Just one of those nights…

I love my children…

I love my children…

I love my children…

If I repeat this mantra one thousand times over, it will come true, right?! I had a rough night with the little buggers tonight.  It doesn’t help that I am exhausted between trying to sell our house, renovating the new one (why am I exhausted – Jon has been doing all of the labor!), and pouring over major projects at work.  

Mario's "mean" look

I came home to Mario watching tv and Jon in the shower and Maria over at her friend’s house.  Jon and I were both tired and Mario just wanted to fight and wrestle.  Every time that we tried to talk, Mario dove in between us wanting to play.  We scolded him.  We continued to talk.  He continued to try different ways to get us to wrestle.  We told him to stop.  He grabbed me around my neck and squeezed me.  I yelled at him.  Jon told him to stop, too.  We finally moved downstairs.  That was the start of the night. 

We ordered a pizza because it was definitely a pizza type of night.  Mario and I went to pick it up.  When we got there, I asked if he wanted to stay in the car or come in with me.  He wanted to stay in the car.  I asked again and got the same response.  I parked right in front of the door to the pizza joint, rolled down the windows a fourth of the way, and locked the doors.  As soon as I walked in the pizza shop and looked back through the window, I saw him standing up and crying.  I walked back out and he screamed and yelled and threw his fists.  “I wanted to come in, mom!”  I explained to him that he chose not to come in so it was too late.  He did not like that answer.  He got more mad and demanded we “do it over” so that he could go in with me.  We drove home together with him crying in the back seat and me ready to call it a night and hit the sack. 

When we got home, I got him out of the car and asked if he wanted to hold my hand to the house.  He refused.  As soon as I walked in the house, I heard sobs from outside.  “Mom, I wanted to hold your hand!”  I am proud of myself for keeping my cool when I felt like screaming “YOU ARE INSANE!” to him.  I calmly walked back outside and asked him if he wanted to “do it over.”  He did and we did it over and it was all better, somewhat.  At times, I think he may be dealing with OCD to some degree, and I can only hope it doesn’t get worse.  The question is: what should be my response when he acts this way?  Do I “do it over” in order to allow him to calm down and re-create the experience as he needs it to be or do I put my foot down and explain to him that I gave him a choice and he made his decision? I am in-between at this time.  If it is easy enough to “do over”, I do it over.  If not, I say forget it and try to explain to him the rationale as to why we aren’t doing it over. 

Doll baby girl

Maria had her issues, too, tonight.  I took her and her friend to the yogurt store tonight.  Her friend talked about eating McDonald’s for dinner.  Maria told her friend she didn’t really like McDonald’s but she ate it with her because she did not want to be rude.  Her friend told her that she did not have to worry about being rude – she needed to tell her if she did not like the food because her family does that.  Maria must have responded that she should not be friends with her then since her family is rude to each other and her friend got upset.  Maria can be a little bossy and domineering and I saw this come out in her tonight.  I scolded Maria about talking that way to her friend and she immediately went into the “you don’t love me mom” state.  I explained to her that she could not be so domineering with her friends and she explained to me that she felt weird around her friend and sometimes just didn’t want to be around her.  We decided maybe it was time to take a break from each other but that we did not need to tell that to her friend right at this time. 

When we got home, I felt spent.  Emotionally drained.  It is going to be so hard for me to see Maria go through her teenage years when I feel this concerned about a little tiff with her girlfriend.  I have got to learn to let it go more.  I want to be there for Maria and I want her to feel that she can talk to me but I can’t solve her every problem and shield her from life’s struggles (whether they be 6-year-old struggles or 30-year-old struggles) as much as I would like to do so.  Raising kids is a hard task at times – tonight, no doubt. 

Our two babes

I asked Maria to choose a book to read before bed and when I walked in her room, she sat there with the book Someday on her lap.  One of my favorite books to read to her.  It details a mother’s love for her daughter and shows the daughter with her daughter looking back at the times she had spent with her mother.  It is simply written and beautiful.  I used to read it to Maria when she was one and two years old, and I still remember one time I read it to her and started bawling.  She looked up at me and wiped away a tear coming down my cheek.  My doll baby.  I bawled even more when she did that and soon thereafter, she gave up with the wiping realizing that her mom was just an uncontrollable emotional freak at times.  And I remain as much five years later but at least I am an uncontrollable emotional freak that realizes her weaknesses and trigger points and tries to calm herself before adding to an already ridiculous situation.  If there is one important lesson these kiddies have taught me, it is that you must remain open to possibilities and new days and different modes of thinking.  They help me be an even better, more empathetic, more thoughtful, and less controlling person.  I gotta love ’em for that.

Clingin’ Twins

The Cling-ons

Maria’s and Mario’s new nicknames have to be the Clingin’ Twins. 

I always wanted my kids to want to be near me and feel close to me but lately I have been wishing that they were teenagers and hating the thought of me coming around them.  They are like those little finger puppets with magnetic paws that cling onto your finger or belt clip. 

The neighbors down the street invited us to a birthday party for their twin 2 year olds at a trendy cafe/kids play area last week.  Coffee and chit-chat for adults and play land for kids.  The space had high ceilings, kid-friendly play areas, bouncy house, scooters, and some comfy furniture for adults to sit and talk.  When we walked in, there were at least eight kids running around on all of the toys and play areas.  I nudged M & M over towards the play areas, and they both clung to my hands.  I had to walk Maria over to her friend and initiate conversation between them before she let go of my hand.  Mario, being the clingiest of clingy, really never let go until we were fifteen minutes away from departing the place.   

Maria braving the slide

I know in hindsight that I tended (and still tend) to do too much for my kids.  For example, if Maria wants a pen, I will get up and get it for her when she could just as easily retrieve it.  Or when Mario wants a drink, I grab him the cup and pour the water.  Now, when they were 1, probably appropriate.  At ages 3 and 5, not so appropriate – or smart.  And it is a heck of a lot harder to break them of this mommy reliance now versus at age 1.  I also drop everything when they begin to talk to me or ask me a question.  If I am talking to another adult, I interrupt that conversation to answer Maria or Mario rather than asking M or M to wait.  Again, not the best route to go I have learned. 

But, we live and learn, right?  I need to consider the ten other attributes M&M possess that are wonderful and stop dogging myself about this one thing (something I tend to do a lot in motherhood as well as work, relationships, etc.).  Nonetheless, I will have some different advice to give Maria and Mario as they raise their children (although I am sure I will spoil their children and do everything for them!).   

Mario and mom reading Mario's favorite Cat in the Hat

Anyway, the mom who hosted this party is one of those moms who should wear a cape and the song “Supermom” be played whenever she enters a room.  She feeds her kids all organic foods, she stays home with them all day and reads them books, plays games, does crafts.  They know how to read and play music and count.  I will never forget the day that Maria and I were over for a visit and Maria and Blake were drawing at the table.  Maria spelled her name and I  praised her for such an accomplishment.  Blake, two weeks younger, wrote his name and an entire two sentences.  I tried not to care but it produced a wave of guilt I had not prepared for that day.  Should I be home with Maria?  Should I feed them better? Should I read to them more and make them write more often?  

These feelings descended on me again while we were at the party and Maria and Mario kept dragging me over to where they were playing so I could watch them.  “Maybe if I would have stayed home with them, they would not be so clingy.”  “They feel abandoned during the day so they cling with me any time they can.”  And the thoughts kept going and going… And then a fellow mother approached me. 

“How do you juggle it all between working and getting these guys out and home life?”

I turned to the mother, a “stay-at-home” mom, and replied “what I do pales in comparison to what you are doing.” 

She replied “Oh, no, I could not see getting up and rushing to work and working all day and picking up the kids and making dinner and playing with them and getting them to bed – I would go nuts.” 

Enjoying the Cat in the Hat theme

I told her that I could not see getting up every morning and have a full day ahead with the kids (and no adults), kid activities to plan, refereeing fights, and staying at the house through the day. 

We laughed.  And agreed on a fundamental tenet.  Our kids will be fine because we love them and care for them and hold them and kiss them.  She is not the person that could juggle an outside job, kids, home-life.  I am not the person who can “stay home” all day.  So we both concluded we made the best decision for us, which in turn has to be the best decision for our kids.  Yet, I inevitably second guess my decision when I see the mom swinging her kids on the playground at 1 in the afternoon – just as I am sure there are stay at home moms who watch me jumping in my car to head to work and second guess their decision as their toddler tips over the grape juice glass and throws a solid temper tantrum.

Solely Mario

Mario in his sullen holiday state!

We have had Mario for three nights and two days without Maria Grace.  I had reached my tipping point with Mario three days ago when we were at my uncle’s house for Christmas – Mario had gripped onto me like a baby monkey throughout the holidays, refused to go near my grandma and give her a holiday smooch, threw tantrums over eating anything remotely healthy, demanded to only wear his batman costume to family dinner, and cried hysterically when Jon buckled him in his seat rather than me.  Now, it is as if some mysterious spirit – knowing that I was about to boil over and melt down – released a bolt of sweetness and goodness into my son.  He has been significantly better over these last two days. 

I think he merely needed a break from his sister – he needed that only-child-attention that Maria got for 2.5 years.  He snuggles with Jon and me; he sporadically kisses us; he tells me he loves me out of the blue; he plays quietly in the tub with his Spidermen for a half hour; he reads books with me.  Now, it is not all bliss – he still has had his episodes of irrationality (especially when it comes to getting dressed – he continues to think all of his jeans make him look “fat” and none of his shirts fit properly) but they are outweighed ten-fold by his episodes of kindness. 

The only-child Mario!

I think three-year olds need that extra attention – need that reassurance that you are watching them perform that gymnastic move or sing that goofy song.  And when there is a five-year-old to compete with for that attention, it is quite difficult to get it.  They may get a five-minute piece of attention but then they need to give it up for another five minutes while the five-year-old performs.  Whereas when that five-year-old sibling is gone, holy cow, they have the spotlight for what to them probably feels like years (and to the parents can also feel like years, especially when you are watching the twentieth spiderman jump off the bed). 

Maria will return home tomorrow, and her return excites me because I have missed her.  But there is still a tiny part of me that just wishes she could stay at grandma’s house a while longer so that I can continue to bask in this new-found son of mine.  I have gotten rather used to being told “I love you” and being smothered in kisses all night.

From Perfection to Grief to Perfection Again

Maria starting the day with her yoga moves

We woke up this morning to a hazy, slightly chilly morning with no rain in sight and a double stroller screaming for a tour through the city.   Jon had gone East for one more try at turkey hunting, which left me for a second day of bliss with my darling children (Saturday had been filled with a three-hour b-day party at an indoor pool – fun for the kids, but afterwards every parent looked like they had gone through that negative gravity machine that Chevy Chase and Dan Akroyd were in for the movie Spies Like Us). 

I was not upset at Jon taking off for the day because it was going to be a gorgeous day, which inevitably lead to lots of bike rides, stroller rides, and walks.  Within an hour of waking, we were on the road in the double stroller with our stuffed monkey and dog, two blankets and obligatory binky ar we are going to get him off that thing by age 3 (it took Maria to 4 ½).  We headed down the road to Tim Horton’s for a breakfast of sugar and dough.  It was heaven. 

Mario enjoying his timbits!

 After breakfast, we headed across the road to a bike trail that we had not experienced because we typically headed down the opposite stretch of road.  The trail was gorgeous.  You felt like you were in a national forest at times with the tree cover and the rivers on both sides of you and the birds flying closely overhead singing their morning lullabies to you.  We stopped at a bank on the river to throw stones into the water (Mario could stay in that place for three hours and enjoy every second of it).  We also snagged some killer stones for our rock garden (Maria knows how much I love rocks and she presented me with a gorgeous red one wishing me a happy mother’s day (yes, she is still celebrating!)). 

We stopped on the way back to pick wild flowers and make a bouquet for grandma.  It was perfect.  We visited our friend Kim at the fire station and presented her with a few flowers, and then went home to get dressed (yes, the kiddies begged to stay in their nighties and I could not resist – they looked too precious on a Sunday morning). 

After a quick change, we hopped back outdoors and the kids jumped on their bikes to head to the little woods down the street (we went at Maria’s request – lately she has been wanting to take walks and hikes, which I immediately agree to in order to get her away from the tv and leapster).   Maria guided us through the woods to the fire station and back down to the park and back up to our bikes all the while finding us walking sticks and cool rocks. 

Maria and Mario enjoying their tree climbing

Mario loved climbing over the giant fallen tree trunks.  They both mentioned a few times while in the woods how they were “getting exercise” to keep them healthy (yes, my influence finally shines through!).  When we got back to our bikes, we were all drained and it was quite the chore to get home.  Maria ended up getting on Mario’s tiny toddler big wheel and Mario on Maria’s bike in order to keep them amused and doing something new.  We get home and all three of us plopped down on the front steps.

“What now?” I said to them.  “I am hungry.”

Maria seconded her hunger while Mario just stared at the ants crawling on the step below.  I suggested macaroni and cheese and Maria agreed at first.  Then, a few seconds later, she piped in with a question:

Mom, how about we get Jeni’s ice cream for lunch?” 

Normally, I would have been rationale and explained that lunch was a necessity before ice cream but it was Sunday, we were exhausted, and Jeni’s Dark Chocolate and Buckeye State ice creams sounded too tempting to nix.  So, off we were in the stroller to Jeni’s for our ice cream lunch.  While eating lunch, we decided the library was the next stop because we had run out of new books. 

The library slurped us up as always and we did not leave there until an hour and half later with new books in tow and a craft that Maria made me for Mom’s Day (yes, again!).  From the library, we walked to Giant Eagle for cheese, bananas, and squeeze yogurt (Mario’s new love – he chose the “I Carly” yogurt because “she is my girlfriend” – nice influence Maria!). 

We traveled back to the house after the grocery, and crashed on the couch with popcorn and a My Little Pony video (which was luckily only a half-hour ong).  I sat on the couch with Maria on one side and Mario on the other and felt that calm elation I get every once in a while when I have been through something great or I have heard a wonderful speech or I have finished an amazing book.  I was so pleased with life. 

Jon got home shortly thereafter, and I got packed up to head to Stauf’s for a bagel and coke and a little “me” time.  As I got my stuff together, Maria asked me to play barbies with her.  I told her I was going to meet a friend for coffee. 

She flipped out. 

She bawled.

 She went boneless.

 She sobbed. 

She screamed at me.  “I don’t like your friend, mom!”

What a grand send-off after a remarkable day. 

I tried to calm her down.  I hugged her.  I told her we’d go for a walk when I got home.  I told her I loved her to the moon.  Nothing worked.  She cried and begged to come with me. 

Ok, so do I take her?  I started to feel like I should or else she may feel like she has been abandoned or not loved?  But if I took her, she may never understand that her mother needs time with friends.  But she does see me go to work every day so she knows I have friends and activities outside of her.  But since I work every day, I should take her with me on the weekends.  And the voices continue and continue… 

I chose to leave and walk to Stauf’s.  It felt necessary to get away for a few minutes but the entire time I felt the pang of motherhood.  Did I scar Maria by leaving this afternoon?  Will she feel abandoned?  Will she be stronger because she knows mom can’t be there with her every second?  Will she be more independent now?    

An hour later, I walked up to the house and saw Maria in the side of the yard. 

“Mom! Can we go on a walk now?” 

M&M watching the circus horses coming down the street

Maria posing with the elephants

No grudge for leaving; no apparent scars; all smiles.  Ok, so maybe I do worry too much.  In any case, we are back to continuing our wonderful day.  Off to see the elephants and horses walking to the railroad from the circus!