One of my earliest memories is of me as a very small child. I don't know if my sister was even born yet but I'm guessing she either was brand new or about to arrive. The memory is of my mom walking into my play room, taking one look around the chaos that I'd created and telling me sternly to clean up. Upon hearing her words and surveying the mess, I looked up at the window, wishing I could fly out of it to escape the task before me. I've considered this memory many times, thinking about how that my initial reaction was "flight" and not "fight". I've analyzed if this was the beginning to my "escape my problems" issue or my depression problems. But until tonight, I'd never really looked at it from my poor Mom's point of view.
For me, there are two parts of parenting that are harder than anything else, two parts that I mull over constantly. The first is seeing my children in pain. I think that part of why this is such a huge issue for me is because a) who in their right mind enjoys seeing their kids hurt? and b) I've almost lost a child before and it was by far, the most painful, frustrating experience of my life and not being able to comfort my baby who was, by many means, dying inside, was torture... for both of us. The other part of parenting that I find most difficult, that I deal with more and more each day as my kids get older, is disciplining them. Today for example, I snapped. Totally lost it to the point that my phone sobbing induced my husband to sneak out of work a bit earlier.
I can not express how tired I am of cleaning up my kids' toys. I spend so much time cleaning up their toys that I'm unable to get to many of my other household chores.I recognize that this is mostly my fault. For starters, I enjoy spoiling my kids. Which is wrong, really, but it's hard not to want to make your kids smile. On the other side, I end up getting impatient with their lack of drive in cleaning up their toys that the result is me picking up super quickly. Today though, I decided that I wasn't picking up another toy. I wasn't going to clean their tornado-wreck looking messes in their rooms or the 50 plus books they'd pulled off the shelves. I realize that a sudden "foot down" after 4 years of cleaning up FOR them came as a shock to all of us but still, I put my foot down. If they wanted a movie night, they had to clean their rooms. Then, when the hour to start the movie passed and the rooms still weren't clean, it turned in to disciplining. Thankfully, after hours of arguing and crying (on every one's part) Daddy came home and backed me up. But the crying and arguing continued and the rooms are still a mess. This kind of day wears me out quicker than hours of outdoor, manual labor in the middle of summer does.
When I was thinking about the kids' cleaning their rooms and how overwhelming the task of picking up their toys must feel to them, I thought about my Mom on that day long ago. I'm sure that with me (as I STILL have a hard time keeping my own room clean) she had her work cut out for her. I'm sure that she'd worked a long hard day at work and coming home and spending time cooking dinner, finding me in a destroyed disaster, she felt overwhelmed herself. She probably felt similar to me. And was tired of picking up my toys FOR me. Now, I feel bad. Now, that memory shifts for me and I see it differently. I find myself wondering where my Mom was emotionally, instead of my own weird "Dear God, make me a bird so I can fly far, far away" Forest Gump moment. I find myself in her shoes. And knowing exactly how she must have felt. It's not a great feeling.
This thinking has spurred me to want to change this painful process. I am in NO way judging my Mom for her methods of parenting. In fact, I think she was, and is, a great Mom. I know that without her, my life wouldn't have been as great as it was. I also know that the mistakes I ended up making are not her fault. My decisions in life where just that. My choices. But I don't feel like being the tired, frustrated Mom any more. I know that a lot of the chaotic dynamic between the kids and I, at this stage in our lives, is my own fault. I have to come up with another way to deal with this problem, this meltdown causing "CLEAN YOUR ROOM OR I THROW ALL YOUR TOYS AWAY" problem. I understand that my kids are still young but I honestly feel that if I don't nip this in the bud now, we will all end up paying for it.
To my Mom, I'd like to say, I'm sorry. Sorry for not keeping my room clean (for 27 years). Sorry for not understanding what you were going through as a mother and sorry for not trying. Thank you for not giving up on me and thank you for not settling with my messy behavior.
If any one has any suggestions on how to deal with the toy, crying, cleanup, tantrum thing... Please, be my appreciated guest and comment with your tips, advice or sympathy.