We have a fourth-grader and a sixth-grader, as of yesterday, Internets. Can I just tell you that I was more ready for them to go to school this summer than I was last summer?
Before I launch into this post about what exactly this means to me, I'd like to call upon Momastery, which I read religiously, and who tells me (and tens of thousands of other people) that this is not only okay, it is how I am supposed to feel. This one talks about how different moms feel capable and comfortable with their children at different ages, and there are ages that are just not our favorite. I talked about some of these challenges in this post. To get a sense of what made Momastery the informal expert on the downside of parenting, read this post, which launched her mainstream and helped her get a book deal. It's amazing to read, and I check for more from her every day. She's also long-winded, as I am.
When I was a teenager and in college, I never enjoyed being around children from the 6 to 12 age range. Small doses at family functions were tolerable, because that was only a few hours. There were a couple exceptions to this, before I became a parent. Two to be exact. One is my cousin around the boys' age, whom I was obsessed with since birth, and a darling of mine I started babysitting for when she was a toddler. They have grown up to not piss me off, but I don't see them every day.
There are things about parenting at which I feel I am very successful. I am good at managing schedules - for babysitters, football, tae kwon do, doctor visits, who is going to take who to what and when. I am good at monitoring what they put in their bodies. I am good at keeping their work organized and completed so all deadlines for school are met. I'm good with having a constant sense of how much money will need to be spent on them and for what. I'm good at stopping what I'm doing to make every hug a good one. I'm decent at random gestures of affection. I make a good effort to suspend the rules just often enough - to give a dessert when a meal wasn't finished. To suspend a bedtime for a bit. To allow a little more TV.
|We managed through a beach vacation without tears. Landen yelled "Stranger danger!" at me in the pool and Jake spent four days digging pillboxes in the sand.|
There are areas where I have no patience. I end up yelling during extra long homework sessions. I say "no" a lot, sometimes just because I do not want to deal with them. I speak with impatience and am easily frustrated. I do not take the time to explain things. I demand to be left alone unless someone is crying or bleeding or something has broken. I ask them to make less noise, which is a double whammy for boys and children. I do not wake up every day glad to be a parent. I do not understand those posters and sayings on Pinterest that say you are supposed to find serenity in your child. I find boogers and chili on the faces of mine.
My fourth grade Landen is starting to realize and comment on his brother being "weird." He loves his brother, and would be afraid to come home were he ever to let anyone else call his brother "weird." He's still a know-it-all, and his friends will cycle in and out this school year because of this. He picks up phrases I use as an adult and then uses them on me. When I'm trying to get the last word on something, usually my husband, I say "I'm just saying." Landen does this to both of us. It is his most-used phrase. If you tell him to mind his business, or that you don't care that his food is so good he has to chew it with his mouth open, or that it's not his place to tell his brother what to do...he responds with "I'm just saying." And then I have to get in his face and remind him that wrath will come upon him unless he answers that correctly with "yes ma'am" or "no ma'am." Some mornings he wakes up built to cry for no reason. For tying his shoes too tight. For not liking the way I combed his hair. For not wanting anything to drink with his breakfast after the milk has been poured.
Jake has been a struggle since we started. First he hated me for all the awful things that were happening to him. Then he became completely dependent on me, while still keeping me at arm's length. Now he's full of love for me. But the boy mumbles, and I have to ask him three times to speak up so I can hear what he's asking me, which I know frustrates him. He's obsessed with horses and wars and antique weapons, in the unusual and narrowly-focused Asperger way, and we all have to find ways to politely ask him to change the subject. He has flash anger, which we never know is coming, and usual we catch before violence begins. When he gets in a mood, his answer to every instruction or suggestion for his actions is "who cares?", which he delivers as more of an accusation than a question. He will again struggle with his self-control, his handwriting, his certain subjects and his tendency to walk in circles around the playground observing the other children as a sixth-grader.
So if Momastery made it okay to say to the world, it's okay for me to say it here, to people who know me, or like me, or come here because they like what I say. This is not my favorite mom stage. This is not the age window for which I feel my mama gifts are best-matched. I also have comfort in this feelings because our family therapist, who would stand up in court and report on my parenting if called upon for any reason one day, tells me it's supposed to suck. It's hard. I say at least once a day that I hate it.
I have grace in that. There are times a day, every day, that I do not look forward to, and there are more of them than not. Mornings are a crap shoot. They could be uneventful. I could wake up ready to yell at somebody. Jake could need 500 reminders for the tasks he does every single morning. Landen could wake up ready to cry for anything and nothing. Nobody is organized when it is time to start on homework, or they want me to do it for them. Nobody is happy with the entirety of what is being served for dinner. Nobody wants to take a shower first. These are trials to my sanity that happen every single day. And for every single one of them, I imagine that scene in Desperate Housewives where Lynette loses it on all her children and starts screaming like a banshee at them for not being better kids.
But in every day, I find a great moment. Everybody raves about their dinner. The school sent home no homework. The boys and I have time to play Quirkle. We take them to a movie that they both enjoy. Landen makes it to all the bases or runs for a touchdown. Jake spars in tae kwon do and is better than the boy who has been there longer. They drew me a picture at school, even when I am sure I do not deserve it. They got invited to a party. I buy some shoes or a shirt that they get excited about. We have ice cream sandwiches together. Or if none of that happens, I can go upstairs while they are sleeping and smell their necks or listen to them breathe and know that when we all wake up tomorrow, what happened yesterday will be a distant memory to them, and I get a brand new reputation.
Parenting is painful. It strains our marriages and our friendships and threatens to darken the relationships we hope to have with our adult kids. It brings guilt that we do not have more joy in the acts of parenting. It makes us think we do not deserve to be one. It's the exact same thing as working two full-time jobs, and only putting money in the bank for one of them. There are days when I am absolutely miserable here. But I can find, if care enough about myself to look, a moment in every day, when I know that one day I will be glad I was able to parent them, and they will be fine that it was me.
I do not have to enjoy this. I do not have to relish every minute of it. As long as I still love enough to find the moment or know when I'm in it, I know I am a good mom. And that we'll make it to the fifth and seventh grades.