Time Out

I am having some serious doubts about this parenting gig.

As much as I want to not have disobedient, whiny, fractious children, as much as I believe in parenting by instinct and not by the book(s), as much as I am trying to be a good mother to my children — not by being a Good Mother, but by doing my best by them as my flawed, imperfect self enables me to — I am starting to worry.

The end goal for me parenting-wise is to raise well-adjusted, happy, responsible adults. I don’t propose to do that by parenting out of a book. I don’t propose to do that by being a helicopter parent. I don’t propose to do that by being super-strict or loosey goosey. I don’t propose to do that by giving my children everything they want.

I also don’t propose that any of the ways in which I am choosing to parent my children is going to be the way you should parent your children.

But on Saturday morning, I came smack up against the idea that maybe “this” isn’t working. Whatever the hell this is.

You know how you say, “I will turn this car around if you don’t knock it off” to your children?

Yeah, I turned the car around.

I am seeking to be a little more quiet with my children — I hate to yell at them. I find it very stressful, and they find it very upsetting. A lot of times this means I have to walk away from them — give myself a little time out. A lot of times this means I have to put them into time out in their room, set a timer (usually 2 minutes for Bun, and 4 or 5 minutes for Monkey), and walk away from the tantrum.

I do not want to spank my children. I do, still, sometimes. But less often than I feel like it. As I’m typing this I am thinking that I don’t remember the last time I actually spanked them (I’m sure I had the urge recently, but I didn’t do it. That’s progress).

I am picking my battles. However, I’m not 100% convinced I’m picking the right battles.

Saturday, we were scheduled to be in Meadville for my youngest nephew’s baptism. The girls and I were going to drive there, then go the rest of the way to Erie. DearDR was going to drive up after work so he and I could attend my 20th high school reunion.

I managed to get everything and everyone in the car and pulling out of the driveway by 10:30. I had to stop for gas. On the way to the gas station, I had to reprimand Monkey about five times. Hell, I had to stop at the bottom of my driveway, turn around and say, “If you do not listen to me, we will not go to Erie. We will stay home today.”

She did not listen to me. She would not share with Bun. She would not stop yelling at Bun. She called me a mean mommy. When, as I was filling up the tank, I saw her yank something out of Bun’s hands and Bun start to cry, I thought to myself, “No effing way am I doing this for the next two hours.”

I got in the car, told her I saw that she was not sharing with her sister, and that we were going straight home and staying home for the day. No baptism, no cousins, no Nonna and Pap-pap, no Erie.

Monkey went ballistic. She screamed and cried all the way home. Even as she was saying, “I’ll calm down. I’ll be good!” she was flipping out.

I was sorely disappointed, to say the least. I wanted to go to the baptism. I even wanted to go to my reunion. But no way in hell was I going to fight with my daughter as I was driving a car, and there was no way in hell that she was going to get what she wanted if she was not going to listen to me.

Once home, I let the girls out of the car, changed them out of their dresses, and let them run around outside. As they were chasing butterflies in the yard, I wondered if this was even going to matter to them. If the lesson of not going to Erie was going to be lost because, hey, look, a sunny day and butterflies to chase!

Despair is not too strong a word for what I felt. Also: disappointment, rage, and frustration.

The rest of the day went a little better. Lunch went well, as did quiet time (not perfectly, mind you, but it wasn’t a nightmare). They did not get to go to Bella’s house, and we did not watch TV.

We did eventually go to Erie for my reunion, and thus my girls did get to see Nonna and Pap-pap. But by the time we left at 4 p.m., they had been behaving remarkably well, and they were fricking angels in the car. (Of course, Bun passed out, so that kind of helped.)

Am I doing something wrong? Are they more inclined to listen to their father? Why do we have these battles? Will? Power? Boundaries? Why does Bun hit me? (Yes, she gets time out for hitting me.) Why does Monkey whine? Why does Monkey flip out when I say “no” to her?

I am exhausted from the weekend. I am exhausted from mothering my children right now. When they push, I don’t know if I should push back or not.

This shit isn’t for the faint of heart. And I am feeling distinctly faint these days.