Monday, October 11, 2010

Parenting: Sometimes I'm Just No Good At This

I don't read a lot of blogs.  A friend once accused me of being something of a technology-phobe, and I blurted out that "I can't read the computer!"  It's true, I have an astigmatism and it's tricky and a little annoying to read on the computer screen.  (Now that I have glasses, so that makes it a little easier.) I also don't have a lot of time to sit and read anything.  Shortly after this surprising observation I and went in search for some blogs I could read (I'll show her who's a techno-phobe!).  I found the whole culture kind of scary and intimidating.  You have to find these "bloggers" in the Internets and then "catch up" with them so you can get to know them a little.  It's quite an investment, you have to start at the beginning so you can get a sense of where the person started from and where they're going.  But I found a few that I started reading regularly.  So regularly, in fact, that I started talking about these people to my husband like they are my close friends.

"You know what Hannah said?  She said that she just uses a  meat grinder to process her zucchini and then she freezes it like that."

"Who's Hannah?"

"She's my friend on the internet."

"Does she know who you are?"



What I have found in the internet is a community of women who are very similar to me.  They homeschool, garden, can, craft, take pictures, and want to do their best at loving their kids.  They just seem a lot better at that last part than I am.  Admittedly just about all of these mothers have stated somewhere on their blog that they are intentionally leaving out aspects of their lives that they don't want to focus on.  There are raised voices, tears and impatient moments, but these are not the moments to be reveled in and are left by the wayside.
I admire this so much, and gain a lot of focus and gratitude in my days with this philosophy in mind.  Whatever your mind is on is the reality, you know?  Your focus is your life and all that.  However, in most of my days, these less than ideal displays of impatience or frustration  are so dominant that to leave them out would be pretty much like lying. 

I have a hard time with parenting (what seems like to me) most of the time.  I have not-so-proud-moments more frequently than I would like to admit.  I worry a fair amount about messing the kids up or missing my chance to give them the mother I thought I would be giving them.

You see, I've thought about "Jannelle the Mother" for a long time.  Way before I was ever in a position to have kids I imagined the little dears, but more than them I imagined me.  I imagined the things I would do with them, the way I would listen to them, the patience I would have, the hugs I would offer, the appreciation and interest I would take in them. 

I fixated on this future dream mostly to heal the part of me that didn't get the things I felt I needed in my own relationship with my mom.  We had a rough time when I was younger.  We didn't talk for a long time after I left home.  In the end, things were so bad that I had forgotten a lot of the good things, pushed them out of my mind like they were the painful memories.  The good times were so jarring and incongruous that I couldn't have them co-exist with the hurtful memories of my childhood.  I needed a clear definition--either it was good, or it was bad.  It couldn't be both.  So I chose all bad.  I got angry, I got sad, I got older, and then I got pregnant.  When I was pregnant the tiny, careful relationship that had been forming with my mom sort of exploded.  She seriously called me almost every day.  All of a sudden she was so there, and I found myself withdrawing.  It was freaking me out!  So with long letters, some miss-communication and a few phone calls, I explained that I was still carrying around some hurts and that it would take me some time to warm to this new way.  All of this resulted in me remembering that it wasn't all bad, that my young mother absolutely did the best that she knew how.  It left me with a new choice.  And I chose the future instead of the past.  She is a great grandmother and our sometimes cautious relationship becomes less so with every passing visit and conversation. 
 I figured with all this healing and fixating and planning that my heart's desire to be a patient, elastic mother would just, you know, happen.  Doesn't that make nice neat sense?  And it was true when I had one kid.  Hunter wasn't born until Athena was 22 months old, and for those 22 months I was the best mother in the world. Well, it sure felt easy anyway.  I had wells--no giant aquifers of patience.  I could listen to a scream forever and not respond, making sure that the screaming fits never lasted for long.  I could hold out on a tantrum longer than you would believe, so those tricks weren't tried very much either.  After I had Hunter my patience started to stretch to uncomfortable lengths.  I remember lamenting the loss of my patience to my mom friends.  I was assured it would return once I got the hang of things.  Well it's been almost three years now, is that going to happen?  To be fair, I have gotten better at it. Much of my patience has returned.  I even manage to find time with each of my kids alone which helps tremendously in actually seeing them and their person hood.  Even when they're together I can hold it together for a good long while.  I hear them screaming at each other--I've read the books, I know not to get involved--and I'm good, I know it's important for them to work it out themselves.  I focus on whatever task I'm doing while I monitor from afar what's happening in the bedroom next door.


"no.  No.  NO! I'm not done yet.  stop. STOP!!"

"But it's taking so looong..."


(scuffling, blocks begin thrown,  the "FWUMP" of someone hitting the bed)

"High pitched screaming" (I'm not sure how to spell it)


At this point I have a slight nervous twitch forming in my right eye and my upper bicep has gone spastic.  I'm gritting my teeth and telling myself things like, "If I hear that scream one more time I'm going to go completely insane and have to be institutionalized."


And now I'm charging into their room, heading straight toward the tower-in-process.  My mind has somehow laid the blame of this argument on the fact that this tower exists. Without thinking clearly (obviously) in any way at all I pull my leg back and land a kick right into the middle of the thing.

Before my foot makes contact, I know I am wrong, and can't stop myself. 
Before you use your energy to judge me, know that I probably have it covered for both of us. Just take this time to feel good about how you handled this. 

On days like this I have to console myself by pointing out that no one was physically hurt.  Which wasn't always the case in my childhood or the childhoods of my parents. I have to make pleading prayers that sound something like, "Please make them able to see my effort."

Because, really, my effort is so tremendous.  I am trying my very hardest to do something that I don't know how to do.  I'm trying to be a parent that I didn't see in action.  I am attempting to have a family that I have no model for.  And when I'm pushed to the edge of my person by repeated accidental kicks to the stomach, relentless bickering and screeching, or nagging, or whining, or pinching, I snap out of the carefully crafted person I have created and into the well-defined grooves of my core patterns.
I'm not trying to give excuses for childish or impatient behavior.  Really, I'm not.  Neither am I being overly hard on myself.  It's just that the older I get and the more I wittiness this sort of personal primitive behavior, the more I realize that my intentions are not stronger than my defenses. This news is a total bummer.  It's a bummer because it means it will more than likely take (more) time to remedy.  My imperfect person-hood will never be remedied, but I'm sure I will be able to learn how to not take my internal frustration out on my kids.  But I won't be able to do it right this instant! And this is the time that really counts!

I knew I would learn from the mistakes of my childhood and that I would find new and exciting mistakes to make.  (I am very creative, you know).  But I didn't realize I would unwittingly take up some of the same patterns of my childhood, however faded they may be at this point.  And they are faded.  They were already beginning to fade when my mother took them up in her parenting with me.  If any one out there is a child in a long line of what is now called child abuse, but used to just be discipline, maybe you have seen these tendencies lessen and fade over the generations.  Maybe you have been lucky enough to see the Herculean effort in your mother not to make the mistakes of her mother.  Maybe you've even heard her tell stories of how her mother attempted not to make the mistakes of what would have been your great-grandmother.  If you haven't been one in this line, let me just tell you, it's harder than you think not to repeat these mistakes. 
On really hard days, when I've screamed myself horse, carried children upside-down to their rooms for time-outs, or smacked my little one on the hand for pinching me for the 1,000th time, when I have completely lost myself in impatience and anger, I...well, I cry.  But then, maybe the next day when I figure I'll try again because motherhood is one job that you really can't quit, I remember that no one in the house is terrified.  No one is questioning whether or not I love them.  No one is getting bruised or bloody.  I imagine the tendency to loose control of my anger with the kids like poison in a glass.  With each generation's effort of love toward their children and forgiveness of the past the poison is diluted.  I had thought that I could just take up a new cup, but that now seems highly unlikely.  My mother before me, my grandmother before her, and now I am doing my very best to pour so much love and understanding into my relationship with my children that the cup will overflow and wash the poison out forever. 


  1. From my view you're doing beautifully. "Second chances" proves that.
    We know you strive to "... learn them in the days to come" . -cb

  2. I love your truth and honesty Janelle. We need more bloggers to be more like "reality T.V." on the we can all see that we are not alone in motherhood, thru "OUR" impatient times with our children, and the struggles we have within ourselves to stay calm and collective with our children. You are not alone in your reactions with our girls! I too find myself over reacting to the mounting stress of siblings fighting, then remember that 80's commerical with the mom holding the screaming baby, the phone rings, the pot over boils ect...then the message..."put down your baby before you loose control" I was a child when this commerical was on, but it always comes back to me!
    As for breaking the chain, like you said, no one is bruised,bleeding,or terrified in your house, so you are making a change (might not be perfect) but from the short time I have known you I think your girls are pretty lucky to have you for a mom,,and it shows in them!