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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