"Those nights." You know the ones.
The ones where you are left with sleeping kids, tucked into their beds, and your heavy heart keeping you company. Your guilt sitting beside you to the right, and your "what ifs" and "I should'ves" to the left.
It's an epic failure type of night in this Parenthood type fiasco of a house.
It's one of those nights where there was too much yelling, crying, impatience, and frustration on everyone's part.
Where nobody ate the home cooked meal I attempted to make, despite that I was feeling sick and wanting to just make grilled cheese sandwiches or pasta again. Where I felt guilty that they ate nothing but the apple sauce, milk and bread on their plate, and turned up their noses at my hot dish. Yet knowing I refuse to make more than one meal, knowing this is the right thing to do, yet then feeling bad about it.
Where he pushed her and she yelled at him. Where she took his toy and he hid her book.
Where she screeched "STOP IT NOW, GO AWAY!" and stomped her foot, all with a strong reminder that she's turning the terrible 2 soon. And he hissed back like only 4 year olds can do and did some ridiculous spit noise out of his lips, as if to say, "SHUT UP, SISTA!"
It was one of those nights.
Where I feel like they hate each other, these siblings.
Where they want more attention from me than I can give right now because well, there are two of them.
Where I wonder why the hell almost two years into this "two kids thing" I still have these nights on occasion, out of no where, after GREAT nights, like THIS, where I go back to that first night I was left alone with them and the baby was screaming in a bouncy chair and the toddler was yelling "mommy, look at ME! hold ME!"
It's frustrating, disappointing, sad.
There are tears forming in my eyes, as I fight them back, because it's not their fault, I know this, I shouldn't let them see that it's upsetting me.
That I feel defeated.
So I carry on. Realizing it's only 5:30 p.m. and we have a ways to go before bed.
It's a bath night. And not just because that's how we roll every other night in this house, but also because I know a bath will help them "cool their bodies," as we say a lot, and make their noses open up a bit and help them sleep better.
So I know it's a bath night. I give in to this, even though I know bath will mean someone will end up SOAKED (insert annoyed mother in her pajamas and not wanting to change clothes again today here) . And there will be screeching "PUSH OVER I SAID! LET ME CLOSER TO THE WATER RUNNING! THAT'S MY SPOT!"
I know there will be fusses about me getting water on their eyes, despite that I try a zillion different methods to NOT get water on their eyes, yet everything I try they work against me.
The house is a mess. Toys, dirty clothes, dishes, they're everywhere.
And I do not care.
I'm sick. My head hurts.
I know they are sick and can't help being a little wild tonight.
And it's frustrating to be here alone with a husband working. And that's not his fault.
None of this epic failure of a night is anyone's fault.
It just is what it is.
It's chaos and everyday whirlwind.
It's something we adjust to, get used to, and accept... and even come to rely on.
Yet this fact doesn't make it easy to survive some nights.
Moms don't get to call in sick when they need a time out from a busy night.
So, we give in and yet never give up.
We keep trudging through the day, night, sleepless week, difficult teething month, terrible two years, etc. We keep moving forward because, well that's what we're here for, we mothers, it's what we DO.
In the middle of this ridiculous night I texted my sister-in-law, the one with two kids, who has more times than I can count said in so many words, "I've been there, I totally get it, it's hard, you'll get through this, I'm here." She said she totally knows how this feels, and that "it just means we're doing our job."
I love that.
The chaos, the busy, the frustrating, the almost brought to tears moments... they mean we're doing our job. Fulfilling our role as MOM. It's not supposed to be easy every day. Those who pretend it is are on some Disney magic carpet ride or something.
It's OK to admit defeat sometimes. It's OK to open up and say, "Wow, this is hard right now. I need a break, this is not going how I thought it would."
Because here's the end result of an epic failure type of night, one of THOSE nights...
They typically end in hugs, "I love yous", snuggles with stories, and bed time kisses.
They end in gratitude that despite the ups and downs, you get to be the one going through this, not someone else, YOU are their momma.
And even though it is ridiculously hard sometimes, you wouldn't trade it for a second of peace by a beach in the Caribbean. OK, well, maybe that sounds nice... but you get what I mean.
A FEW TIPS TO SURVIVE THOSE NIGHTS
In the midst of this chaos, I did a few things that helped... just in case you find yourself in "one of those nights" soon:
- Breathe, deep breaths, look at the ceiling, count to 10 if you have to, but look away from what is frustrating to you (you know, when your daughter just colored on the wall or your son threw all of his cars onto the floor you JUST cleaned up!).
- Talk quieter. Yelling never works. Ever. Speak softly, they'll quiet down to talk to you. This is an old teacher's wise trick, works every time. Just be patient, it'll work.
- Check the vitals. Are they hungry? Tired? Thirsty? Need to go to the bathroom? Cold? Too hot? Check these things out. Perhaps fixing one of those will help things go smoother.
- Distract them. Even if you think "they don't deserve something fun right now, they've been misbehaving so badly!" just do it. Do something fun. Have dinner on a blanket in the living room floor for a picnic to spice things up, or read a funny book acting out all the characters. I know they "don't deserve it for misbehaving," but I SWEAR it works every single time. Put music on, dance around. Lighten up. It's OK to change the mood this way.
- Remember and repeat to yourself: they're only kids. They are just little humans with big emotions, big ideas, big thoughts, and little bodies. They may be pushing every button you have, but they don't have a magic wand at their disposal to be doing that. They're just kids.
- Give what you want to be getting. Infuse what you want into this situation. If you want them to be cuddly, loving, quiet, listening... then YOU do those things. Even if it's hard, ESPECIALLY if it's a tough moment. Getting all frantic, loud, and consistently going to time out for the 5th time in a half hour is not going to do the trick. So, stop, take a time out in the middle of this chaotic night, and give what you want to be getting. For me, tonight that was putting one child in his bed with music on, saying I'd be right back, while I read two stories, sang two songs and rocked my daughter to sleep, hearing her say "love you mama" before I lay her down. Then heading back in to sit in the rocking chair we've had in my son's room since he was born, and read a long story, not those short ones you try to "cheat" with on regular bed time nights. And have him snuggle up to me like he was a little guy again, not the one who was saying I was a "meanie head" earlier tonight. We ended with big hugs, him saying "I just miss Daddy and don't want to go to school, I want to be on vacation with you again, Mommy," the root of the issues... and BIG "I love you" tickles and smiles. THAT's how I wanted my night to go.
- Let things go. If my kids were not sick tonight, even if it had been bath night, I would have foregone the baths. Let it go. Perhaps they already watched a half hour of TV today but now they're having a rough night and you know it would help you all if you snuggled up on the couch to watch another show. So what? Do it! Maybe they hate your dinner you worked on and it's your rule to never make something else. Oh well, on rough nights, get out bowls of cereal or make some pancakes. It's ALL good.
- Talk to a mommy buddy. I suggest having at least three moms on speed dial who you can contact in the middle of a meltdown. I would not call them though, text them instead, because you don't want your kids getting upset even more by hearing your conversation. Choose people who you know will respond within a timely fashion, and with whom you NEVER feel judged. You can't hold back how you feel on "nights like this." You need people who will say "Oh yeah, totally been there before, it sucks, doesn't it?!" not people who will automatically say something like "oh well when I went through that I did THIS and it worked like a charm, I'm so perfect I fix everything every single time," or "Huh, that's so strange, never had a moment like that before in my mommyhood, like ever." Find a mom who you can vent to, and let it out. She'll at least say she knows what it's like, which will help you feel less crazy in that moment. Or she could say something to make you laugh like, "That sounds awful, but at least you didn't have to clean up real poop across your entire kitchen floor 30 minutes after you washed it!"
- Pamper yourself. You deserve it. After "one of those nights" you fully deserve to drink wine, eat chocolate, skip the previously planned workout, watch stupid TV or scroll Facebook, and do NOTHING, not one single chore. You need to recharge after a night like that. Just relax. It'll be better in the morning.
- Don't dwell on it. Move on. Tomorrow, your kids won't even remember last night. They won't even see the messes everywhere and they won't hold you accountable for not cleaning up the kitchen table after dinner this one time. So, you should let it go, too. Don't hold a grudge. Don't be stern in the morning or remind them "we don't act like that again, OK, or else you're losing xyz today." Just move on. They're kids. Rebound quickly like they do. You'll all have a better tonight if you do! Also, move on from holding onto guilt. Yes, we ALL have bad nights, bad moments. We all make mistakes and wish we had do-overs. It's normal. So, don't feel like the world's worst mom for more than a second. Let it go.
Hang in there, moms. I know it's rough sometimes.
We're all in this together.
A defeated, yet happy to go eat some chocolate, momma