Insanity

It’s been awhile since I’ve sat at this computer writing to anyone who will read. Partially because we really DON’T live a very interesting life, and I run out of things to say, but also because this life is crazy.

Having a “crazy” life in parenting terms doesn’t really mean the same as having a crazy life pre-kids. Not by a long shot. It’s just that crazy is the only descriptor that works for it. Isn’t there a quote floating around, *supposedly* by Albert Einstein that says something like “‘crazy’ is doing the same thing again and again and expecting different results”? It’s so, so apt for parenting, even if old Bert didn’t say it.

I get up in the morning, usually after being up FAR too late with my children, or sometimes to escape my children, and I say the same thing: “today is a new day”. But that’s where my particular brand of crazy begins. Because while it may be a new day, I’ll be doing basically the exact same things I do every day, and hoping against hope that today will be less hectic.

For example, every meal that I feed my children goes exactly the same way. Because I feed them. And because they seem to think that’s something I do for funsies, and not because they need the sustenance they’re both oh-so-sneakily handing off to whichever 4-legged friend will participate in the game. But I keep feeding them the same way, mostly because that’s not really optional, but I keep hoping against hope that today will be the day they calm the eff down. If we could survive with zero food, I’m guessing half of the moms in the world would just be like “eh. We’ll skip food for this ridiculous stage and pick this back up when they’re 11 or 12, when they’re ready to develop an unhealthy relationship with comfort food, like I have.” In fact, I’m sure of it. But here I am, gearing up to ask these heathens what they want for lunch.

I also do the dishes, like some of you out there. Occasionally. And every time, I’m like, this is it! My house will stay clean for forever because I did one load of dishes. I consider buying a cape for the occasion, because doing a load of dishes with small “helpers” in the house seems super human. Then breakfast, lunch,  dinner, snacks, other various dish-related nonsense happens. And since I’m too busy wrestling food from an animal or scrubbing a child that felt like food was actually finger paint, the dishes remain unwashed. Then, night rolls around and I stare around my house, wondering how this could’ve happened. Where did all these dishes come from?  How could I have let the house implode in just a day? Oh, wait.

You see, I really am an intelligent person (most days), but parenting and existing are things that don’t intermingle that well in my mind. I can’t seem to figure out how to do this parenting thing without losing my crap completely. I look at people with older children and I don’t understand how they made it that far without being locked in a padded cell for a bit, you know, just a little respite.

Just admit it, it doesn’t sound that bad to you, does it?

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All these mistakes I’ve made…

Let’s just face it. As parents, we fail. We fail, and fail, and fail. We succeed, too, but sometimes our triumphs are marred by all these other mistakes we make. I’m not talking about like… Your kid going to Harvard vs going to prison kind of triumphs and pitfalls. I’m talking about all this day to day nonsense that just keeps coming, like an endless, angry train, threatening to collide straight into any sense of normalcy you might’ve once had.

To make you feel better, I’ve decided to share what will certainly be the downfall of my sanity. So, without further ado, my most upsetting mistakes as a parent:

  1. Handing my one year old a muffin. This may seem innocent enough, but the repercussions of this mistake will be felt for years to come. When we move, many moons from now, this mistake will be felt in the stares of volunteers/loved ones, come to uproot our old life with us. They’ll stare because it will be found in our couch, in the corners of every room, and smeared somewhere that shouldn’t have been accessible to her, at a mere 30 inches tall. Don’t get me wrong, I’ll have cleaned many times since this incident, but it won’t matter. The joy of moving will have been ruined in one fell swoop. A crumby (get it?) end to an era.
  2. “We probably won’t need it”. This is one mistake I make over and over and over again. You see, I’m an overpacker. And my tendency to bring everything but the kitchen sink with me means I’m also habitually ditching said stuff to be left in the car because it’s just too much to deal with. This backfires on me exactly 100% of the time. Because I do this, roughly 85% of our outings end in me losing my patience & us leaving before we should. Or end with me covered in poop. Either way, I don’t know why I keep making my own life so hellish.
  3. Having a late dinner. Why, why, why? Why anyone thinks this is a good idea with children is beyond me. It starts so seemlessly. Engrossed in something else, the children will be little angels. For a time. Inevitably, when we decide it’s time to eat, our children will commence in what is likely similar to summoning demons. “Witching hour” does not do justice to the chaos & disaster that unfolds the moment a pan hits the stove. For the remainder of our cooking and eating experience, our house becomes a free-for-all, where my children turn into miniature versions of Mike Tyson circa 1997, complete with ear-biting. It’s like their one mission in life is to see if they can break their parents before they’re served what is clearly prison mush in their eyes. It will be an utter failure, and everyone will eat canned soup.
  4. Taking children to my doctor’s appointment. The last time I made this mistake, I took both of my children, then 9 months (R) and 2.75 years (L), to the eye doctor with me to get contacts. Frankly, the memory has me cringing. When L wasn’t slamming into the eye checker machine thing (we’ll pretend that’s what it’s called), R was screaming. Aggressively. L became convinced that the doctor was attempting to murder me, via eyeball. R started throwing things. And in a spectacular ending to the hour that went on for years, L decided that she needed to pee, and without any sort of warning, dropped trou in the middle of the office, for everyone to see, while I only had one contact in my eye. Neat. By the time we left, I was certain I was 2 minutes from a breakdown.

 

 

The list of mistakes is long, but I have to say, these are my most painful. They may seem small, but I will carry the sorrow and regret from these experiences with me until I die.

Grocery shopping is a nightmare.

I don’t do it often, but on occasional I become so delusional that I believe I can manage grocery shopping with 2 small kids. Grocery shopping with my little heathens is clearly well outside the scope of my parenting abilities. It’s been proven to me every time I attempt it. And for some stupid reason, I keep coming back for more.

My grocery shopping experience has 4 stages:

  • Over-confidence: As we pull up to the store, children smiling, sippy cups in hand, Starbucks in tow, I’m feeling pretty good. This is usually the point where I’m telling myself a number of lies, centered around the fact that past failures were just a fluke. We’re going to be just fine today. -Insert eye roll so heavy I can see my brain- As we enter the store with my list in hand, cart chock-full of small people, and hair quickly reaching homeless-level dishevelment just from the sheer effort of wrestling both kids from a car seat and into a cart, I begin seeing my flaw. This is where step two comes in.
  • Errors have been made: My toddler is tearing up all the things I put in the cart, or handing them up to her baby sister to gnaw violently on, while she lets out her first of many war cries. I soon realize this is not going to work, and that said toddler will need to walk. Remember, it will be FINE. Let’s get her on the floor. “No, wait, don’t slam that man’s cart into his own shin! Please don’t run to the next aisle! Put that back on the shelf! That’s not ours, hand that back to the woman you stole it from, please! Don’t eat that off the floor! Don’t lick the floor, either! You have to go potty again?!” Why didn’t I bring a carrier? Why didn’t I foresee this? How many mistakes must I make? Why does the baby cry at the worst possible time? Great, she pooped her pants.
  • F*!k this: This is about the time that I start making statements like “If you can’t be nice, we can’t get your chocolate almond milk” or “Fine, then we’re putting it all back and leaving with nothing”. This is literally the most stupid thing I’ve ever said, because anyone who knows me (my own kids included) knows I refuse to leave that store until everything I need is in my cart. I’m just not capable of walking away from work I’ve already done. So they call my bluff. Again and again and again. And I make weak threats that no one gives two sh!ts about. And then I rage-weep, and I walk through the aisles, corralling my monsters and ignoring hateful stares while L piles unnecessary crap into the cart, that I’ll eventually need to re-route to return to it’s home.
  • I’m never, ever doing this again: When we get to the cart, no less than 5 hours from the time we arrived, looking broken, feeling pretty butthurt/murderous, I vow, THIS will be the end. THIS was the last straw. THIS is the lesson I needed. Now I just need to get us home in a route that bypasses anything that MIGHT sell chicken nuggets. As I do so, I convince myself that no matter how hungry we are, it can wait the 8 hours of my husband’s work shift. This IS the last time.

 

I’m not a particularly stupid person, so I rarely take my kids to the store with me if I can avoid it. But I might be a little crazy, because I keep doing the same thing and expecting different results. I’m at the point where I’m unsure if I’ll ever be able to take them into public places before they reach adulthood. It seems unlikely.

I’ve heard it before, and every time it’s been said to me, I laugh hysterically in my head at it, that if you just keep taking them out, they eventually learn to behave in public. Based on my experiences, my children level up in ridiculousness each time we pull into a Kroger parking lot. So, to those of you who look like hot messes in the grocery store… Solidarity. It’s all I have to offer. And those of you who pretend to have your crap together, please don’t judge the rest of us when we look like fools. Best wishes to my fellow parents trying not to fall apart in a Giant Eagle.

Too much to do. No time to do it.

As a stay-at-home mom, I end up with the lion’s share of the household chores, simply by default since I’m here much more frequently. To anyone without kids, chores basically look like this: clean your dishes, wash your clothes, occasionally sweep the floors. For parents, this is like a laughable list of impossible tasks. At least when your kids are small & they choose to undo everything you’ve ever accomplished in your house with a simple bowl of Cheddar Bunnies.

My chore list is ridiculous. Ridiculous in that it’s ridiculous it hasn’t given me an aneurysm yet. It goes as follows:

  • Do the dishes. All 47 Replay bowls that the toddler needed for 506 different foods, all of which are less than half eaten. Oh, wait. The baby just came & spit up in the dishwasher. That’s cool, right? I mean, it’s supposed to wash the dishes anyway… Right?
  • Wash, dry and fold the clothes. Except the toddler needs, NEEDS, to load the washer for you. And doesn’t know how to use laundry bags. So everything goes in together. Even the poop covered stuff, which is inevitable when you have two kids under 3. Cool. Hanging things on a drying rack is a delight when everything you hang gets ripped down 3 seconds later in a damp mess on the floor. And folding… Wow. That’s a special event. It’s not even describable how disastrous folding can be with two small kids in tow.
  • Take the dog out. Clean the cat litter box. Feed the animals, don’t forget the fish. Why did I sign on the keep track of so many people that aren’t myself? Why am I in charge of no less than FOUR small creatures & their feces? Have kids, they say. Get pets, they say. It’ll all be so rewarding. Except they leave out the part where no less than half your day is figuring out whose poop this is, and why it’s in the living room floor, and why everyone smaller than you gets a larger share of the food budget than you do. Rude.
  • Sweep and mop the floors. 900 times a day. Because all 47 of those Replay bowls you just put in the dishwasher were spilled on the floor prior to their journey to the kitchen sink/counter. How anyone with toddlers, us included, aren’t host to at least 5 different types of rodent is nothing short of a miracle.
  • Clean every other area of the house. Except that once I finish cleaning the same crap over and over all day, there isn’t any time to clean anything else. Unless I never sleep.

The point is… Stay in the main living area of my house. I’m not honestly sure I’m even getting anything done. This could be some sort of mind game the house & kids are playing on me to see how long they can run me into the ground before I crack. That’s fine, I guess.

Mornings at our house.

I’ll be the first to say I’m NOT a morning person. Neither is my husband. We’ve clearly passed this down to our kids. Honestly, happy people in the morning make us all a bit stabby.

Mornings are normally kind of frustrating for all of us, because we’re all just kind of passing the pissy mood back & forth. Most mornings, I rush out of bed to get R fed, because she’s always the first to rise. She likes to make sure L wakes up with her, so I have to get some liquid happiness into her before she gets a chance. I’ve gotten this morning exchange kind of down to a science. I change her while she’s eating because I don’t have it in me to wrestle my alligator baby first thing in the morning. But before I even bother, the coffee maker is started. I have priorities, y’all.

Our morning is likely not “typical”, because as well as hating mornings, we also hate breakfast. Unless it’s in liquid, caffeinated form. Lately, once L is awake & I’ve had my first cup of energy, I’ve taken to pulling what I’ve dubbed a “smoothie kit”(which is just frozen fruits and veggies already cut up & frozen together in a bag) out of the freezer in the mornings, whipping up a quick smoothie for us, and then we all sit around, pissy & waiting for daylight to become acceptable to us.

It should be mentioned that we’re LATE risers. Like 10-11am. All of us. It stems from when B used to work nights and we kept really weird hours. Now we just can’t shake it. For the most part, it’s nice. Except that in the “normal” mom world, playdates start at 9am, and we aren’t even cleaned up until after “lunchtime”, which is more like breakfast/smoothie time for us. I really don’t have it in me to adjust our whole life for that, though.

When the girls finally get up the energy/tolerance to play, I hang out on the floor until we’re ready to extend our bubble to the outside world. If we’re doing something, it usually doesn’t happen until 2pm, because I don’t really have my $#!& together the way I should. By the time we’re all clean, dressed, and human, morning has long since passed. Even then, none of us are super dedicated to the idea of being around other people, but we manage enough to be normal citizens for awhile.

Maybe it’s not that we aren’t morning people, but that we aren’t daytime people. I’m beginning to think we did better at this whole thing when we were halfway to nocturnal.

Activities with small children.

We’ve passed around cold after nasty cold this spring, resulting in a ton of time indoors when it would’ve been lovely to get out & see the world. We’re finally on the upswing of a particularly nasty bout of plague, so today, my husband’s day off, we decided to get out & do something fun.

We frequent the zoo (our zoo is one of the best in the country), and we basically live at our local science center, but today called for something new & special. My bright idea was mini golf, and since we have a Games & Golf fun center nearby, we decided that was as good an activity as any. It was a lovely 75 degrees, sunny with a slight breeze, so the perfect day for it.

We loaded up and headed there. We popped the 10 month old in the baby carrier on my back, paid for our golf, grabbed our golf balls and putters, and headed out. Fun hopefully to ensue.

L, at 2.5, has never played mini golf. We have high hopes that she’ll find the idea interesting, and at first, she watches intently, taking our golf balls with her on a journey far past par. She delights in walking up to the hole and plopping her ball in. We think we’re doing okay. Two holes in, a mother and elementary school age kid are behind us, so we decide to let them pass us by. Mistake #1 is made. That’s given L the time to entirely abandon the idea of playing the game. She’s now just running around the greens, standing in the way of our potential holes-in-one. This turns into her spinning in circles, swinging her club around. Thankfully for my shin, it only connected with a plastic toddler club.

When we finally come to the end of our 9-hole game, having long since abandoned the idea of asking her if she’d like to take a turn, we convince L to drop her ball in the final hole. This particularly course has a final hole that feeds your ball into some dark abyss beneath the green, never again to be seen by tiny toddlers. L is not impressed. Luckily, there are arcade games inside to buy us time before we hit our first tantrum. Thankfully, R has ridden happily the entire time on my back, and has barely made a peep, so we have this on our side.

When we’re done with our games, we cash in our tickets for a $.05 fairy wand at the counter. Big win in a toddler day. Not so much for the parents who will be responsible for refereeing the fight to come over who gets to play with said fairy wand…

We had a fun day, if not a bit aimless. But that’s kind of the name of the game when you have small kids. They will inevitably find fun in everything but the intended activity, which is fine, especially when you consider how nice it was to feel some fresh air on our faces, and watch her spinning around in the sunlight, and had zero tantrums the whole time. I’d call that a pretty successful day on the books.

 

Mom groups FTW.

If you’re a mom (or a dad) on Facebook, chances are, you’re part of one. These groups of seemingly put-together, all-knowing, been there done that, types of parents can be really daunting. In this modern world where everyone has an intimate view into your life and your parenting choices — like… On a blog — being judged feels like a constant pressure.

These mom groups can be difficult to maneuver when you’re figuring out where you belong. And frankly, some of them are not going to be a good fit for you, maybe even downright BAD for you. But if you keep looking for your niche to fall into, mom groups can become your best asset as a growing parent. It’s okay to ditch the others. Maybe even good.

As a member of many (too many?) mom groups, and creator of my own group, I know how quickly things can turn from seemingly innocent discussion to WWIII, because mama bears will attack. But I can say with complete and total honesty, I would be an entirely different parent if I hadn’t joined the Facebook group scene. I was introduced to cloth diapering, home births and intactivism via various local mom groups. I met some of my good friends in them, and reconnected with some people I knew in school but hadn’t really known. I found guidance, I gave advice, and I struggled alongside other parents who had similar lifestyles.

I found out just how much it can mean to have a virtual stranger say “I’ve been there” and really understand in a way that the real figures in my life just couldn’t. I rallied behind moms like me when they needed someone to understand.

In the isolated world of parenting, I found a place where I could be real, instead of putting on a brave face for the “outsiders” that I occasionally saw in my real life. The amount of weight that lifts when you no longer have to respond with a smile & a “we’re fine” is life changing in such a small, but huge, way.

When you find a group where you can be a flawed and struggling parent, and still be seen as strong and amazing, you’ll know you’ve found a good place.

You’ll know when you find yourself wanting to tell these people all your joys and all your pains. You’ll know when you feel safe telling someone you’re failing today. It’ll be a turning point in your journey as a parent. Because in a way, you’ll be stronger and better for having found them & they’ll be better for having received you into their world.

If you’re a parent, and you haven’t found that group, I urge you to keep trying. They don’t need to be local. They don’t need to be perfect. They just need to be there when it sometimes feels like no one else will.