Thursday, April 26, 2012


Yesterday, I was writing this piece about parenting spirited kids.  I’ve been trying to work on some essays I can submit to magazines.  I’d really like to be able to afford to write, afford the childcare needed to work on my book, to write better and more often.  So, I’m attempting to up my quantity and quality.  

Anyway, I was writing this piece and being very clever and thinking about how much I’ve learned and sort of patting myself on the back (even though I knew full well that I could only write such a piece because the children were gone at school).  But I still sort of played that tune in my head about how amazing I am.  I let it run, even though, lately, I know it hasn’t really been true.  

Today, I’m still in my pajamas at 1 pm.  Today the kids are home, it’s raining, and we are barely getting through.  Today is dragging, eternally.  I’m not feeling very clever.  In fact, I’m in this constant state of holding myself back from screaming.  It’s rough.  And I have NO IDEA how to make it better.  I usually have some clue.  But I’m really under water.

Zoe screams and cries all day every day.  She protests every single thing, even if it’s something she wants to do.  She cries and throws things and kicks and makes her body go stiff and hits.  She is completely miserable.  If I pick her up to try to console her and love her, she throws her body backwards, almost out of my arms, sometimes hitting walls and furniture, depending on what’s nearby.  Nothing matters but being angry.  She’s fed well and gets plenty of sleep and water.  She’s not sick.  She just hates not being in charge of everything.  She hates being two.  She has some favorite phrases.  “I don’t like...” anything.  “You hurt my feelings.” and “I’m mad at you.”  She’s verbal and knows her feelings, yet still she screams.  And screams and screams and cries and cries and cries and screams and kicks me in the boob.

So, that’s one kid...

But I have three.  The other two?  Not calm folks.  They’re highly spirited.  Maya is four and does everything and anything she wants without asking and three steps ahead of me.  This can be good (she gets up and unloads the dishwasher), but mostly this is just extremely stressful (she can pick locks with her fingernail).  She’s like liquid I cannot contain.  I’m sure she’s starved for attention, but I don’t know how to give her what she needs.  I read her four books earlier yet she screamed in my face when I got interrupted by a phone call on the fifth book.  She’s also been screaming and screeching and stomping her feet and crying delusionally over the least injustice.  But, at least, she’s got times when she is delightful.  We’re on the cusp of five, and I’ve been promised that five is awesome.  I’m holding you to it, you other moms.  Five better be awesome.

Elliot is the most mellow, yet he gets into everything.  He takes apart every pen or gadget he can find. He takes off poop diapers and drives cars through them.  He dumps out all of the toys or swipes everything off the table or rips library books or pees anywhere at any time all day long every day.  And he whines.  And whines and whines and whines.  And he is hungry ALL THE TIME.  I mostly just stand in my kitchen preparing food or feeding.

I’ve tried the not paying attention to bad behavior.  And I’ve tried punishing the tantrums.  I’ve tried listening patiently.  I’ve tried repeating back what they say.  I’ve tried giving up and letting them maul me.  I’ve tried occupying them with crafts and snacks and movies.  But I am outnumbered.  I am outsmarted.  I am undone.

I know there are days when I seem to have a better grip on things.  I know this phase of constant crying won’t last forever (just another two years or so).  I know I’m a good mom and doing the best I can.  I know I’ve come a long way.  I know to take deep breaths and put myself in time out.  I know that eating isn’t going to make me feel better.  I know that exercise will.  I know that writing will.  I know that sleep is my savior.

But I’m here now, and I’m not sure any guru or any buddha or any god or any christ has ever spent the day with three screaming preschoolers, least of all these three troublemakers.  They might change their tune.  They might say, “Yeah, okay, you don’t have to be here now.  You get to think about later.  Here is too hard.”

But immediately following that thought is the witness, the essential me, who reminds me that this could be so much worse.  I could be alone without Marco coming home.  Or he could be working really long hours.  Or he might be headed to Iraq in a few months.  Or I could home every day.  Or we might not have enough money for food.  Or no friends.  Or family too far away.  Or we might have no running water or no heat.  We might have no backyard.  Or they could be sick or severely disabled or nonverbal. Or I could not have them at all. There are so many things that would be so much harder.  

And still I ache.  It’s hard enough.  I’ve been given three challenging kids.  They’ll be leaders someday, perhaps leaders of movements, perhaps leaders of hospitals or missions to mars, perhaps leaders of nations.  They’re strong and determined and risk takers and curious and self-motivated and passionate.  They can do anything.  I just wish that right now they weren’t using their powers to drive me to the brink of sanity.


Naomidish said...

How can there be no comments on this amazing post? Heather, your writing is hilarious, tragic, and SO lovable!!! More please.

Heather Minter said...

Thanks, man! I really appreciate the reading and the comment and the encouragement!

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