When does it get easier?

Yes, I am asking that question again, even though I already said that it was getting easier. I guess you get used to easier and then you start wanting it to be easier still. Or maybe it gets easier and then it goes back to being harder.

It’s just that some times, okay a lot of the time, my kids can be so damn exhausting.

You know how kids go through cycles? Oscillating between incredibly challenging behavior and excitingly new developmental milestones when suddenly they can do so much more, and are so much more agreeable? The thing is, when you have two kids there is rarely a time when they are both in an easier stage. (I seriously don’t know how people with 3+ kids manage it!)

My daughter has been moody lately. She is always a little moody, but lately her attitude has been making me want to pull my hair out. Nothing is good. Nothing is fun. Everything is terrible. How do 6.5 year olds even get into a mind space like that?

I feel confident we are handling some challenges well; I believe that giving her a space to sleep on the floor in our room was absolutely the right more and has helped her feel more positive about going to bed, and sleeping in general. I am also very thankful that my husband is willing to sleep in our daughter’s room once a week so she can sleep with me; that time together is clearly incredibly important to her. We rarely hear about nightmares any more, though sometimes I hear her having them on the floor in our room. ๐Ÿ™

I am also taking steps to support her at school, getting her noise cancelling headphones for homework time at aftercare (the people who work there say it makes a world of difference in how much she is able to get done) and a wiggle cushion for class (its an inflatable disc that helps kids with ADD sit still for seat work–I might get one for aftercare too). I made her a checklist so she can go through her backpack and make sure she has everything before walking to aftercare or being picked up.

I also know I’m making mistakes. I get too frustrated when she loses things (oh my god! I’ve spent hundreds of dollars replacing the shit she loses!–see checklist above) and when she responds in a way I feel is totally age-inappropriate to disappointment (usually when she can’t have some sweet treat she is obsessing over). I see her crumble when she registers my frustrating and disappointment and I know I’m hurting something deep in her soul.

I also feel like, STOP LOSING YOUR SHIT OVER NOT GETTING A LOLLIPOP! YOU JUST FINISHED A BAG OF COOKIES!

So yeah. It’s hard.

My son isn’t make things any easier. Oh my god how that boy takes me to the brink and back every hour of the day. No one is a sweeter snuggler. And no one can throw a Thomas train against the wall with such indignant rage. He is like the Hulk–so destructive when he’s not getting what he wants.

I guess we’re just headed into yet another dip in both their behavior cycles, and I better hunker down and get ready for it.

Seriously though, does it ever get easier? Really and truly? For a prolonged period of time (like entire years)? I think for some people it does, but maybe for me it won’t. I don’t things were ever really “easy” for my parents with my sister. They still aren’t and she’s almost 30. I think some people just have a harder time navigating this life. And their parents have a harder navigating it with them.

It doesn’t help that I’m not the most even keeled person myself. {Though I do think the Vitex I started taking to balance my volatile hormones is helping. My PMS was WAY less affecting on my last cycle, and my boobs only hurt for 4-5 days! (Instead of 10). It’s supposed to take about three months to really start working so I have high hopes for good things.}

So yes, I know I am part of the equation. I try to give myself what I need so I can give my kids what they need, but holy shit sometimes it feel like everyone in this family is so goddamn needy. And everyone needs me.

Neither kid will even speak to my husband when they wake up at night. Both demand that I snuggle with them before bed. I started getting my son dressed in the mornings because he was making life hell for my husband (who was in turn, making life hell for me), which has totally destroyed my already fragile “me time” in the mornings. My son won’t even participate in his soccer class unless I go with him; when my husband takes him he just melts down on the sidelines until they finally come home.

Today we took the kids to a women’s basketball game at our alma mater. It was fun. Kind of. I got a picture with the kids and the mascot, and it’s definitely a memory I’ll treasure forever, but the actual outing was mostly just exhausting. The kids pouted and whined most of the time. They hung on me for the entire second half of the game, which frustrated the hell out of my husband. Minute to minute it really wasn’t very enjoyable, though I could show you pictures that would suggest we had the greatest time. I think that is what parenthood is like, at least during these early years… Incredibly bright highlights set apart from a backdrop of grey drudgery. At least that is what they feel like for me. I read blogs by other mothers that suggest they may be having a different experience.

I don’t know, maybe my expectations are still too high. Am I wrong to get exasperated that I STILL have to tell my 6.5 year old not to put her gaping mouth on the back of the seat of the train? (THREE TIMES IN ONE RIDE!?) Or to be aware enough of her body (that she has draped lengthwise over the bench) to not repeatedly hit the person in front of her? (Yes, we eventually moved to much higher seats where no one else was sitting.) Is it really too much to ask her to accept my “No, we are not having an Icee AND cotton candy,” without a 10 minute meltdown that requires me bodily removing her from the game? Do I expect too much of her?

Clearly I do. And whether what I expect is age appropriate or not, she can’t manage it yet so it doesn’t really matter.

I worry a lot of the time if I’m pushing her too hard. I know in some situations she needs that push and will be happier in the long run for me making her uncomfortable initially. Sometimes I’m less sure. Like with reading. I know she could read books way above the level she is reading them, but she just isn’t interested in taking on the challenge. Do I let her keep picking the books she wants, when they are clearly too easy? Or push her to read at her level? Right now I push her some nights and let her take the easy road on others.

{I really struggle with school stuff because I’m a teacher and I want to instill in my daughter an understanding that homework is a priority, not something you do when it strikes your fancy. I also know my kid is smart, but I also recognize that there is a part of me that would delight in her being really smart (like her father). I catch myself comparing her to her peers, and it’s only when I find out they are six months or more older than her that I stop wondering how they can be reading 200 page chapter books by themselves in 1st grade when my daughter still balks at a Level 3 selection in the Step-Into-Reading series. I also catch myself bristling when other people refer to their kids as “gifted” or “brilliant.” (Though some of that bristling is a conditioned response from dealing with many parents over the years who had very unrealistic understandings of their “brilliant” kids’ abilities when the parents weren’t around to “help them.”) When I have visceral reactions to shit like that I know there is some deep seated shit going on that I’ll eventually have to deal with.}

{Even more interesting, I seem to have zero expectations of my son’s intellect. I don’t know if this is because he is my second child and I didn’t invest the same amount of time and energy into his “education” as a baby/toddler, or that he’s a boy (god, I hope it’s not because he’s a boy), or if it’s just because I’m too tired to give a shit. One might argue that I have been downright neglectful when it comes to my son’s “education”–I was taken aback when I realized he could sing his ABCs at 2.5 years old, mostly because I had never bothered to sing them to him. I have to remind myself to practice counting with him too. If it weren’t for school he’d be getting nothing but a decent foundation in reading.) When people (mostly his grandparents) comment on how smart he is, I mostly look at them with a quizzical expression, and think, Is he? I know this is fucked up, and I have attempted to examine where it’s coming from. It’s not that I think he won’t be smart, I just don’t seem to have any expectation that he will be. Where as with my daughter, I think I do. So yeah. Messed up shit that I have to get a handle on pronto.}

So there you go. Some very raw and honest trains of thought from a tired and disheveled mother who is just trying to do the right thing, but would appreciate if her kids could stop making it so damn hard. Please be kind in the comments, because I see how messed up a lot of my thinking is. It’s a work in a progress, as is everything.

27 Comments

  1. Yes. This.

    Yesterday was one of the most difficult days I have ever had in parenting. I was debating where I could go if I just left. I don’t even know how to describe it, it was so hard. And it scares me. What if J never gets better? What if he’s mentally ill? What if he’ll be a teen or an adult and still destroying things when he’s upset? What if I somehow screwed him up and this is all my fault?

    So yes to all of this. Sadly.

    1. {{{HUGS}}}
      I’m always asking myself, what if she’s never happy. But the thing is, I know how that turns out, because I’ve watched my sister. ๐Ÿ™

      The only thing I know for sure is this is not all your fault. And I still hold out hope that it will get better.

    1. I think it’s important to have the easy (or much easier) kid because it helps a parent know that much is beyond their control. But I think it would be hard to have the easy kid first.

  2. OMG, I could have written this post…every word except the part where the kids prefer you to your husband because that isn’t the case in our house. But he is much more likely to lose his shit with them so I end up dealing with them more when they are…like this. L is less stressful for me because he does seem more “typical” and has happy moments, but he can go from snuggle-bug to monster in no time—spitting on me, calling me “stupid head” and hitting me, etc… B is just…miserable. A lot. Just really unhappy. Everything is awful & boring & the worst. And any little disappointment (no treat, needing to take a bath, ran out of pancakes for breakfast, tomorrow is Monday) sets him off into tantrums and meltdowns.
    This is exactly why we are seeing the family therapist. If we learn anything useful I will definitely share it, because it seems like you, me and Debra are dealing with a lot of the same hard shit.

    1. My son is also easier for me because he seems more typical, but I get talked to about his behavior almost every day at pick up from day care and I’m just so tired of having “that kid” that is doing something wrong.

      I so feel you on the “any disappointment” thing. I’ve started to prep my daughter when I know I’m going to say something she’ll react to (which is honestly almost anything). I will go so far as to give her options for what to say and how to say it appropriately. Also, when she responds inappropriately I usually give her appropriate responses and we try it again. It’s hard and takes FOREVER to get the simplest things done, but maybe some day it will make a difference? (God I hope so.)

  3. First, thank you for your raw & honest post. You are doing awesome & I can’t tell you how much admiration I have for your patience.

    I wonder if I’m pushing my 6 year old too much as well. I often wonder if I just think she’s being lazy or really doesn’t understand her school homework. And with my 4 year old, I need to make more time with her, to help her write her name. She believes her name ends in an “m”…its an “n” and constantly argues with me about it. Then comes the, “I hate yous”…

    and yes, I am a constant record, “don’t touch that”….”take that out of your mouth”…”follow me”…just tiring.

    I’m hoping parenting gets easier & less exhausting but, when?

    1. I think all humans are wired to want to do the least amount of work at any given moment. It’s just who we are (at our most basic). I try to remind myself of that when my daughter is clearly just being lazy. Having said that, it’s important to be giving them the tools to figure things out on their own. “Well what can you do if you don’t understand the homework? Are there directions? Have you read them? Have you tried one? If you don’t understand the first one can you try the second? I do this all day at school so I have so little patience to do it again at home, which isn’t at all fair to my kids. Everything just takes so much time and practice and I’m just so tired.

      I don’t know when it gets easier. Maybe when they are in their late 20’s? ๐Ÿ˜‰

  4. I definitely think it has a LOT to do with your child’s personality. My daughter is 18 months old and she’s just “easy” (always has been). First, she’s truly a mini-me personality wise (I almost always know what she’s thinking/feeling/why she’s behaving a certain way/how to get her to act a different way). Second, she’s so easy to reason with (her verbal comprehension developed very early). I’m lucky and I know it (I also know it could change at any time).

    That said, I’m 21 weeks pregnant with a little boy and I am SCARED. What if he’s nothing like me and I never know what he’s thinking/feeling and he’s a little terror/payback for my daughter being so easy? What if having him disrupts my daughter’s world so much that she turns into a terror? Ugh… Even with an easy kid I feel like I’m *just” juggling everything (and by that I mean to an acceptable level, not that I’m doing everything (anything?) as well as I’d like); if I get a hard second kid it may ALL fall apart.

    1. My child was also easy at around 18 months. I think being really verbal helps because there is less frustration about communicating needs. He was also not very active so I wasn’t chasing him everywhere.

      Things got really different at around 2.5/3 . . . I am now understanding why people say 3 is the hardest age.

    2. It sounds like you have a good thing going with your 18 month old. I remember that time fondly. It wasn’t until 2yo that shit hit the fan. My son was the same way. But I know a lot of people that had easy (or easier) 2yos.

      I was also terrified before my son was born, but my daughter was already 3.5 by then so I fully knew what I was getting myself into. It was definitely hard but it was also (or had its awesome moments). You’ll get through it. Good luck!

  5. Yes. All of this. Especially how you described parenting in the early years being bright spots among the background of drudgery. So. Much. Drudgery. I find myself wondering multiple times a day when things are going to get easier- when am I going to have just one child who can do basic things for him/herself? Please know you are not alone. (And I have no idea if N is smart because basically he does his own thing and I clean up his messes. No “education” going on around here. Sigh”

    1. “when am I going to have just one child who can do basic things for him/herself?” This is starting to happen for me. My daughter can get dressed, and do maybe a page of HW by herself (though most days she needs frequent redirection). She can even get a snack out of the fridge! But she can’t finish her dinner without constant prodding, and she isn’t quite at a place where she can give herself a shower yet. I’m assuming we’ll get there, it just takes longer than I thought it would.

      {{{{HUGS}}}} I don’t know how you do it!

  6. 1) I would totally say ground any toy if any component is thrown EXCEPT I am not going to be dealing with the consequences, you are. So perhaps ignore this idea because ‘reality’.
    2) The roller coaster improves very slowly. And still catches you with some children in their 20’s and 30’s. It is unpredictable. Good luck and pick battles carefully.
    3) Consider careful the pros & cons of discussing the germ and filth (poop, honest) of putting your mouth on things in public places that other people have touched. It drives me bananas to see children do it ~ but for some children becoming germaphobic is real and harder for the parent to deal with. MAYBE there is a book about this that the teachers at their schools know about… but phobias are problems too.
    4) we often see more of ourself and our own lives in children of the same sex. This is hard. Also when you have a demanding and challenging child it is harder to have space to be as focused on the other child(ren). This has pros & cons for everyone. Life is never perfect for anyone. You are normal.
    5) You all are doing terrifically. Raising and living with small humans is as hard or harder as living with other grown humans. I still run into occasional problems living with myself. Think of the totality of the war not just the battles or even small fights. Look long haul. Deep breathing helps. The years help too …. slowly, because things cycle. Above all else BE KIND TO YOURSELF like you would be to any other person.

    1. We do take the toys away, and there are consequences (for us when we take them), but there needs to be a response to choices like that. He throws epic tantrums, but I think he understands what is happening (why we took the toy, how he might not lose it in the future), and that gives me hope. I never really got that feeling with my daughter at that age, but am more now.

      I will attempt to think of the totality of the war and not the battles. This is going to be a long campaign.

  7. Interesting to hear your perspective on your daughter…honestly I’d love to have the problem of whether to push her to read harder books…my oldest is 6 and in K and does not read yet. She’s very resistant to doing any school type work outside of school other than homework. I struggle with how much to push–my philosophy is to be laissez faire–play is more important at this age etc. and I’ve never been one to do flash cards etc. But…I started reading a lot younger. I really think she just is not interested at this point. She can sound out words when really pushed but then there’s a major meltdown. So I wait…impatiently.

    1. Your daughter will get there with the reading. I think I want to push my daughter because I know she loves to read (she could listen to audiobooks all day) and partly because I want her to just hold up in her room for 30+ minutes a day reading (oh, how amazing would that be!)

      I think your laissez faire attitude is the right one to have. She’ll get there, when she’s ready.

  8. About being more invested in your daughter’s intelligence, is it possible because your daughter has been more difficult, that you want her to be really intelligent to sort of explain it all? That her challenges stem from, or are related to, her intelligence? Or maybe that her intelligence will make the challenges worth it?

    Just a thought.

  9. My sister regularly tells me that she’s apparently “the meanest mother in the world,” according to her almost 9-yr-old. You’re both doing okay, though I’m sure it doesn’t feel like it at the time.

    My sister-in-law used to laugh – somewhat guiltily – that, after they’d spent all the time educating and coaxing their daughter to learn and read etc, her son was her “control group.” Maybe it’s a gender thing, though I’m sure it’s a birth order thing. Again, though, you’re in good company!

  10. I always wish I had more time to comment, because I often think some of my experiences would be of interest to you. My kids are 21, 13, 11, 10, 9 & 8, with several of them having special needs. My 9 year old, who has been doagnosed with ADHD (primarily impulsivity) and GAD, sounds a lot like your daughter. So volatile about illogical things. It’s especially frustrating, because her 8 year old brother is only 4 months younger, provides me with a comparison of “typical behavior”. Then again, her 11 year old is on the spectrum and can’t handle any changes in routine and her 13 year old sister has PTSD, ADHD, GAD, mood disorder and complex medical issues; so I sometimes I don’t think I expect enough of her because in camparison to them she does so well. I think I end up sending mixed messages when she actually needs more consistency than is immediately evident. I also have the perspective of my oldest being grown and out of the house and that informs my parenting of my younger ones.

    Btw, I think you should stop comparing yourself to people with more kids. If I had two, I would feel just as overwhelmed as I do with six, because that is all I would know. Our perspective is always relative to our personal experiences.

  11. I forgot my point. Lol. I don’t know so much about easier, but it gets different. When I am going through my worst periods I remind myself that in six months I may not even remember what was stressing me out so much right now. What I can control is my experience of what I am living through right now. My 13 year old had a liver transplant when she was a year old. When she was 3 a tumor was found in her lung. There is a type of lymphoma that is caused by immunosuppressants, so the first step was to cut those back. We ended up with a three month period of waiting to see if she would have rejection issues and whether the tumor would go away. I was a wreck. Worst than any other period of my life. She didn’t reject, her body attacked and got rid of the tumor. I spent three months worrying about something that never came to pass. It really changed my perspective on how I approach challenges. No matter what I have to live through what’s going on. How do I want that life to be? One of the questions I ask myself is if the worst were to happen, could I continue to walk through it. If the answer is yes, I let go of worrying about it. If things never change with your daughter, will you survive it? Yes. So let yourself off the hook of being a perfect parent. If she takes longer to learn to read, will you and she survive it? Yes, so let it go. (Btw, tests done of early versus late readers show that barring any learning disabilities, by fifth grade you can’t tell which ones read early or not. My 21 year old line your daughter was interested in far more complex books than she could read and didn’t take off until 4th grade. She was reading at a college level by 6th.) I’m not saying it is easy, but I use this trick as my touchstone. My 13 year old daughter had 20 surgeries last year and is now on the waiting list for a liver/bowel/pancreas/partial colon transplant. I’ve had a couple meltdowns in the four months since she’s been on the list, but for the most part I’m fine. The reason, what’s going to happen is going to happen whether or not I’m miserable.

    Hang in there.

    1. Hey there! So good to hear from you! How are your kids?! It’s been a long time, probably since I left FB.

      Definitely check into the Vitex, it really is helping. I had also read about it for fertility (and used it when I was TTC) but didn’t realize it would help with PMS and general cycle health. I’m so glad a blog friend recommended it.

  12. Hi, I’m a long time lurker and now I just had to comment. Sounds like your daughter is in some respects much like my son, now 8 and also my first child. Although he’s actually quite easy in some ways (no problem doing what he’s told, never aggressive), but he’s incredibly sensitive and small disappointments and hurts send him over the edge. He typically starts to cry in a scream-like manner and is inconsolable..he himself often says that he cannot stop the screaming and crying. It happens much less now that 2 years ago but the sensitivity is there. As a baby, he would wake up and start screaming right away (not hungry, there were separate wake ups for that) and could only go back to sleep if an adult would carry him around (as a baby)/stay at bedside (later). This actually continued on/off until he was 6. Again, inconsolable. Anyway! It is very important to him to fit in with his friends and in school. So, what I started to do when he was about 6- 7 was that first, when he was calm, I talked with him about the fact that some people, like me (I recognize the sensitivity in myself) and him, are extra sensitive and it is difficult for us to soothe ourselves, and that is why we have to try much harder than others and that although things feel incredibly unfair and hurtful, they actually are not. Then, when something set him off, I acknowledged the pain/disappointment, offered empathy, and when the screaming continued, I said to him something like: “remember what we talked about? This is it. I know you feel bad, but your reaction is inappropriate. I know you’re hurt, and you totally should be, but you need to express it in a different way, inside your head. If you keep reactung like this, other people, your friends for instance, will think you cannot deal with your feelings appropriately, and they may not want to spend time with you. I learned this the hard way, and I want the easy way for you.” (We have a very positive relationship generally, so when I take the Very Severe tone, he usually listens because I almost never use it.)
    This has helped. Or maybe it is just him getting older and maturing. But I really feel it has helped. Note that this is against all, ALL parenting principles I have ever had. I worry that it makes him think there is something wrong with him, or that he’s not allowed to feel all of his feelings. I always thought that the most important thing for a parent is to empathize with the child as much as it taked. But…I have empathized with him like that when he was 0-5 so maybe that helps. And I was getting seriously worried about possible bullying and I felt I had to do something. So, I did that and it seems to work.
    Thank you for your blog. And for what it’s worth, I really admire your patience and persistence with your kids.
    (Sorry about the language, I’m not an english native).

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