Toy Section

We were at Target and had some time to kill while the pharmacy filled a prescription. Naturally T asked to go to the toy section. As we walked to the aisle with the Transformers I noticed the family already there. The father was a mountain of a man, physically intimidating. The mother was his opposite, a tiny slip of a woman with a hard face. Not kind judgements, but I’m trying to tell this story honestly. There was a baby in the shopping cart and a boy between the age of my kids walking around. The boy was being downright nasty to his parents and the Dad was getting angry. Frankly, the Dad was scaring me a little.

I turned the cart and headed for the lego aisle instead. The family made me uneasy. Again, not very kind. I was making a snap judgement, an unfair judgement, a judgement I try to prevent T from making when he looks at strangers.

The boys were having a blast looking at the Star Wars legos. I was having a pretty big internal struggle over avoiding the other family. The kid and the Dad were audibly bickering, but suddenly the father erupted. His shouting was so violent that my heart started pounding and I had goosebumps on my arms. “I AM SICK OF YOUR FUCKING SHIT. WHAT THE FUCK IS WRONG WITH YOU? YOU FUCKING PIECE OF SHIT.”

T looked at me questioningly. I was frozen to the spot. I wasn’t a little scared anymore, I was terrified. If this man would talk to his three year old that way he might rip the head off a stranger who suggested he should tone it down.

T knew something was wrong, he looked at me for help and all I could do was stare blankly at him.

Listen, I know on this blog I swear like a sailor. But the truth is I try not to swear in front of the kids. I nag Z not to swear in front of them either. It isn’t cute to me when a kid says fuck or shit. Call me old fashioned, call me a raging hypocrite, but I don’t want my kids talking like that. And I try not to swear in anger. I try not to yell, “Fuck you!” at Z when we fight. To me swear words are fun, screaming them at someone equals loss of control loss and poisonous vitriol. I certainly have gone there in my life, more than I’d care to admit, but over the last nearly 16 years I’ve been with Z I try my damndest not to.

The poor kid being yelled at. I felt sick for him. What three year old deserves to be spoken to that way? Of course he was being a brat when I saw him earlier. He was clearly modeling behavior.

Z and I yell at the boys. Lately T has gotten a bit mouthy with me. Is it because I yell at him? Am I creating a monster? How different am I from that Dad? Is it just a slippery slope? How can I judge that man when I engage in a toned down version of the same behavior? Do I think I’m a better parent because I don’t yell in public or swear or lose total control? Is he actually more honest than I am?

The yelling stopped and I heard the family move away. I suggested T follow me in the opposite direction as I pushed C in our cart. Eventually we made our way back so T could salivate over his beloved Transformers. But I felt uncomfortable, ashamed, dirty even for the rest of our trip. Should I have spoken up for the poor kid? Who is going to protect him? What should I have said to T? He looked to me for answers and I gave him nothing. How dare I judge the family in the first place? How dare I feel momentarily vindicated in that judgement when the man freaked out?

Smart friends, what would you have done? What do you do when your kid is exposed to behavior you find abhorrent? What should I have done?

The most important task I have as a parent is to teach the boys to be decent humans. Yesterday I felt like a failure, a fraud.

chocolate drool

How about a funny picture to lighten things up? How about some post-dessert chocolate drool from my sweet mess of a boy?

Confession

You know how my whole schtick is to be as honest as possible no matter what? I haven’t been honest. With you, with myself.

Let’s back up a bit. Winter sucks for my anxiety disorder. Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) gets sprinkled on top of my regular sundae of crazy. The fact that Syracuse has more overcast days annually than Seattle does not help.

This past week has been particularly unpleasant. I got a pretty brutal cold. Which led to not jogging for 4 days, the longest break I’ve taken since the jogging odyssey began last July. Z and I had a fight so ugly it necessitated an extra couples therapy appointment.

[Yes. Z and I fight. Our relationship is not perfect, nowhere near. We hurt each other, we disappoint each other. We calm down and try to figure out how to do better.]

I put my foot in my mouth epicly. C fell down and gave himself a bloody nose. T and C had an altercation so violent C’s nose was left bloody again. A manageable and forecasted snow storm hit us, but Syracuse has decided not to keep up with plowing this year so the boys unnecessarily missed a day of school because I couldn’t get my car off of our street. C fell out of bed AND HIT HIS NOSE AGAIN!

When a whole bunch of not great stuff happens, especially at the times my crazy is more…present the self loathing starts to take over. I feel worthless and useless, unfit as a mother and wife. I feel fat and ugly. I’m sure I disgust those around me, I certainly disgust myself. It is hard not to cry, hard to get out of bed, hard not to listen to the bitch who whispers, “I hate you, I hate you” on a nonstop loop in my head.

So the thing I haven’t been honest about has been festering in my mind. It has become the thing I think about constantly, turning it over and over in my head reminds me how weak and useless and stupid I actually am.

Just over a year ago I had a bad pap smear. It was scary, but I followed directions and had a colposcopy. That pretty much sucked. And it turned out I have HPV. The cool thing is the virus can clear itself so six months later when I had another pap I didn’t have HPV anymore.

In early December I got a call from my gynecologist reminding me about my annual visit that week. I panicked. And told the nice woman who called that I had a scheduling conflict, but I’d call back the following week.

I never called back.

Things aren’t going so well with me. I cannot deal with HPV coming back. Or another colposcopy. Or the thought of cervical cancer. I know I’m being stupid. I know I’m being irresponsible. But I can’t seem to force myself to make the phone call. I am really scared.

This week I came clean to Z. And now I’m coming clean to you. I mean, if you’ve been stupid about something you are scared of I get it. But I think you are strong enough to face it. You just need a little encouragement. I need a little encouragement as well. Monday is my day, I can feel it. I will call the doc on Monday. Pap smear, here I come.

my valentine

T made me a Valentine. It isn’t all bad around here.

sleepy boy C

This poor kid’s nose has been through the wringer this week.

Syracuse winter

Normal Syracuse morning.

Under the Influence. Of Anxiety.

T shouting, “Mom! C is eating play doh!” Me shouting right back, “I. Am. Pooping! I cannot do anything about it right now!”

That moment perfectly captures the feel of the last two days.

My hormones are not in a happy place. Could be the first month on a new birth control pill. Could be the weaning. Could be freaking-out-about-my-class anxiety. Or we-are-broke anxiety. Or our-annual-Christmas-trip-to-see-family-is-going-to-involve-just-as-many-miles-in-under-two-weeks anxiety. Or I-have-an-anxiety-disorder anxiety.

My boobs. They still have milk. After some googling this morning I’ve learned that extended nursers can take up to a year to stop producing small amounts of milk. UP TO A YEAR! I’m certainly not engorged. Not in real pain. They just feel a little full, a little achey. Like they have a job to do.

I want to move on. Like C has moved on. I can actually sit on the nursing rocker with him in my arms and sing him to sleep at nap time. He doesn’t even ask to nurse anymore. As I hold him I’m grateful. One of my biggest fears in weaning him was I wouldn’t be able to cuddle with him because he would want to nurse.

How do I move on when my damn boobs are betraying me? Constantly reminding me that I want to be nursing him.

So I’ve been a crank. No patience for Z or the boys. Anxiety and anger bubbling close to the surface.

Last night Z and I decided that T needed to clean up the legos on the floor of his room before he went to bed. I told him that they should be put away by the time I got his cup of ice water or he’d lose his story. He grumpily got on the floor and started tossing them into the bin. He was still there and still working when I got back upstairs. So I didn’t take away his story. I sat and helped him.

Bedtime proceeded as usual. We got into bed and read a book. He turned off his light, took a sip of water, got into bed. I started singing to him. Halfway through Rudolf the Red Nosed Reindeer he put his hand over my mouth and said, “No more songs. Just cuddles.”

Ok. Pretty damn rude, but I don’t love the singing portion of events myself. We cuddled.

T, “After tonight I never want you to do my bedtime again. Never. Ever. You are never allowed to do my bedtime. Forever.”

Um, what the fuck?

Here’s the thing. He really hurt my feelings. And it isn’t like I haven’t admitted worse about myself here, but I’m deeply ashamed of how I felt. When someone hurts my feelings my initial impulse is to hurt them worse. I wanted to lash out at T. Make him feel like shit. I wanted him to lie awake after I left for the night, eaten up with guilt for being so nasty.

Dear god, I am an asshole.

Thankfully I was able to stop myself from being cruel to my four year old son. I was able pause and really think about how I wanted to deal with my hurt.

In the pause he told me he was upset that he didn’t get to hide under the bed.

Oh.

You see, when I get his ice water he hides. In his mind his hiding place is a mystery to me. But he always goes under his bed. I pretend to prowl around the room looking for him. And eventually I crouch down and yell, “BOO!” He screams with delight.

He loves it. What I should have known is he depends on it. Because he is as much a creature of habit as I am. Cleaning up the legos fucked with the program and he was furious.

I offered to let him hide. After a couple of minutes I whipped my head under the bed and yelled, “BOO!” On cue, he screamed with delight.

We cuddled again after he crawled back into bed. “T. Listen. When you say things like you never want me to put you to bed you really hurt my feelings. You need to apologize to me. Because I seriously felt terrible when you said that. But no matter what I love you very much. And I will always love you. If you are upset about something you need to explain that to me rather than being mean. Remember what Daddy and I said on our walk today? Just don’t be mean. That is the number one lesson we want you to learn in life. Don’t be mean.”

Sometimes it has been a shitty couple of days. But when it matters you rally and are not a despicable asshole to your young son. Yet another swift kick to the balls, Anxiety. I win.

heartbreaker

My heartbreaker. Kid needs routine. I need to remember that.

nose picker

Digging for treasure.

middle finger

Ah. Yes. This. Well, it is only fair to talk about the real crap jogging days if I’m going to celebrate the awesome days. I’ve broken 10 minutes doing a mile once well over a month ago. Tried to do it again on Thursday and today. Thursday my time was 10:01. Today? 10:00. When you try as hard as you can, when you push yourself and it just isn’t good enough, man, it fucking blows.

Personality Flaws

Deep down, ok, so not so deep down I am a small person. I am jealous, I hold onto grudges, I am hateful, I am judgemental. It is ugly and honest and true. Did you hurt me a decade and a half ago? Did you hurt someone I love? I remember. Are you successful? My first impulse is to feel sorry for myself before I can be glad for you. Did you lash out because you are hurting? I struggle to have compassion for you even though I do the same thing. I wonder why you can’t just be happy for others even if I can’t do it myself.

Imagine being married to me. Z knows I can recite a novel worth of anger and hurt at a moment’s notice. Fifteen years is a long time to hold on to shit, I truly want to just let it all go.

Yesterday was a rough one. T is acting out a lot at home, which is particularly frustrating because he was doing so well a few weeks ago. Then school started, and while we are grateful that he loves it so much the reality is it tires him so completely that he has trouble holding himself together on the homefront. Thursday morning Z was trying to spend a little time with him and T was being a dick. Z was exasperated, “I am leaving for four days! Please pull yourself together and be nice for a few minutes!” Didn’t happen.

Bedtime was a little late because we went to our friends’ for dinner. T and C were the only kids there which put a spotlight on their rude and destructive behavior in my mind. Social anxiety is a big problem for me. It isn’t fair to them at all, in fact it is shitty parenting, but when I am struggling with anxiety and they are being normal little kids it is humiliating to me. Yes, I’m working on it so that isn’t what they end up discussing in therapy 20 years from now. (It also isn’t fair to my friends. We were with our closest friends in Syracuse, the ones who we trust to watch our boys overnight. They invited us because they wanted us there. The anxiety is incredibly ungracious.)

Finally, finally I left T’s room just gone 8:30 pm. Two minutes later I was taking my nightly pills-vitamin, fish oil, allergy/asthma, birth control, crazy person and he opened his door. I was done. It wasn’t my finest moment, but I yelled at him. So he told me he was mad at me. I asked him if this was really how he wanted to leave it for the night, with us furious at each other. I was crying by that point. He said he did want to leave it that way, so I flounced out of that room shaking with anger.

Back in the bathroom I looked at myself in the mirror. Was this really what I was going to do? Let my anger at a four year old dictate my behavior? I knew I was small, but was I really that small? Was I going to let him go to sleep knowing I was royally pissed off at him? He had been a shit all day, but I hadn’t done that well in the behavior department. Why did I have the right to punish him with my chilly disappointment and anger? What the fuck was wrong with me?

When I opened his door his eyes were open. I crossed the room and stroked his hair off his face. “I am sorry I was so angry at you. I love you. I will always love you no matter what. And I should not have lost my cool.”

“I love you, too, Mommy.” I hugged him hard.

“I love you so much.”

“And Mommy? I’m also sorry you were so angry at me.”

Ok. Not the apology I was hoping for. But perhaps the one I deserved.

A babysitter will be here in four and a half hours. I’m not going to lie, I cannot fucking wait. The weekends when I have the boys on my own are awful for me not just because of their behavior, but because of how I handle them. It puts a spotlight on the fact that I am not the Mom I want to be. I want to breeze through 4 days with a smile on my face, I hate that I am resentful and need a break and count hours until bedtime.

Parenthood has made my personality flaws as obvious to me as they are to the rest of the world. I don’t much like what I see. It was a hard weekend. I’m still freaking out about the homework I haven’t done and the house which was clean when Z left, but is now a disaster and the fact that my parents will be here to visit our little shitshow tomorrow afternoon.

Yet parenting is the best thing that could have happened to me as a human being. It’s shown me what my weaknesses are. And it might be a tiny thing, but walking back into T’s room last night was huge for me. It was a step towards being a better person. I mean, I’ve got a marathon to go in the better person department, I wish that I didn’t have so far to go because the ones who will suffer are my boys, but I’ve gotta start somewhere.

I hate today

This morning did not get off to a very good start.

photo (9)

For the last few days I’ve had the first cold since my exercising experiment began. Friday I felt like shit, but managed to do my two miles in a respectable amount of time without throwing up. Usually I go early morning, with Z gone I went after I dropped the boys at school. Was feeling worse on Saturday, so took the whole weekend off instead of just one day. My body needed the rest. Trying not to feel terribly guilty about it. I’m scared if I start skipping days that I’ll quit. I hate still jogging, but for some reason it has become hugely important for me to do this. I really don’t want to quit.

Fight

Let’s get my compulsion to be fair out of the way. I hurt Z all the time. In fact, I’ve written about it before. This isn’t about keeping score, it’s about how we try to pick our way through a long term marriage. It’s what is on my mind today, and I write about what is on my mind. Isn’t it fortunate that you aren’t married to me?

If I started writing this right after our fight last night the post would be a hell of a lot bleaker. I was so hurt and angry when I went to bed I could only see the bad-how fights seem to happen right before he leaves for a few days, how the same hurts happen over and over again, how it is easier to hurt each other than face disappointing other people in our lives. But I wasn’t being fair to him or to myself.

Five years ago if he hurt me I would have thought of the meanest thing possible and said it to him. I didn’t do that last night. Five years ago if he hurt me and he knew he hurt me he would have gotten defensive about it and pretended it was my fault. He didn’t do that last night. A year ago I would have talked the thing to death-explained exactly how he hurt me over and over again from every different angle possible. I didn’t do that. A year ago he wouldn’t have agreed to address the situation and try to change it, he would have told me to get over it. And he didn’t do that.

During a fight it is hard to remember all the hard work we’ve done. Almost 15 years in and I’m still shocked by our capacity to hurt each other. And we do need to work to prevent that hurt in the first place, I’m not excusing either of our bad behavior. At the same time we aren’t perfect. We are going to hurt each other. A lot. For years the hurt was all that mattered to me-I raked both him and me over the coals for causing it and didn’t pay attention at all to what happened after-how we were both behaving in a way that made things worse.

We are trying. Sometimes we mess up, but it feels like we are succeeding more than we are failing these days. I love him. He loves me. We both appreciate how fragile this marriage gig is-I’m grateful that we are willing to continue to fight to keep it. It’s the one fight I don’t mind having.

How could I not love a guy who got me this mug for Christmas? Used it for the first time this morning. It worked!

Some photos from Christmas. T draws Santa a picture. Photo by ellieleonardsmith.com
Our sweet baby in a box. Photo by ellieleonardsmith.com

My current favorite family shot. Might put this one up as the main blog picture. Photo by ellieleonardsmith.com