Thursday, December 22, 2011

'Tis the season for cracking up

I'm not as wound up about the holidays as I've been in years past. I'm more wound up about my kids behavior and my complete inability to roll with it lately. Earlier this week I had a conversation with my 5 year old son that I can just hear him recalling to his therapist in 20 years. He learned the definition of a mental institution.

Now I realize that it is a few days till Christmas, but batshit crazy can strike at any time when you have three kids under the age of five or just kids of any age apparently. Batshit crazy does not care that a major holiday is coming. I don't want to bring anyone's spirits down, which is why I included a nice Christmas-y photo of the kids for you. But if you're on a polly anna Christmas high, you may want to skip this post. It's about to get really dark in here.

Currently, my three children are each in their own special little place. It's a loud, volatile, dramatic place where a slight scratch on the leg is the end of the world, being given a fork instead of a spoon justifies red-faced, tearful hysterics and being told not to throw food results in a plate being thrown across the kitchen. Anyone hear eggshells cracking? It's not the sound of mommy walking on eggshells around these maniacs to avoid any of these scenarios; it's mommy cracking up.

My husband came home from work to find me in tears at the kitchen table, head in hands and muttering, "I can't. I just can't. I can't. I can't. I can't." A few minutes earlier, I had scooped my screaming 5 year old up from a pile of leaves he had just crashed his bike into and brought him into the kitchen to survey the so-called damage. A scratch. A small scratch on his leg. And over this he was screaming in the front yard for all the neighbors to hear, screaming so loud that it hurt my ears, cursing the ground and the leaves and his bike and the universe for his misfortune.

This happens at least twice a day on top of the other two children's drama. It was that very last straw. Every meal with Owen ends or sometimes begins with food or plate or cup thrown across the table. Tell him no or don't pay him enough attention and toys come crashing down from shelves. Nearly every interaction with Fiona ends with her telling me "I don't want to" or clenching her fists and screaming at me.

After determining that we had just a little scratch and getting some magic goo on it, I explained to Danny that his reaction was disproportionate to reality. Now, I know that children need validation and that, yes, this seemed like a big deal to him. However, it's time for him to start learning how to react appropriately to the severity of the situation else no one would believe him when it really mattered. I remember being a playground screamer when I was a child. The teacher told me that if I kept it up, my recess would be over. That day I screamed because I hurt my finger and she followed through on her promise, even though I tried to explain that my finger was hurt. I never forgot it. It was an introduction to the concept of self-control and the notion that perhaps I should save the screaming for true emergencies.

I told Danny that it was very hard for me to be a good mommy when he and his siblings scream and misbehave so often. Then I asked him if I could go away to a mental institute for a while. 

What's a menfal (sic) institute? he asked.

Well, it's a place where crazy people go to get away from the things that are making them crazy. And it's quiet there, too, I told him.

You can't go to a menfal institute. You need to be our mommy.

But why?

You need to take care of us, he said, with his lip quivering slightly.

The truth is, I didn't feel bad about saying this to him; I only felt bad because I believe that other mothers would never, ever say such things to their children. I could tell he felt sad. And that might just be the first time I've ever seen genuine sadness coming from him. Notice I didn't sense genuine concern for me, just worry over who would take care of him. On the bright side, at least he realizes that he's taken care of, because some days I wonder if I even do that well enough for him to notice.

Today and yesterday the kids were much better, and not because my threat to run away to the mental institute scared them straight. Yesterday afternoon while the older kids watched Sesame Street, I sat down and made a schedule for the next day. I've somehow gotten out of the habit of loosely planning out our week. And I've always had a let's see what the day brings approach, which works really well when the weather is nice, but not so well when it's rainy and cold. I could blame the aimless nature of my parenting lately on the absence of preschool to give a little structure to our lives, but the real reason is the unpredictability of the children coupled with the seasonal resurgence of my depression.

Depression really sucks. Mine manifests as anger first and then when the anger wears me out, I wind up like my husband found me on Tuesday. If you share this condition, you know what I'm talking about. The normal, everyday things that most people handle with aplomb, I handle with angry, mostly internal f-bombs and an intense but forbidden love affair with sleep. Even medicated, it's a challenge, especially in the wintertime. 
And if you've read all this, thank you. And Merry Christmas. I'm sure it will be a good one here. My expectations are low, not because I'm depressed actually, but because I know that keeping things light and fluid with small children during the holidays is the best way to make it merry.

1 comment:

Monica said...

So happy I found your blog. Hope you guys have a merry christmas despite the chaos, slight and occasional depression, and random screaming, unruly children. :o)))