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May 08

This is really hard sometimes

I had a hard day yesterday.  Not cripplingly hard, but just harried and rushed.  I’m not used to being on the go all the time, I’m usually at home during the day.  And while it shouldn’t make a huge difference, the fact that I was out and about all day, running errands and going to appointments and picking kids up here and dropping them off there meant that nothing got done around the house all day.

I got home just after six, with three hungry kids, stacks of homework to be done, husband stuck at work, again, and dinner still to be made.  I made dinner quick, got Jessie thru most of her homework, and got Sam settled down.  Read a chapter of Harry Potter, then had to start helping Jessie with a major spelling list project that was due today.  Poor Julie needed to go to bed, she was exhausted with no nap, and I just.could.not.get.to.her.  Couldn’t do it.  I had to read to Sam, because he was so hopeful and sweet, asking if we had time tonight to read.  And Jessie had to get the project done, and it wasn’t her fault it was the last minute.  So Julie puttered around, playing with her dollhouse, thinking about eating her dinner (not doing it, you understand, just considering it), and I frantically tried to fit fifteen things that I had to do into time I didn’t have.

The house was in shambles, dishes needed to be put in the dishwasher, laundry had to be folded, Jessie’s feet were filthy after a day in sandals, , there was no time for a shower because she didn’t have time to finish her homework and get to bed at a reasonable hours as it was, and I felt like a miserable failure most of the night.  There wasn’t any way to get it all done, and I needed to be cloned.  I needed four of me.  One to help Jessie with her homework, because she is only ten years old, and get easily distracted and procrastinates if I just leave her alone.  One to take care of Sam, because all he wanted was Harry Potter and some snuggles before bed.   One to take care of Julianna, because she wanted a story and should have gone to bed about an hour and a half before I was able to get her there.  And one to clean the damn house – because the clutter and mess just added to my stress level and general crappy atmosphere that was here last night.

My original point in this post is that all the stuff I’ve written about isn’t even what’s hard about parenting.  Because that’s just the cost of doing business.  If you have kids, especially more than one, you’re going to be stretched too thin, have too much to do and not enough time to get it all in.  Things are going to get missed, toddlers are not going to get their naps and end up going to bed late.  Six year olds are going to have to put themselves to bed, because taking time to read Harry Potter sometimes is all the time you can spare for one on one with him.  Homework is going to be left to the last minute, and there’s going to be yelling and crying and frustration on everyone’s part before it’s done.

And none of that is what’s hard.  What’s hard is trying to figure out what you’re doing – are you being too strict, too soft?  Coddling too much, assigning too much responsibility before it’s appropriate?  Nobody knows, and the answers are different all the time.  As parents, we have to prepare these kids to go out into the world without us.  We have to teach coping skills, like being able to be terrified of going to street hockey and still going, because you committed to it and you can’t just back out when it’s scary.  You have to be able to know that you have to work harder to learn something when it’s tough, and not just curl up in a ball and sob because you’re terrified that you’re going to fail the math MCAS next week.  And last night, because I was so stressed, because it was such a crappy night, it was painfully clear that I have no idea what I’m doing most of the time as a parent.  I may be screwing up all the time, and all I can do is just keep muddling thru, hoping that I’m doing the right thing for these three kids that I love so much.  Hoping that I’m striking the right balance between respecting their needs and fears and weaknesses, while constantly pushing them to improve, to be brave, to try harder.  Teaching them to love who they are, and not judge themselves by the fourth grade standards of what “popular” looks like.

Some days are just better than others.  But parenting is so much harder than I thought it would be sometimes.

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