Yesterday

Let me tell you about yesterday.

Yesterday was pretty normal to begin with. Everyone woke up, Gabe was happily eating apple slices at the table when I came out after my shower. He did his normal thing where he doesn’t want to put his coat on and I ended up carrying him to the elevator while he snuggled into my shoulder. Everyone went to work and school. I read about 40 articles and edited them all. I had a salad and an egg roll for lunch because I am only human. I took a short lunch and got off early because I felt like it.

When we got home Kamel was doing dishes while I made dinner. Spaghetti and meatballs with my homemade sauce. Gabe was manically losing his mind because he is 2 on Sunday. He wanted milk, but he wanted to get it himself from the fridge. He wanted to put it away by himself in the fridge. He wanted no help with anything ever how dare you touch that, he will now scream at you as if you are cutting off digits. He did not want a snack, but he wanted some string cheese half peeled to resemble an octopus. Octopus cheese to be exact. But he did not want you to help him with the cheese peeling part that turns it into an octopus. My cheese he kept saying, MINE.

Fine! I don’t really care if it turns into an octopus. That was your thing from the beginning, so enjoy your regular, non-octopus cheese.

One demand after another. He wants to help dad wash dishes, but he wants to shove his hands into a bunch of knives because he hates life. Kamel tries to get him to wash benign things like pots and spoons, but Gabe just wants to play in the water. So, we allow this for a few minutes before saying this task is now all done. Now Gabe wants to be held so he can watch what is happening on the stove. But there aren’t enough arms for him because we are all needing to do stuff and the stove is hot and I need to stir and I don’t want him thrusting his hands into boiling water. So there is just whining and crying and fussing and whining some more.

And I feel like my house is chaos. There is Kamel who had yet another filling today and his mouth is still all numb even 4 hours later, and there is my kid who is a manic disaster, and there is pregnant me. And somehow I get dinner on the table, and somehow Gabe, with the help of Kamel’s patience, sits quietly and picks pieces of spaghetti up one at a time and sticks them in his mouth, but only if they have NO little bits of anything on them. They must have the lightest of light coating of pasta sauce and nothing else.

After he is done I take him to wash his hands, something he LOVES to do. Except we can’t stand at the sink for eternity. I just keep thinking about the water we’re wasting so when it is time to be done we are done. But it is never enough for Gabe. Never enough. And he screams at me and at the world for telling him we’re done now and he won’t let me wipe his face off with the towel and he is fighting me and pushing me away and I’m saying, “Enough. Stop. We are done here. Gabriel.” And I pick him up and put him on the floor and off the stool. I try to redirect him by having him turn off the bathroom light, which he almost does until he remembers he wants to be back on the stool. But I say, no. We are done with the stool, we are done washing hands. But he keeps trying to get on and keeps trying until I’ve had enough and pick up the stool and stick it in the bath tub. And then I pick up my hysterical kid and stick him in time out because this is going absolutely fucking nowhere and we all need a minute.

I walk away because this is all sending me over the edge. But he doesn’t calm down. He keeps calling my name and sobbing or calling for dad and sobbing, and Kamel keeps telling him “Gabriel you need to stay in time out until mom comes to get you.” So when clearly nothing is getting better I go and I sit with Gabriel in time out. Where he then swats at me over and over again until I have to hold his arms at his sides and he wails in my face. And I sit there and he is hysterical and the truth is I have no idea what to do or how to fix this. I want him to just calm down, but I don’t know how to help him.

Eventually Kamel sits down with the both of us and it doesn’t make anything better. Eventually Kamel gets Gabe some milk and I walk away into the bedroom. And thing somehow return to less manic and less tantrum-y.

I tell Kamel he should take the baby on the walk that I had suggested we all go on earlier in the evening before everything spiraled out of control. He says, “are you sure you don’t want to come?” YES, I say, 1000x sure. As they are walking out the door I hear Gabe calling for me, “Let’s go, mama! Let’s go! Mama! Mama!” And I just stay in the bedroom waiting until Kamel has shut the door behind him.

And I cry. A lot. Because I feel so shitty for not wanting to be around my kid who I see for only a few hours a day during the week. Even though he called out for me, even though in his world things are terrible and then in the next moment they are great. And he was back to being normal great Gabe. I just couldn’t go and play nice and deal with the fact that he would want out of his stroller after 3 blocks, and he would want to walk but fight holding our hands, and then get pissed when he couldn’t push the stroller. Sometimes I can’t deal with every tiny small thing being a big huge fucking fight.

Yesterday I just kept repeating, “He’s 2. He’s 2. He’s 2.” But we haven’t even gotten there yet. It doesn’t happen until Sunday. What am I going to do? What am I going to do with 2 of them?

Yesterday parenting was hard.

It is so very hard.

25 thoughts on “Yesterday”

  1. That sounds horrible and frustrating. I would want like, 1,000 DAYS of alone time after that.

    You guys rock as parents. Your patience and love are amazing. Everyone just needs a break sometimes.

  2. The theme of my life right now is “this too shall pass.” For the good stuff and the bad stuff. Hang in there.

  3. Oh, I feel you. And we’re not at 2 yet (age or babies). This parenting gig is the hardest thing and I cried a lot on Saturday. I felt the mom-guilt afterward that I wasn’t there with my little man, but I was so frustrated and drained. And we are only human. We all just do the best we can and wake up hoping that we can be better than we were yesterday. And you and Kamel do rock as parents. You seem to ooze patience and discipline. You outline expectations, you give clear consequences. And sometimes, kids are just crazy maniacs. Yesterday, Elliott cried for an hour while I got dinner together and went through the mail and whatever else I had to do. I had to tell myself that he is teething and growing teeth is hard work.

    Hugs to you, Momma (and Kamel!). You’re doing a good job.

  4. All the sympathy. Not a parent, but oh man are toddlers and middle schoolers just… so much. Their brains are growing so fast and they just can’t do it! But that doesn’t mean that they don’t have to do it anyway. (Oof, terrible sentence structure- go with me here).

    One peice of unsolicited advice that I’ve seen work with little ones his age: Have a timer for things like washing hands. Then he knows how much time he has, and that once the buzzer goes off he’s done until next time. It feels way less arbitrary for them and gives them a bit of feeling of control.

  5. Lots and lots of hugs for you and Kamel. I don’t have kids yet but they are definitely on the radar in a couple of years and I worry about this so much. I get frustrating with a freaking dog and cat, how the hell am I going to manage a human being?!

    Thank you for being so real. You two really are killing it as parents. Total rockstars, and totally patient. You are human, it is okay to have a bad day. It will get better!

  6. These exact scenarios are occurring on repeat in our house these days (my son will be 2 in June). And I am feeling the same way you are-I’m frustrated and impatient and exhausted and guilty, all the time. And I know this isn’t helpful to say, but it sort of relieves me to know that I’m not alone in these experiences. I hope that things improve for all of you, soon.

    1. It absolutely helps to know that a ton of other moms are ripping out their hair because their toddlers are insane. It makes me feel like I’m not a total failure and my kid is not EXTRA broken, just the normal amount of broken.

      1. You are definitely not alone. My kiddo will be two next month and she does everything you mention in this article. Insists on being held and “helping” me cook cook oatmeal over a hot stove (except she tries to stick her feet in the flames, not her hands in the water). Wanting to wash her hands FOREVER while I anxiously explain to her that water is a limited (and expensive!) resource. Refusing to eat food with “piece-es” (i.e., spices, vegetables, sauces, seeds) on it. Pulling bottles (of beer!) out of the fridge. Helping unload the dishwasher but only taking out the dangerous objects (knives, cheese graters). It’s often hilarious, but morphs into torture when I am at all stressed or frazzled.

  7. Oh, yes. I cannot offer you any words of wisdom, only solidarity, because I am in the middle of it too. (My daughter will be three in May and my son is five months – so about the age difference you’re soon to be looking at). It’s super tough and it’s super funny. And sometimes you have a night like I did recently where your toddler throws a tantrum and then *purposefully shits on her bed* in protest – THOSE nights are the ones where you just throw up your hands and laugh because what else are you going to do? Keep on keeping on, mama.

  8. Hugs, hugs, hugs.

    I know Gabe can’t see it, but I feel like you were doing exactly what you want to teach him to do. You recognized your limit of frustration and anger and responded appropriately by giving yourself a chance to cry and breathe and be where you needed to be even when it wasn’t what you wanted or wished for, exactly.

    Major props to you and Kamel for making it work out, somehow. (And dinner sounds delicious!)

  9. The stool in the bathtub, so. many. times. We started all this in the lead up to three, having thought we’d escaped two relatively unscathed. It is so, so hard to stay calm when the maelstrom of all their frustration is whirling around your head. So, so hard. It’s far better for you to take your time out while they walk than to be tipped to breaking point and lose it.

    A friend has recently had her second (also a daughter after a son) and she says sometimes you just have to let one cry while you help the other and sometimes you have the many hands of your village to help you out and sometimes everyone cries and sometimes no-one cries and everything is ace. Whatever happens, you’ll manage – and for the times you can’t – call your village and they’ll come running to help.

  10. First, hiiiiii-5 for keeping it real.

    Second, all the hugs. I’m so glad that Kamel was able to take Gabe for a walk and give you some time to cry, breathe, and regroup. <3 <3 <3

  11. I am not a parent but these exact situations (and how I fear I will not respond appropriately) are the reasons why I’m so hesitant to have children. You both are amazing parents – you are patient but able to recognize when you’ve had enough. Part of me wishes I had enough courage to take the leap but I just don’t know if I do…

    1. I know that I have some not-yet-parents and those who don’t know if it’s for them as readers and I did worry that it would scare some people off. But, I would rather always be real and honest and show both sides of the coin than pain an unrealistic picture. I will say that having a kid has made me a better person. More patient than I am with any other human. And it does help that you love them and they are teensy. But – the struggle is real. And not having kids is a really lovely life choice. <3

      1. I actually find your posts about parenting to be some of my favorite because you are so good about not sugar coating or ending with some flowery stuff. I like that you are like “darn this is hard but it’s just a night / hour and we get through it.” It makes me think whether I could as well and whether my husband could. Sometimes I think yes and other times I think absolutely not. I just wish I could predict the future because it’s SO hard to say yes to the unknown.

        So, please, keep writing these parenting posts. They have actually prompted some really good discussions with my husband (who is also an undecided) and I appreciate reading them.

        (and, thanks for the validation that not having kids is an acceptable life choice. I just sat through an appointment with my primary care physician today who decided talk with / lecture me about how this is the decade for me to have kids and she doesn’t want me to regret my decisions and blah blah blah. Like, you don’t think I feel enough pressure from my own thoughts?! Egads! … and sorry for the mini-rant).

  12. It’s really funny to read this today, it’s my little guy’s second birthday today and we have had a whoooooolllllleeeee day of this kind of carry on. It’s like trying to be so still while you’re sitting on a huge weighing scale, you’re on one side, your kid is on the other, and any little movement from either party can send that scale rocking backwards and forwards until you feel like you’re about to get thrown off. Sometimes it’s gently, gently, gently, oh crap!!, gently, gently, gently, oh crap! all day. And he is my third! (and I still go and cry in the bedroom)……

      1. Ermmmmm, it gets different. You do get better at coping with it, because it is a learned skill after all, but on days when you’re down, you’re just down. But that’s OK. There’s always cool stuff around the corner, hard stuff and cool stuff on repeat.

  13. I know it’s stressful stuff, but I was laughing so hard at this entire story because our guy just turned two and we are RIGHT THERE WITH YOU. Everything is terrible and urgent and contradictory and the end of the world when you’re a toddler.

  14. we have a 28 month old and an 8 month old, we have LOTS of days like this. Also lots of moments where my husband thinks there is something psychologically wrong with the toddler and I end up googling “is my 2 year old bipolar” and eventually decide no this is totally normal, but there is no easy solution. somehow its comforting to know others are going through this too!

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