Category Archives: trials and tribulations

An earful

Mr. Squab and I both had chronic ear infections as children. When I was three I even had my adenoids taken out, and I think I had tubes in my ears more than once. So I just sort of assumed that our kids would be equally susceptible, and was pleasantly surprised when the Hatchling made it through the first three years of her life with only two mild ear infections to show for it.

Then we had the Sprout, and the Hatchling started preschool, and I don’t know if either of those facts are relevant, but LORD, we cannot escape the ear infections this year. If it’s not one kid, it’s the other, and often both at the same time, and while the Sprout just gets kind of cranky and doesn’t sleep well with hers, the Hatchling just completely disintegrates. She won’t show the first sign of being ill until the pain is so bad she can’t cope, and then she has a complete and total meltdown. The first time it happened was on a weekend, so the Hatchling was able to parasitically attach herself to me until the antibiotics kicked in. This time, no such luck. She started melting down yesterday afternoon and kept pathetically asking me to “sit wight here and snuggle wif me,” which I mostly could not do because the Sprout is, you know, a BABY, and has not yet mastered the art of self-entertainment.

But the real pathos kicked in today. After an early doctor’s appointment this morning, we went to Target to fill her prescriptions. She immediately requested to ride in the cart (unusual); did not want to get out to peruse the toy section (uncommon); did not want to get a treat while the prescription was getting filled (unprecedented); did not want to get McDonald’s for lunch (unheard of); and then ASKED to go “night-night” at 11:45 am, after only about 15 minutes of Return of the Jedi (completely wackadoo). She didn’t even stir when I went in to put the Sprout down for her nap a few minutes ago. She is, in fact, a pathetic specimen of a Hatchling, and I wish we could win the lottery or something so we *could* both be home and I *could* just hang out with her in the rocking chair all day. (Also, because: LOTTERY! FREE MONEY!) But alas, that winning ticket eludes us and I can only be thankful that she’s passed out in her bed and not wailing for me to comfort her while I’m trying to change the baby’s diaper. Speaking of which, I believe I’ll go try to pass out on my own bed for a few minutes while both kids are unconscious. Here’s hoping those antibiotics kick in soon!

Parenting FAIL.

I have a terrible temper. No, really. I’m a pretty patient person, so it takes a lot for me to lose my temper, but when I do … it’s not pretty. I don’t know if it’s my Prussian forebears or just my own personal inadequacy, but it’s a fault I’ve been working on for years and years. I’m a person of intense feelings, which can be wonderful when you’re talking about joy or love or empathy, but when it comes to anger I have a difficult time regaining control once I’ve lost it.

I come from a family of yellers. Our anger doesn’t usually last a long time (I have a hard time sustaining it longer than 30 minutes) and we’re not passive-aggressive, thank Maude, but in my family, when you’re mad, you yell. When I was a teenager, I had some doozies of yelling matches with my parents – fights that have gone down in family legend and probably caused all of my younger siblings to experience some level of PTSD. We all survived it, but looking back I wish we’d been able to find a way to manage those years with less screaming on everyone’s part. However, we didn’t, and so – like a lot of you, I’d imagine – my model of parenting consisted of spanking when young and yelling when older. I don’t blame anyone for that, mind you – like most parents, my mother and father did the best they could with the tools they had available to them, and, hey, I turned out OK. I just wonder if there was another way, sometimes.

It’s something I’ve really been trying to come to terms with as I parent my own kids. The spanking thing has been pretty easy to avoid. Not that I don’t understand the impulse, but it’s something we decided not to do a long time ago, and the social pressure against it (at least in our parenting and peer circles) reinforces that decision. The yelling/losing of temper issue has been much more difficult. It wasn’t until sometime this last year that I even seriously considered that it might be possible to parent (mostly) without yelling. Not in a repress-your-emotions-and-go-insane kind of way, but in a head-it-off-at-the-pass kind of way. I do know that yelling is rarely effective for me. I do know that I hate to see the Hatchling mimicking my or Mr. Squab’s angry behavior (with her dolls, for example). So I’ve been thinking about it, and trying some different techniques, and seeing what I can do about controlling my epic temper, particularly in the area of parenting.

I’ve been having a particularly difficult time with it this autumn, as all of our tempers have been tried by the ridiculous cycle of illness we’ve been experiencing, in addition to which the Hatchling is clearly entering into a “disequilibrium” phase and is trying my patience to the utmost on her bad days. This afternoon was a real nadir. Both the Hatchling and the Sprout woke up from their naps in absolutely foul moods, which in the Sprout’s case manifested itself in nonstop cranky fussing, and in the Hatchling’s case manifested itself in vicious temper tantrums approximately every five minutes. EVERYTHING was wrong and EVERYTHING was my fault. Make her ask for things politely? TANTRUM. Give her the snack she just asked for? TANTRUM. Ask her to pick up the toy she just threw at your head? TANTRUM. Turn on her favorite movie in the hope that it will calm her down? TANTRUM. You get the idea. Lots of “NO!” and “IT’S NOT FAIR!” and general “AAAAAAAAHHHH!” And I just … Could. Not. Take it. I tried patient reasoning. I tried calmly giving her options. I really, really tried. And then I started yelling. And then I found myself in the kitchen, slamming the stainless steel coffee pot on the counter to relieve my feelings. And finally, I put on a jacket and put the Sprout in her warm fleece and told the Hatchling that we were going outside to wait for Daddy and she could come if she wanted. And when she started pitching a fit about getting on her shoes and jacket, I just took the baby, and walked out to sit on the back steps.

We were out there for all of about five minutes, and I left the doors open so I could hear what was going on. But oh, it felt like failure. I was sick to my stomach afterward and I still feel totally deflated and defeated. Because, you know: SHE’S THREE. Of course she’s going to have bad, tantrum-y afternoons. And I know it’s just because she’s going through some kind of mental growth spurt, and this is how it works, and in a few weeks or (ack) months I’ll have my happy girl back on a more full-time basis. She’s three: she gets to act that way. Not without consequences, sure, but three-year-olds get a pass on losing control of themselves occasionally. Thirty-eight-year-olds, not so much.

Why is it so hard? What can I do to get better? I know you’ll tell me to cut myself some slack, and I do – I’m not interested in being anything like a perfect parent, even if that were possible. But I really don’t want to lose it again like I did today, or, god forbid, even worse. (I mean, if a three-year-old can punch my buttons this hard, what the hell will I do with two teenagers?) There has to be a better way. Anyone have any tips?

Srsly. I am not even kidding.

So I was all set this morning to post something a little cheerier and, uh, less purgative (HA!) than the previous post, since all of us seemed to be well on the road to recovery after our hellish session with the zombie death flu. Mr. Squab went off to work and I was just going to take the girls for a quick check at the doctor’s office to make sure there were no major secondary infections (both girls had been pretty stuffy with a nagging cough).

Turns out the Hatchling has an ear infection in her right ear.

The Sprout has a double ear infection.

And to top it off, while we were over at a friend’s house for lunch trying to ignore said ear infections and enjoying the amazing weather in her backyard, the Sprout barfed – repeatedly – all over the patio. So when we thought that she had gotten off with a lighter version of the bug? Yeah, not so much.

The kicker is that while the Sprout was puking on herself, me and the patio furniture, my first reaction was not, Christ, here we go again or Oh, poor baby, or even Why does the universe hate us? but rather Hey! we’re outside where we can just hose everything down! Maybe our luck is finally turning!

Y’all: when your eight-month-old ralphing on your friend’s cobblestone pavers is the best thing that’s happened to you in a week, you know you have seriously hit rock bottom. We are officially at the point of absurdity. Anything else is just grist for the mill.

Getting a Sick Day

So remember back when I was bitching about how the suckiest part of being a SAHM is no sick days? Well, little did I realize that we, too, can have them, just by following these few simple steps:

  1. Catch your three-year-old’s vicious stomach virus, which turns your entire insides into liquid.
  2. Spend evening from 5 pm to 11:30 pm violently retching every 15 minutes, incidentally scaring the bejeezus out of said three-year-old. (Hard to reassure someone that you’re OK when you’re puking your guts out. Hatchling: Mama, oh no! What’s wrong, Mama? Me: BLAEAHHEHGHRHG. (brightly) Mama’s fine, honey! Mama just feels a little sick! BLOURHGEAHRGHG. Hatchling: Mama!! (crying hysterically) Me: It’s ok, honey, Mama’s ok! Can you hand Mama the wipes?)
  3. Get up approx. every 45 minutes, all night long, to, um, well, basically vomit from the other end, if you know what I’m saying.
  4. Pray frequently for death or at least coma.
  5. Spend next day in bed with intense body aches, a fever, and a fear of solid foods, too tired to even read. (Which, if you know me, is like being too tired to breathe or something.)

See? Just five easy steps and your longed-for sick day can actually come to pass. Though frankly, if I’m being honest, I gotta say it’s not really worth it.

Clearly, we’re having some karmic problems here

So I’ve been sick for basically the last three and a half weeks, much of the time the kind of sick where you’re really only fit for lying on the sofa and drinking hot tea. (I’m still not completely over it, but I have returned to functionality.) Now, usually when I get sick, I like to cut myself some slack for a few days, rest up, push fluids and recover, and then get back into the swing of things. This works pretty well for your average 5-7 day cold. Not so much with a three week fucker of a virus. This past month, even when I’ve been feeling my worst, I’ve still had to take care of the girls, ferry people around to preschool and playgroups, run errands, teach classes, go to meetings, etc. I’ve canceled when and where I could, but my life is currently arranged such that there’s not a lot of wiggle room for cancellations. I have, in other words, been “pushing through” and “soldiering on,” even though I am really not a “soldiering on” kind of squab. More of a “civilian-ing off” kind of one, actually.

The unpleasant side-effect of this unwonted stoicism has been that I’ve been madder than a wet hen pretty much all month. I mean, ANGRY. Angry about everything. Angry that I can’t get un-sick, angry that the weather is so damn cold and wet, angry that we don’t have any money and the kids need winter coats and boots and none of my shoes fit since the baby and all my clothes are cheap and ill-fitting, angry that being tired and sick all the time makes me an ill-tempered and impatient parent, angry that I haven’t gotten any writing done in weeks and months, angry that I don’t get any sick days, angry that I feel like I’m half-assing everything I do, as a parent, as a wife, as a teacher, as a friend, angry that I’m being whiny and annoying all the time, angryangryangry. And I guess maybe anger is a better response to crap than depression, but not by much.

So as I usually do when I’m having a problem, after stewing on it unproductively and no doubt alienating my friends with my bitching, I talked about it with Mr. Squab. “I’m angry all the time,” I said, “and I know it’s not fair, because you’re already doing more than your share, and I feel terrible about that all the time too, but I can’t keep being angry like this.” And we talked about ways that I could get some kind of break if I really need one, and things to do to make me feel less crazy, and Mr. Squab said all the things that truly superior partners say and I felt like, okay, I can make it through this. I can’t be sick forever, and things will be all right.

The next night (Friday) Mr. Squab sprained his ankle trying to avoid stepping on the cat.

Saturday the Hatchling had a complete breakdown while we were at an out of town birthday celebration, and we spent two hours at a local urgent care clinic diagnosing a raging ear infection.

Today I woke up with the entire right side of my head stuffed up, and the Sprout is either coming down with something or teething.

Breaks. I would like one.

I write letters

Dear Minnesota,

WTF, Minnesota? Really? Snow TWICE before the first two weeks of October are up? That’s how you’re gonna play it this year? It wasn’t bad enough to have one of the coldest summers on record, you gotta fuck up autumn, too? You KNOW autumn is everyone’s favorite season. Don’t give me that look. You know exactly what you’re doing. You like making me crazy, don’t you? Last winter nearly killed me what with the pregs and the toddler and ALL THE FUCKING SNOW but I thought, hey, this coming winter is supposed to be mild! Surely this godforsaken state can give me a goddamn break just ONCE in the weather department. But no. You’ve made your position plain. There will be no breaks. There will only be cold. And snow. And freezing winds. And chilling damp. You don’t want me to live here, do you? I’m getting your message, loud and clear: MOVE SOMEWHERE ELSE, BITCH. Well, you know what? Right about now, nothing would make me happier, but financial reasons prevent me from making it so. Also, I happen to have a lot of wonderful friends and family members here and a great moms-network and ties to the local theatre community and I will move on MY OWN TIME, not yours, you stupid arctic tundra of a has-been territory. So knock it the fuck off, or so help me, I will CUT YOU.

Sincerely yours,
The Squab

Tired.

Well, hello. Ahem. Anybody still out there? Soooo … it’s been awhile. I guess I needed a break or something. Actually, that would be “or something” because it’s not so much that I needed a break from blogging (I mentally narrate my day in blog posts; it’s sad) as it is … other stuff. Part of it was the realization that many of my posts were causing concern among certain friends and family members as to my mental and emotional stability. I mean, I don’t want to make people think I’m about to go over the edge, here! And part of it was the realization that lately I’ve been feeling a lot like I’m about to go over the edge, here.

My stock answer when people ask me what it’s like, having two kids, is “It’s kicking my ass!” This is said – and meant – semi-jocularly, but the fact of the matter is that it’s also objectively true about 75% of the time. I constantly feel frazzled, stretched too thin, unfocused, inadequate, lacking direction, dysfunctional, and frustrated. In short, I am a BUSHEL BASKET OF FUN these days. Whoo. During one of my recent meltdowns, I explained to Mr. Squab that I don’t feel like I’m living up to my own (dwindling) standards in any aspect of my life right now: I’m not being the kind of mother I want to be, I’m not being a good partner to Mr. Squab, I’m completely overwhelmed even by minimal housework, I’m not making any progress in my professional life, and god knows I’m not taking great care of myself. My inner honors student is appalled at my inability to Get. Anything. Done. And while cognitively I’m aware that this, too, shall pass, I’ve been spending too much time lately feeling hopeless and dissatisfied. Which, let’s face it, is not the most fun way to be in the world. Also it is booooorrrrrriiiiiiiiinnnnnnggggg to talk about.

Mr. Squab, who I should say right now is basically a saint, pointed out that almost all of my funk can be traced back to one overarching cause: the lack of sleep. The Sprout, like her sister before her, wakes up every two hours all night long. Every night. Sometimes even more often than that. During the day, she takes wee naps in the morning and then a longer nap – as long as three hours, sometimes – in the afternoon, while the Hatchling sleeps. Which means that for the last five months I have not slept for longer than maybe three hours at one go … uh, at all. When the Hatchling was this same age, I was also profoundly sleep-deprived, but at least I could sleep whenever she did all through the day if I was really out of it. No such luck with two! And as any veteran parent can attest, after a few months of completely inadequate rest, you start to get a little psycho, and the worst of it is that you’re too tired to remember that fatigue is the source of your misery. I casually mentioned the Sprout’s poor sleeping habits at my weekly playgroup recently, and everyone immediately offered sympathy, remarking on how rough it is, how much you lose your mind, how everything goes all to hell when you’re so, so, so, so tired. It was like a revelation: Oh, yeah! That IS why I feel so shitty! Because I NEVER GET ANY SLEEP. It’s not that I’m an inadequate person! I’m just an inadequately rested person!

This realization does not, of course, help me get any more sleep – that will have to wait for sleep training in a month – but it does make me feel a little bit better about being such a mess. Because, really, I’m doing fine: I have lovely children and a wonderful partner and a good support system and a roof over my head and enough to eat etc., etc. I’m just bloody tired, is all.