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Thursday, February 19, 2009

Growing pains

I am no longer the mommy that I want to be.

When my kids were younger I was one of the good mommies. We spent endless hours at the park, and did crafts, and read books, and rode our bikes. Sure there were tough days, but generally speaking our time was fluid and carefree and fun.

I don't know where it all went wrong. Actually, that's not true. I do know what happened. They got older and they went to school, and that is horribly ironic because during those younger years about which I was just waxing poetic I used to fantasize about this time... all my kids in school for a full day... all at the same school... old enough to be somewhat responsible and accountable for themselves.

This should be nirvana and instead it's starting to look like hell. I've already covered the fact that I'm lost. I'm still stumbling around in the dark trying to reacquaint myself with me, but that isn't the problem. Oh no, the biggest problem is interacting with the kids and trying to divvy myself up into enough equal pieces to satisfy everyone's need for attention. Picking the kids up from school has become the low point of the day. I spend the entire day thinking about how quiet the house is without them (okay, not really, but I do miss them). I arrive in the carpool line to pick them up and I am eager to hear their stories. And then they get in the car. All four of them bursting with enthusiasm and excited to share their stories and adventures. And they can't contain themselves. They interrupt each other. They get rude. There's some occasional pinching in the back when someone goes on too long about their day. By the time I get home I'm usually lecturing one, if not all of them about manners and respect for each other and blah, blah, blah.

It doesn't get better once we are home. Everyone attacks me with homework and forms to be signed and reading logs. No one gets my full attention. Throw sports and other activities into the mix and it quickly becomes ridiculous. It's not like the kids are over scheduled either. They each do one sport at a time, plus Girl Scouts, but you multiply that times four and, well, it's just a lot. I feel like it's a constant struggle to keep from running into myself at the intersection of crazy and busy. But how is it that I was bored a couple hours ago while they were at school?! Talk about a study in contrasts.

I know she's got five and I only have four, but I swear this is what it feels like when they all get home from school.

I do realize this is nothing new. Every single one of you is probably reading this and thinking, "Cry me a river, lady." The problem is it's sucking the joy out of my time with them. I know it's not all sweetness and light, but it seems wrong when the most fun I've had with Hannah lately was when she was sick at home recovering from the stomach flu and we played endless games of Sorry together. She is such a funny kid with a dry, sharp sense of humor. A lot like mine come to think of it. But it's not like I get to see it that often.

And then I wonder... was it really that great when they were younger or am I conveniently forgetting just how hard it was? Did I really read them a story peacefully or were they crawling all over and standing on one another in an effort to try and get the best spot to see the pictures? It's probably a little of both, but right now it seems all I do is nag and complain. And that is not the mom I want to be.

I've gone back and forth and changed this last paragraph at least five times. As I read back over this post, not to proofread but to problem-solve my own situation, I think I get it. It wasn't perfect then and it's not perfect now. Then I was agonizing over why my twins wouldn't sleep through the night. Now I'm frustrated trying to manage complicated schedules with panache while still being a meaningful (not grouchy!) influence in their lives.

I guess this is why they say being a mom is such tough work.

So, I'm going to make some changes. Basically, I'm going to try harder to speed up when the kids are at school and slow down when they get home. Either that or I'm going to make an appointment with my doctor and see if she can prescribe a chill pill.


Ink said...

Kathy, what a great and thought-provoking post! It IS difficult to walk the line between wanting to happily enjoy the time together AND having to be the person who points out when they are acting inappropriately or tells them to pick up after themselves (or picks up after them or whatever). It's friggin' exhausting! Hugs to you!

Anonymous said...

I love it. I love the honesty.

I'm in in the toddler stage with my first (I'd like to have one more). So I'm not sure I'm much help, but I can at least say I think I understand.

I used to just assume I would go back to work full time once all my kids were in school. I've realized recently that this won't be as simple as I thought it would be - for many of the same reasons you write about. Honestly, I'm struggling with that because I never thought I'd be a SAHM.

Maybe you could try to have a little one on one date with each of them a month. Maybe a lunch out to just enjoy one kid at a time would help you feel more connected? (Again - I'm sure it's easier said than done.)

Shannan said...

More power to you. I'm like "K" above with just one toddler and I'm still trying to figure out a way to keep it all together.

My daughter seems to have so much fun with my husband and I'm always the one telling her what "Not" to do.

Oh well, guess it just comes with the territory. I'm sure you'll figure something out. I like "K's" suggestions of one on ones.

Gibby said...

First...if you find some of those chill pills, let me know where you found them.

Second...I know where you are coming from. Sort of. Even though I only have one in school all day and the other is in preschool, my road is starting to travel in your direction. Every night I go to bed thinking, "I should have done it this way" or "I should have handled that another way" or "things used to be so much easier..."

I also think that our minds protect ourselves by remembering the good times. For instance, when I really think about it, I had some BAD days when the girls were babies, but I tend to forget about those. Or when I am having a really frustrating day now, I think about how fun work used to be, and wouldn't it be so much easier just to jump on the train and head to an office. But again, when I really think about it, I had some BAD days at work, too.

When it comes down to it, everyday life is hard and you do the best you can do and grab those really great moments and hang on to them. (or blog about them!) In the end, your girls won't remember your frustration (tho you might or maybe you will look back on these days and only think of the good, like you do now with their baby days), they will remember that you were there for them every single day.

Sorry if I was rambling!!!!

Gibby said...

OMG, I just saw how long my comment was...I talk too much!!

Anonymous said...

*hugs* Hang in there. :-) We're all behind you and ready to listen to again. :-)

Kathy B! said...

Gibby: Never apologize for getting chatty on my blog :) I love it!

All: Thanks for all the hugs! I get so frustrated sometimes when it seems all I do is grump and nag. I know I'm their parent and not their friend, but does that mean we can't enjoy each other's company?! All I can say is I think the teenage years have the potential to get U-G-L-Y.

Anonymous said...

The fact that you are worried about this and already trying to make changes makes you a good mom. Do you know how many people there are that just don't care about this? Too many.

My mom had four kids (three were 1 yr apart each) so afterschool in my parents van sounds a lot like afterschool with your kids. I grew up fairly confident in myself and extremely confident in my parents love for me.

Zeemaid said...

Keep on keeping on with what you're doing. Breedermama is right. The fact that you are concerned and are trying to make changes, makes you a great parent. We all need to grow.

I'm still in that fantasizing stage and some times think if we can just hit this milestone... then things will be better. But it's not, new challenges always come up. Life would actually be boring without it.

So good for on rising to the challenge. :)

Brenda Jean said...

I feel your pain, and I only have 3. They are 14, 15 and 8 now. Some days I feel JUST like you described. But I do think we are doing better most days. I wish I had some wise words that would help. I think over the years I learned how to take a deep breathe and take alone time when I needed it. Learn to give yourself credit too--you will get it figured out:)

Debbie said...

I think it is exactly how you have described it. Even though we had bad days when they were small, the problems were all within our home and we could handle them. Now, at least with mine, the problems are school work, or friends, or college apps, or extracurricular activities. It is awful some days. I just had a terrible evening with my middle one. I hear you. I am crying that river with you!

ck said...

KB - I really appreciate this post. It's an in-your-face reminder that time really does go as fast as my mom says it does.

And I think you're doing a great job.

AND that picture kinda rocks...

TuTu's Bliss said...

My oldest starts school very soon. I will miss her. I have contemplated putting it off. She's ready but I on't know about me. :(
Hugs for you!

Lynette said...

want some more earth shattering news?
in a few years (and they really do go by fast) they will all up and leave you to go to college, jobs and spouses. Then you really have to figure out what to do with yourself and who you are. Mine is in college and it seems my hubby has to work more than ever (note that job stimulas package works this way to pay bills) so I am home alone almost all the time. What then? Hey I was wondering were was Wenda?