Monday, January 11, 2010

I love you, now leave me alone (PLEASE!)

Danny sat at his little table in front of the alphabet poster one night last week while dinner simmered on the stove. All was surprisingly calm that evening as Jim had taken Fiona the Ferocious out of my hair for a while. I had hit a stopping place and came over to sit with him. He studied the the alphabet poster and began pointing to letters, making their sound and identifying the photo next to each.

"E. Eh. Egg," he said, nodding his head at me.

"Do you know what other letters are in that word?" I asked.

He thought about it for a second and said the word again. His eyes searched the poster and lit up as he pointed to the letter G. "Gas station," he cried excitedly. (There's a gas pump next to the letter G.)

I like him in moments like these ... a lot. There aren't nearly enough moments like this with him lately. And that makes me sad, especially when I think about what's ahead for him in April when we welcome our new (last?) baby.

Quite honestly, it's taken me a few days to finish this post. I never feel like writing much about the kids and life in general when things are rough going around here. And, yes, I just broke my kind of, sort of New Year's resolution to be honest about what's going on - the good, the bad, and the boogery (there've been lots of boogers around here lately. Some even wound up on the back of my shirt the other day ... don't ask me how!).

Most days it feels like all I do is feed kids and facilitate naps and potty breaks and change diapers and keep them from hurting themselves or each other. No time to sit and play purposefully with either one of them alone. Since Fiona no longer naps in the morning, Danny doesn't get a break from his sister who is interested in EVERYTHING he does. If he wants a break from her, I baby-gate him in the dining room with toys and games but can't leave Fiona alone (seriously, this child can clear a countertop in no time). He gets little to no alone time with me anymore. And it seems to be taking a toll on him. He wants to be picked up, carried down the stairs, sit on my lap. I can't always comply between Fiona's needs and the fact that I'm six months pregnant.

The other side of this, of course, is that sometimes I don't like my children. It's a scary admission to make. But when you think about it, who can really say they like kids all the time, especially their own? Kids are messy, whiny, self-centered, extremely moody, greedy, schizophrenic little trolls a good bit of the time no matter how sweet and sensitive and loving you are as a parent. They have feelings that they can't control or even identify. They have needs that they can't even articulate sometimes. If you met an adult with these characteristics, you'd assume that they were mentally ill and probably avoid them at all costs.

Yet as parents we have very close, complicated relationships with our children ... I get weary. We all do. Loving tolerance has its limits (and that limit coincides with the time my husband gets home from work!). If I can be honest about that, somehow there is little to no guilt or shame about those feelings anymore. It just makes me human and hopefully my kids will learn that perfection is not required or even expected. It helps no one, least of all our children, when we can't admit honestly that sometimes, while we love our children dearly, we don't always have loving feelings toward them. Sometimes we yell or say rather harsh things (like: "Oh dear God, can you please stop whining and following me from room to room??" Hey, I said please, didn't I?) and, yes, we sometimes wish that they would leave us alone just long enough for us to breathe and regroup and brush our teeth and maybe take a shower. And then, when we come back (as we must ... I think not coming back constitutes child abandonment, right?), we can enjoy those moments, however fleeting, when we see clearly the emergence of something resembling a human being.

Danny update

Danny may be starting to realize just what another baby means. He's been wanting a lot more attention lately and been able to verbalize it ("Mommy, come in here."). He's also been lethargic and defiant lately - like for the past two and a half months. We suspected that, at this point, it was a behavioral issue, but we wanted to rule out a physiscal illness before we puzzled out a new strategy. So late last week, I finally took Danny back to the doctor. We went in November for blood work (which was normal, thank God), in December for a routine checkup and then last week for a long discussion about what could be going on. It's definitely not normal for this particular child to be lounging around. A neighbor once commented that he literally bounced off walls. But sometimes all it really takes to get some clarity is talking to a doctor, or anyone, you trust. We discussed the possibility of seasonal affective disorder given when the symptoms began. And he suggested that we could talk to the staff child psychologist (who, of course, is trained to blame the mother for any and all mental defects). But a few days after the appointment, we began to connect the dots ... he says that he's tired when he doesn't want to do what he's told, when he has to poop and when he's bored.  Case in point ... he said that he was tired during story time but was ecstatic 10 seconds later (didn't I just say kids are schizophrenic?) when the library lady whipped out the bubbles.

Whew ... that was a close one. Maybe my kids won't be in therapy by the time they're 5 after all!

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