placing his face on the element is a poor choice.

S does not like her carseat. She’s 1.5 now and old enough to know what’s best for her. I don’t give a shit that “the man” says it’s the law. Laws stifle my children’s freedom to develop at their own pace, into whomever they please. So I allow S to climb around the car freely as I drive. People are shocked by this and want to take my daughter from me. It’s not their fault that they feel this way. They harbor long-standing resentments towards everyone because they were made to share as children, and are still trying to seek retribution for having to give other kids a turn with the shovel in the sandbox.

I don’t stop my children from hitting your children. Confused? Don’t be. If my child wants to hit yours, yours probably deserves it. By not forcing my child to keep his hands to himself, my child will learn the natural way that hitting does not gain friends. Your child is free to walk away from my child. I am not willing to shove nonviolence propaganda down his throat just to please judgmental parents, society at large, and the children mine are beating on.

I don’t discourage my children from putting forks into outlets or drinking from the toilet, if they feel so inclined. Those might not be my choices, but they are not me. They are free to make their own choices, even if it means that I will suffer the heartache of mourning the loss of my electrocuted toddler. At least she had her freedom.

I don’t have to conform to your ways because I’m not going to send my children to school. They won’t be forced to confront society until they are adults, or whenever they decide they are ready to move out of my home. At that time, they will have the maturity to navigate the world on their own, because I’ve let them navigate the world on their own since the day they were born.

I’m not judging you for kowtowing to “the man” and sheepishly doing random things like teaching colors just because you’ve been told to. (If my kid wants to call blue red, then that’s his creative right.) I’m not better than you just because I’m not stunting my children’s individuality like you are.

I know I’m really cerebral about this stuff, but that’s just because I’m really freaking smart. Smarter than you are. But that’s OK.

Wondering what this is all about? Check out Blossom’s latest. I probably should have encouraged you to read that first, but I thought it would be funnier this way. I really don’t see my post as much more outrageous than hers.

Blossom says, “I have heard people say that those who force their kids to share, be polite, and excel on adult terms are really just creating children who are monkeys…” Really, Mayim? You’ve heard people say this? What people? Where? Well, I’ve heard people say that those who force their babies out of their vaginas are really just birthing children who are witless losers. I would never push my baby to come out if she didn’t want to. Just because by our “adult terms” we could both die if I don’t push. Why force your baby to enter the world that way? If my baby wants to be born, she’ll come out on her own. She knows what’s best for her.

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