Sunday, September 21, 2014

Two's A Lot of Company

You know how motivational speakers are always bagging on people for answer inauthentically to the question, "how are you?". Granted, it is kind of lame when people say, "fine", because we all know that usually means "not fine", but seriously, most of us are not up for spilling our emotional guts to every person who asks, "how are you", which happens to be most people you run in to. My go-to answer to that question, in an effort to sound like I'm really responding to the question, but without burdening the person with my real problems is "tired". It's almost always true in one sense, and it's a totally acceptable mom answer. I just may not divulge that "tired" might mean "I'm really, really damn tired of trying to make my toddler eat one bite of regular food" or "I'm tired of being stressed out by working three jobs and still not making enough money to pay my bills" or sometimes just "so physically tired that my eyesockets curse the day they were incorporated into my body. They're so sore from tiredness".

But recently, "tired" isn't even cutting it. Now, I respond with a peppy (inwardly rueful), "surviving"! And that sounds like a generous statement sometimes. Some days, parenting makes the fact that there's still air circulating in your lungs at the end of the day a miracle. It's one of those "I laugh, only to keep from crying" things. Another new favorite response is, "taking it one day at a time," delivered as if that's the most delightful state a person could wish to be in. People usually smile and nod, and back away slowly. I don't blame them, I smell like fermented milk.

The kicker is that both my boys are great kids. It's just that there's two of them.
If one of them is even remotely troublesome, things get cray, 'cause you have to deal with the one, yet there's another one, just waiting in the wings to start crying or choking or sticking their fingers in electric sockets since you clearly don't love them if you're not staring them straight in the eyes.

I've always thought it was sad, maybe even a little lame, when parents act as if two kids is all they can handle and decide not to have more. Ha. Ha. Ha. I'm on my way to do penance at the alter of what-an-ignorant-person-I-was-and-I-owe-all-parents-a-sincere-apology-if-I-ever-made-them-feel-like-they-should-suck-it-up-and-have-more-kids.

I know it's too early to make this decision, but I'm feeling some "all done" vibes. Yet I know that this time will pass and I'll forget how grueling it is, and decide I want more kids, and the whole thing will repeat itself. God was real tricky by making "mom brain" a real thing after you have kids - I think it's a coping mechanism/conspiracy so that we keep the human race alive. If I weren't considerably more scatterbrained and forgetful than I used to be, maybe I would remember the hard moments more vividly and decide that having 4 children (if we decide to try that) will probably kill me. The author of this article in Slate recalls talking to a friend about how difficult her four-month-old was, and the friend responded by telling her that when her child was really giving her a run for her money, she and her husband had a running joke about all the ways they could blow up their genitals so that this would never, ever happen again. Sometimes little kids are the best birth control.

I'm a part of this mom's group on Facebook that I love, not least because it reminds me every single day that other people are also spending a moment here and there ignoring their screaming children in an effort not to strangle themselves with the nearest swaddling wrap. I love the solidarity, but it also makes me wonder, how is it that so many of us are doing this, around the globe, when we all feel like crying and gnashing our teeth over it? I know the answer, but sometimes it's hard to feel it: ultimately, having kids is SO worth it. It just hurts real bad, sometimes.

Another cliche I always rolled my eyes at was that being a stay at home mom was a "real job." Well, I'm here to prostrate myself at the altar of I-used-to-be-a-real-idiot once again, because I'll be darned if being a stay at home mom isn't 30 times harder than any "real job" I've ever had. There is no escaping my maniacal little bosses, and you know that your lunch break is over when someone decides to vomit all over the floor.

I find myself wishing there were tranquilizer darts for children. Not to totally knock them out, because I immediately start missing them when they're not ripping my hair out, but maybe just to take things down a notch, you know? Two problems: totally illegal, and also, it would be so addictive. You'd start out saying, "wow this is most insane they've ever been, probably a good time to reel this in *thwak [that's the sound of a miniature arrow leaving the poison dart gun]", but pretty soon, you'd be telling yourself how every day was the craziest yet (just to get that peace and quiet that came from using the little darts), and you'd either run out of darts and have to readjust to all the crazy, or you'd be able to get some really quality sleep, and we just couldn't let parents be having that sort of thing. It's frightening when you realize that the only difference between you and the crazy people in prison is the grace of God and that last minuscule shred of self restraint that keeps you from acting upon the feelings of occasional rage and utter at-the-end-of-your-rope-ness.

I call this illustration, "LALALA, I can't hear the all-encompassing mayhem that is my life right now!"

I should be so good at this mom thing - my boys think each other are the best (hooray!), for now, and despite a rough first month, Ira has turned out to be a super chill baby. I'll be darned if he's not actually a HAPPY baby. So. much. smiling. (Adorbs). And Ishmael is doing great listening and is so darn tootin' cute and funny. It's just that his energy levels are through the roof. I probably say "no" 100 times a day, and that's when I'm in lazy mode about keeping his limbs from breaking. Just now, I didn't even tell him to stop licking the mirror and then rubbing his fingers in the residual slime. Oh, and now he's licking my feet. He's not even being bad most of the time, he's just being, you know... two years old. I somehow expect him to be this refined miniature adult who would enjoy sitting cross-legged next to me on the couch and sipping cocktails while reading the New Yorker. I don't really begrudge the fact that he'd rather straddle the back of the couch and ask me for juice no less than 72 times, I just don't know why it continues to make me feel inconvenienced. You think I'd be over feeling put out by the requests of my children (I mean, it's so selfish! But I'm being real here), but sometimes I just feel an urge to drink alcohol in the morning. Which must be a cultural reflex, because alcohol doesn't make me feel relaxed or dull to real life or anything like that. Maybe I just realize that it's something I can't share with children, and therefore it sounds like nirvana.

It's not that I don't adore my kids and think they're great. I think it's more that I don't feel like a great parent a lot of the time, and it's a drag to be daily reminded of how human and petty and impatient I am.

Another thing that's difficult about having two kids is that the guilt level goes up. I'm trying to keep them both (and the husband, and the house) in a tolerable state of existence, but I end up feeling like I can't give anything as much attention as it craves or deserves because I'm spread a wee bit thinner than before. If you're the parent of two or more, I think you will find this apology letter to the second child worth a read (it's funny and sweet at the same time). "Dearest second child, I'm sorry I don't know any facts about you..."

Sometimes it feels humiliating to be so defeated by such tiny people. Ishmael naps for about an hour in the mornings, and sometimes I spend that whole time calming down from the before-nap period. Most of you have probably heard me grumbling about how infancy is not my favorite stage. I feel kind of guilty, because Ishmael is at an age where I daily have a heart-crushing pang of love for how sweet and funny he is, and I want those moments to never end. I don't get those moments with babies (even the ones I enjoy, I'm okay when they're gone). Except when I feel the exact opposite. Now that Ira is all coos and big smiles, I want more of that and less of Ishmael's telling me he needs to use the toilet AFTER pooping in his pants. We almost made it the other day, but instead, a big ol' poop log landed on the floor in between the diaper and the toilet. And then I stepped in it.

If we don't have more kids, I know I'm going to regret not having more later down the road. But if we do have more kids, well then... we have more kids to deal with. The question becomes, have them all in close succession now and grit through the terrors of it (and probably be completely frazzled and unable to give any one of them enough attention) or wait until the first two are older and then start all over again when we have even less energy than we have now.

When I do open up and tell people how frustrated or exhausted I am with my lack of supermom skills, they say, "why don't you just ask for help?!" Girl, I AM! The other day, I got to the point where I was like, "okay, today, I need help with these kids, it's been a while since I've called in reinforcements." Then I realized it had only been two days since I'd had someone take at least one of them for a large part of the day. Come to think of it, I'm never completely alone with both of them from the moment we wake up to the moment they go to bed. If Jonas isn't home, 80% of the time a friend comes by for a few hours or we go visit the Grandparents, or the Grandparents take one or both kids for the afternoon (or even overnight, as the case was a few weeks ago when Jonas and I were both super sick!). I seriously have a village of support and STILL feel like I'm losing my mind 60% of the time of the 20% of time I spend alone with them. That makes me feel kind of pathetic, and makes me want to do this on my own a little bit more (but oh dear God, not really). Why is it that children always act way better around other people anyway, leading everyone to think you're complaining about parenting the two sweetest angels that were ever deposited on this planet? I'm not lying, people, sometimes they really get wild.

Well, I'm off to continue wrangling my two tiny mammals to the best of my ability. Ishmael just woke up from his nap, and I'll be darned if a little bit of good sleep doesn't cover a multitude of sins. Maybe Zen Mother of my dreams is only a few nights of good sleep away after all... 

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