MOM MOM MOM MOM MOM MOM MOM MOM MOM?!?!?!?!?!?

One of my very favorite things about having two kids is that the second time around, I have so much more perspective on the low times. When Eli was two, I guess I knew intellectually that he wouldn’t always be awful, but in the moment, in the never ending moments of whining and “mommmmmmy hold me” and the just general terribleness of those days, I couldn’t really feel it. I can’t bear to look back but I’m pretty sure I wrote a lot of desperate raggedly unhappy blog posts about how much parenting was wearing me down.  And now I don’t write those posts because I know I can angst and rage and write write write or…I can wait two months. And then Katie will be back to  her sunny, magical, marvelous sunshiney self and we’ll move on to the next phase, and we’ll forget all about “HOLD ME HOLD ME HOLD ME” and the screeching and the whining and the tantrums over everything.

So much of Eli has followed this ebb and flow but he is also the extreme one, and he’s the one who will do things for so much longer than you’d think a rational human being would do these things, and so even though I know that some phases pass, I am also the parent of someone who has fought getting dressed EVERY SINGLE MORNING of his life since he was one and a half.  Katie is two and she dresses herself, and Eli still has to be yelled at and coerced and given points and shut in his room and reprimanded and timed and I am just…it wears me down. It wears me down how little progress we make and how long he can draw things out and how stubborn he is.

I very much feel like with Eli we go through ups and down, hills and valleys.  Things were at a VERY LOW POINT before he hit five, and then they improved, and now we seem to be in a dip again, which unfortunately has coincided with this unpleasant screaming phase of his sisters and its making me want to print out the Starbucks application again, honestly. This is one of those weeks you feel DAMN CERTAIN about never having any more children ever again, let me put it that way, in fact it is one of those weeks you don’t know why anyone has any children, ever.

One thing I realized a long time ago is that for me, children, and Eli in particular, are difficult on a basic, fundamental, sensory level.  I like silence, peace, calm, and stillness. I do not do well with noise, chaos, mess, and disorder. One of my BIGGEST PET PEEVES EVER is that ridiculous poem about the cobwebs and rocking babies. Seriously, don’t quote that shit at me. I feel VIOLENTLY AND URGENTLY unsetttled by a messy house. I cannot sit peacefully rocking a baby while ignoring dishes and vaccuming. It’s simply not how I’m wired, and you either get this or you don’t, but trust me, a violently and urgently unsettled Elizabeth is not a good parent, despite what you’ve decided with your little poem, so just don’t.

Anyway. All this other stuff, it passes, you know? You get through the teething and the bad sleeping and you look back on it and laugh, if not sort of grimly.

But then there’s the talking. Oh my god, the talking.

It took until last year for me to realize that the talking was starting to literally make me crazy, that for me all this talking is like a dirty floor or a messy art cupboard.  It literally makes me crazy, on a basic fundamental core processor sensory level, and it’s really unfortunate that this is how it is for me because the thing is?  Eli never ever ever ever stops talking.

When Eli was a toddler were those new parents who were sort of desperate to know what this kid had on his mind. People used to say “Oh, just wait, he’ll start and then you wish he would be quiet!” and I’d know it was probably true but couldn’t imagine it, and then he started to talk, and yes. I wish he would just be quiet.

I have no idea if all children talk this much (I don’t think so?) but essentially my child has talked non stop for four years, and it’s almost all directed at me, because I am with him all day long, and it’s almost always in the form of a question.  Sometimes I feel like I’m in a game show where you have to try to do three things at once, all at the same time, and I’m getting more and more flustered because at every moment of every day, I have to do whatever I want to get done while also having my attention diverted by someone saying “Mom? Mom? Mom? MOM? MOM??!!!!”, over and over again, and screaming a question at me that doesn’t go away until it gets answered, so my attention is always divided and that feeling? Of trying to do things while someone else is screaming a question at me over and over again? IT MAKES ME CRAZY. Like, literally, mentally unwell.

I haven’t had an uninterrupted conversation with my husband in four years. I can’t talk on the phone. I pay for groceries and balance the budget spreadsheet and cook dinner and go to the bathroom and talk to other adults and shop at Target all while someone fires questions at me, rapid fire, questions that don’t end until they are answered.  And it wears me down. It has worn me the heck down.

It’s never interesting conversation, either, is the thing. I would LOVE to hear about his day at school. I’d love to know what he did on his field trip, what his favorite color is, his favorite super hero, what he wants for dinner, if he likes his teacher, who his best friends are, any of those things, but he will not talk about himself. Instead I have to answer fourteen questions about why the library gives out two library cards and why one is smaller than the other and what will happen to the small one and can he put the small one in his wallet and what did I do with the large library card and why is printed in green ink and on and on and on.

By the end of the day, I feel…poked.  Aggressively and un-endingly poked, and I feel like I can smile through the first several hundred pokes.  I can explain them away, I can understand them, I can joke about them! I can patiently and earnestly deal with them, but after a thousand of them? I AM DONE. And at the end of every day, I don’t want to be talked to, I don’t want to be asked any more questions, I don’t even want to be touched, I want to be in a dark room by myself.

And these are people I love. I adore my son, but I just want him to STOP.

I thought I would ask, actually…does anyone have any ideas about the talking?

I have two strategies, both terrible. One is to hold up my finger and say “DO NOT INTERRUPT ME, YOU WILL GET YOUR TURN.” over and over again, increasing in loudness, which works…essentially not at all, and usually ends up with Eli in time out when he continues to argue with me and then throws a fit.  I can only assume that like “DO NOT LEAVE YOUR CLOTHES ON THE FLOOR FOR OTHER PEOPLE TO PICK UP” that if I repeat this seven million times, eventually enough time will pass that he will leave home and go to college, where he can leave his clothes all over the floor and continue to interrupt others with questions while they try to pay for groceries but then it will be some hapless freshmans problem.

The other strategy is to say “I am not answering any more questions about library cards, Eli”, which actually sort of works, but is useful only in very specific contexts.

I thought the talking had sort of ceased, a bit? We were not at Defcon Level 5 of Poking there, for a bit, but now it’s back, and it’s making me crazy, literally. I feel TALKED INTO A STATE OF RAGE, and then you add in the whining and the tantrums and the HOLD ME HOLD ME HOLD ME and the asking for food as soon as I come out the kitchen and sit down at the table and then you get Starbucks Application Time, is what I am saying.

I am sure this is normal, I am sure it will pass (although like I said it’s been four years) but is there anything to be done? Because you know what they say.

Summer is coming.

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41 Responses

  1. Did I ever tell you about my coworker who wears headphones and either listens to NPR or music every evening while making dinner? And, when her kids were smaller (they’re 8 and 6 now) she put a babygate up to keep them somewhere contained, and she just tuned them the hell OUT until she’d made dinner. I think maybe a well-timed tune-out break? Quiet time, basically, but for you. She’s the most zen person ever, and she still said the nonstop talking and pestering was making her crazy until she donned the headphones…

  2. Xander is a little over 2.5 and I feel like I could have written this with the talking, and the feeling poked and irritated and…God, I’d hoped it would stop.

  3. Oh, dear god, yes! YES! The talking, the questions, the whining, the waiting until I sit down to need something, the constant interruption while I’m talking, reading, driving, THINKING!!!

    I read somewhere that introverted parents need time away from their children to recover and refuel. Sometimes I put on the TV just to make them stop and be quiet and leave me the hell alone for an hour. It feels like such lazy bad parenting but neither is waiting until it builds and builds and then explode at them cause I just can’t take it any more questions about which matchbox racer I’m going for or what colour unicorn horns are.

  4. My sons both like to talk, too. Which has also made me realize how much I like SILENCE. However, sometimes I can get them to stop talking by turning on children’s audio books or podcasts. (And I can tune *that* noise out.) It’s a compromise.

  5. I like the headphones dinner idea. I use TV … I mean, I have Anna watch TV. Or I would not make it through the day.

  6. I have had limited/occasional luck with “Mommy’s ears are full.” It also sometimes works to say, “Now. I need to concentrate on something. I need you to be quiet, or it will take me much longer. I will tell you when you can talk again” (or I set a timer or something similar). It also sometimes works to say, “I will answer three more questions, and then I need a break from questions.” It also sometimes works to say, “I need a little quiet rest. I am going to go into my room for [explain or set timer or show on clock], and when I come out you can talk to me again.” I basically rotate through a long list of things that sometimes work, in order to patch together enough quiet. A problem we’re having now is that the older kids can stay up so much later. It’s talking from 5:45 a.m. until 9:30 p.m. now.

  7. (The TYPE of talking at least improves considerably. I can WAY better handle, “Mom. What’s the difference between Republican and Democrat again?” and “I hate when people say X” instead of “Why CAN’T I have a cookie? Why CAN I have one tomorrow? Why did you put butterscotch chips in them? Can my brother have one tomorrow? What TIME can I have one tomorrow? How many bites of lunch do I have to eat first?” etc.)

  8. I have no help with the talking, but I just wanted to tell you how much I agree with you about that poem and messy houses. When my house is messy, it affects everything. I cannot even breathe properly. I certainly cannot SIT DOWN. It’s too itchy.

    • I feel the same way. I thought I had postpartum depression after Sachin was born, but what I had was Inability to Clean Up Making Me Crazyitis. Once I could pick up stuff and clear it off, I was better. I’m not even that neat of a person, but I just cannot stand clutter. I can’t even deal with knick knacks (it would not surprise a psychologist in the least to see my MIL’s and mom’s houses FILLED with knick knacks). I hate that poem.

  9. I’m sorry, I’m no help at all, but I have to tell you that I occasionally look at my 16 year old daughter and tell her to stop talking to me. Sometimes I feel bad because I know I’m supposed to feel grateful that, at that age, she still wants to talk to me, but most of the time all I want is quiet for 5 minutes. The nice thing is, she knows this about me by now, so she doesn’t get offended 🙂

  10. Both my girls went through a phase of endless yammering in kindergarten. It was like their little mouths finally figured out how to talk all the annoying/boring crap that was bouncing around in their heads all these years. I have come to believe these kids go through phase after phase of annoying (with a little respite between stages) only to peak in annoyingness in high school to encourage us (evolutionarily) to boot them from the nest. If they were pleasant and helpful, there would be no hope for them to move out of their own and start their own families.

  11. YES, with the introverted parents and the going insane from constantly being poked. The only thing that saves me is that my kids are pretty good at playing with each other and I can sneak off to get some SILENCE. But today was one of those days where I had questions thrown at me nonstop all day long. She wouldn’t even stay in her room for quiet time during her brother’s nap and I am so incredibly mentally AND physically exhausted just from putting up with it.

    It’s nice to know it doesn’t make me a bad parent, though, to tell her there are times of day when she’s just not allowed to talk to me (aka, quiet time). It didn’t WORK today, but it’s the rule and I remind her of it often.

  12. Yes! Yes! Yes! Ian did this to me too! (He still talks A LOT, but much of it is telling me every little detail about whatever he’s interested in now, instead of so many questions.) I asked Ian’s psychologist what to do because I was LOSING MY MIND, and she said it was perfectly okay to say: “I will answer 3 more questions today, and then I’m done.” It hadn’t occurred to me that I could do that! I was afraid I would stifle his curiosity and love of learning if I did something like that! But I did it, and it worked! He, of course, didn’t fall right into line with the new procedure, so I would calmly say, “I’m sorry. You used up your questions today. I can answer that question tomorrow.” over and over and over.

    Also? EARMUFFS. Turn on my mp3 player, put the earbuds in my ears, put the earmuffs over the earbuds, and my head doesn’t feel like it’s going to explode!

    Now no ONE child does it, but with FIVE children all asking x-number of questions, telling me x-number of fascinating things…I still feel like I’m being pecked to death by relentless ducklings.

  13. Oh, I wish I could help, but I have no answers. I also have no kids, but just from reading this, I know I would be exactly the same way as you are! I could feel my blood pressure going up as I read. I hope you figure out something to give you a little peace!

  14. I know just what you mean. I just don’t want to be talked at constantly. Makes me insane too.

  15. I am so with you on this one. Ethan is exactly like this- he talks from the time he gets up to the time he goes to sleep. One time he lost his voice for 5 days. It was glorious.

  16. Oh man, I know what you’re talking about. For me, right now, it’s the 2 1/2 year old that wont.shut.up. (Constantly with the whyyy). With the 6yo, I used to tell him “I’m not talking about that anymore” and it would actually work. But the stubborn, he’s like your Eli. He’ll argue you into an early grave. I’m introverted too and it drives me slowly insane. The only solution i have is to have my husband take over while I recuperate for 10 minutes. And go to work. I was so grateful to go back to work today after a weekend full of WHYYY?

  17. The worst is when I’m making breakfast and my son says “mom, can I have some milk?” And as I’m getting the milk he says “and what about my vitamin?” And as I stop to get the vitamin I hear “can I have some fruit too?” And then he says ” and what about my sister’s vitamin?” And what a bout my milk and on and on and finally I say I only have two hands!
    Maybe you could say you only have two ears and they are both busy!

  18. I have been so focused on being afraid of the crying and the no sleep that I… forgot to be anxious about the talking. But I know what you mean – constant talking would (will?) put me right over the edge. RIGHT OVER. Quiet and calm and solitude are IMPORTANT. I clearly have nothing helpful to say, but man, I hope this phase passes QUICKLY.

  19. My boys are bigger (almost 10 and almost 12) and we are still there, with the relentless talking. I’m with Swistle: I will sometimes say that I am trying to think a thought, and that if I can’t, this errand is going to take way longer than it has to. That’s usually motivation enough for them to give me a few minutes of quiet. Also, I go into my room for quiet time each day…somewhere between 1/2 hour to an hour.

    I guess both these things would only work with older kids.

  20. I am never having children. This is what all of these comments instinctively make me say. No kids. I need silence. I get mad at the cat when she yowls at night. No kids ever.

    Thank you for listening.

  21. I once worked in a classroom with a student like this, and she had five question cards (laminated index cards that said “GOOD FOR ONE QUESTION”). She got to ask five before lunch and five after lunch. After the five, unless it was an absolute emergency, there were no more questions to the teacher. At all. If she needed to talk, she had “coping skills”: jumping on a trampoline, bubbles, etc. I don’t know if that would work with Eli, but the question cards thing really helped her narrow down her questions and incessant talking.

  22. Oh I love Amy’s idea! Give him Question cards, when they are gone they are gone until tomorrow! Although, you could use it to your benefit and if he gets dressed (or picks his room up etc) in 10min after being asked ONCE he can earn a few more question cards for the day!!

    My original idea was going to be telling you to give him some paper and a pencil and have him write his questions down (can he spell?). He can give you the paper before bed, and you will give him the written answers in the morning. But, I really like Amy’s idea best!

  23. No good advice here … my 4.5 year old is a chatterbox but my almost 2 year old has so few words and I keep worrying that he’ll never talk. Ha – I know it’s coming, he’s just taking his time. Anyway, just wanted to say that your last sentence made me laugh out loud, as I have been reading the Game of Thrones books and waiting for this next tv season. Like the tagline: Winter is Coming, I just read your last sentence in the same ominous voice in my head. SUMMER IS COMING.

  24. Yes, on the talking. I don’t want to discuss rapunzel and all the elements of the movie one more time. I have no clue why mother gothel did whatever. I do say, “I’m done talking about….” As we tend to get stuck and it can drive me insane.

  25. My response varies based on WHY the nagging questions/constant prodding.

    1. Genuine curiosity. I think you should answer these. It doesn’t sound like this is your son’s motive most of the time though (because then the questions would not be so constant).

    2. Anxiety about something/wanting reassurance. We went hiking and the cicadas were really loud, so my daughter kept asking what the noise was over and over. This was because she hadn’t heard it before and felt a little scared. Answering the exact same thing over and over works well, as does leading the child to talk about what they are worried about (“The cicadas’ noise is a little scary, isn’t it?”).

    3. Desire for attention. This is probably the most common reason. The question is merely an excuse to engage with you: the answer is unimportant (and your kid might not even listen to it fully). If I’m doing something that can be interrupted (like reading, or house chores), I’ve found it works best to cease all other activities, get down to my daughter’s level and give her my full attention (including eye contact). Usually I would give her a hug at the same time. Then I will engage with her closely and talk to her about whatever interest she’s expressing. Once she has my full attention, her need for it is satisfied and she will quickly move on to other things (whereas receiving grumpy distracted attention doesn’t actually fulfill her needs, so she just keeps right on doing it). This works really well the vast majority of the time (for me). You have to focus on the kid though, if you cheat and are distracted mentally it doesn’t work.

    4. Boredom. The kid doesn’t know what to do with themselves so is bothering you instead. I avoid this by keeping my daughter really busy with outside activities. Then when we are at home alone it’s a rare treat and she is happy to play by herself. Or you can ask the kid to help you with some task (like laundry or whatever), that you do together.

    5. Desire for control. This is the second most common reason. The questions aren’t really questions, they are a way to control you (by preventing you from doing things that aren’t focused on them). Obviously you can’t allow this. You can go cold turkey (by saying, “I am busy right now and can’t answer your questions”, and then completely ignoring all further questions: you only say no once, because otherwise they are still getting attention, even if it’s yelling). This will result in at least several epic meltdowns though until they get used to the new order. So I usually use the long-term training approach instead. When they ask for your attention, you calmly tell them, “I am busy right now: I will talk to you in X minutes/as soon as I finish this task”. If they ask you again, you just repeat it. Then you follow through (very important). As they get better at it, you lengthen the period of waiting. Eventually they are able to wait fairly well (most of the time anyway, toddlers at least are rather unreliable).

  26. For some years I worked with children in this age of your son. What really worked every time I tried it: a contest. Like: Who will stay quiet more than one hour? This person is really great and win the contest. You do not have to give a gift, just say this: do you want to win? Especially the boys LOVED it. I could do it outside, when they did not want to leave the playground: “I bet, I will be faster than you to be home!” And after this said, they just RUN home 🙂 When I have more time and more patience, I tell them a little story and they always wants to hear more of the story, so they have really fun to get dressed or go to bed or anything else, because they can´t wait to listen the next story or new part of the old story. It must not be a very good story. Just think what animal he likes most or something similar and talk about the animal, what it ist doing, what eating and and and.. Also I learned to give them from time to time very special times: do an little adventure with them, do something, we both do alone and we both have fun and this gives them something nice to remember and they relax more at home.

    I like it sooo much to read your posts!

  27. I often tell Claire, “I am having some quiet Mommy time. I can’t talk right now. We can do something together/talk in X minutes. But this is MY time right now to do something I like to do.”

    And, it surprises me that she GETS that. Or she at least ACTS like she does. For a few minutes anyway.

    (SUMMER IS COMING HEAVEN HELP US ALLLLLLL.)

  28. Yes! Always with the constant chatter and questions. Lately I have been peppered with science questions I am just not equipped to answer, “Why doesn’t the moon fall out of the sky? why on some days do we see the moon during the day? Why are owls awake at night? Are owls friends with bats? What do butterflies eat?” Aaaaahhhh. When I need a break (and a clean house, because OMG who can relax with dirty dishes everywhere!) that’s when I turn on the TV. He becomes completely engrossed in Busytown Mysteries and will then reenacted them after. Buys me much needed downtime.

  29. Ha ha! My husband uses comment cards for his COLLEGE students. There’s just this one guy would not stop with the question asking and my husband didn’t want to call him out, so he handed them out three index cards and that every time they spoke, they had to hand one in. Hilarious. But (apparently) effective.

  30. God, I love when I read posts about other people also having a hard time at this, because it’s so nice to have the reassurance that I’m not alone. I’m single with 2.5 year old twin boys and a 5-year-old, and I’m dying. My therapist told me I HAVE to budget in time for myself away from the kids which is breaking my bank (like, beans for dinner a few times a week) but I wonder if you don’t just need a break? Would that help? It helps me to have it to look forward to, and getting out of the RELENTLESS PARENTING DUTIES once a week for a couple hours (see above, re: single) has alleviated some of that poked feeling. I need that time without screaming, talking, “whyyy,” “what dat?” etc etc times 100000. It just…wears you down.

  31. Yep, I’ve actually yelled at Charlie to JUST SHUT UP! Something I swore I would never, ever do. Plus, of course, he’s not allowed to say, “shut up.”
    Re: NGS – I love the comment card idea. Hehe!! But I’m still glad I had my kid, every single day. Just not every single moment of every single day!

  32. I seriously thought it was just me that felt this way. I have one in school, and I still get worn down by the incessant chatter and questions. Sometimes I feel like I got the double whammy – not only am I an introvert but I was an only child. I adore my children and love my family. But I am thankful we stopped at 2. I don’t think I could handle another 5+ years of noise! noise! noise! I have found that refusing to engage is my sometimes my best coping method for an argumentative 8 year old. If I shut down, she will (eventually) give up.

  33. I very much feel the same way. I need silence sometimes, to the point where noise starts to feel like a physical thing in the room with me. The 3 year old doesn’t really get that. I’ll be honest, it’s one of the reasons I’m glad I get to work sometimes.
    I don’t have any suggestions–I’m taking note of the comments myself!–but just had to commiserate with you. Every time I think about it, I think of this clip from Family Guy: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cNkp4QF3we8.

  34. YES, on children being difficult for us on a sensory level, including the noise and the messiness. We try to keep a VERY neat house, but even regular playtime clutter makes me physically uncomfortable.

    I am very grateful that Felicity is usually pretty mellow/non-loud, but still I require a fair amount of quiet respite after spending long chunks of time with her. She’s not in the constant-questions stage — she’s chatty, but not irritatingly so (yet) — but it takes years off my life when she spends time with certain of her friends who are LOUD kids. One time she actually told me after we left one friend’s house that she didn’t like how loud it was there. I wanted to give her a high five.

    But anyway, this is to say that I can totally imagine the poked-at feeling you must have, and I hope sometime you can get away for a solo weekend just to have some quiet time by your own self.

  35. i’m scared for the future when mine has more than 2 to 3 word sentences.

    amy’s hella teachery question cards cracked me up. that kind of stuff *totally* works at school. i am curious if kids would buy it at home.

  36. I have no advice because I’m guessing the things that work on Kalena and Will wouldn’t work on Eli. I used to think when people mentioned the constant talking/question asking that I got it. I’d think, yeah, it sure is annoying. And then my nephew came to stay with us for a week and I realized I had NO IDEA how much some kids do this. It was NON STOP. The best luck I had getting him to stop asking me things was to answer with, “I don’t know, why do you think xyz happens?” (or whatever) to get him to answer his own question. But even then he was still talking at me. I thought I was going to die before the week was up.

    All this to say- I’m sorry lady. I can’t imagine having to deal with that every day.

  37. Can he write? Hang up some paper for him to write down all his questions. You can say you’ll answer 5 a day. At least it will take him a long time to write them.

    Give out 5 coupons to ask questions throughout the day.

    Draw/write a picture of the library and an x on it. “Talking about the library is finished. It’s time for.____. Be quick when you change subjects. If you think he can handle it then throw the piece of paper away.

    Designate 20 min for him to have quiet time, institute silence time daily that the whole house participates in.

    Let him ask Siri on your phone. 🙂

  38. Oh I am SO relieved to read that so many others struggle with this. When trying to help my husband understand why I am so frayed at the end of the day, I have likened the constant talking to Chinese water torture. Sometimes I find myself actually physically unable to open my mouth and form a response…which of course only invites repetition of the question/comment at increasing volumes. I have the added dynamic here of a very extroverted husband who needs to add his voice to the chorus every single waking moment he’s home.

    And I too find it incredibly difficult to let my house go to shit around me while I “savor the moment.” I’ve adjusted my own expectations as much as I am prepared to and that leaves me constantly frustrated by the speed with which my children – and husband – can undo my efforts to curb the chaos.

  39. I’m laughing about Natalie’s suggestion of giving him your phone and having him ask Siri! HA!

    I have this issue to. I am an introvert who honestly chose to be a massage therapist at least partly because I like to spend my time in quiet dark room, listening to soothing music and NOT TALKING.

    My two compete for my attention with their questions. When one gets in a questioning mood, the other starts up, just to get her fair share. DRIVES ME BATTY. I have to limit them to a certain number (mine changes base d on just how batty I am already. Sometimes they only get one more question because I’m close to snapping at them and then I set a timer for when they can ask another one. Usually this breaks them of the habit and they find something else to do. (I confess I often silence the timer at this point. If they’re forgotten about it, SO CAN I.)

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