Thursday, June 13, 2013

Busy Bud

[I started to include this in Graves's monthly letter (that I'm going to finish tomorrow). But then I didn't really want to. Not because it's all that terrible. But because it's a lot. And because it's really as much about me as it is about him.]

I had a moment yesterday. A bad moment. Peyton's going out of town this month and it falls on a weekend when Mickey and Minnie are going to Nashville. Both trips have been planned for awhile, but I just realized they would overlap by several days. I know it will be fine, but loneliness is so hard and I've been having a bit of anxiety about having the strongest parts of my support system gone at the same time. I know there are tons of people I could call and get together with, and I probably will, but you know that requires more effort when I'm already tired and just want to be lazy and stay in gym shorts and try to accomplish what I need to for the children and around the house. With Minnie and Mickey (and obviously with Peyton) it's just sort of....effortless. Or it takes less effort, we'll say that. A lot less. Peyton and I talked back and forth about packing us all up and all going to the beach for his convention. But he'll be gone so much and honestly, the beach was more difficult than I anticipated last year with three helpers (Mickey, Minnie, and Cookie) and I know being stuck in a hotel room with maybe a few hours on the beach each day just wasn't worth it to me. I thought about tagging along on the Nashville trip....for about five seconds. I just want Mickey and Minnie and Cookie to have a fun relaxing time together. She'll be home in August and we're planning a trip to Memphis possibly to go to the zoo and that'll obviously be intentionally kid friendly.

But here's where my bad moment came in. I thought about how both these trips would be easy options if it were still just Annie. And right after that fleeting thought, the tears came. Not because I prefer her, or because I resent Graves, or any of that. I did feel like it was kind of an ugly thought to think of such a precious boy, but what upset me more than anything was what it made me think about myself. I just thought "Why can't I handle a 'real' (typical, active, busy) toddler?" "Why makes me such a piss poor mom that I can't get my shit together and parent this kid (who I know is not off the charts awful behavior wise- this NORMAL kid) in a way so that I don't feel like taking a four day trip with limited help or where we might be in a lot of public situations is just unthinkable?"

I struggled with Annie (alot!) at two, so I know it's partly just the age. In some ways, they are very different, though. She was downright mean at times. Graves is rarely ever mean. Often disobedient, and occasionally defiant, but rarely ever malicious. He's just active. She did things at that age honestly out of seeking attention or being rebellious or not getting her way or whatever. He does them (mostly) because he still doesn't have much self-control (I realize most two year old don't). And in our own house, it's (mostly) okay, although it is really draining. He smeared the contents of his diaper all over his crib this morning and he loves to climb on the dining room table (one of the few pieces of furniture I- for his safety- do not allow him to climb on). Just this week he's also figured out how to hoist himself over the baby gate (which, our bedrooms and the kitchen are not childproofed enough for him). Then today he started trying to scale the bookcases. They're really heavy and sturdy and since they're basically hollow except for the shelves (as opposed to say a dresser), Peyton really thought even if something were to happen it wouldn't really hurt the kids. And Peyton made the point probably a year ago when we were babyproofing that we really didn't have kids who were climbers. Um, yeah. For my peace of mind, those things have got to get tethered immediately. Literally, he breaks/tears up things left and right. And it's not like he doesn't get disciplined for this stuff. He knows if he even opens a cabinet in the buffet, he gets in trouble. It's just a phase where it doesn't much matter to him because he doesn't have much self control. That's why I didn't put the Christmas tree in the den this year. Peyton was convinced he'd pull the thing down entirely. I just figured he'd break every last thing. And I was disciplining him enough for things that I really cared about.

Anyway, at home it's frustrating but it's manageable. I'm able to have some perspective. I can just say this is normal and I've just got to be consistent with discipline but also have realistic expectations of him. I've been reading No More Perfect Moms and it talks about making sure our expectations are realistic. I think to me, I just have a fear that I won't set the bar high enough. But then, I need to realize that not only are my kids imperfect people. They are very immature people. Because they are two and four. I shouldn't expect anything else, really. And at home, mostly I don't. I think we have a nice routine going. The same goes for my parents'. The same goes for church. But we're at a difficult patch when I'm alone by myself at a store or somewhere not inherently kid friendly like the park. This was the case when Graves was a newborn and AP was two. I was actually talking about it to my moms' group last night. I felt so self conscious and like if they both started crying someone would say to me "What were you thinking? Did you really think you could handle TWO of them?" or at least think that to themselves.  I was always convinced people were thinking it. Chip on my shoulder, much?

I had gotten to a point where I was very comfortable taking Graves and Annie to restaurants, stores, ect. when I needed to by myself. I've never been one to really "shop" with them- going to the mall or legit stores with the huge stroller. Number one the big stroller just stresses me out and we don't use it really except for actual walks and number two I think I tend to overblow the "niceness" of these stores in my mind. It may be the one time I took AP in one of them by myself (in my arms) and a man working there said something to me like "you got that under control?" (Um yeah, I'm holding her and she's not bothering a thing.) I don't know why that bothered me so much. Anyway, we would go to Target, though, and the grocery store and Hobby Lobby. Places with carts. For some reason, those felt safe to me. So we had it down. And then GRAVES turned two (or got close to two). Typing all that out and thinking about the conversation about Annie at two makes me feel better. Like this *is* normal and won't last forever. But I do feel my shoulders get tense when we enter Target and most especially when I had to wait at the cellphone place for forty minutes with both of them.

Another thing is, and I try not to make too much of the gender thing, but there's an element of him just being a boy- a busy tough boy who is able to PUSH my dining room table several feet if he braces his back against the couch. A busy tough boy who HURTS when he tickles you, never out of meanness, just out of not being able to keep his affection inside. A busy tough boy who goes down the slide faster and swings higher than his sister who is two years older. And a lot of that is things I love about him. He's got a sweet sensitive side too, that I can't get enough of, but I love seeing him act like the quintessential little boy.

Here's the thing: I get it. I get that that's what he is- the quintessential little boy. He still doesn't talk much? Lots of little boys don't. He plays hard and rough? Most little boys do. He goes ninety to nothing until he crashes? He's not alone amongst his peers. But he is alone amongst my experience (excepting Peyton). And I can't apologize for that. ( I can, and do, thank God for giving me this new experience. Because it has grown/is growing me a lot.) Annie talked right on time and she expressed her wants and needs pretty articulately. She plays with dolls and blocks- "girl and boy" toys although we never label them as such- but she plays with them the same. She's very meticulous, very orderly. (And very gracious, to build Bud towers for no other purpose than for him to knock down.) And she takes a sweet forever to fall asleep at night and doesn't nap. This is where Graves and Peyton's personalities are lovely. They go and go and go....and stop. Annie doesn't always know how to stop and sometimes it takes me hours to help her figure out how to stop).

[Sidenote: when I compare Graves's personality to Peyton's and joke about Peyton's ADHD, I have no idea if that will be a part of Graves's story or not. I'd be lying if I said it wasn't a small concern from the time I learned he was a boy because I've watched Peyton struggle with it, to varying extents, our whole relationship. And more significantly, I've heard stories about a little boy who had a really, really hard time with that. I'd be lying if, when Peyton's parents commented on Graves's busyness, I didn't in a sort of awkward manner flounder around trying to ask a question in a way that was as respectful of my in laws and my husband (their baby) as possible until his Dad smiled and said gently: "You mean is he like Peyton was when he was two? No. Not like that." I told someone once that the funny/ironic/amusing thing about the Graves and Peyton dynamic that I love to comment on is not that Graves behaves like a thirty year old man with an attention deficit HYPERACTIVITY disorder, but that Peyton often acts like Graves, who by all accounts is a normal TWO YEAR OLD. Anyway, all that to say, I don't think Graves is a freak show, or that he has ADHD, or that he's unreasonably wild. But I do think he's wild. Because all I can compare him to is what I know. And what I know is my daughter- who acts nothing like this. What I know is my own- and my sister's childhood- we acted nothing like this. What I know is my experience with working at Mother's Day Out with a mix of little boys and girls- many of whom acted nothing like this. (And to be even more "fair", I don't really think Graves is as wild in the nursery when he's around fresh faces and different toys. Like Peyton, he kind of gets crazy when he gets bored. This is why our ninety five degree backyard is our friend).]

In one way it's nice to be validated that he's a really normal, non-awful kid. I mean it's really nice. PLEASE keep telling me this is normal.  In another way, I get self-conscious. This is my big struggle. NOBODY means this, but I think "Do they think I just can't handle a normal active toddler and that I have to call him 'wild' and 'busy' and that's my coping mechanism for dealing with it? And maybe there's some truth to this. I linked to a post awhile back that I loved where a mom of little boys said she was going to stop apologizing for her little boys being LITTLE BOYS. I guess in some way, even when I don't apologize or try to soften his behavior with "he's tired", "he's hungry", ect. I do something similar by laughing and blushing and saying "he's just so wild". Just like I've said I think our culture might overuse the term "strong willed", I think we might overuse "wild" when talking about young boys. Because most of them are...WILD. But it also just feels good to me to be honest about it. And when he's different from what I've always known, to have words for it. To me, "busy" and "active" aren't negative at all and I don't even really think "wild" has to be. As long as I'm not trying to stifle his spirit, I think it's okay to try to find words to describe it. My best friend called the other day and I was apologizing for how loud Graves was being and how I was constantly having to pull him out of things and redirect. And then I remembered that this was the same friend who had consoled me about Graves falling in the lake partially by saying "Aren't you glad he's so curious and wants to explore and take adventures?" Again, my heart comes back to man I married. Sure I'm glad. But it's SO different from me. So it's hard.

But it's beautiful and it's making my life better.

He makes my life better.

Every day.


Courtney said...

This is wonderfully written and from the heart. You made so many valid points. I don't have children but spend lots of time with my niece and nephew. My nephew reminds me a lot of Graves. He is active and you always have to be on top of him. When I take him to things I sometimes envy the moms that just sit there and read a book while their little boys play sweetly nearby. However, I learned that I love Logan not matter what. I understand not wanting to take two little ones. I know this is not an option for you but for me as the aunt, I only take one at a time. Mananging things like the beach are hard and do think you would truly enjoy yourself. I am sure you will find some fun things to do with the kids while Payton is gone and if nothing else I am sure you can come up with some cool things to do at home. Once Payton is home I am sure he will give you some downtime. Being a mom is hard work, I truly admire women like yourself.

Mary Louis Quinn said...

Just because something may be the norm (in this case, fairly typical toddler behavior), it doesn't make it *easy.* That age (to me) is so, so hard. Maybe AP was just calmer than most?? Regardless, it can be so challenging learning new personality traits, mannerisms, etc and learning how to discipline completely differently than you did the first time around.

I have the children by myself a good bit, but I still dread when John has to leave town or plans to play golf all day, for example, and I know I will have no help. So I think your feelings are normal. It's hard.

Melanie said...

I wish we were closer and Colin and Graves could play together! Everyone comments on how busy/active Colin is! I have nothing to compare it too, but I think it is normal! I also read that blog post about apologizing for your boy and totally agree. We are raising Colin in a way hopefully that doesn't stifle his sense of adventure, but also teaches him gentleness and taking deep breaths. :) I think you're a great mom to your little girl and boy!

Melanie said...

I wish we were closer and Colin and Graves could play together! Everyone comments on how busy/active Colin is! I have nothing to compare it too, but I think it is normal! I also read that blog post about apologizing for your boy and totally agree. We are raising Colin in a way hopefully that doesn't stifle his sense of adventure, but also teaches him gentleness and taking deep breaths. :) I think you're a great mom to your little girl and boy!