when the going gets tough

You ever notice how sometimes everything with your kids is super easy? 

It's like life in your 20's, when no matter what choices you make everything somehow turns out okay. 

Sign a lease for $1,000 more than you thought you could pay? Somehow you always make the rent. 

Get shitfaced at a bar and lose your friends and your cell phone so you decide to go to KFC because it just feels right? Somehow a cab always pulls up just as you finish your biscuit, and it is always your friends, and one of them always has your phone. 

Double-book a Friday night? Somehow one person always cancels, and it's always the person you didn't really want to see.

Want to check out the inside of a laundry hamper?
There's always something delightful in there,
and your best friend at your side to revel in the discovery of
a spider
a sticker
a dryer sheet

You ever notice how sometimes everything with your kids is a grinding, Sisyphean chore?

It's like life in your 30's, when no matter what choices you make everything somehow costs more money and takes more time and is harder than it was supposed to be. 

You put away $1,000 for a vacation? Somehow that's exactly when you get a flat tire and you have to buy a whole new set so they wear evenly and no, sorry, they're not on sale. 

Get shitfaced at a bar and lose your friends and your cell phone so you decide to go to KFC because it just feels right? Somehow you're sitting at the KFC window just in time to watch your car get towed. So at least you know what you'll be doing tomorrow. After you spend $800 on a new phone, because that puppy is gone.

Double-book a Friday night? You're a dick because both of those friends have planned a gluten-free menu around your dietary restrictions, and you have to blame your spouse to get out of one friend's dinner, but then it turns out your spouse misunderstood your text and canceled on the other person blaming you, so now you have no plans on Friday night, which is fine, actually, because you don't really like any of your friends anyway.

Want to check out the inside of a laundry hamper?
Now you are my pet donkey.
I shall sit upon you and ignore your braying screams.

That's how I feel right now. Like nothing is going to work out. I am NOT in a happy-go-lucky place with my parenting. 

The cycle started when Chicken was 1. He'd have a bad week - throwing food, fighting the car seat, screaming in the bath. I'd text all my friends with younger kids: Holy shit he's possessed! Have you ever dealt with this? They'd respond: Uh, yeah? Welcome to parenting, rookie. The only easy day was yesterday.

They didn't say it in so many words, but I know that's what they were thinking. 

I'd buy a new parenting book, speed read it, and implement every possible strategy; I subscribe to polyparenting - No commitments. I'll try anything once. After a week of trying fourteen different strategies and holding on for dear life, one morning I'd go into my son's room and find the scowling orc gone, in his place my smooth-browed cherub once again. 

Like Mr. Hyde, Chicken reappeared, sweet, curious, perhaps a little perplexed when he watched me wince in anticipation as I served him his oatmeal. He'd eat his food, sit calmly while I clicked his car seat harness in place, splash happily in the lukewarm bath water. We'd have a smooth month or two. And then... he'd turn again.

As he got older, the bad week would stretch out, and the respite would shrink - a bad fortnight, followed by a good one. A gnarly hellscape of a May, punctuated by a quiet Memorial Day weekend in which we were thankful because he didn't try to run away and hide at the grocery store. 

Now he's three and it feels like the good moments are just that - moments. I pour him a cup of milk and he says "oh! Thank you for noticing!" I have just enough time to let genuine delight up-end my scowl into a grin before he hefts the cup in his hand like a full-fat cudgel and taps four rapid smacks on Buster's temple, shaking milk spatter all over, sending his brother into purple-faced rage.

It feels like the only way to get through the day is to let go of the expectation that today, there will be no screaming. 

It feels like my only option is acceptance. Not just acceptance of his misery and mine, and Ryan's vacant, beaten stare at a dinner table spattered with rejected pozole. But acceptance of my failure as a parent. Acceptance of Chicken's eventual shoplifting conviction, something that could have been avoided if his fucking screw up of a mother had just taught him impulse control, and a little respect for pete's sake.

It feels like I'm a terrible mom, which I can live with.
It feels like I'm raising a terrible kid, which I cannot.

The wilder he gets, the more I know I have to find a place of peaceful calm. I love you. I believe in you. We are in this together and I know we can figure it out. Your spirit is a tremendous gift, and even when it's trying, I am grateful for it. And you. Now, let's take a deep breath together... aaaaand... ooooommmmmmmmmmmm..."

And yet, the wilder he gets, the more I want to find a place of warlording power. You call that screaming? THIS IS SCREAMING MOTHERFUCKER. Now sit down and read a book and do not make a single sound that isn't pleasing to my ear, or I swear to all the Norse battle gods that I will smash every piece of glass in this house, and I will not stop until you know what it means to be broken.

Let me be clear. I have never called my child a motherfucker. Out loud. And the only reason I'm comfortable letting the expletive rattle around in the dark, dark, darkity dark cavern of my mind is because I'm quite certain that my mother thought the same thing about her darling angel Katie once or twice.

Everyone says it's just a phase. Everyone says it passes.

I'm in the valley of the shadow, and this part of the journey feels dark and bleak, simultaneously endless, and a dead end.

Someone bring me a bourbon and a Nancy Meyers movie, STAT.
I'll take any film with a set that looks like Pottery Barn and a wardrobe that looks like J. Crew.

very funny
but seriously
anything but that one



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