Not So Positive (on) Parenting, Part 2

{Thank you ALL SO MUCH for your comments yesterday. They made me feel so much less alone. I really, really appreciated them.

I wrote this at the same time as yesterday’s post but I broke them up because of length, so this post doesn’t really address from yesterday’s comments. I do hope to write a final post kind of wrapping up ALL. THE. THINGS about this complicated topic for Friday. We’ll see if that actually happens.}

…continued from yesterday’s post.

My daughter remains a very intense little girl. In two months she’ll be five and just this past weekend I had to hold her like a straightjacket to keep her from hitting, kicking and scratching me. She still managed to bite me hard on the hand. She almost broke the skin. She’s 45 inches tall and weighs 42lbs. She is a big girl to keep safe from herself in the midst of that kind of tantrum. We try really hard to accommodate her needs, giving her plenty of time at home and not over-scheduling her. We watch her for signs that she’s overwhelmed and we go home, even if it’s the middle of the party or a trip out. Her mood absolutely determines everyone else’s experience, and it can be impossible to know what will set her off. While she can be the most amazing person to spend time with, she is absolutely exhausting.

When my son was born we called him Mellow Man. He was content to be anywhere or do anything. The minute he started moving that all changed. Now he needs constant supervision. He is constantly putting himself in harm’s way. My daughter never opened cabinets or investigated outlets. That’s all my son does and he does it constantly. When he is awake there needs to be an adult with him every single second. Where my daughter is emotionally exhausting, my son is physically exhausting (and don’t get me wrong, I appreciate they are different kinds of exhausting, I guess I just kind of wish one of them weren’t so exhausting).

Separately my kids are totally manageable, I actually really enjoy being with them one on one, but together they become completely overwhelming. My afternoons/evenings consist of my daughter shutting herself in her room for some much needed quiet time (totally understandable) and my son slamming himself against her gate, screaming because he can’t be with her (totally understandable). That is basically the foundation on which their relationship is being built: he wants to be with her constantly and most of the time she wants to be alone.

{My husband has been talking a lot about how our daughter clearly isn’t the kind of kid who does well with a sibling. He thinks we did her a huge disservice giving her a brother. Yeah, that’s been fun to hear.}

Honestly, I know my kids aren’t that hard. I know SO MANY parents have it a lot harder. I absolutely believe we should be handling all this better, if not in what we actually do with and say to our children, but in how we feel about it all at the end of the day.

Lately I’ve been trying to figure out where the disconnect is, why we, as a unit, are being totally taken down by our two kids when so many other couples in much more challenging circumstances are not as overwhelmed by parenting as we are.

Because I see other people with two kids who are making it work. They go out together as a family and even when it’s crazy and hectic, they seem to enjoy themselves. We never go out as a family. We always divide and conquer or one parent takes both kids so the other parent can get a rest. I can count the number of times all four of us have gone on an outing, or even to a birthday party, in 2015 on one hand. I don’t even need all my fingers.

I don’t know if it’s my husband’s attitude toward parenting–he is easily overwhelmed and very defeatist–or my own, or if it’s more specifically the way our attitudes affect each other.

I don’t know if it’s how different he and I are as people, that we have totally contrasting needs that can only be met by burdening the other person.

I don’t know if it’s just that our kids are particularly challenging to us as people, because of our unique compilations of temperament and personality.

All I know is that the end of every day feels like we just fought a battle. Does that mean, for us, parenting is a war?

I wanted to have kids more than anything. It was the only thing I really WANTED in my life. My job, my social life, even my marriage, everything else was background noise. I had big dreams for my family, all of us together, enjoying the zoo or the amusement park or the science museum or a birthday party. I imagined my kids re-enacting all my most cherished childhood traditions.

But it’s not like that. The trip to the zoo is marred by multiple meltdowns. We have to leave the amusement park early because someone won’t wear sunscreen. There is a standoff at the science museum and I have to sit with my kid in a corner while she writhes and screams. My husband and I bicker about when we should stand firm and when we should give in. No one wants to eat the lunch we packed, but if they don’t they’ll get hungry and lose their shit.

The family traditions take five minutes to re-enact and at the end my kids are tired and I’m disappointed. We spend the rest of the time with extended family chasing after our children, or making them a meal they’ll hopefully eat, or trying to keep my son away from my daughter so she can get some space. I swear haven’t really talked to my sister, who I mostly see during holidays, in five years. I don’t get to enjoy any of the parts of the special occasions I used to love because my kids need constant supervision. There is almost always a meltdown over presents or dessert or just eating dinner. Everyone is exhausted and disappointed before it’s over.

I don’t know what we are doing wrong. I honestly don’t. Maybe my expectations were too high. Maybe I’m too selfish. Maybe I need to just suck it up and realize this is the next five years of my life and then maybe it will get better. Maybe I have to realize that this is the next five years of my life and the hard parts will change and it won’t really ever get better.

I know what an asshole I sound like, what a selfish, ungrateful bitch. I know there are people in the world, people reading this post, who would give anything to parent one child, let alone two, and they would do so without ever complaining about meltdowns or not getting to talk to family during the holidays.

I know I sound like an asshole, but I’m still putting this out there, because it’s my experience right now, and I suppose for that reason, if that reason alone, it’s valid. And maybe someone else is kind of feeling this way too, and it might help that person feel a little less afraid of being judged.

And if no one else can relate, if I’m the only one who is grappling with this dissatisfaction about parenting, then I can own that. I’m working on what it means, and what I need to do to change it. I’m hoping my husband and I can do some work with someone professionally, but I know how hard it is to get him on board with that stuff. (Even though I believe my husband, and our habitually interactions, is a big part of this, I’m working on taking responsibility for what I can do differently, for not taking on everyone else’s emotional burdens and for taking care of myself in the ways I am able. It’s hard, but I think it’s helping.)

Thank you so much for your support on these posts. It has been really uplifting.


    1. The idea of having three kids terrifies me beyond words. I once really wanted three. Now I would freak the f**k out if I found out I were pregnant.

  1. I’m loathe to give actual, hard and fast advice, but you need to stop comparing your life and your family to those you see around you. You don’t know what they’re going through and their struggles won’t be the same as yours. Allow yourself to feel what you feel, it isn’t invalid simply because others have it worse or harder.

    Also, have you read The 5 Love Languages? I’m wondering if it might give you some more tools to work with in regards to your little one biting you?

    1. You’re right that I need to stop comparing myself to others. I think I’m just so dumbfounded that they manage to go out in the ways that we are not. But maybe they are dumbfounded that I am out alone with my kids and they wish they didn’t both have to trek to the zoo every time they go. I think it’s just that seeing that family of four (or more!) out doing things together I see what I expected my life to be like, and so I glob on to that vision. But you’re right that I need to stop that.

      I have read The 5 Love Languages and I’ve thought about what my daughter’s love language might be but it’s hard to pin down right now because she is so young. I’ll definitely be watching that though, and trying things out to see what best seems to fill “love tank.”

  2. Not sure I have enough time to say everything I want to say. I’ll try.
    1) From what you describe, your kids ARE hard. Certainly not the hardest of any kids, but not on the easy side. This only matters because you can’t compare yourself to those with easy-going kids and say that you don’t measure up. Its apples & oranges.
    2) Other people “making it work”. They LOOK LIKE they are having a great time. We probably do too, even though I’m screaming inside and will curl up in a ball when I get home.
    3) There is nothing wrong with doing what works for you guys, in terms of separating the kids, taking time to yourselves. Etc… This is something I still work on. Like abandoning the idea of “family dinner” and letting the kids eat before we picked them up from school. It made a world of difference to give up the “shoulds” and “everyone else can do it, why can’t we make it work”. We just can’t and its better to acknowledge that and find a Plan B than to keep trying to put the square peg in the round hole to everyone’s misery.
    4) What your husband said about your daughter is worse off with a sibling…I don’t even know where to begin. Nothing I’ve ever heard or read about parenting or child psychology EVER mentioned that there is such a child. Children are inherently flexible in terms of who is part of the family. I think your husband is projecting his own feelings into this.
    5) Again, the age of your kids has a lot to do with this. Monito will be much less dangerous in about 2 years. Also he may have more to bring to the sibling relationship—creativity, words, physical ability to race/horseplay, even going along with being bossed around by big sister. Their relationship will change.
    6) stop calling yourself selfish or ungrateful or an asshole. You are not. If you are, many of us are, who feel the same way, and I don’t believe that’s true
    7) I was absolutely where you are as little as 9 months ago. It was just SO HARD ALL THE TIME. The kids were challenging on their own and together they were often unbearable. But the absolute worst part was my husband’s attitude. When you said “defeatist” my chest got tight because that’s exactly how it was. And it was EXHAUSTING for me to try to manage his emotions and lessen his burden all the time. I tried everything I could to work on my attitude, my perspective, my anger/stress triggers but it was like all the work I did was completely undone and overshadowed by his negative attitude. He’s been so much better recently and feeling like we are in this together, and on the same team, makes dealing with the challenges so much easier. Its like we can separate our otherwise happy household from the specific issues of our children instead of the whole thing being a big ball of toxic suck. I don’t know how exactly to fix it—if I did, I would’ve done it years earlier—it took him being ready and then going to therapy. I couldn’t bring it up, he did it on his own.
    We should form a support group.

    1. Yes, to what Ana has said. I was going to say, especially points 1, 2, 3… But then realized I would just list them all. Yes, to what Ana has said.

    2. 1) I do think my kids are harder than some people’s kids, but I know they are easier than other people’s kids. I guess that is true of everyone, right?
      2) I’m sure the family I see at the park or the zoo or the birthday party isn’t having as great a time as I imagine they are, but at least they are managing it. But maybe it doesn’t matter if they are managing it, if they are actually miserable managing it.
      3) I think I’m pretty good about letting go the “shoulds” that society pushes on us. I am fine giving up family dinner, and I’m pretty accepting of how awful the dinners I offer my kids are. It’s not that I feel like a bad parent that we don’t do these things together, it’s that I WANT us to WANT to do these things together. I want us to be that family that CHOOSES to spend time together because we are HAPPY doing so. And that is NOT who we are. And that makes me sad.
      4) You are preaching the choir on this one. I tried to explain it to him. I cited articles I’ve read, but he seems to think his “intuition” trumps experts. This kind of exchange is an ongoing issue for us.
      5) I know that a lot of this is about my kids being young, especially my son. I know these parts will get better. It just feels like it’s going to be a LOOOOOONG time before they do. But I do remind myself that there is a light at the end of the tunnel, at least with the exhausting aspects of my son’s behavior. I don’t know how bright the light is at the end of the tunnel when it comes to my daughter’s challenges.
      6) You are right. And after I read the comments on my first post, I thought about taking that line out. But it’s absolutely how I felt when I first wrote those posts, so I left it in. I am changing my tune on these points now, thanks to all of you.
      7) I feel like I just need to bite the bullet and call you about this one because I feel like you are the only one who understands what this is like, what I’m dealing with on this. I am SO GLAD that your husband identified his need and addressed it. I really doubt my husband will ever do that. And I’m trying really hard to focus on what I can change, and what I can do, but it’s so hard not to feel resentment about the work I feel he is NOT doing. Ugh. This aspect of this problem is much bigger than has been portrayed in this post, but I’m just not comfortable saying it like it is… Just ugh.

  3. Ahhhhh. that part of parenting.
    That part changes as the children age. Because the range of each child’s actions and coping mechanisms changes. (Change does not translate to unicorn magic however.)
    Over time both your children can learn to expand their range of reactive behaviors, and to pre-plan ways to make a day easier for everyone ~ especially their own self.
    Learning to be flexible and aware of other people’s needs is really tough. I hope to be better at it myself in ten years when I am in my 80’s. In the meantime I work on the process.
    Good luck.

    1. I really do hope my daughter’s coping mechanisms evolve because it seems like they take a few steps forward and then MANY steps back, but probably it’s just that my expectations jump and her abilities don’t jump with them. I need to ditch those expectations… easier said than done.

  4. This post describes me to a T. The vision and expectations and melt-downs and attempts to avoid said melt-downs and the utter exhaustion and defeat at the end of the day. DH and I regularly have conversations wondering if we can even add a second child to our family when parenting one is so hard. You are not alone.

    1. I was thinking the other day that there probably aren’t as many meltdowns as I remember there being, but the thing is that I can never relax in the space between the meltdowns because I’m always wondering if one is just around the corner. So I’m always tense, in almost-as-stressed-as-meltdown mode, it always might be almost a meltdown.

      I have been thinking of you guys and your plans to add to your family. I hope it goes well. It’s been challenging for us, definitely more challenging than I expected, and I expected it to be challenging. I think you can get an idea of how your child will react to a sibling in how interested they are in other little kids and how they interact with their friends. My daughter NEVER asked for a sibling. Not one time. She was NEVER interested in the baby siblings of her peers that were brought to school during pick-up. Most of the other kids came over the look and to coo or to just be curious and I never once saw her even glance in the direction of a younger sibling. She also has never been very interested in playing with other kids. Even if she has someone over she spends a lot of that time alone. It’s just who she is. So I suppose I shouldn’t be surprised that she hasn’t been that interested in her younger brother. She loves him, but doesn’t necessarily want to spend much time with him. 😉

  5. Every family is such a unique mix of personalities and preferences… and yet, I really and truly believe that you are not alone and not the only one going through this level of stress.

    A friend of mine with two kids close in age told me that one day, when the younger was around 5 years old, she woke up one day and felt like herself again. This happened to me just recently, when my younger was just past 4. Like a slow dawn. I found myself sitting on the couch relaxing while the kids played together nearby. It was shocking how good it felt, and for the first time I realized how LONG it had been since I’d felt that way. Basically six years.

    Such an ordinary moment and yet totally extraordinary.

    The other day my husband pointed to our son and said “that’s why you’re exhausted all the time, you have a 4yo extravert and you’re an introvert.”

    I feel like my personality is more like your husband’s. But then there are beliefs – and I feel like those are more possible to change, but it does take an effort of will. It’s hard, man. Marriage, kids, work… it’s just damn hard.

    1. My marriage plays a bit part in all this, bigger than I actually articulated because it’s big and complicated and messy and I don’t want to even go there right now. I don’t know how, really. But you’re right, marriage and kids and work… it’s so freaking hard. WAY harder than I ever imagined it would be.

      I soooooo look forward to that day I can look up and feel like myself when my kids are around. I have those moments when they are sleeping, but very rarely when they are awake. I’m sure it will happen some day, but I know I have a ways to go.

  6. Thank you for writing about this, it has given me lots to think about. My son is 3.5 and this age is kicking my ass. I think I was a better mom ages 0-2. Often I feel so disappointed in myself on the days when I am just counting down until bedtime because I envisioned this preschool age being filled with us doing so much fun stuff and having these great times together when really it is so much meltdown prevention/management. I hate going to group settings like birthday parties because I feel like I look like an anxious mess because I have to put in so much effort trying to stay patient and preventing the outbursts/tantrums that overstimulation and birthday party food are a sure recipe for. I feel like no one gets to witness us at both our bests to really see how much I love being his mom even if I don’t love every day of parenting.

    1. I’m sorry that you’re struggling right now. 4 was a lot better for us than three, I hope you find that is the case as well.

      I know what you mean about feeling like you are that parent at the party or out in the world. For me, I worry I seem too detached, because I feel I need to put a little space between my kid and myself because she is so freaking intense and just wants to be on me/hang on me/suck the life out of me every minute that we’re out in the world. I find myself pushing her away because I get so claustrophobic, and I worry other people judge me for seeming standoffish with my own kid.

      I wish we could hang out together and know that we are not judging each other for what we have to do to make it through… 😉

  7. No, you’re not an asshole. Yes, what you’re feeling is normal. Seriously normal. My kids are hard too, and some days I just feel like locking myself in the bedroom and letting McRuger take over every thing for 3 days. Cadet’s tantrums are epic, and sound similar to your daughter’s. We have to hold him down, just to keep ourselves and him safe…all while he’s sobbing and screaming. It’s draining on a level I didn’t even know exsisted before I was a parent.

    I’m lucky, McRuger is a hands-on parent and is always engaged. I’m lucky that I can afford to hire help, even just for a few hours a week…it gives me much-needed down time. We divide and conquer too…every weekend. The only way we can do all-family outings is with a lot of planning and we always have an “escape” plan. I’ve stopped explaining Cadet’s behavior to others, it’s just too complicated.

    I don’t have much advice, and I’m not sure that you’re looking for it anyway. Just know that you’re not alone. And I’m sending you lots of positive energy tonight.

    1. My husband is becoming more and more of a hands-on parent but he so desperately needs his down time that a lot of the time he’s not engaged, or if he has to be he’s sighing loudly about it. That drives me so nuts! It’s so hard for me to honor his needs when I feel like he’s not living up to my expectations. I need to work really hard on what I expect from him. I wish we could work on it with professional support but I know he’ll be annoyed and upset if I ask him to see someone with me.

      “It’s draining on a level I didn’t even know existed before I was a parent.” THIS.

      The other day I was at the park and my daughter lost her shit for a good twenty minutes and at the end she totally bounced back and was fine, all happy and bubbly, having emptied her emotional backpack. As I stood next to another mother that I’ve talked to a few times at the park before, she said I looked like I had a tantrum hangover, and I really liked that idea because it’s true. I am so emotionally drained and feel SO SHITTY after those kinds of interactions, I need a whole afternoon to recover. Except I never have even a few moments, and it’s so hard to just go on parenting after something like that.

  8. One of the things that has been helpful for us is to have “what are the lines?” talks as adults so we can be united when the Kid is pushing all of our buttons. Example: at Thanksgiving, the Kid had to sit at the table while everyone else ate because she was 6 and totally capable of sitting at the table with her grandparents visiting from out of town. She was also not allowed to “be rude” by telling everyone how awful our food smelled. When we go out to an event, the night before we adults plan out what is acceptable behavior. Sometimes we announce this in the car before we get there, others we wait to see if the line gets pushed (the Kid didn’t want to feed the animals at the zoo so we didn’t have to tell her feeding zoo animals her crackers isn’t allowed, for example). Often we decide how many warnings the Kid gets for bad behavior before we leave an event (it’s usually 3 that must occur at least 5 minutes apart or else it’s an automatic departure). Since we know our game plan it helps us hold the line without bickering. We also assign a kid to each parent so if they get out of hand, we know who takes the lead in being The Authority and who backs them up (even if we disagree, unless it is A Huge Deal, the lead parent gets to decide and gets full support).

    As I read your list of things you can’t do, I kept thinking “yet” in my head. My family took a single vacation when I was young, and my sibling was 6 and remembers none of it. I keep this in mind, that anything we do now is for pictures only and they are unlikely to remember any of it, so it’s fine if all we do is walk to our neighborhood playground for a few years. Don’t rush for doing big things that will be much more fun with elementary aged kids. There’s time yet.

    As for the “but having a sibling is so hard for her” bit, I think that’s what almost-5 year olds are like, wanting space, while the nearly 2 year olds are demanding to Be A Big Kid Right Now. We have a fair bit of that at our house and it’s gotten better now that Little Monster likes to explore on her own and sometimes play alone, but the girls also do play together finally. Again, there is time and they will have a new relationship every few months for the years to come.

    Don’t panic, you are doing very well, don’t should on yourself and do what works for your family. The moments of peace will come.

    1. Spot on. I love this response. My husband and I need to draw lines before shit goes down with the kids. That would make things easy easier. Great advice!

    2. I think you’re right that once they hit the elementary school years it will get better and we will be able to do more. I guess I just didn’t expect these years to be such… I don’t know… busts. I didn’t realize that in so many ways I’d spend them just waiting for the next stage. It’s been surprising to me.

      I also love your strategies for going out. We always have an exit plan but I’m realizing now we don’t usually articulate before hand what the expectations will be. Or maybe it’s just that my daughter finds ways to push boundaries we didn’t even know we needed to define yet. 😉 But we definitely need to work on our plan of attack. I’ll be taking your advice to heart the next time we go out together as a family. I think it will really help us.

      Thanks for the words of encouragement. They mean a lot.

    3. This is amazing advice. I always knew this, and we do have GENERAL expectations, but having specific “do not cross” lines for each event/trip/outing makes a lot of sense.

  9. For what it’s worth, this was my first day home after 5 days away from my kids and by the end of the night, I felt defeated and pissed off. I feel awful for that because we missed the kids so damn much, but the reality is a lot harder than the daydreams of them while we’re apart from them.

    I got bitten today too. And hit. And kicked. Both kids kicked the shit out of me.

    1. The first days back after a trip are hard because they are almost punishing you for being away. It’s the worst. I hope it gets better soon.

  10. Eh, we’re all assholes. I wouldn’t worry about that. And it certainly doesn’t make you selfish. If you break your pinkie toe on the corner of the hallway it isn’t selfish to cry, because that shit hurts even though it isn’t cancer. Don’t fall into that trap, because it will only make you feel worse.

    My older son is about two weeks younger that your daughter. My younger son just turned two a couple weeks ago. My older son never asked for a sibling either, was not excited about the baby coming, and it’s only recently that he’s stopped asking when we can give his brother back. He had a terribly hard time learning to share attention and is still not great with it. But in the last couple of months, the boys have gotten much better at playing together once in a while, mostly because the younger one can do more stuff now. Your kids will figure out their sibling relationship eventually. My brother and I were never friends until we were adults.

    Last summer, we took the kids to Disneyland for two days. My older son was a terrible brat who spent more than half the time in total meltdown mode. At least, that’s how we remember it. He remembers it being a grand time and repeatedly asks to go back. So your perception of family outings, while not pleasant by any stretch, may still be building happy memories for your kids. Feel them out on that. If they don’t remember these excursions as good times, then stop trying to do them for a while. There are easier ways to build happy memories, like going out for surprise ice cream.

    I’m fortunate to live in a small town, with a homey, small town feeling. So when my kids act up in public, as they do, I get a lot of understanding looks, smiles, and sweet, grandmotherly advice. I don’t get the impression the same is true where you live, and I can see how constantly feeling judged by others can make it all so much worse.

    My older son is similar to your daughter in many respects. There’s only so much we can do, as parents of challenging children, to try to keep things under control. Accepting the hellions for who they are is difficult, because we think it reflects poorly on us as parents. But really, it doesn’t. Our kids have strong personalities, and eventually they will grow into them and be able to express their thoughts and feelings in more constructive ways (of course, these ways will challenge us in whole new, terrible ways, but that’s a thought better left for another time years from now). Finding ways to manage life while not stifling who they are is a hugely daunting task. And so totally emotionally and physically draining. I get it. LOTS of us get it. You are not alone in feeling this way.

    I’m sorry that you feel alone in dealing with it all though. I don’t think it would be fair of us to jump on your husband, but I think you probably need to be validated in some way in that respect. It does sound like he still hasn’t come to terms with the changes fatherhood brings to one’s life. Will he ever? Who knows? I guess all you can do is keep figuring out ways to make things better from your end and try not to get too bitter about what you aren’t getting from him. Hopefully he’ll come around.

    And remember, this stage is temporary. Our kids will always be sources of stress and challenge, but they won’t always be sucking every last drop of life out of us. They’ll eventually be old enough to fend for themselves now and then and we’ll get a little time to ourselves to recuperate between disasters. We just have to keep on keepin’ on.

    1. Thank you for this comment. It made me smile and laugh and nod because clearly you get it. It really helps to know there is someone else who gets it.

  11. You probably know what I’m going to say. Stop being so hard on yourself! Just because you were able to have children, and I (or others) weren’t doesn’t mean you have to be forever grateful and that you can never complain, or recognise that it is hard hard work. Everything that you express is what I feared about being a mother. I know I would have found it hard too, and I’d have wanted to be able to scream with frustration, or even admit that – as much as I wanted it – I also didn’t enjoy it all (or even much of) the time.

    You don’t sound like any of those horrible things you called yourself. You sound like a woman who is feeling very overwhelmed and trapped, and who needs a good hug. So here it is, all the way from the bottom of the world. (((((HUG)))))

    Now go read my last post about showing yourself the same compassion you’d show a friend in the same circumstances.

    1. I do feel overwhelmed and trapped. I recognized the feelings of overwhelm, but not necessarily the feeling of being trapped. Thank you for recognizing that for me. And thank you for your kind words. They mean more than I can say.

  12. I don’t have much to say on this since I don’t have the experience of 2 kids, but I want to echo everyone who said your feelings are both normal and okay to have. It is too bad you don’t have other mom friends where you live who you can talk about this stuff who can ensure you you aren’t alone, but you have a lot of us on the internet who very much understand. You are not alone.

    1. I have brought up parts of these feelings with other moms. I have to feel them out, and make sure they aren’t going to judge me. There are actually a surprising number of families in the area that only have one kid, so it’s harder for me to find families of two kids, which I know is not the case in other parts of the country, but in this city it seems to quite common. Maybe just on the side of the city where I live, where most of the families are struggling a little more just to get by.

  13. I’ve been there and honestly, sometimes still am. Something that has REALLY helped us, is to just do things as a family, regardless of how difficult the kids are. I keep telling myself the more we do things/go places, the easier it will get. At first (like the first 16 months of each of my boy’s lives) I pretty much was always home, or there was always a meltdown in the car or at the activity, but slowly, it got easier. The boys adjusted, they had fun. I also found that the more relaxed D and I are, the more relaxed the kids are.
    I highly recommend starting off small. Try an hour at the park. Give the kids a snack before you go, go to the park and stay positive and engaged with the kids. Divide and conquor. Swap spending time with the kids individually, and then praise them on the way home for something great they did at the park.
    Repeat a few days or another weekend doing something else, either a slightly longer activity or something. Alot of it is expectations. Kids/toddlers can’t do much for long periods of time. Their attention spans just can’t handle it, but I think the more you get out as a family, the better it will get!
    You are an excellent mom. You are so hard on yourself though! I can read the love for your kids through your writing, it’s beautiful! Please know that no one is a perfect parent. Yes, sometimes it seems like other families have it “together,” but let me tell you it’s not the case. Every family has their own behind-the-scene drama/dynamic. 🙂
    Hugs to you! You really are phenomenal!

    1. This is a really good advice. I think we do have to make a commitment to going out together. Right now we seem to be in survival mode and we’re always just trying to give the other person an hour to chill out or get the dishes done or start dinner. But we should talk about the reasons it’s important to go out as a family too, and do something small with them all together at least once a week.

    2. I agree with Heather’s point. I think that with practice, going places as a family gets easier and I think that it has some other real benefits as well. I think that your daughter and my older son have a lot in common, temperamentally, and I think that one of the things that going places together (it all really started with a family vacation) has accomplished is to help us to construct a narrative that says that we are a cohesive unit. The more g feels that his little brother is part of his “team” the better the relationship has become. It definitely means a lot of work for you and your husband but it is the kind of work that I think is absolutely worth it.

  14. I’m sorry to be late to commenting on this and glad that as always you have found the support that you need. I agree – it does sound as if your kids are at challenging stages right now. It’s a lot for anyone to deal with. This is the best thing about writing – when others can reinforce your feelings, and identify in your words feelings that you couldn’t see yourself, and just say, shit, that really sucks. You are handling it. You are the best parent for your children. Hugs.

  15. I’m late as always to the discussion – but you are not alone, not at all. Parenting is draining and I can’t wait til it’s bedtime and I can have just a freaking minute to THINK a thought or pee by myself. This young age is hard, very hard. I’ve been all about unplugging and mindless tv at the end of the day.

    Luke sounds very much like your son, he was so incredibly difficult as a toddler. every single thing he could get to he would and it was physically exhausting. My friends would be able to talk to each other and go to coffeeshops and I’d be running around making sure my kid didn’t topple the display, go behind the counter (again), run away across the field etc, etc. He was out of his crib at 18 months, he was physically relentless.They do calm down, eventually, they really do, he will get much easier.

    The meltdowns, man. I feel you. I try everything to avoid them, but, I don’t know. They happen all the time anyway. We hadn’t even started the day really and Luke had a 45 minute one this morning, we were late to preschool. They’re so maddening. I did purchase a preschool kinderpack recently and that’s come in handy a few times when he’s nearing, or mid-meltdown and I need to wrangle all 45 lbs of him, he calms in the carrier. Or I sense one is coming during shopping and I pop him in to avoid the tantrum. It’s helped us a few times, but obviously they still happen a lot. Ppl look at me like i’m nuts in public while wearing my giant almost 4 year old, but I will do ANYTHING to avoid a meltdown.

    Anyway, I just posted a bunch of pretty pictures on facebook so may appear that all is happy and glorious but it’s been rough over here lately too. I’m hoping age 4 will be a bit better for Luke and the meltdowns will calm..I hope Isa does too. .

    1. Thank you for joining the discussion. Every voice that joins this choir of “wow, parenting is tough” makes me feel a little less alone. I appreciate your adding your perspective.

      “My friends would be able to talk to each other and go to coffeeshops and I’d be running around making sure my kid didn’t topple the display, go behind the counter (again), run away across the field etc, etc” This, by the way. THIS.

      I actually gasped when you said Luke was out of his crib at 18 months. I am freaking out because my son has basically outgrown the pack n play that I have him nap in a few times a week while I workout and I’m not sure what I’m going to do! He absolutely can’t be trusted in a room alone. What did you do with Luke when he couldn’t be in his crib?! How did you keep him safe in his room at night?! This is insane. Thank gawd for sleep sacks, I think they’ll keep my son in his crib for the foreseeable future.

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