I sat down this morning to write a blog post on our family schedule and why routines work well for us. However, as I was typing our toddlers kept interrupting me with issue after issue.
I eventually felt myself getting more and more frustrated, losing my train of thought and writing long, rambling paragraphs that lead nowhere. I saved the blog post and closed the browser.
I tried switching gears. I reached out to a fellow momma and shared my frustrations, got some support; even texting someone can help get some encouragement. I switched activities. Obviously blogging wasn't going to happen; let's color! Let's start school earlier than usual. Let's do something organized together.
I called our kindergartner back inside to do some school. He got out his school supplies. One of our toddlers started whining, unprovoked. Literally standing in the middle of the room making high-pitched whiny, screeching noises over and over again. I gave him a warning. I invited him to sit with us and to color. He persisted. I walked him to his room and told him whining was unacceptable. He started screaming and hitting the door when I closed it. I took a deep breath and prayed, "God, let me love my kids through you. Let me show them your love."
I went back to the table with the other 2 boys, a toddler and our kindergartner. We said the Pledge of Allegiance. We prayed together. I went back to get the toddler in quiet time and asked if he wanted to join us. He declined and said he was sorry for whining and that he wanted to play in the playroom. He started getting dressed in costumes. I resumed school with the other 2 boys. The toddler at the table finished coloring and said he wanted to do costumes; he cleaned up his markers and went to the playroom. Moments later the first toddler came out of the playroom whining, whining, whining. I instructed him to use his words. He was frustrated; his backpack was broken. I informed him it was upside down and that is why everything was falling out. I offered to help him. He backed away whining. He let out the high pitch screeching whine over and over and so I walked him to his room to collect himself. He whined and whined at the door. I prayed. I went back to school with the other 2. I came back awhile later to ask if he wanted to come out of his room and he threw a toy at the door. I tucked him in for a nap and told him he needed to rest. I came back to do the calendar with the other 2 boys. It went well. We did our thing and then the other toddler started whining-- expressionless, unprovoked whining. Why? I didn't know so I asked him to do his calendar job. He stood motionless whining. I gave him a warning. He whined. I escorted him to his room to rest as well.
I stood outside their door and felt the tears well up in my eyes. What am I doing wrong? Why are they constantly whining and fighting?
Yesterday we had a list of errands to run. On the actual errands, they were obedient and well behaved. They stood in line with me at the Post Office. They waited in the returns line at Costco. But as soon as we got in the car it was constant bickering-- constant bickering. Wild slapping in the direction of their brother, screeching at the top of their lungs, "NO!", yelling, whining, throwing, flailing, moaning...
I'm exhausted. This behavior has been going on for over a week. Throw in there some potty training regression and the constant whining and bickering has just about drained me. I put them down to nap and they spend the entire time opening their respective doors bumming, "Can I come out now?" I wake up in the morning to the sounds of the toddlers fussing and fighting and whining and arguing in the hall bathroom. I put them to bed after listening to them fuss and fight and whine and argue all.day.long.
I go through moments where I feel confident and think, "This is a phase. I understand it is a phase. I understand that parenting is hard and that some phases are more enjoyable than other phases. I know their brains are developing. I know they have dealt with big changes from their dad starting prototype and being gone all day. I know we will come out of this okay and to focus on the positives."
And then there are other moments where I cringe at the thought of riding in the car with them and so I don't want to leave the house.
Where I think about how quickly they grow up and how one day they won't be 3-years old anymore, they will be 6-years old and I will wonder where the time went.
Where I hear other moms talk about how the toddler years are their favorite.
Where I'm crying in the laundry room and texting my mom because I just don't know what else to do and I feel so alone.
Where I miss our old duty station because I had friends who were going through the same thing with me, who have kids the same age as mine, who invited us over for playdates and park dates and coffee dates.
Where I just hate spending all day long listening to them fight with each other.
Those moments I feel like a horrible parent.
I don't know why our toddlers are behaving this way. I spend a lot of time praying and asking God to extend some grace their way, to blanket me in his love so that I can show them his love, to strengthen me so that I have the energy and patience to be consistent. I read parenting books (my favorites: Keep Calm and Parent On and When Mothers Pray). I meditate on Philippians, my favorite book of the Bible. I hold on to those sweet moments with them in between the fussing and the fits. Yet I struggle because the absolute truth is that I am not enjoying myself.
Since I do not have a large friend base here, I've been working on keeping myself busy. I've been focusing a lot on things that I do enjoy doing-- kindergarten with our oldest, taking walks with our infant, reading by myself and with the kids, and cooking. Some of the cooking has been fun to do with the children, even the toddlers. Sometimes it goes downhill quickly and for no reason, like yesterday when one of the toddlers was helping me until he just broke down into a whining mess. Other times they get immense satisfaction from making the meal with me and will channel all their energy into the tasks I give them. I try to have them help me one at a time, stealing moments that I can give them my undivided attention and listen to what they have to say. I try to find tasks that play to their strengths so they can build their self-confidence. I've also been trying to keep our calendar full, inviting friends on playdates, meeting up with girlfriends, doing things with my family. Having 4 children, homeschooling, and life as a Navy wife tend to keep our calendar full and so the hours of the day tend to slip by quickly anyways; I make my best effort to organize those hours in a way that works well for our boys.
This is one of those phases that I am just holding on and hoping that it passes quickly. It has been one of those phases that no matter what I try doesn't seem to make a big difference in how our day goes or how the toddlers behave. It has been one of those phases that make me wish I lived closer to my family and to my girlfriends.
How do you deal with these kind of phases?