Baby oil…really.

So, kids are fun.  Seriously.  Because where else could you go for entertainment, challenges, absolute love, emotional endurance training, and housekeeping training, all in the same pint-sized package?  Kids really are something incredibly precious.  I say these things to remind myself why I’m not absolutely batsh** crazy yet.  If I focus on the blessings they truly are, then I can grab the camera to document when the toddler dumps nail polish in his hair, rather than freaking out right away.  (PSA, if this happens, copious amounts of baby oil, then lay the toddler down in the bathtub so the hair is submerged, and gently comb the nail polish out–it took me 30 minutes, but I’d assume the time will vary depending on the amount of polish and the amount of hair.)

My toddler can be either the sweetest, funniest, most loving child, or the terrorist from hell.  There’s not really an in-between.  He is constantly reminding me of that old rhyme: “There was a little girl who had a little curl, right in the middle of her forehead.  When she was good, she was very very good, but when she was bad, she was horrid.”  When he is good, he is seriously SOOOOOO cute, and sweet, full of laughter, intelligence, bright, shining eyes, and he loves everyone.  He is sweet to the dogs, loves to cuddle, is curious, and is, frankly, just wonderful.  When he’s unhappy or knows he’s about to get in trouble, he is the devil.  He is devious, sneaky, runs away from me, screams so hard it makes him quiver; he hits, yells NO!!!  at the top of his lungs, throws things, and fights with a strength and speed that is, frankly, surprising in one so young.  The dichotomy between the two aspects of him, while not at all uncommon in a toddler, never fails to surprise me and catch me off guard, and is the reason I walk that line between ‘Normal Mom’ and ‘Crazy Mom’ on such a regular basis.

So, if you ever feel like, as the parent of a toddler, you’re losing your mind, know this:  You are not alone.  You are NOT alone.  You are NOT ALONE.  We’re here–all of us who have gone before you to fight the potty training battles, all who are traveling the road of messes and tantrums with you, and all who will follow in your sticky jam-covered footprints well into the future.  You are not alone, and I will always stand in solidarity with my sister-mothers out there, fighting the good fight to turn these wonderful little people into even more-wonderful older people.  I am here for you.  We are all there with you, and you are loved.  Hang in there Mama–we got your back.

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I Cried Three Times Today

I cried three times today.  It wasn’t that terribly unusual.  Nobody ever tells you that you’ll cry more in your first two years as a mother than you probably cried your entire life up to that point.  The tears seem so close some days, that you feel like you’re clutching onto the dry eyes as a lifeline–as if to let those tears flow will will start a torrent that may not stop.  Or maybe it’s just me.  Maybe I’m the only mom who ever feels that way.  I doubt it, but since we mothers don’t talk about how HARD simply holding onto our sanity is some days, maybe it is just me.  I’ve been a mom for nearly 11 years, and I’m convinced I’ve cried my very own lake by now.

It’s different every day, yet somehow it’s all the same.  It’s the constant demands on my attentions, the never-ending messes that need to be cleaned up, the fights that never seem to end unless I step in the middle, and the complete absolute lack of peace unless both older kids are gone and the youngest is sleeping.  It’s the constant nagging feeling that it shouldn’t be this hard, and that I must be doing something very wrong, yet the contradictory knowledge that I’m not alone in this feeling and that most parents feel this way.  Someone asked me how it was going, and I responded that I was hanging on by my fingernails which I’ve bitten off completely.

Today it was the corn tortilla stuffed down the bathroom sink drain, the concentrated juice spilled and tracked all over the kitchen floor and into my bathroom, the chips dumped on the floor about three feet away from me–before I even figured out what he was doing–the cable receiver box that was reset yet again, the screaming, and the absolute stubborn refusal to nap despite how exhausted he clearly was.  I often post about my toddler terrorist incidents, and today someone commented “You must have the patience and fortitude of a saint.”  I don’t.  I really don’t.  On a near-daily basis I flirt with thoughts of running away, I try to hide in my room, and I cling to my sanity like a drowning woman clinging to the last bit of flotsam she can see.

Daily I feel love, pride, astonishment, horror, disgust, anger, irritation, sadness, fear, hope, and peace.  In the Fifth Harry Potter book, Ron Weasley responded to a description of one girls feelings by saying “One person can’t feel all that at once–they’d explode.”  I understand why he would think that way–sometimes I do feel like I’m going to explode.  I have problems understanding how I can honestly love these kids SO much, yet be so mad at them that I think the top of my head will blow off.  It’s really confusing that I am so happy to talk to them and hear their voices, yet I can get to the point where I’d give nearly anything for them to just be quiet.  I think the contradictions are what really push me to the edge–if it were just one way or the other, I’d be able to figure out how to deal with it, but all the double-edged swords just push me to the very brink of what I think I can handle.

But oddly enough, I do handle it.  So do other parents–we just handle it, we do our best and keep going.  We keep fighting every day simply to raise these kids of ours, hoping that we’re not causing more problems than a hug can make better.  We love them, we do our best by them, even when that best isn’t what they want, and we don’t give up on them even when that awful voice whispers in our heads that life would be so much simpler without them.  I know–I’m mentioning things that we’re not supposed to talk about…We’re not supposed to want to give up, or wonder what our lives would be like without them.  We’re not supposed to mention that sometimes we think about just getting in the car and driving away from all the chaos.  We’re not supposed to say that we cry just because we can’t get them to stop crying, or that punishing them can sometimes hurt us even though we know it’s what’s best for them.

I want to say it all anyway.

Parenting is hard.  Kids can build us up and destroy us in a single day.  They can take us from laughter to tears, from joy to terror, and from peace to insanity.  It can go the other way, too, however–tears to laughter, terror to joy, insanity to peace, and from the bottom of the barrel to the top of the world.  People say parenting is rewarding, and it is, but like any reward worth having, it takes a LOT of hard work to achieve it.  I’m up for the challenge most days–after all, I’m still here, still trying, and still loving these children more than my heart feels like it has the capacity for.  But some days I feel like it’s going to break me.  Some days are just “those” kind of days, where every single hour is a struggle to get through, and you just can’t wait for bedtime when you can find some peace again.  Some days are the kind of days where the toddler just won’t listen, and the kids won’t stop fighting, and the messes don’t stop coming.  Some days all you can do is cry.  Mama said there’ll be days like this….

 

 

 

 

 

The Toddler Terrorist

It started when my baby became a toddler. Gone was the sweet innocence of the gentle coos and the delight at simply rolling over or crawling around with his toys. No, he was no longer content to stay in one place, he was EXPLORING.

It started when my baby became a toddler.  Gone was the sweet innocence of the gentle coos and the delight at simply rolling over or crawling around with his toys.  No, he was no longer content to stay in one place, he was EXPLORING.  Every parent who has raised a child knows this stage.  It’s the stage of locked cabinets, baby gates, and child safety EVERYTHING.  It’s the stage guaranteed to threaten gray hairs, when silence is nearly as alarming as the dreaded pain cries, and when messes are made in abundance of our powers to prevent them.

At the age of 18 months, it became very clear that my child was not much different than many toddlers.  He wanted to get into every locked or unlocked cabinet, door, or appliance, he was stubborn, and he was QUITE interested in having and doing things his own way.  He was, however, different from my older two children in that he was actually strong and clever enough to figure out how to defeat the majority of the child safety latches.  I watched in amazement as he simply overpowered the cabinet latches I had over the knobs, broke or removed the rubber bands I had put underneath those, and proceeded to explore, quite happily, the contents of the cupboard under the fish tank.  I had to replace all of our cabinet knobs with handles that the latches could slide through, in order to prevent this action from recurring ad nauseam.

Next to be defeated were the doorknob covers.  Parents know these–they are those annoying plastic covers that simply slip around instead of giving you the ability to get a good grip on the knobs themselves.  They have two halves to them, holes to put your fingers in to get a grip, they snap in place over the knobs, and they are incredibly frustrating for many of us, especially for my seven year-old son.  He quickly figured that in the haste of needing to use the restroom or get back into his own room, it was much quicker to simply break apart the two halves of the cover.  The first time I watched the toddler perform this EXACT same action and stroll into the room he was being kept from, I was amazed.  How many not-even-two-year-olds have figured out that trick just by watching an older sibling?  Surely my older children couldn’t have defeated those knobs, and certainly not that early!

After we gave up on the doorknob covers, we decided to simply ensure that all the interior doors had locking doorknobs on them, and we lectured the other children about the importance of locking the doors behind themselves to prevent their baby brother from getting into trouble in the rooms.  This meant that all the doors were locked from the insides, forcing us all to have to inject a very thin pin (which we hung on a tack above the reach of the toddler) into the knobs and catch on a specific pressure point inside the knob, to release the lock so that we could access the room.  This move takes quite a bit of dexterity and precision, not to mention access to the “key” pin, so I expected that to be that, and that the toddler would give up on attempting to subvert my safety features…I was wrong.

The first time I caught him, just before his second birthday, trying to stick a jewelers screwdriver into the tiny hole in the doorknob to unlock it, I knew that this kid was something I’d never experienced before.  This is a child that has the focus and attention to not only be able to study what his siblings and parents do, but to understand the reasons behind our actions–to understand WHY we do things–and to not only notice HOW we do things he wants to do, but the ability to find substitute tools when the one we use is not available to him.  This kid was CLEVER, and he was going to make my life harder than I ever expected a child to make it.  I would have to use every ounce of creativity, ingenuity, and understanding in order to survive this period with my sanity intact.  This is when the pictures and the stories started.

When the dog food was spread all over the kitchen floor, I took a picture instead of complaining about cleaning it up.  When he emptied out our seasonings on the floor and in one of my skillets, I took a picture, and told myself that he was just trying to “cook like mommy”, and I shared my messy picture with my friends.  When he learned how to climb up on the TV stand to get over the gate keeping him from the DVD shelves, I sighed, took a picture, and told myself I was happy that he was using his problem solving skills in such an applicable fashion.  When he pulled the strawberry milk container off the counter, snuck it into his bedroom, and ate it with a spoon, I laughed, took a picture, and pulled out the vacuum.

I published my pictures on Facebook, along with the stories that accompanied them.  Most parents empathized with my struggle, those without children were suitably warned, and EVERYONE laughed.  Some said “Hey, you should start a blog!”, and i said “You know, I do enjoy writing…” and said I’d think about it.  At first my excuse was that I didn’t have a computer, because the Toddler Terrorist, true to form, had broken my laptop.  I started exploring the idea anyway, because I was intrigued, and when I eventually was able to recover my computer, I started searching for the right platform.  Well, here it is.  I’ve started.  Here is my blog, my stories of light and love, and my loving reflections on my very own Toddler Terrorist.