mean mama

the kind of cry that is distraught and not easily settled
July 27, 2008, 7:46 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized

I hope I don’t portray my life with three children as easy as pie, especially to those of you out there who are also parents of three and struggling. It may not be as generally difficult as I’d imagined, but my limits are being tested almost daily of late.  It may only be a handful of hours per day, but those hours can be pure misery.

I suppose that the fact that I have twin two-year-olds and a premature infant ups the ante.  Let’s just take the two-year-olds first. The fact is, there are many things the boys still cannot do for themselves at this age.  There are many things that they can’t understand.  They want everything when they want it, and verbal explanations work only in a very limited context.  And, we are experiencing more frequent and more extreme tantrums when the answer is “No.” We are trying to say no only when we have to, but the fact that the boys are now part of a larger household, where any one of us may have a certain need that impinges on the other’s desires, is what it is. M especially has a lot of trouble leaving a setting he enjoys, and no matter what we try to do (giving him choices, distraction, comfort, previewing, reasoning, rewards, consequences, ignoring, threatening, etc.), we still find ourselves with a kicking and screaming child when we say “time to go,” and a our own resulting depletion of patience.

The infant is indeed easier, but he is a presence who obviously needs our attention. Just the fact that I need to stop and nurse him if we are out is, at times, a drag for us all. I enjoy breastfeeding, but I also have two other children to care about and tend to.  P can do that when he is with us, but even then they sometimes are running to two different directions or insist on climbing on me. And the infant also fusses once in a while, of course. He is totally not a fan of the car.

The worst time of day for me is the witching hour.  That 4-6PM time.  I am trying to get dinner ready for the boys, a task that would normally take me between 5 and 10 minutes, and suddenly that is the time that all three boys descend into hell and return as Satan’s spawns. I try some days to be prepared and do stuff in advance, but I still have to heat things up, get plates ready, get water, etc. I sometimes strap on the baby to do these things, but when he is fussy he will not be comforted unless I am sitting still with him or I am walking at a brisk pace without stopping. He doesn’t have enough control quite yet to nurse in a carrier as I go about my tasks.

Sometimes the twins will start a whining fest, and the baby is screaming, and I think my head will explode. I’ve caught myself saying “Serenity now!” that Seinfeld mantra. That’s how ridiculous it gets.

Anne Lamott wrote something along these lines: when you child annoys your and you snap at him, it appears as though you’ve gone from 0 to 60 in no time flat,  but in fact because of your personal, internal stresses you’ve only gone from 59 to 60. Of course she says it a lot better than I.  The point is, there are days when I can ride the wave of child-rearing absurdity, even in the midst of chaos and what seem like personal affronts. Other days, when the harder circumstances of my life hang around me, invisible but dense, I feel like I will surely lose it. That’s reality. In those terrible hours, the best I can sometimes do is to not totally lose my cool, keep the snapping to a minimum, and just be there to work security. It really sucks.

Whether I like it or not, the scariness leading up to and following MBB’s arrival is still in me, and I need time to deal with it.  That alone leaves me with baggage. I do not want my children to have to carry any of it for me. Sometimes it’s hard to discern whether it is their age and difficult stage of development making things hard or my own difficulty with my life, seeping into my parenting and making it not so great sometimes. And then there is the guilt, which clouds everything.

I hear the twins. They are crying post-nap, and I can just tell it’s the kind of cry that is distraught and not easily settled. A disoriented cry. Are they crying because I have failed them in some way?  By being in the hospital? Having a third child? Being distracted with my own confusion and sadness? Or was it just a bad dream? I feel a need to pin their pain on myself sometimes, but it’s probably truer and healthier to assume that it’s just a bad dream, and that this too shall pass.


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Although my situation is reversed, I feel that we are living similar lives. My oldest is 3.5 and my twins are 1.5 years old – all boys. I can’t say any day is good or bad but, rather, they’re each filled with both you. – with the worst typically happening in the witching hour like you so eloquently described. Ugh. Hope things are calming down more for you.

Comment by Heather

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