It's so hard to be a good parent. Sometimes I just want to be a not so good parent. It's a daily struggle to make sacrifices to do the right thing by your kids. And sometimes I wonder if I'm overdoing it and trying too hard to be a good parent.
Today I’m not overdoing it. My nine-year-old doesn't need to be sitting on the couch at home from school today. She could have gone to school, but she would need to have breathing treatments every so often. She's home because I don't want to walk over to the school every four hours and give her a breathing treatment and I don’t trust the school nurse to dose it out to her. I’m being lazy. I want some time to myself. It’s been weeks and weeks of sickness and out-of-town visitors and obligations and requirements. I just want a minute to myself. So when I called the asthma doctor to get an appointment for her today and was told to be prepared to wait for a while when there, I lost it.
Sometimes it all just piles up and I feel like I'm going to suffocate. I feel trapped in my own life. I don’t want to spend my day dropping kids off, picking them up, and waiting for an opening at the doctor’s office. I want to be in the yard with my fun flighty friend pulling weeds and having no worry larger than ‘Should I move the Hostas to the other side of the yard or leave them where they are?’ I want to be completely selfish. I don’t want any responsibility today.
I usually end up doing the right thing as a parent but I always wonder if I will. Today I told my partner that I’m at the end of my rope. I don’t feel capable of doing it anymore. She already knew and she was there to back me up with a solution. She’ll take the sick kid to the doctor and I can be selfish and stay home for a few hours of sunshine and dirt in the back yard. I’m lucky. I know I’m lucky.
For now, though, as I watch my four-year-old struggle with her interactions with her nine-year-old sister, I subconsciously wonder why she’s being so snippy and rude. A sweet, considerate girl otherwise, she is prone to sassiness from time to time. But today, sassiness doesn’t even begin to describe what I’m hearing.
“Quit talking,” she says as she cuts off her older sister. “I don’t want to hear you anymore.”
“You’re not being nice. I’m never going to play with you again,” she threatens when she doesn’t get her way.
Seriously? They’re already both sitting in the Work It Out Chair, which means they’re trying to work through a disagreement that has been tagged by me, but I am unable to intervene. They’re supposed to stay in the chair, sitting side by side, until they can each admit their wrongdoing to one another, apologize to each other, and give each other a hug. It starts out great every time with the apology. But instead of acceptance moving on to the hug, the acceptance keeps getting followed with a BUT. The BUT negates the apology and acceptance. Then it’s back to fighting again about the BUT. It’s exhausting even to hear.
“Blah, blah, blah…..,” singsongs the 4-year-old to the 9-year-old. “I don’t want to listen to you anymore,” she says with her hand in the air as a blockade in front of her sister’s face.
Intervene I must. No longer a productive ‘work it out’ session, I’m now witnessing a diminishing level of respect coming from a toddler.
“To your room,” I order. “Time out.”
She cries, she sobs, and she wants attention. After a few minutes, I enter the room to find her crumpled in the corner of her room, crocodile tears running down her face.
You’d think I’d ask her why she’s crying or what she’s thinking about. Not me, though. I force her to climb on my lap and listen to my words and ask her if she understands. I honestly don’t give a shilling what she’s crying about or what she’s thinking. I just want her to lose the attitude.
“Who did you learn this disrespectful language from?” I ask incredulously.
“I don’t know,” is her reply.
“Was it so-and-so or whatchamacallit?”
“Did you see it on TV?” I inquire.
“I don’t think so,” she says uncertainly.
We talk about respect and treating people the way you want to be treated and asking forgiveness and truly meaning it…the whole ball of wax. She takes her ridlin of punishment and I release her from the time out to again join her sister in the Work It Out Chair to tie up loose. From the sounds of it, it’s going to be a long day.
Incredibly, they work out their differences and return to the board game they had started earlier. A few minutes into it I see the 4-year-old take her hand and sweep it across the board in anger, knocking all of the game pieces off the board. She’s had it with her sister and the game. I’ve had it with both of them.
“To your room,” I ordered again, giving the tot Miss Allen Eye. Miss Allen was my elementary school principal. Super kind and supportive woman and great principal, but when you pushed her buttons, she tilted that head to the side, squinted up the right eye, and glared at you so hard with the left, that the intensity damn well may have burned a hole in you. The rumor among school kids was that it was a glass eye that allowed for the laser-like glare. Real or artificial, my sister and I spent many an hour trying to perfect Miss Allen Eye over the years. But to be honest, I’ve never actually used it on anyone before. There’s a first for everything.
Little Miss Tantrum marches off to her room again, scared to death of me. I’m scared to death of me. I’m screaming and stomping and slamming doors because I am just sick with grief over the girls’ behavior. I’m sick of myself too!
Truth be told, the asthma medication is the real culprit of today’s bickering. The more my eldest takes of the steroid, the worse her mood becomes. The sicker she gets, the more medicine she takes, the snottier she acts. She can’t help it….it’s a side effect of the meds to be cranky. She's moody, broody, and short with others. As a result, she pisses people off, and to add insult to injury, everybody else starts acting insufferable in response, including her parent….a huge Catch 22.
But I don’t think of that when I go in to talk to my toddler. I ask her again where she learned such inappropriate behavior.
“Is it your girl friends at school?” I want to know.
“They sometimes act like that,” she replies honestly, “but that’s not where I learned it.”
“Well what about what’s-his-name,” I ask, “does he act like this?”
“No,” she carefully responds, “he doesn’t.”
Before I can ask another question I realize that she’s picked up her behavior from me and doesn’t want to make me angrier by telling me!
It was me stomping through the kitchen and slamming the freezer door because I was so pissed! It was me who cut off my 4-year-old and wouldn’t let her explain, so I could get MY point across. It’s me she’s freakin’ mimicking! Holy tamole. What a bomb.
After I’ve dropped the toddler off at school and I am driving home, I consider that the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree. I remember getting in trouble myself in high school for using profanity toward a teacher.
When my father got word, he screamed, “Goddammit, Jesus Christ, Stacy…where in the hell did you learn to use such language?”
It’s the world spinning around, over and over, year after year, and people doing the same stupid shit their parents did before them and their parents’ parents did before them. What a trip.
I’m laughing to myself about parenting and what a crap-shoot it can be, as I’m cruising home in my beater car that probably has no business sharing the road with others, when a fancy shiny black car pulls out in front of me from God-knows-where without warning. I come close to ramming the car from the rear. I go to honk and realize our horn has been eternally broken for over 2 years. We replace the fuse over and over again, and it goes bad usually after the first good use of the horn. If I’m not too fired up and just casually using the horn as a warning or reminder to drive, the fuse may last through 3-4 short bursts, but if it’s a good long, “What in the Sam Hill are you doing?” honk, the fuse is usually blown after that.
I had just asked my girlfriend to replace the fuse last week and apparently she hadn’t gotten around to it, though, as no sound comes out now. In this case I have to make my own sound of warning, so I scream through the closed window toward the man driving the black car with closed windows.
“Expletive Expletive, you’re an Expletive Idiot!” I yell at the top of my lungs. As I look down at the license plate, I realize it’s a Texas plate.
Offreakingcourse it is!
I can’t stand Texas, but even worse, I can’t stand when my kids pick up my bad habits. I’m going to blame all of today’s bad behavior on having lived in Texas. Today I wipe the slate clean of my southern parenting slips and I decide I’m going to give my kids and myself a do-over.