Often in parenthood, it feels for a stretch of time that everything is going WRONG and everything is difficult and sucky and exhausting and you keep thinking you’re at the end of your rope but then they’re just a little more rope to be at the end of. These times get my attention. I talk about them. I whine about them on Twitter.
At other times, things are just so groovy you can’t believe your luck. You feel like your kid is suddenly, again, the greatest kid on the planet. And you are the best parent. You’re kicking so much ass! These times never seem to last as long as the crazy bad ones, but that could be a matter of perception… in any case, I like to take note. Point them out. If I could I would bronze them like a pair of baby booties.
Right now, I’m obscenely pregnant, I’m horrifyingly tired, my son is teething like a maniac, and his sleep patterns are as WHAAAA? as ever, BUT. I feel like I am kicking ass at parenthood right now. The confidence that I felt I had lost track of and was seeking to regain is once again in my grip. I may never learn that chocolate chip cookies do not, in fact, make up for lost sleep (I’ll keep eating them, maybe someday it’ll work!), but I feel like I’m sort of learning how to do this mom thing.
Perhaps not coincidentally, it was partly because of reading Pamela Druckerman’s book teaser that I felt the urge find my footing, and it was partly because of reading her book that I feel I’ve found it a bit (review of Bringing Up Bebe to come soon unless I go into labor today and in that case, oops!). The takeaway that I had from her article was that French women have confidence in their own abilities and identities as a mother, and that’s my main takeaway from the book too. The way to attain this is simple: just do it. You have to find it inside. It’s there – dig deep!
Lately I’ve had some parenting moments that felt like real successes. Miles once again dumped out his cup of water, but this time I got him to clean it up with me. I was firm but not angry, and I just flat out insisted that he help. I know he knows what “clean” means, though in the past I have made excuses for him and told myself he doesn’t understand what I’m asking him to do when I tell him to help Mommy clean. This time I looked him in the eyes and I told him to help Mommy clean clean clean. I put a towel in his hand and I even put my hand over his and made him wipe the mess, not forcefully, but firmly. To be honest I wasn’t convinced it was going to work, but it did! He mopped up the puddle and I thanked him delightedly. It made me feel like a million bucks. Such a little thing.
On the heels of this win I felt it was time to start actively teaching him to pick up his toys that he dumps allll over the floor every day. This is another thing I’ve been wimpy about and telling myself he just wouldn’t get it. I didn’t think he would notice, care, or understand clean-up songs or games. But I went ahead and made up a dumb “clean up all the toys” song and started showing him how it’s done instead of just doing it when he’s sleeping. He doesn’t exactly pitch in yet, but he is interested. He smiles at the song and repeats the word “clean” and watches me without pulling the toys back out, which for him? Is progress.
Perhaps most triumphantly, I have been getting him to leave fun places like the park or the library WITHOUT TANTRUMS. Again I am just expecting more of him and talking to him as though he will understand, even when I’m not sure he will. In a moment I thought was rather geniusy, I enticed him to leave the library by telling him he could “push the buttons” (automatic door openers) on the way out and IT WORKED. I got him to leave the park by telling him we were going to drive Mommy’s black car (everything is identified by color these days) and he happily marched toward the parking lot. I RULE.
Yes, there was that EPIC tantrum at the zoo, the kind where people are really definitely staring at you in horror and you’re not just imagining it, but even that I felt I handled gracefully. I zoomed him out of the building and when he calmed down we had a banana and drink of water and we were happy again.
Maybe, the truth is, I’m just digging age two. My motherhood resume is not very long yet, but so far I would say infancy (before his first birthday) was fun and two is fun, but the year in between was ROUGH. Another parenting article that went viral recently was called “It Gets Better,” about how things are easier after the first year – but I disagree that the first year is the hardest. Babies have a lot of needs, but their needs are so simple. Yes, they cry, and they’re up half the night, but they can be soothed in relatively straightforward ways.
The year between one and two when Miles was all over the place and had so little impulse control and was still so dependent yet hard to keep happy or entertained and communication between us was VERY fuzzy… whew. That was tough. Two year olds have monster tantrums and huge frustrations, but they’re also sweet and affectionate and funny and they sleep through the night (mostly) and can communicate pretty well. Maybe Miles is a bit of a late bloomer but two seems so nice compared to last year. He snuggles and cuddles, plays by himself for long stretches of time, tells me what he wants (usually), responds to instructions, and behaves well in public (usually). It’s… pretty grand.
I’m sure this sweet spot is about to be blown to smithereens by the introduction of the new baby but it’s nice to feel, at least, like things are pretty stable and we have this mutual understanding as a foundation to the chaos yet to come. This easiness is something I had hardly dared to hope to achieve before adding another kid to the mix. It feels good.