Oh man! I feel like the Genie when he comes out of the lamp after 6 million years. I don’t know what’s had us so busy … a little bit of camping … a little bit of work … a lotta bit of laundry … the Fit2Feast workout challenge and then, right when I think I’m going to sit down to write, my Stitch Fix comes. Life is just full of distractions.
So, the thing about this post is that I’ve been thinking about sharing it for months, but it’s not the most popular topic. See, with all the happy highlights and filtered Instagrams, it’s hard to imagine that anything is ever less than ideal in this place. I mean, Spike is so funny, and JoJo so wise beyond her years and Sloppy Joan is just the cutest, but there are moments … many, many moments, where my kids are … well, they’re freaking punks.
It’s always been there. The whining, the petty fighting, the outlandish demands. But this past year, particularly since JoJo started kindergarten, it’s been beyond any normal human’s threshold for whining, fighting and demanding. There are days when my directions are merely suggestions in a world dominated by their whims and wants. My requests are considered and immediately dismissed to make time for something like cutting construction paper into 30 million tiny pieces. They fight over items as priceless as the cardboard center of a toilet paper roll and go straight to hand to hand combat when direct commands fall on deliberately deaf ears.
I know that I’m not alone. I do. But it feels lonely in those moments. Like these are failures specifically tailored to showcase my shortcomings as their example. Being a parent and observing your kids is like the lab that accompanied a chemistry course in college. You try to follow the directions. You use the ingredients and strategies the teacher recommends. But sometimes, your formula fizzes (and boils over in a completely irrational fashion) while your neighbor’s simply combines and falls to a peaceful, obedient state. Despite your best intentions, things explode and react in a spastic, uncontrollable, combative roar simply because you added, say, one unforeseen ingredient (like a mandatory family nap on a Sunday afternoon).
Do I love my girls? No. I adore them beyond measure. I am obsessed with them. I worship every little piggy on their petite, perfect feet. But there are times, worship or not, when I sit back as a bystander, a helpless observer, watching one of them on a downward emotional spiral sparked by a microscopic annoyance and I think … who the hell are these jerks?
Typically, Hank and I trade off bearing the brunt of their tantrums. Sometimes Daddy’s having a bad day, and sometimes Mama jumps on the hormone grenade. It just depends. It helps team morale when one of the coaches can come out to the mound and tap in for their flustered, frustrated co-captain. We laugh about it a lot. But the truth is, it bothers the crap out of me. I want to know what sassy switch was flipped in my 6 year old the day I sent her into grade school. More than that, I want to know how to flip it the frick back off. It’s hard to feel like you’re failing. It’s sad when the day ends with an argument.
Because that’s the thing about your kids acting out; you end up acting like a huge asshole. You go through the stages of the last parenting book or article you read. You try to put yourself in their shoes, come down to their level, but inevitably, you snap like Elle Woods in a hair salon. Your eyes get big, and nostrils flare, and threats are thrown about, and yelling takes place. And this psychotic break never brings about any change for the better. They fight back or recoil and you’re left feeling like a splat of bird poop on a park bench. Nobody wins.
Until the next morning when all is forgotten and the stage is set for a few great moments and the unspoken, optimistic hope that maybe everyone will get along today. The girls won’t fight. I won’t have to ask 5 million times for someone to feed the dog. The sun is going to shine and happy, twittering birds are going to fly in and make my bed for me, just like in a Disney movie. And just to humor you, God does give you some of this.
The other night, Spike told JoJo that she loved her with her whole entire heart like Jesus. She patted her older sister’s head warmly and placed her treasured monkey blanket over her feet. And I thought, ya know, that’s what it’s all about. Just when you feel like you’ve been run over too many times to get back up, something beautiful happens and it puts you right back on your feet. I was swelling with pride. I felt renewed in my parental purpose and like the good man up above was providing a much-needed pat on the back.
Then Spike accidentally kicked her and JoJo pushed her off the bed.