I’m exhausted today. I mean…I’m the mom of two kids under five, I’m exhausted most days. But today, it has REALLY gotten to me and I’m just plum tuckered out.
It’s not like anything epic or out of the ordinary has happened in our lives, you couldn’t look at our days lately and pinpoint any one big thing that should have me feeling more worn down than usual. We’ve not been sick, our schedule has been normal, no big life events or crises have popped up in the last couple of weeks- and yet here I sit, absolutely exhausted and staring down the barrel of the week to come, lifting mine eyes unto the hills for the oomph it’s gonna take to launch myself into this next seven days.
What has me worn down at the moment is The Brick Wall Routine. Every parent knows it, or at least they should. It’s the one where we set a boundary or expectation and we hold fast to it despite an at times intense onslaught of pushback and testing. And when I say “at times,” I mean pretty much all the time with my older child. Not only is his attack on our defenses intense and calculated, his staying power is also remarkable. I’m exhausted from day after day of basically re-enacting the Battle for Helm’s Deep from Lord of the Rings, with myself in the role of Theoden King and my kid as exactly all of the Uruk-hai.
Nobody told me it was gonna be this hard. I mean, people certainly stressed for us the importance of setting boundaries and being consistent, and it was something I already believed in whole-heartedly from a decade of teaching elementary school. I was prepared to be a hard-ass, both Jeff and I were.
What I was not prepared for was how exhausting the work of setting and teaching those boundaries would be. I mean, I didn’t expect that we would never struggle. I harbored no illusions that my children would respond to my every correction with copious “mea culpas” and then immediately go forth and sin no more. BUT I WAS NOT EVEN THE SLIGHTEST BIT PREPARED FOR HOW HARD MY KID WOULD PUSH BACK. AND FOR HOW LONG. AND OVER AND OVER AGAIN WITH EVERY SINGLE THING. I did not realize what an endurance sport this would be. They don’t tell you about this ridiculousness in the parenting classes.
And to top it all of, I am SO MAD at my pre-kids self right now. And embarrassed.
See, back in those days when I would would see kids running around in the grocery store or being loud or interrupting their parents, I would naively think to myself, “Tsk, tsk, tsk. If their parents didn’t stand for that it wouldn’t happen.” I had NO IDEA that their parents were in fact probably not standing for it one little bit- but that it wouldn’t stop the kids from trying. Over and over. It never occurred to me HOW LONG window of time could be between the onset of the behavior and the final extinction of said behavior. And that while some kids learn with just a few repetitions, there are others who have to try again and again and again and again to the exact same result before they FINALLY get the picture that whatever they were trying to make a THING was NOT going to happen.
SHAME ON PRE-KIDS ME FOR THINKING I KNEW EVEN ANYTHING AT ALL ABOUT THE REALITIES OF PARENTING!
I mean, we’re making progress. We are. At almost five, we are seeing the fruits of our labors to some extent. There are times these days when Cam will respond almost immediately to us shutting something down because he has seen in the past that we do indeed mean what we say and that it is in his best interest to just go with it. But it doesn’t happen anywhere NEAR as often as it feels like we should have EARNED by now with all of our efforts- and also there are two of them now. On her own, she has a much more natural respect for boundaries and authority than he does. She’s loud and intense in the moment when something doesn’t go her way, but she gets the picture quickly by comparison. When they get together, however, they completely tune me out and get so wrapped up in each other that it’s a whole new ball game. A LOUD ball game. A really, REALLY loud ball game.
The fact is that I am mostly just sharing all of this in the interest of venting my own frustrations, and also because I think there’s a solid chance that someone else out there might be going through the same thing. I can’t be the only parent who is bone-weary from standing firm amid what at times feels like a CONSTANT and UNYIELDING onslaught of pushback.
This is me basically giving a salute of solidarity to the other parents out there in the trenches, holding the line. We are fighting the good fight. All the books, the experience, and the inch-by-inch progress I’ve seen adding up in our family is showing that forth. And don’t get me wrong, there are indeed times we need to give grace, times a hug works better than a frown, and times we just plain need to take a different route to avoid the conflict altogether because the CONSTANT fighting isn’t good for our family either. But in the end, the boundaries stay firm, the kids are better for it, and the parents drink #allthewine. It’s Monday, “And so it begins….”