I spent some time with my face smooshed against the hardwood floor tonight. Just staring. I moved a little, then to bed, where I stayed in total silence. Staring into space again. Trying to hear the quiet. I listened past the news on the television and the kids who should be sleeping but are instead telling each other jokes in bed. Past the dishwasher and the husband on the treadmill. I finally found the quiet and I caught it like a fly and I stared it in the face until it dissolved. Then I grabbed my laptop and opened it and started typing this post.
I know my blog has not been very much fun for the last six to twelve months. There have been so many things going on. Things I have talked about here and things I have not. I used to feel like not-complaining or bitching or venting or publicly giving up was a virtuous thing. But guess what? NO ONE NOTICES. You can martyr away nine lives and no one will give you a funeral for even one of them.
I will be the first to admit that having one baby was very easy for me. It was. I know I know. But it was. It just came naturally. I never had that "OH MY GOD WHAT DO I DO WITH IT?" freak out when we came home from the hospital. I fought through breastfeeding for 14 months with a smile. I 100% cloth diapered. I doted and played and danced. I was silly. It was not hard for me.
Then, when that baby was only 19 months old, I had another baby. Another baby! I did. And she was the easiest baby ever. She slept through the night the day we brought her home from the hospital. She was a natural with the nursing and easygoing and sweet as can be. I actually potty trained 21 month old Clark while all-day nursing 6 week old Alice. I did it and it was not that hard. I mean, it actually was hard but I did it anyway and pushed on through and felt very good about myself. I did that. That was me.
Then. Hal. During my pregnancy with him things with Clark got... weird. He started doing things and acting ways I had never had to deal with before. (I could elaborate here but trust me, it's too much for one blog post.) A baby is one thing; a defiant crazed three year old is an entirely different creature. Why hadn't anyone told me that babies are (sometimes) the easy part? How had I become so self confident as a mother that I was now facing life with three children while simultaneously doubting my ability, for the very first time, to care for even one?
Clark remains, to this day, difficult. In every sense of the word. Everything that goes on in this house is filtered through, "How will Clark react?" first. Last year I sent him to preschool and it didn't take long for the "ADHD" and "assessment" words to get thrown around. And I know. I mean, I know. Trying to get him washed and fed and dressed for preschool in the morning often leaves me in tears. Moving from one task to another, transitioning, it's just flat out horrible. He is brilliant (he is reading small words! and writing words on his own! and memorizes everything! and jokes like an adult! And sings every note to every theme song from Star Wars while playing out the corresponding scene with his action figures!) and sweet as can be and totally wonderful and I am so happy to be his mom. But he is also draining me. It is just hard. And no one is here to go through it with me and see how agonizing each step of our day can be. Whenever I try to explain him and his quirks to someone else I stop after a few sentences, silenced by the realization that there is no way to make my listener understand.
Hal's entire first year of life was spent not sleeping, dealing with constant ear infections and doctors visits and his own issues. Even now, he screams for many hours of the day. Screams at the top of his lungs. Just because. He has amazingly high muscle tone and an opinion about everything, expressed with a scream. He can climb the slide and the couch and the beds and the dining room table. He is smart and wonderful and still tiny, but also the loudest human being I have ever met. He expresses his discomfort with such bravado that it takes me by surprise every time he does it. Which is every other minute of every single day. I can't even take him grocery shopping anymore. He lets out blood curdling screams one after another when I won't let him down to run away from me or climb the watermelon display.
Alice is three. She is easy going. She loves posing for photographs and the color pink and she wants to be a doctor when she grows up. She wants to play soccer and football and be a princess. She sings stream of consciousness songs about everything she does. Alice is so night-and-day different from my boys that it almost stings.
If I had three kids like Alice? I would still think very highly of myself. I would subconsciously pat myself on the back for the excellent job I do. I would wonder what was wrong with other parents and kids. I would never have been humbled. I know there are moms with compliant children. I know it, because I have one. And I don't mean that she is 100% complaint 100% of the time. She still can be bossy and disobedient. But unlike Clark, she doesn't constantly demand more and more and never stop. She doesn't shout at me. She doesn't fight me on every single action we have to get through together, turning things that should be routine into a battle. My gosh the difference it makes. And I want to publicly state that despite her easier personality, I absolutely do not favor her, which is a funny thing about parenthood. (And I know you know exactly what I mean because if you have read this far, chances are good that you are a parent too. And you know.)
I see and hear remarks about tantrums and screamers and bratty children. About parenting and "I don't LET my child behave like that!" HA! Every time I take my kids out in public I know there is a chance it will end horribly. I am the mom with the kid that for no reason at all loses his shit in the middle of the produce section. It doesn't have anything to do with love or patience or discipline or any of the things I used to think. It is absolutely the way Clark was born. It is the personality he was given. I can do everything "right" and not let him get his way over and over and over and... guess what? He will try again. I honestly believe he will grow into a wonderful boy and man. I am not doing everything right or well, but I keep trying to do better. Every single day I get pulled away in the tide and every single night I swim back to shore. I am not desperate or depressed, I am just fighting my way. And I felt like telling you about it.
(Reading Megan's lovely post got me in the mood to write this.)