I am sadly, I admit with much consternation the harried, haggard mom you see on any of the choicest Hollywood movies. I have turned into a cliche. Hair disheveled, clothes baggy, body baggy, stained, bloodshot eyes, barely presentable. I never was on top of replenishing my make up but I’ve reached new heights now with my eyeliner pencil being shorter than half my pinkie finger with a stubby tip I think to sharpen but cannot get myself to do so because it’s always last second and I have no clue where the sharpener is. I have one good lipstick dangerously close to the end and the others beyond expired and I will not touch but still carry around to possibly replace with the same kind so I don’t have to think.
I manage to do the laundry, cook, tidy up the house, feed the kids so the kitchen’s not exactly in disarray and I’m not covered in flour while my daughter is jumping on the couch. Except, my daughter is jumping on the couch. She’s high energy and needs to run around. So she gets to jump on one token couch and she runs around the house quite a bit. She’s positively deaf as I call her name repeatedly but I know she’s not because she can hear frighteningly well when the word ‘Cookie’ is barely above a whisper. She’s not a bad kid. She’s actually a very affectionate kid. She doesn’t beat or bite other kids and we get through the day with her washed, cleaned, fed, off to school and back in bed. My standards are pretty basic as you can see. I only dream of higher goals now because I barely get through these basics. Moving from one state to another is challenging. The only state she fully adheres to of her own volition is the ‘play’ kind. She’s a picky picky eater so mealtimes are a battlefield. My half year old is maybe a tad bit easier but not really. And sleep, well … see I’m letting them run the show … and that’s a whole other story.
We were once talking politics at work. Yes, how politically incorrect of us. But, that’s how we were. We could talk about anything under the sun and we all had thick skin and a thicker massive sense of humor. A veritable HR nightmare if they happened to lurk around our lunch hours but we had fun. So, I said I couldn’t possibly decide whether I was a Liberal or a Democrat because there’s causes on both sides I agreed with and disagreed with. I realized later there are other labels for my sort but a colleague commented ‘Oh, that’s not good’. And I paused for reflection when I could pause for reflection. I’ve been known to argue both sides of a story. I can volley on one side of the court and very quickly turn it into a defensive power shot from the other side. My arguments inside my head can turn into infinite loops. I could find reasons to justify a sinner, condone a saint and vice versa. I did come from a family of lawyers. But it wasn’t just that I could argue. I earnestly believed in the power of the arguments on both sides. It was rarely if ever simplistic. I was too sway-able. Over the years my decisiveness has improved. But that aspect of my personality has definitely wrecked havoc with my parenting abilities.
Discipline. Order without the marshall law being imposed. How to be a kind, gentle parent and not lose your head when your daughter takes 15 minutes to eat one bite? How do you let them ‘starve’ a couple of meals if they must so they learn and they know to eat when all they do is get up in the middle of the night and cry incessantly because they’re hungry. And that snowballs into getting up later, running late to school and joining the annals of the ever tardy. And have I mentioned she’s stick thin and barely eats her lunch so the only nutrition I can possibly hope to provide her with happens during the dinner times. And sleep. She wants a grown up because she’s scared. We’ve tried everything but she wants Mommy. Do I bribe, threaten, persuade, be gentle, be patient? I’ve tried everything and I can’t decide what kind of a parent I should be. Actually I know. I want to be the kind, soft spoken yet assertive kid whisperer. But, she doesn’t listen. It often ends up being a long winded ‘conversation’ between us or selective hearing.
I’ve been reading and maybe that is the problem. My mother often comments on how we are an over thinking, over stimulated, over anxious, how-to guide addicted, super sensitive generation that ponders over and analyzes every mundane twitch leaving us terribly confused. She’s mostly talking about me. But what is one to do? I’ve been more assertive and it doesn’t work. I’ve bribed and I hate it when it works. I wonder what I’m doing to her psyche. The ‘books’ say these are the formative years. Much depends on how we support them now. Everything now sets the tone for their self confidence and character. Now, in their infancy when you respond to their cries. So, when my husband tried sleep training and I begrudgingly agreed it was short lived. She became insecure. At least I told myself that. I am now not allowed to be out of her sight even during the day. Leave her to cry? I am not someone who cannot handle it. I can stay in the other room and let her cry to sleep. I don’t cry or tear up when they get their shots. I know it’s good for them so I soothe them and support them. Isn’t disciplining just the same? But it isn’t, is it? It’s not clear cut. The shots are. There’s so many schools of thought and I can argue for all of them. Will she become insecure? What is the right thing to do? Where do I draw the line? I know how I want to be but it isn’t working. What’s working is not what I want. I try to imbibe my parents style which was infinite kindness and love but I struggle to be so patient while I struggle to meet the demands of the day. To teach them to follow certain rules. I know I’m not the only one with some of these decisions but I sure as hell must be the most indecisive of the lot. It makes it the worst parenting style of all. Inconsistency. I’m at times strict, at times benevolent. Unable to choose which would do less harm to my kids and losing my sanity in the midst.
Last night was especially hard. Both kids were sick. We were shuttling between both their rooms as they took turns getting up and crying and needing us. And this morning I had a phone interview which I cringe about when I think of how I blathered through most of it. Bye bye job. We’ve been through worse but these things still knock me of any equilibrium I may assume. I’m especially frazzled, especially despondent. Carrying the weight of possibly ruining my children’s morales, robbing them of their chance to fully reach their potentials. I’ll have a good day soon, hopefully tomorrow and it won’t all seem so bleak. I may even pat myself. I’m trying to reach an even keeled middle ground. And maybe there is no such thing when you’re a parent of two under five. Or a parent for that matter. I know there’s several folks who’re doing a stellar job but, for me, I’m teetering between one reality to another. For me, my husband and for my kids I’m hoping the swing of this pendulum wanes and I get to a smaller arc radius, not perfection like the end of the Hollywood movies but just a saner state of being. I’ll happily settle for that.