When Did I Get Like This?

I recently read a book called When Did I Get Like This?: The Screamer, The Worrier, The Dinosaur-Chicken-Nugget-Buyer, And Other Mothers I Swore I’d Never Be by Amy Wilson.  Quite a mouth full, so let’s call it SDIGLTTSTWTDCNBAOMISINB for prosterity’s sake.  Anyway, to put it bluntly, this book changed my life.  I’d give it a 3.5 out of 5, but with a sub-category of Must Read.  It was good, as far as books go, and if I were to have read it being anything other than a mother of difficult children, I don’t know if I would have thought so, but I am a mother of difficult children, so I am utterly grateful that I had.

As my kids get older, I feel more and more like I’ve come to this party woefully unprepared.  I feel like I’m getting worse and worse as a mother and that my kids, after only four years of being a team, have won.  And being an internetty person doesn’t help.  No offence, but I have a sneaking suspicion that some of you are withholding information when it comes to your children’s behaviour.  Either that or my situation is even worse than I thought.  Have any of you found this?  That you can read post upon post upon post of people’s kids doing amazingly angelic things, even about them doing silly or embarrassing things, but never (or very rarely) do you read about those poor parents, much like myself and probably you as well, whose kids are actively working to murder them via stress-induced heart failure?  I know a lot of us blogging parents use these places of ours as a sort of baby book to document our lives and our children’s lives and immortalizing the bad times kind of seems…poor form, but what I wouldn’t give for some brutal honesty up in this piece.  Have you said something regrettable while angry?  Have your kids driven you to public tears?  Have you ever swatted their behind when no other punishment seems to work *GASP*?  Do you sometimes feed then pizza four days a week because you have no energy for anything else and at least pizza has all four food groups going on, if only technically speaking?

This is what I’m missing from the internet.  Maybe I’m just reading the wrong blogs, or not enough blogs (because I do love the blogs I read), but I feel like I’m all alone.  When I think logically, I know I’m not.  I’ve seen your kids in public (not specifically; no need for a restraining order) and I know mine are far from the worst behaved out there.  It just feels like I’m alone sometimes because I WANT to tell you people my frustrations, but then I feel like you’ll judge me for telling my daughter she’s acting like an idiot or for letting them have four Halloween treats after I told them only three because the fight about it would cause the vein in my forehead to explode or that I spend a deplorable amount of my day with my voice raised.

Amy Wilson’s book punched me right in the face, but in a good way.  She’s a great mother, attentive and caring and loving, but she also trips on the toy mess in her living room and dreads bath night and phones it in when her kids need to bring treats to school.  She even cops to having spanked her children.  Not as a habit, but it’s there, in print.  It doesn’t make her a bad mom and it certainly isn’t what makes her a good mom, but she’s a mom who is willing to admit that she doesn’t always have the answer.  Like every one of us.  It’s like a breath of fresh air hearing or reading that I am not alone.  My kids drive me crazy.  They’re messy and hate cleaning up after themselves.  They fight all the time (ALL. THE. TIME. I am not joking) and the vocal volume in my house at any given moment is incredible.  We really did have pizza four nights in a row last week.  But is mine the only one like this?  No.  There’s at least two of us in this club.

This past week has been especially hard.  I say that a lot.  A lot of weeks are especially hard, so maybe I’m just not equipped for this level of stress.  I know I’m not equipped to parent in the way my children require.  If I knew what they need from me in order for us all to be happy all the time, I would do it.  No matter what.  If the reason why they are how they are is because I have two arms, I’d gladly cut the left one off right here and now.  It’s pretty much just for balance anyway.  I don’t know how to discipline them, I don’t know how to mediate, I don’t know what will consistently make them happy.  I’m failing and it’s just that simple.

I have felt this way for a long time, but the difference now is I’m realizing, slowly, that it’s ok.  It’s not storybook ideal, but what is?  Nobody is perfect, and that includes parents.  We can never know the exact right answer to every problem we come across while raising people who have been granted the privilege of free will and independent thought and that can be incredibly frustrating.  Sometimes we let it roll off our backs, remember to pick our battles, and our blood pressure remains healthy.  Other times we loose our shit, yell and send a kid to their room for wanting a particular book mark that is on another floor of the house that looks exactly the same as this other perfectly good book mark that is right here in front of us, and we plough through years of our life expectancy in a matter of minutes.  But this is normal, I guess.  Or at least I hope it is, as it happens to me at least once a day, in some way or another.

I’m still sad an awful lot, thinking about how poorly I react to situations and how I’m certain my children don’t respect me nearly as much as they should and how I’m probably the single worst mother ever to walk the face of the planet.  I’m sad and I’m scared that this will be my life forever and I get depressed, however mildly, and overwhelmed by the whole parenting business.

And now I hope I’ve done for you what Amy did for me.  Brutal, unapologetic honesty.  You don’t have to follow suit if you don’t feel like it, but don’t feel like you have to hide anything from me.  No one is going to think less of you or your skills as a parent.  We’re all struggling, seriously.  They don’t call this the most difficult business without a reason.  And that reason?  The kids.  It’s always the kids’ fault.  Until it’s not, and that’s why Jesus invented booze*.

* Or a nice cup of black tea, a warm comfy couch, and a book. Whatever calms your nerves.

This post is not sponsored. I read the book because it was on my shelf and I had just finished A Clash Of Kings and I needed something less…bulky.  

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13 thoughts on “When Did I Get Like This?

    • I have seen the kids out there and that’s the only reason why I keep on keepin’ on. Some kids are awful all the time. Mine at least show their awful side in bursts, with good behaviour in between.

  1. My wife and I have these conversation with each other weekly. You’re not alone. Thursday, after my teenager’s cheerleading squad’s parents’ pep rally, we took the other two younger girls out to east, because we were lazy. For some reason, they were in rare form. I tweeted how obnoxious they were, and your name came up because you were tweeting something similar. It happens. The next morning they woke up and were sweet and wonderful.

    Hang in there. You and I are reading the right blogs, we read each others.

  2. I get annoyed when my kids talk too much, and I get annoyed with myself for not appreciating that they share their thoughts with me, and I get annoyed when they won’t tell me what happened at school, and then I get annoyed with myself again for not being more involved and already knowing what’s going on at school. I hate hate hate hate bath time. I yell too much. I review my behavior at the end of every day and never fail to find fault with the way I’ve reacted to one thing or another. Then wine happens, and I do it again the next day. I try to do better. I almost never do, but then I promise myself I’ll try again and again even though it’s not possible to be as perfect as I’d like to be.

  3. Bath time is the WORST. We’ve gotten to the point where they’re not allowed to have toys in the bath because it just causes them to fight. They fight anyway, but at least none of us are having fun.

  4. Jen, I love this post for more reasons than I can say. Of course I’m glad you enjoyed the book. but you GOT it, too. There’s two things I learned from the experience of writing and talking about that book: every mother thinks she sucks. And every mother thinks she’s alone in feeling that way. And we are wrong on both counts, but until we start telling the truth, that’ll never change. Your words are hilarious and true and will help another parent feel better today, feel like they’re not alone, and that is a wonderful thing. Here’s the only thing you said that I disagree with: “I know I’m not equipped to parent in the way my children require.” I don’t know you or your kids, but from what I’ve read? You are exactly the parent you’re supposed to be, and they’re lucky to have you, because you love them, you care about how you parent them, and you have a sense of humor about how they are slowwwwly driving you insane. Keep on truckin’.

  5. Your blog makes me feel better! I yell constantly…my kids fight constantly. I can relate to basically everything you wrote. It is so hard being a mom. I feel like I don’t know what I am doing most of the time. I wish more moms would start telling the truth!

  6. I absolutely needed to read this tonight. My four year old has been throwing tantrums lately for anything and everything. I am trying so hard not to lose it, but every tantrum makes it harder and harder… I feel like the worst mom for yelling (which doesn’t help)…and I could just cry….but after reading this tonight , I feel not so alone in this… thank you so much for that.

  7. My kids are absolutely, sporadically horrible children too. Last week we ate fast food twice. I’ve sent them to daycare sick because I didn’t believe they really had a tummy ache, or I couldn’t stand another day home with them. You really aren’t alone!

    They are lucky they’re cute, adorable, and wonderful sometimes too because I might sell them otherwise!

  8. I recently read a blog post about how calling your kids assholes was getting old… but I’m not ready to stop yet, either. In fact, having kids who are quite young, I’m just getting started. I found you on Twitter because someone else I was following was following you and I’m new to all this social networking, blogging crap, so when I say thanks for following me back (Thanks!), I mean it.

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