Today the children bickered all morning. As it turns out, bickering is a pet peeve of mine-- pregnant or not. The lazy sibling fights where no one actually wants to get up and solve the problem and so they whine, "Noooooo...." "Yeeeeeeeesssss...." or hiss each other's names at each other whenever someone looks at their toy/approaches the area they are playing in/talks to them. Whining, bickering, back and forth arguing... GADZOOKS! It drives me insane. Especially when I don't feel well and so the children are reduced to the most frustrating of behaviours when playing amongst themselves. It was a rough morning getting our 1st grader off to school and the other three boys dressed for the day. By the time I set off on my quick errands, I was fried and done. The preschoolers apparently were as well as they were asleep before I even made it to a main road. We came home for lunch before preschool started and they devoured their plates of food. I made seconds and they ate those. For the 800th time, I thought to myself that surely they are in the midst of a growth spurt right now. We loaded up the dog and set off to the groomers, our one last errand before preschool drop off. After dropping the dog off at the groomer, I swore every horrible word I could think of in my head before praying fervently that God would grant me the peace to get through the rest of the day-- Lord, I hate taking the dog and the children out together. I struggled through preschool drop off. Our twin 5-year olds did not want to go to school today. One of them wanted to wear pants and a winter coat in the 80 degree weather (why is a winter coat shoved under the van seat? I seriously need to clean that vehicle out). I finally wrangled them in their classroom along with the toddler, wrote a check for tuition, went through the whole rigmarole of good-bye charades that I have to do with each of our preschoolers every time I drop them off, peeled myself out of there, wrangled the toddler to the car, and drove back home.
I was spent. I wanted a moment to breathe. I thought, "Maybe I should bring the toddler outside for some playtime in the backyard? He can play; I can sit." I got him a snack. I got out my chair. I decided I wanted a glass of freshly squeezed lemonade. I made myself a glass. As soon as I finished adding the garnish, the groomer called. I dressed the toddler. I loaded him up and went to the groomer. I swore to myself again while struggling with the dog and a child. That dog is so frustrating when out with the children. Too much. I brought home the dog and the toddler and we all went out back to relax. I had my lemonade... and realized we needed the patio umbrella. And that the water table hadn't been cleaned since winter. We cleaned. We rearranged. The toddler got naked and pooped in the yard. I cleaned it up. I cleaned him up. I finally sat down with my feet up to enjoy my freshly squeezed, homemade lemonade... and the toddler came over and plunged his grubby, grass covered toddler hand right in my glass. Sigh. In the end, I did manage to get about 30 minutes of sitting with my feet up before running another small errand before preschool pick up. The toddler went wearing nothing but rain boots and a diaper. Such is the life.
I came home with the preschoolers and the toddler and had to wrangle them all before heading out on our school walk to pick up our 1st grader. I dressed the toddler. I filled up my water. I found helmets and bikes and scooters for all four children and we finally made our way to the school-- the preschoolers on a bike and a scooter and me dragging a scooter in one hand (for the 1st grader) and steering the toddler on his Radio Flyer tricycle in the other. We picked up the 1st grader and he rode the scooter home. The boys actually all had amazing listening ears. This was the first time I've allowed them to ride to school pick up. The last few times we had attempted this the preschoolers gave up and wanted me to push them or drag their scooters home or whatever, which was way too much work for me while wrangling them all to school and back.
For a brief period in time upon arriving home with all four children, the mood was happy and homey. We loved the weather today and decided to spent the rest of the afternoon in the backyard. The pleasant mood didn't last long. Once changed into swimsuits, the boys once again dissolved into tears, bickering, whining, and dramatics. I was equally exhausted when we finally called it quits about an hour later. By 5:15 pm, all four of the boys were bathed and in pajamas. During pajama time, the toddler's stomach loosened. Between not feeling well and a decent tumble he took, he wouldn't let me put him down for almost an hour. Our asthmatic preschooler came down with an allergic rash from something that covered his back and legs. The evening was quickly spiraling out of control.
I came downstairs with clean children and had our oldest start "The Force Awakens." I pulled out granola bars, bananas, cheese sticks, cucumbers, apples, and bagels for dinner. By this point, I was exhausted from Braxton Hicks and "irritable uterus," as Labor and Delivery called it the day I went in to get checked out. As I settled onto the couch with my makeshift dinner, I noticed the toddler was stinky again. Of course this is when my husband called to check in and let me know how late he was going to be. It has been a really busy time at work which has made for really late evenings. Duty day or not, I have been putting the kids to bed by myself. I did my best to separate myself from the chaos around me to actually talk and connect with my spouse for a few minutes. Lately he's been sounding just as done as myself (if not more) when we chat. I always find it ironic that he craves and misses the chaos when on night after night of struggling through a frequently painful bedtime routine, all I want is a break.
I took the toddler upstairs and changed his diaper. I folded the laundry that was piled on my bed. I put a sheet on the preschooler's bed (potty training-- grumble, grumble, grumble, grumble... a million grumbles). I carried the toddler downstairs to find two children asleep on the couch and the toddler starting to doze off in my arms. I carried the toddler back upstairs and tucked him in. I came downstairs and woke up one of the preschoolers. Our 1st grader was a little disappointed to turn off the movie before it finished, "There is only 40 minutes left, Mom! Please can I finish it?" But in the end he went upstairs without much fuss and got ready for bed. The two upstairs really were quiet, but the toddler woke up, crawled out of his crib, and came back downstairs to find me as I was struggling to get the other preschooler awake to go upstairs. I finally managed to get him up and held his hand while holding the toddler. The other preschooler started coming down as I was bringing the two upstairs, "No, bud, we are going to bed..." "My blanket is downstairs..." "Your blanket is on your bed..." "No, it is on the couch..." "I put it on your bed, bud. Please turn around so I can go up the stairs..." "But, Mom..." "Go..."
I had the preschoolers finish their bedtime medicine and teeth brushing as I put the toddler back to bed. The 1st grader came in while I was putting the toddler to bed to ask if we were doing stories tonight. "Not tonight, bud. We watched a movie." "But, Mom, it is only 7:30. Can we read one story?" "Bud, please go out. I am putting the baby to bed." "Okay, just one, Mom?" "Out." The toddler wanted up again. I restarted the bedtime routine for the third time. He fell asleep half way through. I snuck out, again, and got the preschoolers out of the bathroom, one of whom had started cleaning out the bathroom drawers. "Mom, I wanted all these kind of toothbrushes in this drawer and all these toothpastes in this drawer..." "Bedtime, bud. That is a great job, but let's do that in the morning..." I got the preschoolers in their beds and said prayers and did a small story with them. I assured them Daddy would come kiss them as soon as he came home. I went in with our 1st grader and did the same-- short story, prayers, talked about Daddy. We had a long talk about the Force Awakens and when we planned on finishing the movie (as if we haven't seen it a million times already).
I walked out of the last bedroom and felt equally relieved that all four children were in bed (three of them already asleep) before 8 pm and guilty for not doing a "normal" bedtime routine with our usual story routine and tuck ins. I considered going back downstairs to watch a show, but my bed sounded much more appealing. I went downstairs and let the dog out. I tidied up the kitchen a small amount and then I huffed and puffed my way back up the stairs to the bedroom, where I collapsed in bed with a book.
I honestly can't say that I have spent a large portion of this pregnancy beating myself up for feeling that our children are being "short changed." I truly feel family life is a communal arrangement. When one of our boys has an asthma flare up, we take it easy and get him better. When our oldest had his Cub Scouts Pinewood Derby race, we all went and cheered him on. When my husband has a weekend off, we reserve that time for family activities. My pregnancy is just another thing for the family to adapt to. However, when I feel so short tempered and exhausted, I really do start feeling bad. I know how often I am throwing a kink in the plans we've made and how much we have said no to already this pregnancy. And then they have to adapt to that while I have a bad attitude. I know that it is all part and parcel with pregnancy and the complications I've been dealing with-- it is hard to be cheerful when your body is getting such a beating. What makes me feel bad is when I feel like the children are getting in trouble for being children, when I put unreasonable expectations on them because I can't deal, when I want them to behave a certain way solely to make my life easier in that moment. That's when I start feeling bad. Because they are moving through various situations feeling like they are in trouble or disappointing me, which doesn't inspire better behavior from them, but worse. They act out for attention. I get irritated and done. And so then they lash out to each other or back to me. It becomes an exhausting cycle. Those are the times when I feel bad. It is a hard balance. I can't keep up with my usual level of activity and they have a hard time understanding changes in our routine. On exceptionally hard days, I want to go scoop them up out of their beds and just hug them so they know how proud of them I am for being such troopers, for refilling my water, for entertaining the toddler while I finished a task, for sitting like gentlemen at the doctor's office, for whatever small thing they did that day. I do tell them frequently during the day how proud of them I am, but it does seem that often after they are in bed, I reflect on the scales for that day-- how many times I told them "Good job!" and how often I even gave the impression of being irritated-- and am disappointed in myself. I am very proud of our children and it pains me to think that perhaps they didn't feel that because of my own selfishness.
Through the difficult first and second trimester, there were many times that I had to hunker down and cut things out of our schedule. For the most part, we all rolled with it. There were rough days where I felt was so exhausted and tired and done, yes, but as the third trimester has trudged on, I have found my mood becoming more disagreeable. My body hurts and having the toddler jump on me when I don't expect it or all the standing, sitting, and kneeling required during the bedtime/prayer routine with four children has brought me to tears. At 30+ weeks pregnant, I feel like we are almost there. The end is in sight. I feel like I could reach out and touch June and know-- with my husband's work schedule and the boys' school schedule-- that in a blink of an eye, baby #5 will be here. However, every evening that I'm struggling through the bath routine or calling in a sitter to help with the bedtime routine, I think, "How will I survive the last 10 weeks?!" Those are the times where I take a deep breath, say a prayer, and narrow my focus to this moment-- this day, this evening, this activity, this child. I pray hard for forgiveness and grace. A short temper in one moment doesn't mean I have to carry that on in the next. I can put on the brakes and apologize, "I'm sorry, guys, for talking that way. I am not handling this well. Would you mind if we played a different game? My back is hurting me a lot and so I can't play this game easily."
How do you get through pregnancy with older children to take care of? How do you get through the long evenings when you are ready for bed when school gets out?!
Navy wives, what are your "duty day while pregnant" tips and tricks?