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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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I’ve always thought the term “housewife” was a strange one. After all, I’m not married to my house. And it’s a good thing too because if I was then I’d be in a shitty marriage. Thankfully, T is laid back about these things and agrees that my main job is to keep the children alive on a daily basis.

After spending a good 20 minutes searching for, and failing to find, a common kitchen tool this evening, I realized that this was a sign that I’m a bad housewife. Naturally, I had to make a top 5 list. It was embarrassingly easy to come up with these.

Top 5 Signs That I’m a Bad Housewife

5. I am currently resting my arms on a pile of random papers and debris on my desk as I type this.

4. When I do clean my house, my 4-year-old not only notices, but goes on and on and on about how wonderful it looks and what a great job I did.

3. When I opened the hall storage closet while a friend was over, she said, “I feel like I’m seeing stuff that I’m not supposed to see.”

2. If you drop by unannounced, I will talk with you on the porch and not invite you in. Unless I just hide behind the sofa and pretend I’m not home.

1. I could not find the can opener this evening, making it impossible to make what I had planned for dinner. I will probably need to buy a new one before the old one ever shows up.

I could easily make this a top 10, 20, 50 list. I am living proof that a SAHM does not necessarily have to be an organized, neat, tidy person. When you come to my house and it’s clean, know that I’m pretending that I live that way.
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I will never be a high achieving stay at home mom. Part of me wants to be, but a bigger part of me is lazy. Once in awhile I do something that those cool moms do. My something from today was going for a jog on the local bike path with S in the stroller and L on his bike. I saw a bunch of other moms out there doing the same. The kind I (sort of) want to be like. They looked like they do this sort of thing all the time. I did not. I looked like someone you might want to administer first aid to.

Anyway, the reason I will never be like these other moms is that their jog with their 2 kids was one tiny piece in their successful day of action, while I feel like I’m done. I did something good for me, fun for the kids, healthy for everyone. I’m done. I win for the day, day over. But the day isn’t over. It’s not even 10:00. What now? What more do these small people expect from me? A lot.

L wanted to go straight to a playground. That was not an option because of the aforementioned looking like I needed first aid problem. So after sitting around for awhile near the parking lot and calling it a “snack picnic”, (so I could stop sweating,) we came home. I told the kids it was lunch time and they are obediently eating the lunch I put in front of them even though it is only 10:45. When they finish, I will lie again and tell them it’s nap time.

They’ll go into their respective rooms to sleep/bounce off the walls and I’ll be able to shower. My greedy right-now-self is psyched for the early nap. I am completely disregarding my poor 2-hours-from-now self who will have a longer than usual afternoon with 2 wakeful kids. Instead of being satiated by the morning’s family fun, they will be bottomless pits of craving for more of the good stuff.

So all of you moms who fill your days with family jogs, then family baking, then family puzzle making, family imaginative play, family chalk drawing, and other enriching activities, I envy you – but not quite enough to be you.

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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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Recently I was asked in a comment about how I made the decision to have a second baby. This is a seriously good question, especially considering the trouble I had with L over the last year. The simple answer is that having only one child was never really a consideration for me. So it wasn’t a question of if but a question of when.

Luckily we decided to try for #2 before L was 2 years old. Had I still not been pregnant by the time L morphed from sweet but challenging toddler to complete evil monster villain (somewhere around 2.5), I don’t know if I would have gone through with #2. The year from almost 3 to almost 4 was so so so hard. L was not easy to be around, to put it mildly, (way mildly – he was extremely, impossibly, unfathomably unpleasant,) but thankfully S was already here by then.

So now I have my sweet but challenging 4-year-old and my sweet 1.5-year-old and I’m done. Right? Totally. I’m completely 100% mostly almost sure of it. What more could I want? I had 2 healthy pregnancies, have two healthy kids, have one of each sex – why push my luck? Also, I can sort of see the end of the tunnel. Baby days are close(ish) to behind me. Soon I’ll have a family that can go places and do things and not be encumbered by naps, diapers, and other babyish stuff.

But babies are just so cute. Can’t argue with that logic.

Unlike normal people, I liked being pregnant and I liked the newborn phase. I love that warm little floppy helpless bundle, even if it means colic, no sleep, sore nipples and diaper blow-outs. I recognize that this feeling I have is not remotely coming from my rational brain. It’s coming from some evolutionary, biological, clock-ticking, animal place and I should know better. And I do. Mostly. Luckily, T totally knows better and has not even the slightest inclination towards having another baby.

So, back to the question of how one arrives at the decision to have or not to have another child? I don’t really have an answer for that. For having a second, we didn’t really ever consider the alternative so there was no decision process beyond timing. As far as having any more, I feel like the partner who is done has veto power over the partner who may want one more. So we’re done. Well, at least we’re shelving the topic. For now. No, really, we’re done. Almost certainly absolutely probably so.

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This morning was more stressful than most. We noticed last night that the house was cold. Nothing unlivable, just a cool 63 degrees. A few pairs of fleece jammies for the kids and extra blankets for us and we all went to sleep just fine. This morning – 53 degrees. I don’t know why, but 53 degrees in a house feels so much colder than 53 degrees outside.

We were frozen and couldn’t be in the house. No problem. Good mommy takes this as an opportunity for a special morning out! We go out for breakfast. The kids are starving by the time we get to the restaurant and I let L pick out a muffin from the display case. He comes back to the table followed by the waitress carrying a cheese danish. OK, so the kids can have a cheese danish. What a fun mommy I am! I feel like I’m winning the morning. We follow-up with some hot food and hot coffee (just for me) and we’re on our way.

Driving down the road where the speed limit is 40, so it’s safe to assume I was moving at 45, a bunch of bad things happened at once. First, I noticed that the cars behind me and in the oncoming lane started honking, and the drivers all slowed down and waved their arms around. At the very same time L started screaming. The car filled with a strange, loud whooshing sound. And it got cold. I glance in my rearview at crying, panic-stricken L and I see that his door is open. All the way open. Wide friggin’ open!

A note to Subaru manufacturers: you know that little white switch you’ve placed on the inside edge of the door, right at child-height, which turns the childproof locks on/off? Well, guess what? Children can play with it. And, apparently, they do. Maybe consider a different location?

A note to moms: when your kid does something that scares the living crap out of you, just let your natural emotions about it show. Doing so will scare the crap right back out of the kid, who will swear to you he will never ever ever do it again if you just calm down and promise you still love him.

Back home intact and in time for the heating guys to show up. 2 hours later the heat is back on and as I type this it is a balmy 57 degrees in here and rising. Soon I’ll take my coat off and be able to feel my fingers. In the meantime, this is what S has been wearing inside the house:

Despite how horribly unflattering this would be on me, I wish I had a fleece jumpsuit like this.

Under this all fleece number, she has on fleece pants, a long sleeve t-shirt, and a sweater.

Despite more temptation than usual, I have not started drinking.

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The good days with S are so over. She now thinks it’s hilarious to climb up the stairs, uproarious to clamber up onto the (slippery granite) coffee table, so-freaking-funny to stand and jump around on the couch. Not only am I fairly certain of mortal injury, but also a bit concerned about her sense of humor. Seriously? Standing on the coffee table is laugh out loud funny?

I say “No” and distract. I say “No” and distract. I say “No” and distract. I say “No” and distract. I say “No” and distract. Repetitive, isn’t it?

So, I’ve put her in lockdown. The only way I can cook dinner is to have her in her high chair. I give her toys. She throws them down. So she has no toys. Which leaves her with only one option: “Mamaaaaaaaaaaa! Mamaaaaaaaaaaa!”

Ever notice how another person’s baby crying doesn’t bother you at all? But your own child is genetically dialed-in to a specific pitch that can send you into epileptic-panic-stress-frenzy in a matter of seconds. It is the most annoying sound in the world.

So now we’re having this inane conversation:

S: Mamaaaaaaaaaa!
me: I’m sorry, I just can’t trust you not to kill yourself and I have to make dinner.
S: Mamaaaaaaaaaaa! Mamaaaaaaaaaaaa!
me: Well I told you not to jump on the couch/climb the stairs/dance on the coffee table.
S: Mamaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa!!!!!!
me: Stop it, S! You’re driving me nuts!
L: That’s not nice, Mommy. She’s just a baby.

Great. It’s always a bad sign when L is the one telling me that I’m out of line in my parenting. Worse when he’s right.

But that noise she’s making.

That gawdawful noise!

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