The toddlers are killing me. I woke up this morning pissed, after being pissed for every moment that I was awake last night (which was a lot of moments). As I dragged my flannel-PJ'ed self to the kitchen I was stopped by the blazing sunrise of pinks and lavenders shining through the dirty windows of the laundry room. I stopped and beheld. The beauty of the natural world coming at just the moment I needed it. I said thank you and asked to be better today.
All I do is yell these days. Because I often can't seem to help myself and because what I really want to do is slap the %$#&*! out of my kids. The urge to hit them is fiery and strong within the muscles and fibers of my arm. The times they spit in my face, despite my telling them over and over and over not to. Watching my daughter take a handful of her lunch and fling it on the freshly washed floor, for no apparent reason except the fact that she is two and this is the kind of shit they do. My son biting his sister for the hundredth time. It's these things and endless other things, big things and small things. It's the constancy of four small people who inhabit a developmental stage that tells them to explore the world, its consequences. To defy. I can't fucking stand it.
My siblings and I were sometimes spanked as kids but rarely. I got slapped across the face once, mostly due to that easy-now-to-imagine cross-section of adult challenges and kid pushing-of-buttons. My mom has brought it up to me over the years, how horrified she was, how horrified and scared I was. I don't remember it at all.
I don't plan on hitting my kids and I'm surprised and appalled by the fierce desire to do so. When I walk into the room and see my daughter standing in the middle of the dining room table holding two candlesticks with the candles in her mouth I mostly want to say "Really?" with an eyebrow raised. Or "What the fuck, are you seriously doing that right now?" It could even be funny, if you weren't already on the verge of being pissed. If you weren't sick because of all the coughing you take in the face. If you weren't combating the craziness you feel after a day, and then days, of being consistently ignored. The table dance didn't make me want to hit her. Actually the deeper I get into this essay the harder it is to remember specific moments that bring up the urge. There's a freedom in admission I guess.
I don't hit but I do grab them roughly. And I do yell. A lot. Last night as I brought the bigs back to their beds for the second time I yelled "This shit has got to stop!" because I felt so helpless and tired and mad. Like we're getting it wrong but I don't know how to get it right. I am so done by the time bed time rolls around. . .but now we don't get to be done. It is no longer easy to put them down. Now it is a fight, a struggle, a cajoling. And it lasts anywhere from twenty minutes to two hours with them finally falling asleep only to then get up and come back to our room two to three times a night. They end up in our bed for good around 5 am and as one snuggles into me I want to say "This is my time to not be touched. I am done. I can't do this another second," and I skootch ever closer to the edge of the bed. My bed that is no longer mine.
My anger has always been something I struggle with. I don't like feeling it--it makes me uneasy. So I swallow it and become Ice Queen and shut down. Which looks like calm on the outside. Oh yeah. . . .remember how I have that autoimmune disease that wrecks my guts? Weird.
I'm also very hard on myself.
I'm also a natural problem-solver. This makes me great at certain jobs because I'm always looking at how things work, diagnosing the problems and figuring out how to make the system work better. Some of this is because I somehow got programmed, or was born with, the idea that there is a right way. A right way to be married. A right way to parent. A right way to seat the dining room of a restaurant. Pretty much a right way to do anything. I have been working on easing up on this for the past several years, even before the kids arrived.
This toddler sleep situation is causing me problems. I keep having to tell myself that there is not necessarily a right way to solve it. That there might not even be a problem that I need to solve--we may just need to be patient and wait it out. It's only been a month. I get caught up in the shame of doing it wrong when all I want is to do it right. I want them to know how to sleep so that when they're older they have that ability. And so that right now when they're young their brains and bodies get the time they need to grow and rest. And so that I don't completely lose my shit at them for anything they do because I am just so tired. Tired in general and tired of the bullshit that comes with parenting toddlers.
My dad spent the first half of the day with us today, as he does most Wednesdays. He is always good about telling me what a good job of parenting I'm doing, which I appreciate. And as we sat in the wrecked kitchen after putting them down for a nap (with a locked door for the two-year-olds which resulted in no crying today as opposed to the two hours of screaming three nights ago) I cried a little, in exhaustion and relief, and talked about this essay and about how much I yell at them lately.
"Just so you know, you didn't yell at them at all this morning."
I'm not sure I noticed that so I was glad to hear it.
Maybe it's because I started writing about it. . .
Maybe it's because we got outside. . .
Maybe it's because I had an extra set of hands. . .
Or maybe most of it is out of my hands entirely and I just have to keep breathing. Keep trying. And give myself a break because there is not just one right way.