I'm 8 years into this parenting gig, and I think I can honestly say that it has gotten easier.
I know, I know... it's a crazy thing to say. Especially considering that I have four kids now, instead of just one. And one of those four kids is a nursing-wake-you-up-at-night baby, and another one of those kids is three (for all you parents of three-year-olds out there, nuff said).
So in actuality, if we are talking about shoes that must be tied, and snacks that must be made, and fingernails that must be clipped, and tantrums that must be dealt with, and books that must be read, and messes that must be cleaned, then of course, yes... it is much harder than it used to be.
But somehow it feels easier. And that is really what matters. I usually don't allow myself to get sucked into the drama quite so easily as I used to. I feel more confident in my parenting. And I'm learning to slow down and enjoy my kids.
Even still, I have tough moments. And this evening was one of them.
It started innocently enough. I asked Jonathan and Leesi if they still wanted to use their own money to buy a book that they had been eyeing in the latest Scholastic Book Club order form. They shouted "yes" and ran to get their piggy banks. A moment later they were back with money in hand. They had agreed that Elisa would pay four dollars and Jonathan would pay five dollars for a nine dollar book that they wanted to share. Jonathan handed me a ten dollar bill and Elisa had four ones in her hand. I explained that she could give her ones to Jonathan and I would give him one more dollar and then we would all be even. She erupted in a fury of "that's not fair!" Well, I tried to explain again and again the concept of giving change ("you know, like what has happened when you've bought things in the store with your own money"). But no matter how I phrased it or which examples I used, I couldn't get her to understand. She kept saying, "But he paid for the whole book and then he gets to keep my money too!" Finally I took her four dollars and Jonathan's ten dollars and gave Jonathan back a separate five dollar bill in hopes that this simpler way would work. But still she just wouldn't accept this and cried and cried and yelled and stormed. I tried to distract her by looking at the book on the computer. Didn't help. Then I got angry and yelled at her. That didn't seem to help either. Finally I tried, "You'll just have to trust me. Even if you can't understand it. I'm not trying to trick you. You'll just have to trust me when I say that he paid five dollars and you paid four dollars." After this, I moved on. She did not. But that was all I could do.
It was right before dinnertime now. Greg was late for dinner and I was trying to get the kids to pick up a few things before dinner. No one was listening and Leesi was still in her mood. She picked up her art supplies off the table like I asked but then stormed off with a "But I'm not going to pick up anything else!" By now I was starting to feel the anger well up inside. It had been kind of a blue day overall, and part of me wished I had just stayed in bed and never gotten up. I went into the closest bedroom and punched the bed a couple times, and then, just like that, the anger vanished and I started laughing at the ridiculousness of it all. I prayed a quick prayer that somehow we would be given laughter tonight to help drain away some of the tension that had built.
Leesi protested by not sitting down to dinner when it was ready. But Greg arrived fairly quickly and then she joined us. She complained about dinner and asked if she could have a bowl of cereal (something I don't remember ever allowing her to have instead of dinner, not really sure where that idea came from). And then complained when I said we weren't having dessert. I wasn't really feeling like laughing anymore.
As I was cleaning up from dinner Nora came in and asked me to play a game that involves the kids draping blankets over their heads and pretending to be ghosts and me picking them up and throwing them on our big bed. I felt like saying no. After all, I was in a bummer mood and the last thing I wanted to do was play with the kids. But I remembered a phrase I had heard someone say, "It's easier to act your way into a feeling, than to feel your way into an action." So, I said okay.
Jonathan and Nora played with gusto. Even Leesi started to timidly join in. Greg came in too, and pretty soon we were in the middle of a pillow fight. Lots of laughter, pillows and blankets flying. Tension relieved. After it was over, Leesi was getting in her jammies and using her pj pants to play peek a boo with Anna. And Anna laughed too, long baby belly laughs.
So, that is the story of tonight. On another hard night, there might be a different antagonist. Leesi is usually cheerful and helpful. But I want to do a good job of documenting both the hard and the easy, the bad and the good.