I am that mom.

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.)


  1. Nola and Clark, very similar. I too dislike blogging about it, but the truth is, sometimes I just have to. So I don't go crazy. So I know there are other mothers out there like me that are dealing with kids like her.

    Thanks for sharing.

  2. I think this is brave, and true, and lovely. The battles are so, so hard; I especially identified with the part about how difficult it can be to just get through things that are ROUTINE. At our house the tooth-brushing, hairbrushing, pajama-ing tasks cause huge, screaming meltdowns. I dread bedtime because I know I have to gear up and just do it, and I often feel like I just want to lie down with my face on the floor instead. I'm so sorry this stress is on you.

  3. So tough to do this on a daily basis, but even harder to share it. Loved this post. I'll be reading again!

  4. I think you know that if we were next door neighbors, we could accidentally go home to each other's houses and mistake it for our own.

    It is true that we are force fed all the baby years this and baby years that jargon and agenda but it's the later years that REALLY throw you down the stairs.

    I have to say, you will find your footing but I say that because today I am not as wobbly as yesterday but who knows what tomorrow brings. The farther away I get from babyhood I am more able to settle in. Ivy is 3 now and she is the youngest and it DOES make such a difference. But that doesn't make it any easier for you in the meantime so I'll nod, and say, I know.

    When you are feeling up for it, we'll work on getting together before the winter comes. If not, we always have spring.

    Love you, Erin. And a big PS. I have known you when you just had Clark and were delightfully cloth diapering and new momming it up. I have grown to love you more over the years and still admire and look up to you for who you are.


  5. I'm glad you published. And I'm sorry it's so trying. My oldest was a super hard baby, very demanding. And at 9, she still is completely who she was as a baby. In totally different ways throughout these last 9 years, but inherently the same personality. And we struggle with her every day. It is such a battle. And I do what I can and I pray for her because that's all I have.

    Hoping you find some comfort knowing that you're not alone. And that one day things WILL be easier. This is just one part of our lives right?

  6. I hear you. I do. Two of my kids are very "high maintenance". I have spent years walking on eggshells because "what if she loses her sh*t because there aren't any waffles for breakfast" is a common occurrence in my house. Nothing is simple or straightforward with kids like that; everything is a struggle. Simple things like "please put away your shoes" can result in a child lying on the floor screaming in this house.
    It's hard on everyone~other siblings, family members, friends.
    It does get easier, or different, or better. My oldest is 10 and we're seeing some light at the end of the tunnel. But my other one is 4 and I never know which kid is going to get out of bed in the morning~one who will go with the flow or one who will push me every step of the way for the whole day.
    Thank you for writing this. I also don't blog much about this because people see it as whining.

  7. Bless you darling and your endless patience (even though it doesn't feel that way, I know you care so deeply that it's there. be forgiving to yourself).

    I don't want to diminish your issues by comparing them, but I know what you mean about just born like that. Jude is LOUD. and OPINIONATED. and DRAMATIC. Despite our most gentle rearing he is himself and that's how he is. It's hard not to take that as a reflection on my parenting skills but it has less to do with me and more to do with his wiring.

    Parenting is chaos theory, no matter how many times you add the same ingredients (you+him) the results come out different. Very different.

  8. "You can martyr away nine lives and no one will give you a funeral for even one of them."

    Well, isn't that just the truth? That's pretty much the best thing I've read in months.

    All of us, dear Erin, all of it is so true and so hard (oh! it's hard!) and so empowering. This space is your own and you must fill it with all things that are true. This is part of your truth.

    Thank you, God, for the things bring us humility. None of it is what we would choose but all of it is what we need.

  9. thank you for writing this. it made me cry a little. i know exactly what you mean about being humbled. i never thought I'd be one of "those" parents with the kid kicking and screaming at the zoo and me fireman-carrying him over my shoulder while also pushing a crying baby in a stroller and trying not to cry myself. and the like, every single morning fight over socks and shoes. it's exhausting.

    you're doing good. and i thank you SO much for sharing.

  10. First of all- so, so brave of you to write this. It's interesting b/c my oldest is a cake walk for me (she's most like me, I know her) but my second is a mystery & my third has got me completely befuddled at 16mos. I think I identified with this line the most: "I am not doing everything right or well" because I think you ARE doing things right AND well. To even KNOW this about your child, means you're doing it exactly right.
    Second of all- Steph: you are so, so, SO completely right! I find the constant attention to how to raise your children in their most infantile stages completely baffling. It's not really that part that counts, actually. No one has magical tips for the toddler years, or later- because by then everyone realizes you're raising personalities & those cannot be parented in a certain "style".

  11. Brave and beautiful words. I think so many of us are that mom and we hide it away because we think that to name the monster makes it real. But in reality, the monster isn't us and it certainly isn't that child who was so easy as a baby, but it's our fear of whether or not we can find the shore in the evenings. What if we drown one of these days? But then someone like you puts truth into words and reminds us all that the shore is there and yeah, we're tired, but we just keep swimming. Thank you, Erin.

  12. Oh a big hug to you. I understand exactly, every word of what you wrote. I have 4 kidlets. My eldest has autism and one of my other children definitely has ADHD. I am not a fan of labels, but had to get it in order for the school to work with her and protect her in a sense. I actually fought for it. Despite routines, schedules, quiet time, any and everything I can think of, there are daily battles (she screams and yells too at 7), sometimes several times a day over anything and nothing. She was like this in the womb and as a baby. She can cause more disruption in our day/lives than the child that has autism. I didn't think it was possible. Surprise! Still I also know what you mean about a child having challenging behavior and still being happy that you are his mom. I feel the same way about mine.
    Thanks for posting this and I am thinking of you! I am sure others can relate and your words are very helpful. Thanks again!

  13. I could have written this post. I'm in tears, both because I know the beauty of the mother half, and the depth of the emotional struggle it brings as well.

    My first two are also 19 months apart. Also older boy, younger sister. Youngest brother due in 8 weeks.

    We just had Jack assessed for a speech delay and is now receiving both speech and play therapy ,4 times a week. He is smart and emotional and totally unpredictable.

    All I can say is that you, you are a beautiful mother and your children are so blessed to have you.

    Hang tough, mama. It's the best we can do. xo

  14. Ohhhhh this sounds very familiar. Thank you for your honesty. I know you're just doing what you have to do, but from here I see such bravery and grace in your matter-of-factness about it. So glad I found this post.

  15. That was me, I was you. Now my kids are 6 and 8. Not saying it's easy, but it's easier. I still want to lie on the floor - sometimes fall into a deep hole rather - but I carry on for my kids. The time will fly, try to embrace the better moments. They are the ones you will of later, I promise.

  16. Humbled. Yes. I have been humbled over and over by this life, these kids, this motherhood. Incredibly well written. I wish I could invite you over and we could search for silence in the chaos together.

  17. thank you for writing. it's hard, i know. everything in my house gets filtered for our 3 year old. sometimes i look back and wonder what i could have done differently. i shouldn't. she is who she is. life would be easier, but we'd miss out on so much if all of our kids were easy and alike. i wouldn't change her for anything.

  18. Your words could have been pulled right from the center of my heart.
    I often find myself with my back pressed against the bathroom door and the only thing I care to think about is that the tile is cold on my feet. My world has finally gone to sleep, all is quiet and all I want to do is stare at the tile.
    Because at the end of the day, I am overstimulated, overwhelmed, and exhausted.

    Austin just started preschool and I long for the parent/teacher meeting that's coming up... because I want her opinion. I want to know what someone else thinks. I've trusted her with my beautiful but difficult child, and I want her to reassure me that I'm not crazy, that I'm not a bad mom, that this boy might just need a little extra attention or help along the way...

    You are brave, Mama. You are beautiful and you are doing everything right.

  19. My BFF's daughter can be similarly difficult. The transitions are the worst and I know how hard she struggles. She now has a 7 month old who seems completely different but time will tell.

    This is the first post of yours I've read, but I will be coming back. I think it's amazing that you're strong enough to put this out there. I have to say, since becoming a parent I have learned so much about those "bratty" kids who "act out" and whose parents "let them behave that way". I seriously don't understand how ANYONE who has ever spent more than 12 minutes with a toddler could even think such a thing. I mean, my daughter isn't even 2 yet and the things she has done scare me. Kids are their own people, and just because you care for them does not mean you can control them.

    You're doing a great job for those kids. Don't ever let fears keep you from taking them places and experiencing things. This too shall pass.

  20. This post is so raw and brave. You aren't alone and by writing, you let others know they aren't, either. Vulnerability matters.

    I have a child who was very Clark-like. He's in 7th grade now and can still be challenging, but it did get better. I cried a lot over him (and still do, occasionally). He had speech therapy for 2 solid years. He wore his heart on his sleeve and had trouble controlling his reaction to setbacks and frustrations and transitions. With maturity, time, perspective (his) those areas have dramatically improved.

    You are so, so in the thick of it. I want to promise, cross-my-heart that it will get easier, but I'm not that dumb. I'll say I *strongly suspect* it will get easier. :)

  21. Clark sounds like my Seth. When Seth was 3 he changed into this person I didn't know anymore. He was loud, belligerent, and at times just down right mean. He could be the sweetest child in the world, but I never knew when I was going to see that child.

    He is now 7 and we are finding our groove. It takes time, but he no longer lashes out at me the way he did then. I still never know if he is going to love something or hate it and walk on egg shells a lot with that.

    My Amelia sounds just like Alice. Just so laid back, easy going...easy. I think God knows we need those easy ones so we can have hope while dealing with the more difficult children.

    I agree with Steph, it takes time to find your footing. And, just when you think you do...watch out ;)

    This is such a fabulous post. I love it and I love you.

  22. Amen, and amen. On all levels.

    Our first son brought us low, very, very low. I've written about it here: http://bit.ly/nCs2Ax

    Things are better, for the most part, and mostly due to his medicine---something that I couldn't bring myself to use until he was about 9 years old.

    Raising children is so hard. The jury sits out for all those years and then...poof, it's over.


  23. I hope you feel somewhat better having written it out here and sharing it.

    I have one child that is more difficult than the other two. Funny, he's my middle kid. SO determined. SO stubborn. Sometimes I just have to walk away from him before I completely lose it.

    And yep, babies are a walk in the park compared to some of the stuff that comes up later.

    Hugs to you, Erin. I know it's hard.

  24. Erin, thank you for writing such an honest post. I get very bored with reading blogs that always try to make everything all glitter and puppy dogs because I'm sorry, that's bullshit. Life is hard and not easy most of the time. Especially with three children. Your post makes so much sense and opened my eyes. I have a very compliant child but I also know that I got lucky with him and the next one will probably be hell on wheels. The chances of having two compliant children, yeah, I don't think so. Keep fighting through, you do it so gracefully. Your children will appreciate it more than you know when they are grown. Trust me. . . <3

  25. Blown away by your heart and your truth in that post. Wishing we were closer together so we could have a coffee, screaming children and all.

  26. This kind of honesty is going to help other moms out there. Thanks for saying what's hard to say.

  27. my boy is similar to Clark in his freak out in the produce section because a grape looked at him wrong. as he gets older (5 now) I see him gaining control of his own emotions and abilities more and more every day. he's such a love & i hate to see when he's so confused because that's what it boils down to for him. he doesn't know how to handle a situation, so he freaks out. gah! I love that dude! kisses to you.

  28. I wish blogs were around when my oldest was little, because I can see now that I was not alone. My oldest daughter was like Clark. Highly imaginative, fun personality, but boy when she was having a bad day, everyone suffered.
    I wish I could say it gets easier, I kinda does. She had a very tough time in middle school, but high school was much better. Now as a 26 year old, she still is a force to be reckoned with, and her husband has the patience of a saint, for putting up with what she dishes out.
    You are right though, no matter what you do in public to keep them calm, they will go off with the slightest thing, and then everyone becomes your judge and jury! Having had this type of child I always feel so sorry for the poor mom at the moment of the freak outs. You would be surprised though, that there are a lot of parents that remember, and are compassionate.
    Hang in there and no doubt Clark will be just fine, and do great things. Kids with these personalities tend to really excel if guided in the right direction.
    My daughter just graduated from art school with a fashion design degree, moved to London with her husband and is working under a famous designer at the moment.

  29. I'm so glad you published this, because as you can see - you're not alone.

    Lately I'v been thinking about motherhood and how it absolutely is a spiritual discipline of some sort. There are so many opportunities to have your pride yanked out from under your feet, to be humbled over and over again. You have to let go of any semblance of control - not in that you let chaos reign, but that you cannot control the outcome. You can love Clark and parent him to the best of your ability. I can love Thomas and try to help him and ask for help as much as possible from those who know how to help him. Sometimes it feels like I'm walking in the dark, absolutely.

    At least we can all walk in the dark together and admit we don't have all the answers.

  30. Thank you for sharing what has been bothering you. I hope you feel better. You should and this is what blogging is for, right, to make yourself feel better. I too have a child that drains me 100% of everyday. He was much worse when he was littler, he was a hitter, kicker, puncher, even though he never saw that from me at home. He had a little brother who was learning from him and I was pregnant. I remember saying to my hubby he can't teach the others to be like him. So one day after he repeatedly tried to kick and punch me to get his way we went to a corner. I sat in front of him and impassively sat and blocked shots for 45 mins, finally he crawled into my lap crying. My husband was upset that I broke some of his will. I had to. And he is a much improved child. And knowing how to deal with him and handle situations does make it easier. He is now 8, still has some issues but he is turning into such a young man and loves to help. Always has and that helped a lot when he was young too. So good for you. You are a great mom! A fabulous mom. And we readers are here for you when you just need to vent and let out your frustrations. Its ok and healthy for you to do that. You and your husband have a beautiful family! Enjoy!

  31. This is perfect for me to read today...a HUGE tantrum at the thrift store by my little one today ( : Thanks!

  32. this is the most honest, beautiful, and heart wrenching piece i have read in a long time. i am living a oh-so-humbling period myself right now, complete with the 6yo spiraling out of control over the last year and a half. share what you can. don't what you can't. it matters not how cheered your readers are by your words. but know that there are those of us who are heartened by them - "I am not desperate or depressed, I am just fighting my way." - YES. that is it exactly. and fighting for me looks a little sad and a lot drained, but also hopeful that this is a fleeting season with long days but short years. xoxo

  33. I have a Clark. I haven't blogged about it much because everyone thinks I am blowing things out of proportion. Because, as a single mum, there's only me witnessing the nine tantrums between 7:15 and 8 am. SHe is worst with me and they tell me it is because she knows I will love her unconditionally despite her behaviour, but that's little relief when I'm in the trenches and in tears. Brave souls - us and them. You just keep your dukes up (when it comes to teachers and therapists and not-at-all-helpful ex-spouses) and hope that one day, your kid will recognize that, in their worst days, you stayed the course. Dukes up, mama, Dukes Up.

  34. i wish i knew the right words to say. i read each and every comment, and i feel like it's all been said. just know that i care about you a lot, and i think about you daily.

    you are one of the strongest women i know ... a mom that deserves more than a pat on the back. i'm glad you shared this with us.

  35. My daughter to the tee.. I call her High maint. and I hate to say it but she is.. and shes only 21 months.. on top of it I am a Behaviorist by trade..

    personality oh personality..

  36. Nodding my head in agreement while tears well in my eyes. We have similar yet different children, ours is now 5 and so much better, not exactly like my other kids but better than where we were. Like Gretchen's, mine is speech delayed and had a hard time with translations, change of plans and everything we did, we first thought about, determining if it would be worth it no matter the reaction. I just noticed that he doesn't cry when we pick him up from class on Sundays.

    It will probably get better, with such small things that you suddenly realize it's getting better.

    Love this post, love your heart. You're a great mama.

  37. I have some difficult kiddos here too. A two year old, infant, and three foster kids 7, 8, and 15. I know how you feel. Feel proud of yourself for all you do, and don't worry about people who don't understand.

    PS I listen for noises at bedtime too. (And I eavesdrop on conversations during the day...)

  38. I loved this post. I can relate to every single word you said. My 5 year old sounds like a carbon copy of Clark. It is so wonderful and so utterly exhausting to be his Mom.

    I can also totally relate to your point about not being able to explain it to your listener. I don't know anyone else in my family or circle of friends who has a child like this, and I am tired of trying to explain. This is what I love about blogs...you can "meet" someone who understands your life that you would otherwise never know.

    Hang in there!!! Thanks for sharing this.

  39. Hi Erin,
    I can totally relate to all of this, as well as the one a couple days ago about being unable relax for fear something bad was about to happen. I can't close my eyes for a minute around here!
    I would encourage you though, if you haven't yet done the "assessments" that you mentioned, to go ahead and get whatever your doctor suggests. Who knows - maybe it's something simple that can be quickly dealt with and bring you all some peace.
    As for judgmental strangers, Psssh. Blow raspberries at them, ok? People don't understand what it's like to parent your children. People don't understand what it's like to parent mine either. I get nasty looks from strangers all the time. But from people who know, I'm always being told how they "don't know how I do it", or that I have amazing patience, or whathaveyou. You, I have no doubt, are an amazing mom.

  40. Your children are so very blessed to have you. As are we.

  41. Wow, is this ever powerful. I've got three girls (ages 5,3,1) and the first two are so strong-willed and have pushed me to the brink everyday. I have friends who had kids around the same time and they totally judged my parenting when they saw how difficult my kids were, and it broke my heart and made me question my every step.

    I wish every parent had at least one hard kid, just so no one could be sanctimonious about his/her awesome parenting skills.

    Thanks so much for sharing. I loved this post.

  42. My older daughter, now 5, was the same. She is an highly sensitive child and it took me a long time and a lot of reading to understand her and manage with her. Now she is wonderful! So don't worry, just be patient. It's very hard to be the first child in a family. I don't know your son so I can't give you any tip, except to try to let it go, and not go in battles against him...

  43. I've never been here before, but followed a link from Keli's twitter and I'm so glad I did . . . thanks so much for sharing and I LOVE this post!

  44. I absolutely LOVE this post and this line in particular: "Every single day I get pulled away in the tide and every single night I swim back to shore." Know that there are many others swimming right along with you! Keep up the brilliant work. I am so happy to have found your blog.

  45. I am thinking about last Saturday when I came over and they were all three so sweet and excited and Clark led us on an exploration through all the caves of your house and he and Alice imagined obstacles and treasures and every new discovery was wonderful and Hal's smile was lighting everything up and they gave me the biggest hugs ever. And I'm thinking that all of this, this mind-numbing heart-wrenching utterly exhausting hard work is totally, totally paying off.

  46. Hi! I'm a new reader but I just wanted to thank you for this post. I have a very, very spirited and challenging (3 yo) child and sometimes I feel like I'm so alone. She is so draining. I love her so much, but sometimes I feel like I'm going insane ... and I don't even think she's as intense as your son! I can't imagine! Thank you for being brave enough to post this. It is refreshing to find someone willing to be "real" in this way on the internet. Parenting is effing hard ... and babies are the easy part. WHO KNEW that one day I'd be longing for those sleepless newborn days? At least she couldn't argue with me then!

  47. I can't remember if I've commented on this yet, but I keep returning to read the comments and to reread it...you know your kids in their unique specialness so well even if their reactions are sometimes unpredictable and mysterious. a good mama.

    i never understood how it could be remotely possible to take three kids into public businesses. we have bloodcurdling screams with our one, since day one...

  48. yup. grace, mama. i can see it clearly in you, with them, but turn it inward, too. rest in it. tomorrow is another day, yes? xo

  49. I had two almost-teenagers when I had my third child. My very, very difficult child. And I say that she was not only born the way she was, she was like that from CONCEPTION. My pregnancy with her was completely different than all my other pregnancies. After she was born she never slept, she screamed, she hated everything (mostly me and she told me that frequently), she ran away from me in public, she threw tantrums EVERY TIME WE LEFT THE HOUSE, and I thought I'd die.
    But I didn't. And she didn't.
    And now she is grown up and the most responsible and loving human being I know. And has a two-year old. And is pregnant with another baby. She is an amazing mother and wife and I am in awe of how far she and I have come together in the journey we have taken.
    It will be okay. Just hold on and do what you're doing and know that even if you have no evidence to support this- you are doing a wonderful job.

  50. Maggie May sent me.

    This was a very brave, honest and touching post. Like Ms. Moon, I'm many years ahead of you, but I too remember the subtle transition from capable, knowing mother of two to frustrated and overwhelmed failure as the spectrum behaviors and tics kicked in, both kids brilliant but challenging and willful and never easy. They're teenagers now, and they are still challenging and messy and complicated, but they are also amazing and they've taught me a lot about myself and about life. I've had to learn to let go of many battles and to figure out when to even fight one. I realized that parenting is the hardest thing I will ever do in this life.

    It's been a journey of discovery and adaptation, and I've learned that as crazy as things are on any given day, they will morph and change before my eyes into something else I wish I was managing better, never easy, and never dull. One kid is dyslexic, aspergers, very withdrawan and sees things only his way, the other is a whirlwind of emotions and ADD, and getting them dressed, fed, to bed or shopping or getting out the door intact has been a challenge on our best days. But they both have these amazing personalities: they are truly unique and fascinating people, old souls with good hearts in complex packages. They made me buy hundreds of dollars of parenting books, none of which solved any of my problems and they have almost broken their poor control freak of a mother, who wanted everything to be just so. I now settle for an occasional meal together or a happy conversation in the unfathomable chaos that is high school. It has been quite a journey, and we're still on it.

    What I most want to tell you is that things may not go as we plan, that we might be humbled by the reality checks, but we find our way, together. Your kids will be OK, and so will you, as the time flies by. Ms. Moon and I have come out the other side and we're holding up lanterns of hope and understanding for you. I think my life back then would have been much easier if I had a blog network of honest moms to tell the truth with.

    In the craziest of days, my advice is to try and maintain respect in both directions, to try and find things to laugh at, and to remember to take care of yourself so you can continue to care for them. Oh, and guilt abatement hints, sometimes awful behavior happens when they are sick. I can't tell you how many times I've lost it because they lost it, only to discover they had an ear infection or a fever of 102. And awful behavior or radical changes always preceded a growth or developmental spurt too.

    Best of luck on this amazing journey.

  51. I also found you through the lovely Maggie May. It is so important for us to be brave about how hard parenting can be. Like running a marathon. Each and every day. Especially for those of us with challenging kids.

    In my blog's "about me" page I wrote: "One of my twin sons is on the Autism Spectrum (mild-moderate PDD-NOS), and this dominates my life in ways that you can not even begin to fathom if you either don’t have kids or they are all “typical”. If you have just one child and it’s an easygoing girl, we do not even live in the same universe."

    Also? My other son, his twin? Has ADD and is very high-maintenance. I am a good (enough) mother who, most days, looks like a Bad Mother from the outside. But that's just it, isn't it? Nobody has a clue what anyone else's life is actually like, from the outside.

    You are feeling un-done by your life and many people reading this are probably feeling so grateful that their kids are all relatively easy, while I am sitting here envious as hell that you got ONE typical one (and a GIRL, to boot!) to balance out the challenging ones.

    It's all a matter of perspective. It's always perspective. I know what a good, thoughtful mother you are. Because I live in a house like yours, and I know, with every bone in my body, that kids pop out of our bodies with their personalities firmly attached. And then we figure out how to live with them and make them as happy and functional as we can. With some it’s so much easier than with others. It’s the spin of the big wheel.

    Love your writing. I will be back.

  52. I'm visiting from Maggie May's blog and love your refreshing honesty. I, too, have three children -- each as unique and different as can be. They are now 16, 13 and 10, and I can say, quite firmly, that while I had something to do with them, they are each here on their own journey, entirely oblivious to me and my influence!

  53. Maggie May sent me here.

    I remember these days well, the days of small children. It might seem hard to believe it now but these days will pass.

    The best you can do is hang on in. Donald Winnicott now long dead and gone, but a brilliant pediatrician and psychoanalyst, talked about 'good enough' mothering.

    That's the best and the most important thing we can do: be good enough mothers, which does not mean perfect mothers with perfect children.

    It means I think being a mother who keeps on trying to understand what her little one is also trying to communicate and respond as best she can, which isn't always easy. In fact, it's often downright hard.

    We tend to mother the way we were mothered with all the strains this entails.

    It sounds to me, given that you can write about these things so well here, you are well on your way there.

    It's very good to meet you, Erin.

  54. Erin,
    I know I'm late to the party here. And I see that you have 53 comments already. I was thinking about not commenting, but then I thought, "Can you ever get too much encouragement in this department?" No. Never too much. So, let me just say, I hear you loud and clear, sister. And you are doing a great job being a great mom! Hang in there!

  55. Oh my gosh, this post is beautiful. I have two compliant, easy going children... and I totally believe they were mostly just born that way! As parents, we can only work with what our kids have, to help them to be the best people they can be. And, if we're loving and respectful, they will all turn out to be the best grown up people.

    While I totally believe I am a good mom, I also understand that some kids, lots of kids, are more challenging than my girls and we didn't do anything differently as mamas to get children with different natural demeanor. One of my oldest, closest friends has a son who is a lot like you describe your son to be, and he is beautiful and brilliant and sweet. He is also out of control sometimes, and he definitely uses up all of his mama's resources. My friend is an awesome, amazing mom and so are you.

    You know, I'm a more difficult adult than lots of adults. Everybody is different, and kids are people and all of that. I love that you are honest enough to write these things.

  56. no one has the perfect family. i know that you know that already. and i know that you know that we all struggle, in our own ways. and that the beauty lies in the struggle. i know you know all this. just don't beat yourself up too hard when you forget. and i promise to do the same. (to not beat myself up, i mean. because promising to not beat you up is weirdly passive-aggressive.) sometimes face down on the floor is the best possible place to catch breath. xoxo

  57. I totally lost my footing when I had Levi. I regained it after he turned a year, but lost it again when I got pregnant with Sophia. I think I'm slowly regaining it. I have a feeling that won't be the last of the tripping and stumbling through parenting. I guess you could say it's intended to keep us humble. I think you'll find your footing again. Motherhood is like some weird dance. It's beautiful, and we know that it's beautiful. But, we don't really know all of the steps. Sometimes we sail smoothly around the dance floor, and sometimes we crash right onto our faces. It's okay though. It's what shows our children that we're human and that it's okay to be human.

  58. Thank you for posting this. I can definitely relate. I have two kids that are high-maintenance and two that are not. Parenting high needs kids is insanely challenging. For me, I have found sending them off to school to be a lifesaver for my sanity. Both of my challenging kids are now old enough to be in school until 3 and I finally feel like a normal human being again. I also feel like our relationship has improved because I get a break. I pick them up in the afternoons refreshed and ready to be the mom I always imagined myself to be.

    I've also found that some of this mellows with age. Three is just THE WORST. All of the mobility and opinion with none of the impulse control. Six . . . six is kind of dreamy.

  59. Oh, honey. I've been meaning to come back to comment for days now, but at the risk of it never happening, I just want to send a big hug to you.

    I love your honesty and candor.

  60. it's so challenging, yet so important to recognize that our children are individuals and not mirrors of our parenting choices. Thanks for sharing your story!

  61. This post is so open and sweet and well-written. And I think it's a beautiful love letter to your children.

  62. I came by your blog by way of Anymommy. I am a very shy blogger and blog stalker. I fear judgment so much. But, it is word's like what you have shared that make me realize that it's not just me, this is really hard. That even though I did want these children it really is so much harder than I thought it would be, and that it is ok. So, thank You very much for sharing.

  63. Excellent post. For me, it was the truth of this sentence: "You can martyr away nine lives and no one will give you a funeral for even one of them" that will stick with me for a long time. (I'm a new reader, via 5 star Friday, so I'm sorry that this is so much later than your actual post.)

  64. I've got a child that is a challenge to parent...i feel you, girl!

    Have you ever read the book, 'Raising Your Spirited Child'?

    It's fantastic!

    I've checked it out twice from our library - I'll own it soon... :)

    here's a link:

  65. I understand.
    And... I have a question, possibly coupled with a suggestion... but only if you want it. Otherwise, I will leave it at: I understand. Stay strong.

  66. My 12 year old was a piece of cake till he turned 3, diagnosed with ADHD and other "boy attention issues" for many years following, and is still difficult to fit into the mold of "easy to parent". But I love him, too. Even though he's not the easy kid of my 3.

  67. You should know that by virtue of the fact that you ARE taking care of three uniquely complicated children, you are a success.

    You mentioned that you don't have anyone to talk to about your day-to-day battles. I am sorry for that. I believe that each of us mothers feels like we're out on this island alone, but I also believe that WE are the only ones that can do it because WE are mothers.

    You will get through it. And you're right, he will grow up to be an amazing man — the toughest little fireballs often do. But it is the mother that ushers the tough ones through the phases of life to a better place.

    Keep at it. You are doing God's work.

  68. I have three children, and while I felt I was mother of the year to number one, my second is difficult (my third a delight, though she's a girl and so I don't know if that makes a difference or not). Obviously, I don't know you or your particular situation, all I can tell you is that I have a child who fights me on everything and anything. He can't seem to get control of himself and ends up always, always backing himself into a corner. He thinks nothing of calling my husband and I stupid or idiot and then seems to turn around and is oblivious to what he's done wrong. We've tried all sorts of discipline, time outs, etc..it doesn't really help that much. He has a very strong will, does not like to be told no and a bad temper. He's six, I keep waiting for it to break, and at times, I see glimmers of hope. I feel like he's at least, now, starting to realize when he's out of control, but still, not soon enough to stop it. Like you, I question myself, I blame myself, but he is who is, I'm not sure how much more I could have done to change that, so I try to go with the positive. The positive comment, lots of love, compliments, even when I want to kill him. What I've come to realize is that all kids are different. What works with my oldest and youngest, doesn't work with him. He needs more patience, more praise, and definitely more discipline. I don't think he's doomed for life, or am I, but I do think he will always be more challenging, more defiant, more likely to fall by the wayside and therefore, always need a little more watching. And one day, I think he will be calling me complaining about his own willful children, exasperated.

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  70. So, six months later, I found your blog, and amazingly stumbled on this post!
    I don't even know where to begin...I have lived through this (and still do sometimes!) with my oldest son who is now 6 1/2 and in Kindergarten. When he was 3 & 4, I dreaded my days that I had to get him ready for preschool, etc. I was pregnant with baby #3 too. And somehow, we managed through it. Without any ADHD diagnosis or assessment too! When he turned 5, things slowly started improving, and by the time he started Kindergarten (at almost 6) his behavior was drastically different. I just kept at it everyday with him - structure and patience. It drove me crazy to fight over getting dressed and brushing teeth...but eventually it stopped being a battle.
    I don't know where you are at with this now, but I wanted to let you know my experiences, and that there is a light at the end of the tunnel. I felt so alone during that time, and felt like such a horrible mother - my own mom even questioned me and my mothering ability with him!
    Trust your instincts - you are an amazing mother! XO, Salem

  71. "you can martyr away nine lives and no one will give you a funeral for even one of them.". Pretty sure that line just changed my life!