I'm just going to say it. It has been hard being a mom the past few weeks. I have found it physically, mentally, and emotionally draining. Oh, how I love my girls. They truly are blessings and joys in my life, yet the task of raising them these past few weeks has been wearing on me.
My friend, Liz, made a comment to me awhile ago that has stuck with me. The first year of our children's lives we are just keeping them alive. They are hungry, so we feed them. They are naked, so we clothe them. They are cold, so we keep them safe inside a warm home. When they are tired, we place them in their cribs to sleep. During this first year they are not able to talk back, hit their siblings, or run away from us when we need to get them dressed. We are simply keeping them alive. It's the years after this that involve disciplining them and teaching them how to be good, God-fearing individuals. This involves teaching them right from wrong, while allowing them enough freedom to grow into the person God has created them to be. This means we allow them to paint, but teach them they may not paint on the couch. We allow them to sing, but teach them they can't scream at the top of their lungs when their sister is trying to sleep. We allow them to wrestle with us, but teach them they can't hit us in the face when they are mad. It means we enforce rules and consequences and just pray that those consequences are scary enough to prevent them from misbehaving.
I got that first stage covered. Keep my children alive? Got that. Easy breezy. Now, the second stage? Let's just say that I just pray my chidlren don't remember me as the screaming tyrant mother who made her children live in time out while spewing out empty threats. Anyone else out there ever feel this way? Please, someone tell me I am not the only one!
I had always heard of the terrible twos, but had always assumed by the time I reached this point of motherhood I would have a good system down of how Paul and I would handle discipline and as long as we were consistenT it would alwAYs work (at least 98% of the time). I have a masters degree in school counseling, right? Obviously, I know how to handle behavioral issues in children. Ha!
Currently, we are still dealing with a lot of sleep issues. We finally began to give Belle melatonin because she just could not shut off her brain. I was so relieved to find out that many other parents out there do the same. It made me feel so much less alone and less like we were doing something wrong. Melatonin was working great, until recently. We have had to up the dose to get the same effect, and now it does not keep her snoozing all night. 3-4 nights a week Belle wakes up around 4am or so and she is wired and wide awake. She has more energy at 4am, than I do hyped up on an entire pot of Starbucks coffee! So, we spend the hours between 4 and 6am trying to get Belle back to sleep....which many times involves another dose of melatonin.
Once the day starts, I am tired, and Belle is tired. We go into our day both kind of crabby and not well rested. Belle is easily upset over small things and I have a short fuse. Lethal combination. I do my best to enforce time outs and she does her best to avoid time out. She flashes her cute dimples at me while she says "I'm sorry," in hopes that I won't make her sit on the steps. I work hard to redirect her attention to something else when I notice she is becoming upset. This does often work, but it sure isn't fool proof.
Another difficult issue for me is allowing Belle to be creative and curious without holding her back. For example, recently I can't hardly leave her alone downstairs for 5 minutes while I get dressed upstairs. Take today for example. I went upstairs to get dressed and when I came downstairs she had somehow found two eggs in the fridge, climbed onto my counter to get a bowl, cracked the eggs in the bowl, and had begun to fill the bowl with water with the sprayer from our kitchen sink. Raw egg water was flowing all over my countertops. When she saw me she was more than proud of herself stating, "I got water for my eggs!" She clearly did not seem to think this was something she should not do. Later, I went back upstairs to do my hair and when I came down she had the tube of A&D out (if anyone remembers our vaseline incident you understand how fast my heart was beating) and had been wiping it all down her legs. Thankfully, it was only on her legs! She again looked at me very proud and said "I have a rash, mama!"
Belle loves to explore and experiment. I truly feel it is part of her character. Many mornings she looks at me and says "what can we make, mama?" She wants to paint, build, bake, draw, etc. I never want her to stop having this desire, nor do I want to discourage her by yelling at her every time she uses this gift. I, do, however know that I need to really dig deep into every creative bone in my body to find structured ways for her to express herself. Many days, I feel like my creative bone is exhausted and drained. I might need to peruse Pinterest a lot more for more ideas to keep this little girl busy!
My last frustration is how to handle Belle's blatant boundary testing. It seems each activity is a task. Getting dressed involves multiple time outs and me chasing her around the house. Doing her hair involves me putting a million things infront of her to keep her attention while I quick try to whip out something that doesn't look too awful. Even playing outside has become a challenge of wrangling her back inside when it is time to eat or teaching her that the road is not a playground! I feel that every time I say "no" right now, it has to become a power struggle.
Then I think to myself, "Bets, she is a 2 year old! You are 28! Who is in charge????? Why is she getting your blood boiling?" Yet, I know why. It isn't so much that she gets my blood boiling, but that each blatant refusal, boundary testing, and power struggle we face I feel like I am failing her in some way. Like I said before, this is the time when I teach her right from wrong. I know I can't be perfect at this discipline thing, yet somedays I just wish it came easier. I wish that I could see the results of my labor even just a little bit. Somedays I wish I wouldn't "give in" because I have just become mentally and emotionally exhausted.
I see other chidlren who seem to obey effortlessly and I think to myself "what is that mom doing that I am not?" Other times I read peoples' facebook statuses about how their child just recited the entire Bible by memory, gave away all of their toys to charity, and is writing their speech to accept the Nobel Peace Prize next week. Unfortunately, my life looks more like a child who paints all over her body, slams her sister's door when she is trying to sleep, would rather jump off the couch than do a puzzle, and inevitably covers herself head to toe in whatever she is eating for lunch that day...and that is on a day I feel like I was Mother of the Year!
I guess, this post is more for me than anything. It is therapeutic in a way. I know this motherhood role can be a tough gig at times. It's so hard to be a mom because I want SO bad to do right by my kids and I will inevitably make mistakes. There are times I will let my children down and be disappointed in myself. I guess it's reminding myself that my mom probably felt the same and made mistakes, but I feel I turned out pretty good.
My own personal definition of motherhood? THE SINGLE most difficult thing I have ever done, while simultaneously being THE MOST rewarding thing I have ever done.
(and on a side note...I just purchased "Love and Logic for Early Childhood." I figure a little literature and a lot of prayer can't hurt, right?)