Thursday, September 22, 2011

Going From Firm to Sweet in a Millisecond - The Emotional Switches in Motherhood

A state characterized by the coexistence of contradictory or incompatible elements; one sign being a rapidly changing mood- from happy to sad to angry for no apparent reason.  Schizophrenia.  If my sons were aware of medical terms-and doctors-this is no doubt what they’d diagnose me as.

At least that’s how I feel many times in our day.
Last night, for example. It’s bedtime.  We had woken up at 5:00 a.m. followed by zero naps.  I wore them out at the playground with a group of 10+ kiddos under the age of 5 for a solid hour at the very minimum. They ate a hearty meal of SpaghettiOs with extra meatballs at dinner; bath; books; brush; the usual. At 7:45 p.m., I kissed their precious foreheads and bid them a good night and sweet dreams.  I closed the door behind me and sat on the couch before realizing I hadn’t poured that glass of wine yet.  A few minutes went by.  Silence.  Ah!  I stood up to pour that satiny red into my glassy best friend.  Ultimate relaxation imminent in just minutes.
“Mommy, I’m thirsty.” I hear my oldest calling from behind his door.  At least, he wasn’t opening it (that means he is aware there are rules).
Thoughts dart in my mind.  Stand firm and say no.  He’ll get the idea and know you are not a pushover.  The other voice says, just give him a cup of water and maybe that’s all he really needs and that will be the end of it tonight.
I give him a cup of water.
“Good night, mommy.” He disappears back into his room like the good little almost-three-year-old that he is. 
Ten minutes later, following a potty break, a sip of water and a clean diaper for my youngest, and a tuck in for both; I find myself standing in between their beds.  “Mommy, sing one more song.” A voice in my head explains that the boys shall get no more songs otherwise I am a pushover and this will happen every night until they’re sixteen.  The other voice says to sing one more song just in hopes that this will be the last call of the night. 
In the firmest, most non-pushover voice I can muster, “Okay, I’ll sing one more song.  But THAT IS IT!  NO MORE GAMES!”
[Enter sweet tender mommy voice]
“You are my sunshine, my only sunshine, you make me happy…”  Who in normal society actually does that?  There is rarely an instance that you will be talking so firm to someone and switch into sweet sing-songy mode so rapidly.  This is the schizophrenia I’m talking about.  I mean, can you imagine talking to your boss at work…
[Firmly] Leah, I’m really disappointed in your performance on the analytics report.  You’ve miscalculated the numbers and your writing is quite illegible. [Softly] But have I ever told you how nice your hair smells.  Every time you walk past me in the hallway I just think to myself I am so glad I hired you and that I really like you a lot.”
And this isn’t the only instance.  This happens when we’re having a great time playing and laughing and in his excitement, Luke jumps up and knocks his brother to the floor.  My friendly aura is jolted and I’m forced to work up a tough love lesson I’m not quite fond of.  Or when he climbs on my lap and tells me, “mommy, I love you.”  Delighted, I go in for a kiss and notice he’s chewing.  I ask, “What’s in your mouth?”  He spits out black rubber into my hand.  I quickly scan the room spying my lone flip flop in the corner.  A chunk savagely torn from it.  I’m too relaxed to turn work up the energy to be mad, but I don’t want him to ruin any more of my shoes.  Or when we had a fun outing at the park and we chase eachother to the car, giggling all the while, and then he sneakily jumps into the front of the car while I’m buckling in his brother and refuses to climb into his seat-thus making me chase him from side to side-resulting in an I’m-over-it “you better get in your seat or… (or what-think fast!) or you won’t get that treat when we get home.” What treat?  Now I need to get him a treat if he gets in his seat.  Why am I going to treat him for finally obeying me after a few minutes of craziness?  Ah, the word craziness.  Maybe this isn’t a coincidence. 
Honestly, I’d rather be the sweet and happy mommy 24/7.   But I’m savvy enough to know that doesn’t work out too well for the kiddos in the long run.  I guess for me, who has always been pretty agreeable and the last person to ever start a fight, it’s hard to be that assertive and firm person I know I need to be. 
Or maybe I just over think it.

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