March 8, 2011

TUESDAYS AT NOON: Ethne on...Parent Guilt

I don’t think I’m alone when I say that some days, my kids just about send me over the edge.  I’m told that age 3 is a trying age.  Whoever said that is CRAZY!  Age 3 is terrible!  Probably a zillion times multiplied because I have two 3-year-olds who egg each other on and gang up on us, along with the standard energetic irrationality that seems natural at this age.

I love my children.  They are my life’s work.  When I was a kid, I always consciously coined something my ‘best thing’.  Usually it was a new toy, my first pair of contact lenses (I couldn’t sleep the night before I got them I was so excited), a new pair of shoes, my engagement ring.  Now and forever after, KD and Easy Mac are my best things.

Asleep at noon:  my two best things
I try really hard to do the best I can for my kids.  On the whole I think I’m a pretty good mom.  Not boasting here, just assessing that I think I’ve done some good things, and they’re generally happy and healthy.

No matter what I do, though, my sick and twisted mind finds a way to guilt trip me over something.

One example: when the girls were 2 months old they got their first vaccinations.  KD tortured me.  It’s hard enough knowing they’re getting pricked on purpose – no, KD had to compound it.  When she cries (then and to this day) she has a way of looking into your eyes and staring down your soul.  She throws in those giant alligator tears for good measure, too.  Well, you can picture it from there.  The girls were preemies, so at their 2 month check-up, they would’ve been around 8 pounds.  Teeny, but more aware than a newborn.  So I stood by KD’s side and tried to console her while she pierced my heart with a look that spoke, and I quote: “Mommy, why hast thou forsaken me?”

so precious!

I feel guilty if I send them to daycare and they’re sick.  I feel guilty when I stay home with them when they’re sick because I’m missing work.  I also feel guilty because I don’t stay home with them full-time.  I feel guilty when we put them to bed at 7:30 p.m. (which, believe me, is what they need – we’ve tried later and it’s a no-go) since I just got home at 5:30 from work – 2 hours isn’t a lot of time to pack in tender loving care with dinner, baths, jammies, a book, brushing teeth and a glass of water.  I feel guilty when I think to myself that Theodore (my cat) is my ‘good kid.’

Today was another GREAT day for good, old-fashioned mom guilt.  I say it often – if you could harness KD and Easy Mac’s energy, it would fuel a whole city.  So weekends can be really trying because Shaun and I have no down-time, or even time to clean house without 2 little hands all over the place.  I have personally witnessed KD walk past (but not touch) the refrigerator with a flourish and papers flew off of it onto the floor.  Yesterday I witnessed KD literally throw the mini ponies in her hands up and over her shoulders as she ran into the kitchen to me when I offered a snack.

We have had a really difficult time at family meals for the past couple of months.  Meals have always been a challenge.  They are good, not-picky eaters – when the mood strikes them.  If you catch them in the right mood, they’ll eat dinner, with nominal mess and fussing, like a breeze.  We’ve got about a 30% chance that they’ll be in the right mood when it’s time to eat.  With 2 of them, that drops it down to about 15% chance that they will both, combined, be cheerful and eat with minimal fuss.  That’s right – odds are (85%) that one or both will turn into mealtime monsters (symptoms include spilling beverages, throwing food, kicking/slapping the table, whining, crying, sniveling, and name calling) at any given breakfast, lunch or dinner.

The hotdish ended up being a hit with the girls...but it took some convincing!

Breakfast today fell into the 85% category, and both girls had morphed into baby bigfoot.  And I had a meltdown.  I couldn’t take it.  I snapped at them, which made them fuss and cry more.  I yelled.  All I wanted was for them to eat some egg bake – it’s not like I was trying to pass off Brussels Sprouts (which is a bad analogy since the girls like that veggie).  It was a nightmare.  And I felt guilt almost instantaneously.

But this is ridiculous!  They’re smart – surely they understand that such behavior is not acceptable.  (I asked the pediatrician why age 3 is so difficult and she said because they are smart enough to know what they want but not developed enough yet to understand that the world does not revolve around them.  True dat.)

These faces can win anyone over!

 Things calmed down and the girls were good the rest of the day.  Really good, in fact.  Thrifty Nana and I took them shopping, and they were stellar.  They tried to throw a teensy scuffle over having dinner, but they ended up eating with a flourish, enough to deserve a little chocolate as a dessert surprise (dessert is usually fruit, which they also had).

Before bed Emma snuggled with me and said, “Mommy, can I tell you something in your ear?”  I leaned over and she said, in the quietest voice imaginable, “I love you.”

Is there even a lesson here?  I know I’m not alone in struggling through the terrible three’s (which are way worse than the two’s – whoever came up with the ‘terrible two’s’ clearly never met a three-year-old and was a moron to boot.  Age two was a dream).  I know it won’t be the last time I snap at the girls.

God willing, I will live to earn a new badge of guilt tomorrow, and the next day, and the next.

So I always tell them I love them, that I’m proud of them, and I still pick them up when they want to be held (since that will be a fleeting opportunity).  I know I love them to pieces.  Nothing can make you crazier than something you love.  And man, they can drive me nuts.

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