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Posts Tagged ‘discipline’

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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Today I was banned from Facebook. Don’t panic! My Facebook rights should be reinstated tomorrow. As this was my first offense, I only got a 24 hour ban. I guess that repeat offenders get banned for good.

So, what did I do that was so wrong? I posted this photo:

Clearly scandalous, no?

My reprimand and subsequent time-out from Facebook has put me through a range of emotions today not dissimilar to the 5 Stages of Grief:

  1. Denial: What? I’m banned? Can’t be. Let me update my status about that. WTF? I can’t update my status?? Can’t be. Let me try again.
  2. AngerWTF? I didn’t do anything wrong! Who is the idiot in charge of this ridiculous process? Did someone actually report this picture as inappropriate? What kind of sick person would think that way? This is not fair! I have something to say about it! But I’ve been muted! ARRRGGGH!
  3. BargainingMaybe I can send an email to someone explaining the misunderstanding. Obviously the carefully crafted rules and regulations regarding offensive or nude photos did not have this photo in mind. There’s been a mistake. We can work this out, surely!
  4. DepressionThere is no way to contact an actual person at Facebook. Figures. What about all the funny stuff that keeps popping in my head? These are gems that are just going to be lost to my own poor memory. What should I do now? Hmmm. I have nothing to do. My life is empty. Wow. I spend a lot of time on Facebook. I’m pathetic.
  5. AcceptanceOK, deep breaths. The rules are there to protect my very own naked children against pervs. Yes, I think banning me for this is an overreaction, but it is what it is. It’s just a day. Do I have a Facebook habit? Sure. But it could be worse. I could be doing meth.
What did I learn about myself today? That I actually grieved the loss of my ability to post on Facebook as ‘Motherhood, WTF?’ for 24 hours. I’m going to go ahead and call this a First-World Problem. My takeaway is that I’m fortunate enough for this to be my biggest problem today.

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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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Baby Haters?

Actual Facebook status of a college (clearly childless) friend:

Note to all you parents out there: if you can’t get your baby to stop crying for more than 30 seconds at a time throughout a 2 1/2 hour flight, maybe you should hold off on flying because people like me hate people like you. On an unrelated note, I think it’s about time for a vasectomy.

After a mix of comments, none of which were a hand reaching out of his screen and smacking him, he followed up with:

Listen, I’m not anti child, I am anti shitty parent. If you can’t shut your kid up for more than 30 seconds on a 3 hour flight, I guarantee you that all 20 people sitting within earshot from you think you aren’t trying hard enough.

Am I naive to be shocked by this? Am I so far gone into parenthood that I’ve forgotten how people without kids think and feel? Did I feel this way? Is it normal?

My question to him was, “How exactly should these shitty parents make their baby shut up?” I haven’t gotten an answer yet.

Do childless people really think parents can make our kids and babies do anything? Or is it just a matter of not thinking it through? Obviously we can’t make them do anything. If we could, parenting would be easy. We could make them eat what they’re served, make them go on the potty, make them behave in public places, make them go to sleep and make them stop crying. If only!

Then again, that would mean that our children had no wills of their own, that they were not their own people, that they were not capable of exerting themselves or having independent thought. I’m the first to raise my hand to tell you that my kids’ will and independent thought are often entirely frustrating to me, but I’m still happy that they have them!

As for the crying baby on the plane, I hope that before I had kids I was smart enough to know that despite how entirely annoying to me a crying baby might be, there’s nothing that the parents could do about it. Those poor parents were surely trying all they could think of, and certainly felt the judgement of all the people around them. I’m positive that the parents were more stressed and unhappy about the whole ordeal than anyone else, baby included.

As for my college friend, not sure if I want him to get that vasectomy immediately, or to have a baby of his own!

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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 had a long conversation this morning with the director of L’s daycare that should have made me feel better, but just made me feel worse. He’s been going there part-time since just before S was born – so just over 2 years. They know him well and know that I struggle with him. They see him at drop off and pick up and how he acts (out of control and obnoxious) and have always told me that he’s completely different the second I leave.

I told her that I’m getting him evaluated and asked if in her opinion L might have ADHD or some similar problem. She said no, absolutely not. She has seen kids with ADHD over the years and L totally does not fit the bill. He listens to the teachers without defiance. He is excitable, but is quickly and easily settled down. She said that he is 100% within the normal range of behavior for a 4-year-old boy, that he is not one of the kids that needs to be spoken to more than once.

However, she sees how he is with me. She said she’d like to see my drop offs be much quicker so that L and the other kids don’t think that sort of behavior is at all acceptable there. I try to get out the door as fast as possible but L hangs on me, hits me, insists he’s going with me, opens the door and runs outside…

So, I should be happy that L is so well behaved in school. That he is able to hold it together, to listen, to engage and interact well with the kids and teachers. I should be happy. But I’m miserable. What am I doing so wrong to make him so so so bad with me?

This morning, he did not come into my room as he normally does around 7. Was he sleeping in? Nope. He had opened the baby gate at the top of the stairs (which most adults can’t manage) and came downstairs and helped himself to cookies, chocolate chips, shredded coconut and 2 popsicles!. He made a massive mess – coconut and melted popsicle all over the place – and he ate almost a whole package of cookies. This is blatantly against any and all rules and he knows that. He seemed proud of himself when I discovered it all. I’m so shocked at this level of badness that I still can’t wrap my head around it.

I don’t know what to do. He is so out of control.

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This is not working. My home life feels like a war zone. Everything is a battle. I have tried so many ways to get through to L, and he just seems hell-bent on choosing the fight every time.

Lately I’ve tried explaining that he has a choice. When he raises his hand to hit me I calmly say, “Think about what you’re about to do. Think about what you want. Think about how you can get what you want. Think about what will happen if you hit me.” This sometimes does the trick. On a dime he will switch from a hateful, spitting-mad psychopath to a sweet, affectionate boy. (Does this mean he’s a crazy person? Who can turn such big emotions on and off like that?)

Sometimes reminding him to think about it doesn’t work. When he’s just geared up for a fight, there is nothing anyone can do but live through what comes next.

I’m sick of it.

My two children are not getting the same kind of attention, love, and affection from me. I try. I really, really, really try to give L all the positive reinforcement, all the encouragement, all the praise, love, affection that I can. But it’s impossible to do sometimes.

At least 2/3 of my interactions with him are battles.

And those that aren’t battles are just battles that haven’t started yet. I can’t play with him because when the play time ends it’s a melt down. I can’t tickle, wrestle with, act silly with, chase…. I don’t get to enjoy him the way I want. The way he would love. With him I have to restrain myself. The more playful I am, the more crazy he gets, the bigger the fallout in the end.

It seems so unfair. All day long I could play with S. I get to chase her to put on her PJs. I’ve never been able to do this with L. Even when he was her age, he took the games too far. He’d run away, but not in a playful way. In a serious, I’m-running-away-from-you-and-when-you-catch-me-I-will-hit-and-kick-and-forever-try-to-escape-and-if-I-can’t-I-will-completely-fall-apart kind of way. It sucks.

And every time I play with S I think of all the good times L and I have missed out on. All the good times we’ll forever miss out on because he makes everything so hard.

I have tried lavishing him with attention and play, but he’s insatiable. It doesn’t matter if it’s one minute, thirty minutes, or three days. When it ends he goes nuts. Often he goes nuts in the middle just by taking things too far. Tickling turns into aggression. Chase turns into wrecking the house.

This isn’t fair and I find myself constantly thinking the terrible thought “Why can’t I just have two like S?” I think L has so much awesomeness going for him, but for some reason it’s like he’s choosing to just act terribly. I’m tired of it. I feel like it’s not fair to the rest of us.

Clearly I’m not handling him right. But every different thing I’ve tried has failed in a different way.

……………………………………………………………………………………………………………….

I started writing this while T wrangled with L in his worst form. I felt beat up, defeated. I felt sorry for myself. Then I had to step away from the computer because after T came downstairs L begged, through hysterical tears from the top of the stairs, “Mommy, please come help me calm down. Please come up and calm me down.” He needed to sit on my lap and rock like a baby. He needed me to help him take some deep breaths, whisper nice things, sing him a song. And then that’s that. He’s calm, he’s happy. Obviously his emotions are just too big for him to deal with. He’s feeling out of control.

And now I feel like a shitty mom for wishing he wasn’t him but some S-like child instead. He’s just a little person trying to deal, and not figuring out how everyone else is doing it. And I’m right there beside him on his roller coaster. Going from hopeful to angry to defeated to self-pitying to sad to guilty and back to hopeful again. It’s an exhausting cycle.

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If you’re looking for a post about mouthwash, move on. This is about the fresh mouth and attitude that L has developed. He thinks nothing of talking back and saying things like “Stupid Mommy” and “I hate you!” This drives me nuts! I realize how little control I actually have. I can’t make him stop saying this stuff. All I can do is give him consequences, talk to him about how it’s not OK to say such things, and hope he makes better choices in the future. Which, so far, he has not chosen to do.

All you pro-spankers out there are getting excited to tell me to spank him, right? I honestly don’t think that would be an effective punishment for him. He’s the first one to point out if I chastise him for something I do myself. You know how I pinched him the other day? Well, he’s reminded me of it several times with comments like, “Since Mommy pinched me, it’s OK to pinch people.”  When I explain the difference between me and him, that my pinch was meant to teach him something etc, I get “Well, I can only pinch someone if they do something bad first.” I just don’t need to go there with hitting.

So, what to do? Just wait it out and hope that he one day develops the desire to respect me? Yell and scream at him like a maniac when he talks back? Ignore it?

His first reaction lately when things don’ t go his way is to call someone stupid and tell them that he hates them. So this comes up a lot.

I can feel the people out there who are thinking ‘this behavior just wouldn’t fly in my house!’ Well, why not? Because your children never tried it? Or if they did, what kind of response did they get from you to let them know they’d better not do it again?

L is not deterred by time outs, not deterred by privileges or beloved objects taken away. He’s smart enough to know that there is no real consequence – that we’ll always love him, feed him and let him live in the house. In fact, he often will infuriatingly say “But you still love me!” right in the middle of a battle.

Nothing makes me feel like a shittier mom that having my obnoxious 4-year-old show complete disrespect and disregard for me. Please tell me your kids are jerks sometimes too?

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Another special day with L ruined by none other than L. I dropped S off at daycare, took L back home and we went on a long bike ride. Back home for an early lunch and then I took him to the movies. We even had popcorn and candy – a real treat around here. He’s been to the movies 3 or maybe 4 times, but has never had anything from the concession stand. So far, the day is a resounding success. But wait…

Upon exiting the theater, I turn on my phone to find 3 voicemails. S has a fever and needs to be picked up.

This is where L turns from lucky kid out for a great day with his mom to horrible, ungrateful, evil, selfish little bugger who’s about to get what’s coming to him. He doesn’t want to leave because he wants to sit on the arcade motorcycle game, with no quarters put into it, and pretend to ride. “I’m sorry, your sister is sick and I need to pick her up. They’ve been trying to reach me for a long time. We have to go.”

He leaves with me, but pouts about it. “I never get to do anything special.” (Yes, he says this as we leave the movie theater, while we are still in the middle of a special outing. WTF?)

On the ride home from picking up S:

“Can I ride my bike when we get home?”

“No, it will be rest time.”

“Yes I can. I can do whatever I want. You can’t stop me, Stupid.”

This is when I see some movement in the rear view mirror. For no reason, after no provocation whatsoever, L’s arm reaches across and does something to S which makes her scream and cry.

“What did you do?”

“Nothing, I swear, she’s just crying.”

S holds her arm, crying and crying. Obviously L is lying. I pull the car over.

“Tell me what you did.”

“I didn’t do anything. I promise.”

“You’re lying to me. I saw you.”

“You did? Uh, I did this.” (demonstrates pinching.)

What kind of little shit of a person just reaches out and pinches someone for no reason? A sick toddler no less? So, I did the only reasonable thing that came to mind: I pinched his arm.

OK, OK, so it was not reasonable, nor well thought out, nor done with more pain to me than him but for his benefit as a lesson. I did it because I was pissed off and wanted to hurt him. Just a little.

Well, he cried the whole way home telling me that I’m stupid and mean and that I’m not supposed to pinch back no matter how bad he is or what he does to S. And honestly, I’m not sure if he’s right or wrong about all of that.

He’s now upstairs throwing things down and I’m trying my best to ignore him.

So, will our great morning leave a lasting impression on him? Will he remember his mom as the person who goes on bike rides, goes to the movies and indulges in popcorn? Or the mean lady who pinched him when she should have known better?

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The time: yesterday at 4PM.

The place: our swimming pool/back yard.

The offense: epic tantrum while friends were here.

The players: L vs the rest of the world.

The truth is that he was set up. Well, only in retrospect and with the help of my maternal neuroses. The real truth is that he acted like a huge jerk. (Yes, it’s totally OK to refer to your 4-year-old as a jerk.) But he was tired for legitimate reasons which were all really my fault. He was hungry, again my fault. He had been overstimulated, me again. And no one else wanted to pretend the kick boards were really secret treasure maps; I don’t take blame for that one.

“I HATE YOU! YOU BIG-BUTT! NEVER COME PLAY IN MY POOL AGAIN! GET AWAY FROM ME! STOP LOOKING AT ME!”

This went on for some time. My friend L took it as a cue to leave (who wouldn’t?) and in record time she managed to get her two kids out of the pool, into the van and speeding from the scene. But our entertaining agenda wasn’t over yet. I expected our neighbors with their 3 kids any minute for more pool time and dinner. Normally the thought of people around while L acted like a world-class brat would stress me out. But I’ve come to a realization: parents everywhere are suffering the hours of 4PM until bedtime. We might as well suffer them together! I was stuck with miserable L either way, why not have some other people around who might at least distract me for a while?

For various reasons including, but not limited to, overnight guests the previous night, several cocktails and a surprising number of empty wine bottles, and a big elaborate grown-up brunch, I sort of forgot all about feeding my kids lunch. (What, did you say Mom of the Year?) This was simply a case of a food emergency.

I cooked dinner. Fast.

“I WON’T EAT! YOU CAN’T MAKE ME! STOP TALKING TO ME! YOU ARE NOT MY FRIEND ANYMORE!”

This is where dealing with this child day in and day out finally gave me an advantage. “L, I bet you that if you eat you will feel better.”

“I WON’T FEEL BETTER! I WILL NEVER FEEL BETTER! I DON’T LIKE YOU! STOP TALKING TO ME!”

“If you feel better, I win. If you don’t, you win. It’s a contest.”

A competition of any sort? He was in. After two bites he is a changed person. After much more happy pool play, seconds of dinner and ice-cream, he said to me, “Mommy, I guess you won that one.”

If winning is defined as surviving my 4-year-old’s screaming fit in front of two separate sets of friends, I certainly don’t want to find out what losing looks like.

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You know what is absolutely not necessary in the world? Moms who tell you that their children never have had a tantrum. Especially when this comment comes as part of a conversation with another mom about how our almost 2-year-olds are suddenly willful, crying lunatics. Kids who have never thrown a fit? Puh-leeze! What utter bullshit!

This scenario happened to me at a party recently. The other mom has one child, almost 2 years old. She just experienced a mortifying public tantrum and we were discussing disciplining and consequences in public. A tricky topic for any mom, right? Something we can all empathize with and understand, right? Who hasn’t been totally mortified in the supermarket? I’ll tell you who. The little-miss-perfect mom standing to my left. Allegedly.

This mom, and other sancti-mommies like her, claims that none of her three children, ranging in age from 8-14, has ever had a tantrum or embarrassing public episode. Trying hard not to kick her in the knees or say something really, really snarky, I told her that she has some “special kids.”

Special, as in we should all be concerned for these poor catatonic children. Are they malnourished or in need of medical intervention? Is that the explanation for their apparent lack of a will? Or should I be concerned because they are being raised by a mother who is so desperate to appear “perfect” that she needs to tell strangers (who are openly admitting to their own kids’ horribleness) that her kids are beyond reproach to the point of being scarcely human?

Meanwhile, the other mom’s face held a crestfallen expression of parental failure. Why isn’t her kid behaving as well as this other person’s? Incredibly, she actually asked this crazy bitch for tricks and advice. The only thing more obnoxious than saying that your three kids have never thrown a fit, is taking credit for that nonsense. This mom was only too happy to share her perfect parenting secrets.

I then completely scandalized her by telling a fairly benign story of how I was once so mad at L while we were driving that I not only pulled the car over and stopped, but got out and walked far away. You should have seen the look on perfect-mom’s face at that one. You’d think by her reaction that I told her I had filled a sack with babies and kittens, tied some bricks to it and threw it into the river.

Can’t we all admit to our own struggles already? Why is it a secret that kids (and all people, really) can suck sometimes? And it’s not just parenting. Have you ever told someone something you’re struggling with only to be met with total righteousness?

“I’m really having a hard time watching what I eat and getting to the gym.”

“Oh really? My body is a temple and I couldn’t possibly eat one (organic, vegan, and sprouted) bite more than what I need to keep it working perfectly. And I’m just naturally energetic and disciplined. I’m up at 4AM for my daily 7 mile jog. I also do yoga 5 times per week, spin class twice and swim 8 miles on Sundays. Why don’t you just do that?”

“Fuck you.”

Can we have a national coming out day for average people? We can all proudly announce that we are good at some things sometimes. People could hold up signs that say “My kids watch TV!” and “I ate a pint of ice cream yesterday!” and “My kids are not gifted but I like them most of the time anyway!” I might need to pioneer a movement.
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I’ve said it before, and I’ll probably say it again: the best and most surprising part of blogging has been the support, stories and commiseration I get from my readers. Not only am I lucky to have such great commenters, but people also send me emails. Mostly these are people who have longer stories to share or who can particularly relate to a post and want to reach out and let me know. These are (mostly) complete strangers to me and I love that they take the time to send me a line.

I think people who have a challenging L-like kid like to know they’re not alone. It’s nice to know that while I may have screamed at my kid and told him that his favorite superhero doesn’t want to be his friend, other people have done similarly crazy mean slightly less than perfect things. It’s also nice to know that while my kid has locked me out of the house in my underwear, other people’s kids have done worse.

I recently got a long email from a reader I’ll call K. She wanted to let me know that she can relate. Her son, M, is similar to L but a bit older. She also wanted to assure me that it gets better. (Yay!) She told me a story to demonstrate how M had a remarkable gift for pushing limits and driving her crazy.

K was very pregnant with her second child when M began artistically expressing himself with his own poop every morning. K tried every trick in the book (and wrote a few of her own involving tape) to keep M out of his own diaper. But he was determined. (Once again, good traits like determination and perseverance and even creativity suck on a toddler.) Finally she converted his crib into a bed in hopes that he’d just get out of bed in the morning instead of becoming a poop Picasso. It worked. Until one morning, when K was 42 weeks pregnant, (yes, 42!!) and she woke up to the sound of her friend in her house calling her name.

This must be disorienting. Imagine being 42 weeks pregnant first of all. Then you wake up to someone coming up your stairs calling your name. You roll yourself out of bed to find your friend holding your son followed by (can you guess?) a policeman! Apparently M decided not to bother his mom on this particular morning so he just went out for a walk. Poor very-pregnant-K was given a citation and investigated for child neglect, endangerment and abuse. Her house was searched and she had to undergo psychological interviews before she was cleared of any suspicion.

While I wouldn’t want to have gone through that myself, I’m a little jealous that she has such an awesome story. Do you have a crazy story?

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We did it! I took L to another marionette show and we lived to tell the tale. Did he at one point lay down in the middle of a street, stopping traffic and alarming innocent bystanders? Yes. Yes, he did. But did he behave in the theater? Yup. So, it was more successful than last time.

It all began in the 6:00 hour when L came into my room and woke me by physically lifting the eyelid of my blissfully sleeping right eye. Into my eye, as if it’s a microphone, he not-quietly says, “I’m so becited, Mommy! Today we’re going to the movie theater. I got dressed all by myself!” He was dressed. “OK, Honey. Can you go back to your room for few minutes and let Mommy wake up on her own?” And can you please release my eyelid? “No, I’ll just stay here with you because I’m so becited. Get up now. But don’t take a shower.” Good morning.

I explain that it’s not a movie but a puppet show. He jumps for joy. He whoops it up. Then he stops and asks earnestly, “Am I going to be a puppet?” On the drive to drop S off, and then on the drive to the town with the theater, L explains that he’s going to wish on a star to become a puppet. But not a puppet. A real boy puppet. My end of the conversation consists of unenthusiastic unh-huhs and mmmm-hmmms.

We arrive an hour before showtime. Perfect timing for breakfast at one of my favorite spots. L charms the wait staff, charms a few other diners, and charms me into feeling hopeful for our outing. I also had a few coffee refills, which helped charm me. We hit the bathrooms at the restaurant and walk across the street to the theater. We’re 15 minutes early, perfect time to get a good seat upfront. (The marionettes are small and hard to see from the back of the theater.) The 15 minute wait felt long enough for me to give in and get L popcorn, despite my morbid fear of it. I spent the rest of the show on alert and ready to call 911.

The show, Pinocchio, was weird and a little boring, but L enjoyed it well enough. He especially liked clapping, so he was in an exceptionally good mood at the end of the show after all that clapping. We stepped outside into a beautiful day, so I thought we could stroll through town a bit and window shop. Big Mistake.

Note to self: quit while you’re ahead.

I was ahead. Way ahead. We had a great morning that included breakfast out and a show. I should have put the kid in the car and headed home. Why oh why didn’t I do that?

Instead we ended up in a store where L wanted to buy a button that said “Bullshit” when you pressed it. He also wanted to buy a fart machine. And a set of rubber balls – as in testicle balls, not bouncy balls – although he did not know what they were supposed to be. Clearly, I had wandered into the wrong store. We were nearing a meltdown when I spotted a set of foam Yo Gabba Gabba bath toys on sale. I thought I had the solution. I could buy him something, and have that something not be rubber balls.

He didn’t want it. We left the store, some of us walking some of us being dragged. Once outside, we had a full atomic meltdown on our hands. I pulled, I pleaded, I finally said “OK, bye,” and walked away. This is where he walked 1/2 way across a side street and apparently decided to lay down. I didn’t see that part because I was the awesome mom walking away from my 4-year-old. I turned around at the sound of a gasp, a shriek, and a honking horn. A crowd of concerned citizens began to surround L, who appeared to be injured or having some kind of seizure if one didn’t know better. A car was waiting for the street to clear. I felt like a royal douchebag as I pushed my way through kind strangers to unceremoniously drag a now boneless L to his feet and off to our car.

So, the verdict is that the show was a success. And yet I still managed to achieve a parenting fail by not pulling the plug while things were going well.

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I think it’s hard to appreciate kids who are older than your oldest. Just like the mom who is expecting her first really has no idea what’s coming, I have no idea what comes after 4. When I see a group of 10-year-old boys running around on the playground I feel like I’m witnessing a gang of bad kids. Chances are these kids are anything but. I’m sure they’re well-loved, totally normal 10-year-olds and not a group of thugs at all. But they think it’s funny to get L to repeat things like “fart-butt” and therefore I see hardened criminal kids. I’m certain they have tattoos and carry weapons.

This under-appreciation starts well before having kids. It’s the same feeling that causes non-parents to think things like “my kids would never do that,” or “my car will never look like that,” or “those people are doing it all wrong and I will be a better mom than that, easily!” I thought I outgrew this ridiculous sentiment when I had a baby of my own and he did those things, my car looked like that, and I was clearly doing it all wrong. But I didn’t. My no-clue-ness just shifted, and continues to shift to children just slightly older than my own.

When L was born we lived downstairs from a family who had a 1.5-year-old boy. He was an adorable blur of a thing, always on the run, wearing mischievous dimples and leaving a wake of destruction behind him. He was the most wild thing I had ever known. His parents came down to meet our new baby, with him in tow. Did I mind if he came in? YES! I totally minded the germy wild thing in my house with my precious new baby, but I said no, of course not.

This was before our house was taken over and redecorated care of Playschool and Mattel. The bookcase in the living room still had our books on it, even on the bottom shelves. The coffee table was still a safe place to put a cup of coffee. We had no idea what a 1.5-year-old boy was capable of in such a setting. They were in the house for maybe 3 minutes. He ran past our legs at the door and Tasmanian-deviled the place.

This “terrible child” went straight into the nursery, still perfect and new, and ripped every brand new board book off the shelves, threw every brand new toy out of the toy box. His “negligent parents” didn’t even bat an eyelash. They didn’t apologize profusely and catch him and leave immediately. Of course they didn’t, I realize now. They were happy he was ripping apart playing with actual kid’s toys and not destroying our living room. Not yet anyway. When they left, I remember thinking how out of control he was. I seriously under-appreciated that toddler. 10 months later, when L started walking, running actually, I realized how wrong I was.

Now that I really understand this older-than-my-oldest under-appreciation phenomenon, I try to avoid putting L and myself into that situation. S doesn’t have any friends, unless she’s lucky enough that some other kid has a younger sibling. I can’t really bring L around moms who just have a toddler. I see their thoughts written all over their faces. They see L as wild, out of control, a little hoodlum. And even though I might think the same things sometimes, it’s not OK for other people to think it.

One day when L is 10 and he’s actually playing with a 4-year-old on the playground, I’m sure I’ll think that he’s being sweet and inclusive. I probably won’t notice that he’s laughing at this little kid repeating bad words. And I certainly won’t notice the dirty looks I’m getting from the young mom hovering nearby, thinking I’m negligent because I’m sitting and chatting to another grown-up rather than intervening and parenting my little thug. But for now, even though my car looks like that, I still foster the delusion that my sweet little L will never run with a gang like those boys.

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I once swore I’d never take L to another marionette show. (You should click over and read that post, it’s a good one, I’ll wait….) At the time it seemed like a plausible thing to do, even though I doubted that I’d do it. I knew even then that one day the memory would fade and my hope for a fun outing would eclipse the dusty memory of a disaster.

That time has arrived. Next week the very same theater is putting on a marionette version of Pinocchio. L loves Pinocchio. (Which, by the way, is full of kidnappings, smoking children and donkey morphing, all of which I didn’t really remember or notice until I watched it as a mother.) He is four now, is he big enough? Surely the m&m debacle won’t repeat itself. But could it be a good outing?

Any outing that involves something new and potentially exciting, something new and potentially boring, any waiting, any sitting still, and any expectation of quiet on L’s behalf is an outing full of potential pitfalls – an outing that gives me anxiety. But then I think of how fun it could be, how different and special it could be. And all of that hope outweighs my anxiety and my right mind and I go ahead and do it. And then I end up bitterly disappointed and swear off any such thing ever again, again.

So, what to do? Buy the tickets? Give it a shot? He is getting big and sometimes he’s actually, surprisingly, well-behaved.

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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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I think one of the worst things parents do to their children is reminding them of their manners. Wait, what? That’s right, reminding your child to say please or thank you is just awful! Think of the slight bad feeling you’d be causing Snowflake! How could you?

Obviously, I don’t really think that. Because thinking that is stupid.

L is a lot of things, but he is not a precious snowflake and he usually says please and thank you. He may be running wild and climbing your bookcase, but if you give him something he’s probably going to thank you for it. How does he know to do this? Because I say thank you, and I remind him to if he doesn’t. How do I know to say it? Because my parents reminded me. Sure, being reminded of my manners totally led me to be a cutter, but at least I’m polite.

Where is this absurd tirade coming from? It’s coming from an article that Blossom (Mayim Bialik, Ph.D.) wrote about her parenting. Before you click over there and read it, know one thing: Blossom is a better mom than you. She’s a better mom than EVERYBODY (except people who do things just as she does). But she’s not judging you. She’s too good for that.

Some of what she says bothers me too much to even put into words. This is because I have not “stepped up to the plate” as a mother. My children should probably be taken from me and given to Mayim. They both came into the world via c-section. They were nourished predominately by formula until they started solids at 6 months and switched to (gasp!) cow’s milk at a year. (This might be why L has 12 fingers and S has a cute little third arm protruding from her abdomen. But you can’t prove it.)

Both my kids will grow up to be afraid of everything and unable to make it in the world. This is because T and I share a bed, up off of the floor, and my children each sleep in their own rooms full of unsafe, unloving hazards like a crib and a bed.

Both my kids will have eating disorders because I expect them to say please and thank you, and I remind them if they forget. The phrase “say please” has escaped my lips and we are all worse off for it.

Mayim says “Wearing our children… encouraged the emotional and physiological comfort that being close encourages.” Dammit, I didn’t encourage that encouragement and now my kids will be failures. My kids slept in swings, bouncy seats, vibrating chairs, carseats, cribs, slings and whatever else worked at the time. I can’t even address the whole population of the world who needs to put their children into daycare so they can work to provide food and shelter for their families. Those poor, unloved children aren’t being worn all day? Those terrible working mothers aren’t nursing on demand all day? Why did they even have kids? Mayim thinks you’re bad.

Mayim’s last paragraph explaining that she isn’t judging others is so disingenuous after the rest of her nonsense. Thank you for not judging me, even though I’m not parenting “the way people have parented for hundreds of thousands of years.”

If you sleep in a bed with your kids, wear your baby 24/7 and nurse well into toddlerhood that’s fine by me. If it works for you, if you feel it’s best for you and your kids, and you’re all surviving day-to-day, that’s wonderful. But, if you imply (or outright say) that doing these things is simply better parenting and is what’s best for every baby, then fuck you. (Sorry about the language – it’s not my fault – I was formula-fed and lucky I’m not in prison.)

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