Friday, June 20, 2008

Ah, the Sweet Days of Summer and Brotherly Love

I’ve been trying to think really hard about how to present this post. I am afraid that once I start writing, I may open up a Pandora’s box of complaints. I don’t want this to be a bitching blog and for me, complaints are like eating potato chips in that I can’t stop with just one. So I am taking a leap of faith in all of you while I share what is on my mind this very minute.

It is week two of summer vacation and the first full week having all three of my sons at home with me. As usual, I had big plans of daily outings, craft projects and tons of time for my boys to simply play and be boys. But by mid-day Tuesday it became clear that by the time school starts again, I will have at least one less child. It seems the two oldest should have been named Cain and Abel and will likely kill each other soon. The youngest would just like to be part of the fray, if he doesn’t kill Abel before Cain.

Each morning starts off the same: filled with potential. With my full mug of coffee, the day is laid out before us like an open road and a full tank of gas. The sun is shining, the humidity is low and the temperature is reasonable. Then the bickering starts. And I know things will be better if we just Get.Out.Of.The.House. But just the idea of getting three kids ready to go anywhere seems like an insurmountable task. And I wonder if it is rewarding their negative behavior to even take them on an outing. Who wants to be out in public with three crabby children anyway, especially when you are feeling particularly crabby as well?

Last week, we had to go to Target to buy presents for the not one, but two, birthday parties we were to attend on Saturday. So due to my lack of child care and better judgment, I took the two younger boys and off we went. Now shopping for toys for other people’s children is hard enough (will this mom ever speak to me again if I buy play-dough?) but add a toddler who has his own agenda, like jumping out of the cart, and a rising kindergartner who keeps picking out the $40 gifts, and a mom who might be slightly over-caffeinated and pressed for time… Well, you get the picture. At one point, a total stranger laughed out loud when I was hissing (too loudly, apparently) to Jess, “This is not about you. We are here to but a gift for your friend!”

Tuesday, it took us until about 3:00 to get out. We went to the pool and twenty minutes later, Dean and Jess had climbed out of the water to argue over a lounge chair. “Why aren’t you swimming?” I ask. And they say, “We’re done.” Well being the type who thinks your stay in the water should be longer then, let’s say, how long it took to get everyone into their swimsuits, I told them to either swim or sit. Logan and I were not done. But they continued to argue and I became Harpy Mom. Why is that my children do not seem to think I mean what I say unless I use the same tone of voice that Carol Anne heard coming from her haunted closet?

Back in February, when all of North Carolina was booking their kids in summer camps, I argued with my husband about over-scheduling the boys. He felt I should be finding something for each week and I felt the boys should be here with me where I can bask in the beauty of their childhood. After all, I am a stay-at-home mom – I don’t NEED camps for the child-care. And children should have plenty of time to build forts in the back yard, sell lemonade, and chase fireflies. It seemed silly, self-indulgent even, to farm them out for $200 per week. So, as a compromise, Dean was registered for two weeks of camp and Jess, who’s never done a day camp before, was registered for one. There were two weeks we were planning on being away (which, we are now not) and that left one week of their being home together before school starts mid-July (hurray for year-round school). Are you laughing at me yet? What was I thinking?

Well Jess is bitterly disappointed to find out that he doesn’t get to be with friends every minute of the day. No, because mommy wanted to keep her precious baby home with her for the last few weeks before he goes away to big kid school ALL day! Go ahead; ask me how many minutes are left before the start of all day kindergarten. And Dean is more than happy to play on the computer all day. And Logan continues to try and kill me with sleep deprivation.

So, I guess I’m saying this isn’t going the way that I’d intended. The kids are watching TV more than I’d like to admit. I am yelling more than I’d like to admit. And I am using phrases that I am sure you would never see in any of my college child development text books. I am not proud of myself at all. It’s a cycle I am hoping to break. After I get a break, that is. Because I think that might be at the root of our problem – the constantness of staying home with kids is getting to me. It is stressful – more stressful than my most stressful day at work.

And I am not blaming my children (entirely). Today it became clear to me that I am feeling snappish more than they are triggering my snappishness. I am unmotivated, uninspired. I know how I want to be with them, but I’m tired and there is no opportunity to recharge. And I have moments where I just want someone to come and pick them all up and take them away for an hour. But no one is coming and I chose this.

My mother stayed home with us because for her generation, this is what mothers did. She didn’t get to choose. But she didn’t complain and she didn’t count down the minutes until school started (at least not out loud, anyway). There were no summer day camps that I know of - either they were unavailable or unaffordable, or both. Play dates (not that we called them that) were few and there weren’t many places to go on daily outings. My dad worked nights so my mother had to keep us quietly occupied during the day and was alone with us all night. She didn’t have much in the way of back up. If she was unhappy about it, she didn’t take it out on us. And while she did have extended family all in the same zip code (which I do not) she didn’t often call them in for help.

So what is my problem? My husband says that I do not give myself enough credit. He gets that it is hard. He knows that I am tired. He is my cheerleader. But I feel bad complaining to him. He likes to think that he goes off to work in the morning and I’m living the June Cleaver life here. And for the most part, I am, minus the pearls. But I’m pretty sure June never used the “f “ word when asking the Beaver what his fifth meltdown was about. Of course, June had the benefit of being a fictional character and I am as about as real as they come. And that reality isn’t always a pretty thing. This week has really made me question my ability to do this.

I do not have easy children, this I know. Parenting even easy children has its difficult moments, this I know too. But I do think my kids deserve better than Harpy Mom. Especially since I am living my dream. Really, I would be less happy if I had to balance a job outside the home with trying to be the mom I want to be to my kids. I just need to find the balance here in my home so I could be the mom I want to be. Wish me luck and let me know how you recharge.


Karen said...

First of all remember WE ALL HAVE DAYS WHEN WE FELL LIKE THIS! And good moms all need breaks for their own sanity! Even if it means watching a friend's kids for an afternoon in exchange for them watching mine another day, it's totally worth it!
I only have 2 kids home all summer, for all the reasons you stated, and they are girls. And I feel like you do some days. But I thought I'd share a few ideas, that help keep the peace around here. (You are probably already doing them but it's the only sage advice I've got. :-)
First getting 3 kids ready to go out? The older two? Let them get ready themselves. Make it easy,flip flops for summer, not socks and shoes. Maybe par down to a pile of tshirts and a pile of shorts to choose from. I've learned it doesn't matter if they match, they are kids. And I always find encouraging them to race and see who can get dressed first gets them motivated.
If I have to take the kids for shopping trips I try to do one of two things. Shop where there are snacks available. Target slurpees are a small price to pay for a quiet shopping trip. Or a promise of an activity for them AFTER they behave in the store, from just a stop at the pet store to look at animals to going to the park on the way home. Oh and my favorite is EVERY store has a naughty chair, and I do not hesitate to find a place to sit a rotten kid in front of lots of other people to calm down.
And the "I'm finished swimming before you've had a chance to sunscreen yourself" kills me! Here's what I've learned in my many trips to the pool. Take extra towels and let them make forts over chairs and play for a bit, they will get hot and get back in the water. I also have a bag of pool toys, dive sticks, floating ducks, squirters etc. The dollar store is great for cheap plastic stuff that you can afford to loose. Again I find making up any kind of racing game redirects their energy.
Okay I am now taking over your blog with my comment and my kids are begging for my attention. I hope you get some good input here!

Marty, a.k.a. canape said...

I have just sat down at the computer after rocking, shushing, nursing, walking, and bouncing a screaming, over-tired baby for almost 45 minutes. It doesn't seem like long, but the constant screaming? When he reaches that unreachable state? Makes me think I am in way over my head. Makes me crazy.

All that to say - even though I don't have three and have no advice for you - it felt kindred to sit and read this right after finally getting the baby (that my husband WOKE UP and THEN LEFT) back to sleep.

I wanted this life more than anything. That doesn't mean I have to be 100% happy all the time.

1blueshi1 said...

we are all living the dream, honey, I wanted my second child so much I got back together with the DH to have her. that doesn't mean that there aren't times I fantasize about moving to Montana without a forwarding address, especially right now, with the pressure of Zac's upcoming school year LOOMING over my frenetically frazzled head.
It's really hard to be a stay at home mom. Give yourself a break. Is there any way that you can get a babysitter, a teenager from the neighborhood, to come in for an afternoon? or, a couple of summer ago, a friend's teenage daughter basically lived with us over the summer and the kids LOVED having her, for them it was like having a giant interactive toy that played with them ALL THE TIME and never cut them off to do stupid stuff like clean toilets and cook dinner.
I hope you are able to take a nap this weekend. Sleep deprivation is a nasty, nasty thing.