Wasn’t.

We prepared for a big storm. And as it rolled up the coast, I was pretty sure we were getting it. It was windy and rainy and the excitement was palpable as I watched all the news coverage and tracked the path online. I went to bed with a flashlight, fully expecting to be taking The Who into my bed when the power went out and he woke up to a dark room with no noise machine.

But, nothing happened. I slept. He slept. The small desk fan whirred by my bed all night with only a couple of minor interruptions, and in the morning, while it was still windy, it had pretty much stopped raining and we didn’t even see a tree down in our neighborhood. (I did, however, see lots of damage online via my northern friends’ photos; I don’t know if it’s a testament to our location under the storm’s path or the sturdiness of our trees’ roots.)

Anyway. That was it. Our cable was out for a few hours, but with iTunes on the laptop, we barely had a bump in our typical Sunday lazing-around-watching-Fireman-Sam routine. By midday, we spilled out the big pots of water we had filled in preparation and by 3, I started thinking about going out. (I didn’t because I knew there was damage in surrounding towns and because I developed a migraine. Didn’t seem worth it.)

The Who barely noticed The Big Storm because, frankly, in the mind of a 2-year-old, I’d guess that thunder and lightening rate far higher than lots of wind and rain. This probably seemed like small potatoes to him. So, business as usual here at the homestead. Tomorrow, it’s back to work for Mommy while The Who and I revel in the beautiful weather that always seems to come on the tail end of a storm.

We hope (although we are sure it’s sadly not the case) that all of our friends and family fared as well as we did.

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Irene.

I am, frankly, shocked at what good spirits I am in right now. Last night, at midnight, my college pal and I cancelled today’s long-planned day-trip to NYC (which happens to be exactly in the middle of our two cities) because of that fickle b*tch, Irene. Although I was really excited for this trip (having created a whole map of fun things for us to do, including the M&M World store and the Central Park Zoo), I was already a little stressed out about having a non-napped toddler in the bustly city on a hot and humid day after three hours of travel and three days of solo parenting. And then, when the news people started getting all alarmist last night about evacuating New York, I started to imagine the horror show of trying to take that same non-napped toddler, after a whole day of tooling around the city, into Penn Station at rush hour on the Friday before a major hurricane and then on a probably overcrowded train, and then driving home an hour (under the best conditions — probably much more) after that.

And then I panicked. And I texted and then called my friend, getting her up out of bed, and spewing all my anxiety onto her until the line where my anxiety ended and hers began became blurry and we finally decided to bag it and reschedule for a few weeks from now. Which was sad, but as it turns out, thank god because there is no way I’d be happier in Manhattan right now than home on my couch in the air conditioning while my child naps. (My getting to sleep at 1am and his inexplicable waking at 5am didn’t help matters, either.)

So, here we are. Not evacuated or evacuating. Not in a crushing crowd (although we were at Target earlier, where I overheard a woman seethe, “Get me out of this godforsaken store!”) and feeling not at all anxious, miserable, or grouchy, which is a welcome change from my usual mood. We’re not planning to go much of anywhere for the next while, either (aside from a much-anticipated birthday party tomorrow), so Irene — bring it.

24/7.

Things I have learned during these days of 24/7 solo parenting (while m* is away for work):

  1. Parenting is way easier and more enjoyable when I have had enough sleep.
  2. Being hot and sweaty really compromises my ability to be patient.
  3. It’s harder for me to stay “hands-off” on the potty training when the above two things are going on.
  4. I actually don’t hate imaginative play; I just hate doing it when I need to run around in the house.
  5. I will need to work hard at continuing to interact, play, and be present when I don’t have to (like when he is an older kid on the playground, as opposed to now when I still can’t take my eyes off of him for a second.)
  6. Maintaining an early nap and bedtime is well worth the morning plans cut short.
  7. Deleting the Facebook app from my phone and changing email settings to not notify me every time one comes in has freed up a lot of time and has made me feel less resentful of The Who’s demand for my attwntion..
  8. I can’t wait for day care to start next week.

 

Awesome.

The amount of poop is awesome. And please don’t misunderstand: although I am a child of the 80’s, I actually mean “extremely impressive” as opposed to wicked great.

This morning, after I finished taking care of some business of my own, I hear, “Mama, I did something yucky while you were on the potty.” Well, hm. Whatever could that be?

I’ve become a professional “swisher” and think that if I had a second child, I could easily handle cloth diapers — the old school ones, even — because I, apparently, (I never knew) can get down there and swish those little undies in a bowl full of poopy water and not even dry heave. Not a gag, even. That’s almost more awesome than the amount of poop was. Friends tell me they just abandon the messy underwear, but I can’t. These were the first ones I bought for him, in preparation for training, and they have firetrucks on them. Firetrucks, you guys.

Later, he gave me the boy-who-cried-wolf “my belly hurts; I have to go potty!” and so I ushered him in there. He sat. He looked down at his little business and then back up at me and said, “sometimes it takes a little while.” And then he sighed. And then he got down, nothing doing. Within minutes, though, he was teetering around with that tell-tale bowlegged walk and I found myself on my knees again, swishing my hands in a toilet full of foulness.

I have since washed the first layer of skin off my hands. We have little, laid-out, drying underwear all over the house, and the smell of lysol is fresh and pungent in the bathroom. At least he seems to be pee-trained. Yes, at least there’s that.

Like it.

Oh, this is going to sound perilously depressive, but here we go anyway.

Last night, m* intimated that perhaps I am not happy being a mother. Or maybe she just suggested that she thought she was catching that vibe from me. I think she couched it in believing that I was very maternal before we had a kid, but now maybe I was feeling like it wasn’t for me. Although I took it terribly personally at the time (I know you are saying I am a horrible parent and that I hate doing it) I actually know that she didn’t mean it the way I took it. It was an innocent remark on how I’ve been feeling and behaving lately.

So, this morning, as I happily slept in until 10am, sat on the couch watching as m* played energetically with The Who, and planned what I would be doing for the evening, out by myself, I got to wondering. Am I happy being a mother? Is this the life I wanted? Is it everything I thought it would be? (The answer to that last one is most assuredly no because I am of the firm belief that you can never know what it is going to be like to raise a child before you do it.) But really, do I like it?

I remember when The Who was a little smaller, I was incredibly sleep-deprived, and it took way more physical energy to parent him (hauling the bucket car seat, bringing along lots of formula, washing bottles all the time, changing multiple blowout diapers, etc.) I used to wake up with him in the morning and start counting down the hours until nap. And when he started stirring from his nap, I’d immediately do the calculations on how long it was ’til bedtime. I don’t think I got much joy at all out of our time together, always waiting for my time alone. But then, miraculously and seemingly suddenly, that changed. I stopped thinking about his awake hours as Mama-jail and sometimes, nap time and bedtime actually snuck up on me. What? It’s 7:30 already? But we’re just getting started!

Today? Not so much. He is napping now and I dread his waking. I know that m* will be out running errands this afternoon and the care and entertainment will be solely up to me — at least until I get to go out on my own. 3 hours, 48 minutes. Not that I’m counting…

What am I doing here? Was m* right? (She usually is; she perceives things about me way before I do most of the time.) Do I hate being a parent? Am I not really maternal? I certainly don’t get joy out of playing with him the way she does. I love showing him new things. I love teaching him things. I love facilitating enriching experiences, but I don’t love playing. I like caretaking. Ninety-nine percent of the time, I don’t mind the menial labor tasks of parenting: bathing, dressing, combing hair. Diaper changes, making lunch, buckling in and out of the car seat. I like keeping him clean, safe, and fed. But that’s not all there is to it. I know that I would miss him insanely if he wasn’t around or if I took off on my own. I know that I’d long for a kid my whole life if I never had one. But do actually like it? Good question.

New Deal.

Operation “Leave the Kid the Eff Alone” is underway.

After several days of battles and frustration and the eventual realization that my control freakiness was getting in the way of everything, i took a good long look inward and decided to just let go of the reins. Enough with the “you must sit on the potty” so many times in a day. Even if I know he has to pee (which, c’mon, it’s hard to miss. He actually learned today that crossing your legs will hold the pee in longer), I am not forcing it. I told him in the morning, on the advice of a friend, that I would help him remember to sit and try, but that it would be his job to listen to his body and go pee when he had to.

So, cut to this morning. We’re standing at the stove together, cooking breakfast and he, on his step stool, is a wriggly, fidgety mess. “Do you have to pee?” I ask. “Nope,” he says. (When did he master the variations of no?) Fidget. Wriggle. Fidgetywriggle. “If you have to pee, remember, you can go right into the potty right there.” He looks toward the potty. Looks at me. “Turn the bacon, Mama,” he says, and then a second later, a panicked look down and then up at me. I whisk him off the step stool and into the bathroom, where he does the rest of his business, but not before soaking his jammies, socks, and the floor. Ah, well, I thought. Accident number one.

Y’know what, though? There hasn’t been another one and he actually even asked to go to the potty twice during lunch at Panera. (Nothing doing downstairs, but A+ for effort!) Then, when we got home, he willingly sat and peed before nap.

I suppose there’s something to be said for this toddler autonomy thing. I’ll keep you posted.

I suck.

I don’t want to hear platitudes like “this is hard for everyone,” or “don’t be so hard on yourself.” There has to be more productive feedback than that. Do you have some?

I was away for two weeks. That was a really long time. And although I was with my parents and with my brother’s family and with M* for parts of all of it, it was still a long time. A lot of transitions for me and a lot of transitions for The Who, which made neither of us at our best. By the end of it, his string of “why” questions was so long and continuous that it was actually laughable. Except it was also maddening. So I was laughing, but in this mad way. In this “I am going to have to punch him in the head if he doesn’t shut the fuck up” way, which is not really laughable at all.

**Let me interject here that I have never done anything worse than grabbing his arm a little tighter than is probably kosher. I have never snapped his arms off and stuffed them in his mouth, as I have fantasized doing. And I have never drop-kicked him into his room as I have also fantasized doing. And I never will. But I am sure I will continue to fantasize about it.

Yesterday — the day after we got home from 14 days away — I started potty-training him. I actually think he’s ready. I think he knows how to hold it and can certainly communicate and given that we have all this time together, it seemed ideal.

I was wrong. I mean, he is ready. And it’s working. We actually went on an outing today to Target and he made it all the way there and back with no peeing. So, I do think the time is right. But coming home from 14 days away, already sick of his voice and already wishing my name wasn’t “Mama” was not the ideal time to hole myself up with him in the house, unable to walk away from him for five minutes, unable to go out and go grocery shopping, unable to take a shower, unable (disallowed, really. The kid’s a little dictator) to wear anything but jammies.

Yesterday, the house dissolved further and further into disarray. Toys everywhere. Every letter from the foam alphabet mat plucked from it’s spot and tossed into a pile (twice.) Dishes in the sink. Delivery containers on the counter. Little piles of peed-on jammies waiting to go into the wash. The house was dark and confining while the sun I could see from the windows was shining, brilliant and inviting. The Who napped for 3.5 hours yesterday. I slept for 1.5 of them with him in my bed. We must have both needed it, but when we woke up, it was almost 5pm. I felt horrible. I was hungry and we had no food. I felt trapped and groggy and we were still hours away from M*’s arrival home from work, with only the promise of a late bedtime for The Who, very little time for myself, and another day of the same shit to come.

Today has only been worse. The house is growing more and more disheveled as each day passes and I have absolutely no impetus to clean it up. I did finally insist that I was taking a shower and I just figured that if he peed, he peed. Whatever. When I finally got us both together and clean and dressed, I left the chaos at home behind the locked door and went to Target. Our big outing for the day — to buy more underwear.

We actually had a ball at Target. He walked with me and was mostly cooperative, but he got hungry and cranky as we were checking out. My fault for bringing him out at naptime, but I couldn’t get it together earlier and I needed to see the sun and feel the air and talk to other people. 14 days of beach and family and then stuck in a dark quiet house is not a recipe for success for me.

After lunch and on our way to leave, I gave him the option of the elevator or the escalator to get upstairs and he chose the escalator (humming the “excavator” song we know as we rode up. How charming is that?) At the top, he held my hand and we walked toward the door, but when we passed the elevator, he told me he wanted to ride that. I should have just done it. Ugh. I really should have. But I was worried that he didn’t have long before needing to pee again and I knew he was tired and that I needed to get him home to nap and I said no. And once I said no, even though I re-thought it, I figured I couldn’t go back on it. But he rebelled. Loud and hard, dropping to his knees in the middle of the entrance to Target and we became that mom and kid, battling it out.  took a few steps from him, heading toward the door. He called my bluff. I demanded that he “come here” but he didn’t, so I walked to him, took his hand, and led him firmly into the parking lot, where he proceeded to scream louder and insist that he wanted to walk out the doors himself. So I let him go back in and come back out himself, which he did. Then he whined all the way to the car. Then he remembered how sad he was about the elevator and he amped up again. And this is when I started to morph into someone I don’t even know. I felt like I was going to explode out of my skin. I felt like I had no tools in my toolbox for this situation. I had to get in the car with this banshee and drive us home, but I just wanted to get on a bus alone and go somewhere else. So I told him it was ok to be sad and to cry, but it was not ok to whine and scream at me. He took it down a notch.

Approaching home, I told him it would be naptime when we got there. He whined that he wanted to “play for a couple of minutes,” whined being the key term. Each whiny word was another five minutes off my life. At home, he whined about wanting his red airplane, which I knew was upstairs. He whined at me not to pick up his blocks as I picked them up. I was sweating. I had had it. I felt like I was going to burst into flames if he kept whining. “Go upstairs,” I said, still calmly, “and see if your red airplane is up there near your crib.” So, he went. Whining the whole way. Then he stood up there, whining. I finished putting the blocks away and then I completely lost my shit. “STOP WHINING!” I yelled, in a voice that rumbled and tore up my throat. I think I even peed a little from the force of my voice. Honest to god. He cried harder. I was scaring him, I’m sure. I was scaring myself. I stomped, literally, to the bottom of the steps and then yelled again, “COME HERE,” as I reached the top. He, still crying (harder now) came toward me and as he did, bowed out his knees and cried, “I’m pooping!” as a whole bladderful of urine leaked down his legs. I immediately softened and pulled him into a hug.

“It’s ok, bud. It’s just pee. It’s ok.” He buried his face in my neck. I was shaking and sweating and I started to think about changing him, but realized there was no underwear upstairs and the thought of having to go back down put me over the edge. “I need a minute by myself,” I said and went into my room, closed the door, turned the fan on high (hoping to drown out his voice) and sucked back a sob. In the hall, he cried, “I can’t find my mama,” and so I went back out. Told him again it was ok. Took him down to his room to put on a diaper (for nap) and new shorts, but he insisted, of course, on jammies. I tried to tell him “clothes for daytime; jammies for night” (why was I still battling him?) but he was having no part of it and I soon relented. Fine. FINE. FINEFINEFINE. Jammies. FINE. But he continued to whine and cry as I was putting them on. “You need to stop crying. I will put these on, but please, stop crying.”

“It’s too hard,” he said, wiping his eyes. “I can’t get better.”

Jesus. I am such an asshole. He is two goddamn years old.

Once he was in his jammies, I pulled him into my lap and hugged him. “I’m sorry I yelled, bud,” I told him and he whispered back, “ok.” I said, “I got very angry when you were whining, but I should not have yelled.” Then he nuzzled into my neck and I said, “I don’t like it when I yell at you.” And he said, very quietly, “I don’t like it too.”

We sat like that for five more minutes while I tried to keep my crying quiet and unnoticeable and then I put him in the crib. I sang him a song. I covered him up, told him I loved him, turned on his nightlight, came downstairs, and sobbed for ten minutes.

I don’t want to lose my shit like that. I don’t want to yell at him and I don’t want to make him stop feeling things when he’s feeling them just because it’s hard for me to tolerate it. But I also don’t know what the hell to do. I don’t know how to manage myself in those situations. I honest to god don’t know.