Kindergarten is hard. At our elementary school it’s seven long, jam-packed hours. That time is filled with phonics and P.E. and art projects and math games and the fascinating (to me) navigation of six-year-old social dynamics. By the time my six-year-old gets home, she is spent.
But it’s not time for bed yet, of course.
After a brief rest (read: eating a popsicle while watching Jake & the Neverland Pirates), it’s time to plow through reading homework and start dinner. And, of course, there’s plenty of time for
nagging helpful reminders to empty her backpack and put her freezer pack in the freezer, as well as irrational innocent requests to pretty please, can we make a craft tonight?
And if it’s dance class night? Or church night? Or a night when grandparents or Smitty come over for dinner? Well, then we’re cramming all of the above into an even smaller window so we can eat fast or clean up a bit or both.
Given this situation you probably won’t be surprised to know that whining and arguing and general talking back is at an all-time high in our house. And when you add that business to a perpetually tired and often cranky pregnant mama? Well, let’s just say I snap more than a turtle and reach my boiling point way faster than the spaghetti water ever does.
Everyone in our house has been even more tired than usual this week (thanks to cooler weather, a busy calendar and an unexpected-but-welcome showing that meant a whole lot of last-minute, frantic cleaning), so it was no surprise that last night ended in tears.
After yelling at her to finish her dinner (and quit trying to tell me the ravioli hurt her tummy, because REALLY.) and then rushing her through bathtime in an effort to get her to bed early (for her sake…and mine), I wrapped a towel around her head to dry her hair a bit.
And she promptly burst into tears, shouting, “You sound like YOU DON’T LOVE ME!”
From her child’s perspective she saw an angry mama who didn’t care about her latest bug bite and forced her to eat food she didn’t like and yelled at her when she left shampoo in her hair. Obviously, this short-tempered lady couldn’t love her!
As I told Mark later, we all have crazy thoughts and it’s way healthier for her and for her relationship with me when she says them out loud. But it took all my emotional strength to resist rolling my eyes at her dramatics, look her in the face and remind her that while yes, our actions (and words) show our love, my love for her is non-negotiable, never-changing and deeper than she can possibly understand.
I assured her that I loved her more than any person on earth except her daddy (“Even your PARENTS? Whoaaaaa….”), and that nothing would ever, ever change that. I agreed with her that my actions – and hers – that evening had not shown that love, and we both promised to work harder to make our outsides match our insides. We prayed, we hugged, and I tucked her in bed.
She was out like a light in just a few minutes, while I curled up on the couch with some cookies and my DVR. I looked at my editorial calendar and had to chuckle at the prompt to write about parenting.
Last night’s episode wasn’t any more dramatic or traumatic than many other bedtime – or other time – scenes at our house. Meltdowns and misunderstandings seem to be more common than sweet snuggles and cute craft projects – even though we have our share of snuggles and crafts around here.
It seems like something is missing when people talk about how the days are long but the years are short. Sure, that’s true. But you know what I’m learning? The hard times are persistent and plenty, and the sweet spots might just be few and far between. And – here’s the kicker – THAT’S OKAY.
When we think about starting a family, most of us imagine sweet (sleeping) babies, chubby (clean) toddler hands, fun family vacations, magical movie nights and those cute Christmas card photos.
We don’t dream of colic and leaking diapers and tantrums in the middle of Target. We don’t fantasize about flat tires and missed flights, nightmares of the evil witch and fights over the popcorn bowl, or the bribery and maneuvering it takes to get one – JUST ONE – good photo out of dozens (hundreds?) for the dang Christmas card.
We don’t wish for another losing season of baseball, a health scare (or worse), lost shoes and jackets that fit fine JUST THREE WEEKS AGO! Nobody dreams of forgotten lines in the school play, broken hearts, teenage or toddler rebellion or general messy parenting opportunities.
And yet, I’d venture to say that those hard things? The ones we never dream about and would never wish for? They happen far more often than the sweet moments we think of as part and parcel of this parenting thing.
Parenting really isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. It’s better . . . and worse and harder and more beautiful than we could ever, in our wildest dreams, imagine.
How is parenting different than you thought it would be?
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I agree! Parenting is my GREATEST JOY and WORST NIGHTMARE rolled into one.
This reminded me of the time my daughter, at age 5 or 6 announced loudly to me, “You are NOT my real mother. Because if you were my real mother, you could not possibly treat me this way.” This was after I insisted she drink her milk at breakfast or something like that.
Oh, five-year-olds. They are something, aren’t they? :)
I didn’t anticipate how much I would desire to control my children … for my benefit, not theirs. That makes the act of parenting a challenging lesson in disciplining MYSELF and learning to discern what is important and what just doesn’t really matter.
Ohhh, yes, this is one I’ve realized in the last year. So many of our battles stem from my desire to control her. Sometimes that’s okay, but others? It’s really not. So what do I do differently? That discipline and discernment you mentioned is exactly what I’m trying to develop!!
I loved how real you were by saying that you had to resist the urge to roll your eyes at her dramatics. I have a four year old Daughter and I can relate oh so much. I feel like this entire post was a description of my days. It was a nice reminder that this is normal and although it’s not always perfect and wonderful it does have it’s incredible moments.
It is normal…and not perfect…but still wonderful…in the long run. ;)
I could not agree with you more! And to answer your question, parenting is different than I thought it would be in many, many ways. My oldest son is my opposite in almost every way- where I am introverted, he is a raging extrovert. I’m non-confrontational, and he argues for sport. I’m low-energy, he’s high energy. There is NOTHING about parenting him that comes naturally to me. I guess I expected it to be hard work, but I thought the overwhelming love I felt towards him would make it enjoyable work. Nope. Sometimes it’s just hard- not so enjoyable. Like you, we have those awesome moments that make it worthwhile. Sometimes I just wish they happened more frequently :)
Ps- sorry for the delayed response. I only get a chance to catch up on reading blogs once every couple weeks. There are so many times I am nodding my head as I read your posts, but I’m so far behind in the conversation, it’s pathetic!
Not pathetic at all! I am delighted for all response! :) (And obviously, I’m perpetually behind in my own responses, too!)
I’ve wondered more than once which is harder to handle – the ways my daughter is just like me, or the ways she’s so different!
It is the worst…and the best. Strange how something can be both at once, lol. I’ve been on a journey this year to not yell at my kids (even though it is really hard with those rush rush rush days as you mentioned where everyone’s stressed on running on empty).