I am currently in the midst of writing about nap times, power plays, and tantrums. Here is an older post to inform the one I am working on.
Tonight, Ben asked me what I was going to do with my “free” night, since it is his turn to get up with the kids in the morning. For whatever reason, I am compelled to write.
I am a bit out of sorts. Naptime, blessed naptime is over. It shouldn’t be a big deal, but boy oh boy is it. The last shreds of self time are out the window. It now mom-time, full-time, all the time.
Liam is 2 and ¾ years old. He has been fighting taking naps for six months or so, but I have been an unflappable opponent- he will nap. Whether it’s 20 minutes or 2 hours, I need that break in the day. Most days, I clean or cook or watch something mundane on TV. But at least a day or two a week, I work on a craft or write or take photographs or something else that let’s me believe I am still a complete human being and not just a mommy bot.
As Liam began to fight off the nap, the struggle turned into a fight literally. He would no longer go to sleep on his own. I attempted “quiet time” in his room, but saying quiet time to a toddler is like saying “eat a sandwich” to an anorexic. I had been successfully rocking him to sleep for a few months, but then he began to violently kick and struggle, as if I had bound him in ropes and he was struggling to break free. At first, I tried to soothe him, sing to him and generally calm him down. But that didn’t work. The only thing that did work- a swat on the bottom.
Like most modern parents, I abhor spanking. But in that moment, the reflex was there. I didn’t think about it, I just swatted on the bottom and he immediately calmed down and went to sleep. The surface part of me was so thankful to sit and have thirty minutes to watch ¾ of an episode of “Mad Men.” But underneath, the guilt was already festering. I had hit my child. I talked myself out of it- I hadn’t beaten, I hadn’t slapped him, I hadn’t reddened his bottom. I merely gave a single slap to get his attention. But I knew what that slap really meant- I had lost control and had no idea how to get it back.
Over the next week, it happened three more times. I began to obsess about it. Because I knew, if we were going to keep continuing naptime, that meant we were going to keep continuing with spankings, and I knew I just couldn’t do that. I envisioned Liam with an adulthood complex over his aggressive mother who spanked him every day just so she could have a few selfish minutes to herself. No way. I was not going to live with that. He might end up on a psychiatrist’s couch, but not because of me.
I knew I couldn’t do the spankings, so I gave up naptime and opted for quiet time once again. The first day, I explained that his younger brother, Kellen, was asleep and that he would need to play quietly so as not to disturb him. I told him he had to stay in his room until I came and told him it was ok to come out. I was met with him sneaking into the living room every ten minutes whispering “it’s ok to come out now?”
The next day, I showed him how I had set an alarm on the clock and that once the alarm went off, he could come out of his room. I hadn’t thought of potty breaks. He pooped himself. In trying to get out of his poopy underpants, he managed to smear shit all over the bed, the chair, and himself.
The third day, I set the alarm, but told him it was ok to come out to use the restroom. Never has this child been more eager to go to the potty. On the third attempt in an hour, I went into the bathroom to investigate. He had taken off his poopy underpants, dumped the poop in the potty- which sounds ok. He then proceeded to place about fifty wipes into every crevice of his potty chair for some unknown reason and hide under the sink (which he loves to do). When I told him he needed to go complete his quiet time in his room so I could clean his potty chair, HE put ME in timeout.
By the end of the week, I was done. I thought I was working all day duty before, but I didn’t know how good I had it. The weekend came, and my husband, Ben, is usually wonderful about watching the kids so I can get some alone time. Usually, I leave during naptime. Ben plays video games, I read or watch a movie, and the boys sleep- everybody wins. But now we were entering a new era where the best you could hope for is having one child at a time. No breaks, no me time, not ever. End of the weekend, I was in tears.
I decided to talk to Ben about this on our evening walk. I should preface this by saying that both boys are in a “I need Mommy and only Mommy phase.” Kellen has always been a mama’s boy. I don’t know if Liam is taking cues from Kellen, or what, but anytime I try to let Daddy handle a situation, I am met by cries of “NOOO! MOMMMY!”
I recently read some article where someone was chastising a mother for making a phonecall while her children played at the park. The author said the mother was missing out on her child’s life by preferring to talk on her phone rather than engage with her child.
I knew this article was ridiculous. We all love to judge everyone else’s parenting technique. Yes, sometimes parents talk on their phones, or watch TV, or play on the computer rather than attending to their children. But there are also plenty of mothers who do nothing but take care of their children, to the point they have to entertain them at the park, just so they can get a phonecall made.
I knew I was one of the “good” mothers, but ever since I read that article, I was obsessed with engaging. I would hear that word running through my head in some sort of Jean Luc Picard voice, “Engage,” about fifty times a day. I usually started the day off gung ho, ready to play. But by the evening, I was ready to snap if I didn’t have a moment to disengage.
I tried to explain my turmoil to Ben. How I needed a moment to myself, but how the new schedule wouldn’t allow it. If I even tried to sit for a moment, Liam would say “No Mommy, play with me,” and then tell me the proper way to sit (not with my legs down). It again went back to control- when I was spanking, I had lost control. But I was not the Alpha Dog in these circumstances either.
I explained my guilt, my struggle. How I felt like I needed to foster their creativity, and nurture them, and encourage healthy attachment, but hearing my name ever three seconds was just too much to bear. I asked Ben if I was crazy, waiting for him to respond “No, that is too much for anyone, and you are a saint to devote some much time and energy to our children. Thank you.”
Instead I was met with “well, I think most people snap sometimes, but they don’t feel guilt about it for days afterwards. And I don’t think most people think they are supposed to spend all day with their children. They expect them to have time on their own.”
Traitor! The worst kind of traitor because a smidge of it is true. Shut up, Ben, ungrateful grumble grumble so and so.
Yes, I probably did take it a bit too far. I probably should get over the guilt complex, and figure out how to get them to spend time on their own. But how, how do I do it? When they are crying “Mommy! Mommy!” and I’m the only one there to deal with it. What is the line, and if it’s so clear, why doesn’t everybody see it?
The moms don’t see the line. The moms do not know where it is. I know because we all talk, we all struggle. But we are the only ones who get it. And that is what makes outside relationships so difficult. They all have advice, but they don’t get it. The moms create this little safety cocoon, where you can speak all the worst thoughts in the world and be met with “I totally understand” and not “you’re a monster!”
This mommy gig is strange, because some ties become bound so close, while other just seem to fly away. How can we ever weave them into one solid tapestry?
And then I should follow this up by saying I feel like a bastard, just a complete asshole. Because I look at these little wonders. These perfect little beings who want nothing more than to just hang out with me all the time. I am their universe. I am so loved by them. Isn’t that what everyone longs for? Why do I need a break? I feel like a jerk when I am not marveling in every second on their existences, because they are beyond worthy of being marveled. I love you, I do, beyond words. But I am tired. Engage, engage, engage. Just give me five minutes and a cupcake, and I’ll be right as rain.