"There are some who can live without wild things and some who cannot." (Aldo Leopold) Apparently, I cannot.


Ch-Ch-Ch-Changes: I’m Back, Sort of

Although I’ve known I’d be writing this post for some time now, I’ve actually dreaded writing it. Not because I’m not 100% behind my decision, but because I kind of feel like I’ve failed in some way.

Perhaps I should start at the beginning. When I first started blogging last February, I did so with the goal of sharing funny stories about my kiddos and lessons learned from the craziness raising kids brings to life. I didn’t do it to become a professional writer or to have any piece of my writing go viral. But I quickly got sucked into what I’ll call blog-mania.

I started a Facebook page for my blog. I started Twitter and Pinterest accounts. I started scouring the interwebs to see what online sites I could submit my writing to for more exposure. I started participating in blog hops and mixers. I started guest posting on other people’s blogs. I was invited to post on Scary Mommy (which I still can’t believe). I even managed to get my own space on HuffPost Parents. All in the name of getting my writing read.

I won’t go so far to say that I was spending more time writing about and getting people to read about my family than actually spending time with them, but I did become consumed with building an online presence for my writing. And this was on top of my responsibilities to my family and my freelance editing job.

In essence, I very quickly burned out. Writing posts for my blog became more of a chore (“Uggh, I have to write something tonight”) than the fun, lighthearted writing I was doing at the beginning. I looked at everything with an eye toward how I’d turn it into a blog post — what lesson could I share with others? What funny twist could I put on it? How could I write about it differently than the eleventy thousand other people who had already written about it?

And then a few months ago, I snapped out of it. I was forced to take a writing hiatus when my freelance work piled up on me and life got crazy busy (did you miss my announcement that Wild Thing #4 is on the way? lol). I barely had enough time in a day to take care of my family and work, let alone sit down for any meaningful writing. And you know what? I felt relieved.

Relieved that when I was finally able to sit down and breathe at the end of a long day I didn’t have to rack my brain for something to write about for the sake of publishing something, anything, because I didn’t publish something the day before. Or even the day before that. Relieved that I stopped trying so hard to see the blog post possibilities in everyday situations. Relieved that I wasn’t concerned with how many people were reading my post or, if the gods were smiling down on me that day, sharing it with others.

And I realized that these were all pressure that I put on myself. Nobody asked me to write a blog or start a Facebook page or Twitter account. No one pressured me into trying so hard to get people to read my posts. And certainly no one was keeping me tied to writing three of four posts a week. So why was I working so hard to add more pressure to my life?

And so, I have come to a decision to let my writing take a (rightful) back seat to my family and real life. I am not going to stop writing completely, but I am not going to impose any strict schedule for when I write. I’ll write when the mood strikes or when inspiration hits. Not simply for the sake of writing.


With this new focus, I’ll be making some other changes as well. I am no longer going to be doing my weekly Too Tired to Try Tuesday posts (although fun, they took a lot of time to figure out and put together). Similarly, I won’t be doing regular “That’s What She/He Said” interviews. I will, however, keep doing my Shiny, Happy, Sparkly, Feel-Good Friday posts, but instead of doing them every week, I’m going to run them once a month. (And because I cannot stand the thought of deleting any of my writing, I’ve created a page on on the blog — Things I Used to Do (and Sometimes Still Do) — where everything will be kept safe and sound!)

And in terms of social media, I am going to keep my Facebook page, but I’m ditching my Pinterest account (which I never used anyway), and maybe even my Twitter account. It’s just too much to keep up with.

Part of me feels like a failure by making these changes — not a failure as a writer, but a failure at sticking with it. But then I look at the life around me, and I realize that participating in it is the real success.

So a huge thank you to those of you who have stuck with me and will continue to hang around. I truly appreciate the love and support!


Keeping Our Kids in the Dark — For Now

keeping kids in the dark

Several weeks ago, the kids and I were settling into our usual after-school routine — they were raiding the refrigerator and cabinets for a snack, and I was going through their backpacks to see what they brought home for me to display proudly or for me to fill out and return to school the next day (there’s always something, it seems).

As I was reading through a page of notes my daughter’s teacher sent home, I nearly had a panic attack when I got to the part about the lock down drills they’d be having that coming week. My hands began shaking, and tears started streaming down my face.

I was instantly transported back to the day last winter when we all learned about the horrendous shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut. I did not personally know anyone who worked at or had kids in the school, but my family and I lived 45 minutes away, and a very good friend of mine who grew up in Newtown did. My heart ached for her as she spent her morning trying to get any news she could.  And my heart ached for the families at Sandy Hook. I could not imagine such a tragedy happening to my family. Like so many others, I spent the day sobbing and trying to wrap my brain around the heinous news that kept unfolding.

When I realized how visibly upset I was after reading through my daughter’s class notes, I ran into the other room to try and calm myself down so that the kids wouldn’t see me. At 2 and 4 when the shooting occurred, we did not tell our kids anything about it. They were too young to understand, and we didn’t want to put that type of fear into their minds.

And now, nearly one year later, as I tried to pull myself together, I didn’t want to explain to my kids — my daughter now a kindergartner herself — why I was so upset. Why it made me sick to my stomach to think of anything like that happening at their schools. Why it made me weak in the knees thinking of them having to huddle in the bathroom with their teachers and classmates as practice in case anything like that actually happened. Why it made me want to throw up thinking that the world we live in is such these days that we even need these lock down drills. I didn’t want to explain to them that not everyone in the world is good and that some people just do terrible things. I don’t want them to know that world. Ever.

But I’m not naive. I know they will learn the realities of the world eventually — either through us, friends, or something they’ll see on the news. (And probably a lot sooner than I’d like.) We’ve already talked to them about what they should do, for example, if they ever find themselves lost when we’re away from home, what they should do if they are ever approached by strangers if we’re not around, or what they should do if faced with an emergency. But we’re not broaching the topic of someone walking into their school with a gun.

Because this horror is not something they need to know (or fear). Again, I’d argue ever. But realistically, at least not now. Not yet. At 3 and 5 years old, they’re just not ready. I’m not ready. So for now, we’re keeping our kids in the dark. (And, thankfully, my daughter’s school is of the same mindset, at least when it comes to the younger kids. As far as my daughter is concerned, she thinks they have these lock down drills in case a wild animal, like a skunk, gets into the school accidentally.)

I know a lot of families are more forthcoming with their kids, even at such young ages, and a lot of people probably think we’re doing our kids a disservice by keeping them in the dark. But this is our family, and this is what works for us. We know there will come a time when we’ll need to talk about this kind of stuff. But that time, for us, is not now. Again, not yet.

I’m curious, though, for those of you who have had these conversations with your kids, how old were they? And what prompted the conversation? How did you approach the conversation? And how did your kids react? I’m not looking forward to the eventual conversation with our kids, but I’d like to be sure to go into it as prepared as I can, so I thank you for any insight and suggestions you’re willing to share.


To Bus or Not to Bus: That is the Question (Again)

Ever since my oldest discovered the existence of school buses, she began asking me when exactly she’d be able to take one to school. “When can I wide one?” my innocent little 2-year-old would ask, full of awe and excitement. “Oh, when you’re older sweetie,” I’d say. And that answer held her for a little while, but then she started asking, “But when, mamma?! When will I be older?” And so then I switched my response to, “Probably when you’re 5 and go to kindergarten.” I really didn’t want to think about putting my baby on a school bus ever, even when she turned 5, and luckily, 3 years was a long way off.

And then it wasn’t. It was almost as if I sneezed and we were instantly transported into the future — just weeks before Belle was to start kindergarten, and there we were, faced with the decision I didn’t really want to make: To bus or not to bus?


But as far as my daughter was concerned, the decision had already been made. I had told her she could ride the bus when she turned 5 and was going to kindergarten, and that was that. In fact, over the years, her constant questions asking when she could ride the bus simply turned into statements of fact: “I’m going to ride the bus when I go to kindergarten.” Clearly she did not pick up on the fact that I had initially said she could “probably” ride the bus when she turned 5, nor did she pick up on my own fear and hesitation for her to actually do so. (Which, btw, I was grateful for.)

My daughter was clearly excited about riding the bus — seriously, whenever anyone would ask her what she was looking forward to most about starting school, she’d say, “I get to ride the bus.” She’d even walk up to strangers in the grocery store or at the park and say, “I’m starting kindergarten soon, and I get to ride the bus.” I am not exaggerating when I say that the girl was obsessed with riding that damn bus. Bus, bus, bus, bus, bus — it’s all we heard about for weeks and weeks before school started.

And my husband was all in on the bus idea, too. “But what if she gets scared?” I asked him. “How will she know what to do when she gets off the bus at school?” “What if she gets lost on the way to her classroom? It’s so far from the bus drop off!” “How will she find the right bus at the end of the day?” “What if she misses her stop?” “What if the older kids are mean to her?” “What if the bus gets a flat tire and the bus driver doesn’t have a phone on her to call for help and she’s stuck on the bus for hours and hours not knowing what’s going on and is scared and crying?” I threw all my fears at my husband in hopes of swaying him in the other direction. But my questions didn’t phase him. “Kids have been riding the bus for decades, they figure it out,” he said. And then he added, “I think it’s mommy who isn’t ready for the bus, not Belle.” Grrrrrrr.

But of course, he was right. I knew in my head that Belle would get the whole bus thing down within a day or two, and this was a part of tradition, of growing up, but my heart just wasn’t ready to let her go out into the big, scary world of elementary school on her own. I wasn’t ready for her to do this, but she was. And so, we decided she could take the bus.

And aside from some tears (mine, of course) on the first day of school, we got our whole bus routine down within a few days. Every day I put Belle on the bus, and every day — wouldn’t you know — she meets me at the end of our street, bounding off the bus to tell me about her day. She has never gotten lost getting from her bus to her class or from her class to her bus. She has never missed her stop. And she has never been stranded on the bus for hours due to a flat tire. Everything has seemed to be just peachy.

But? (Unfortunately, there is a but.) Just last week, Belle did something she shouldn’t have, and in the middle of me talking to her about it, she broke into tears and, completely off topic, starting telling me that there was a boy on the bus who had been mean to her and many of the other kids and that she didn’t want to ride the bus any more. She wanted me to start driving her. “I know I really wanted to ride the bus,” she sobbed (sobbed!) to me, “but I don’t want to ride a bus like that!”

My first thought was, “Who the hell is this kid? I will make sure he never bothers you again. And of course I will drive you to school.” I didn’t say this to her, of course. Instead I asked her how the boy was mean to her — because you know, sometimes kids say other kids are “mean” if they don’t want to play with them or if they don’t hear them say something and so then don’t respond. You know, pretty benign things. And my daughter can be really sensitive about that sort of stuff. But nope, Belle said the boy would try to throw water at her and some of the other younger kids, and he had even hit a neighbor of ours. And when I asked around, a few other neighbors mentioned they had heard similar stories from their kids about this little boy.

That was it. It was settled. Belle wouldn’t be riding the bus any more. I would make sure of it. But after discussing it with my husband, who also got riled up about someone being mean to his little girl, he made the valid point that if there really is a problem, we shouldn’t have to pull our daughter off the bus, rather the boy who is causing the problems should be pulled from the bus. And even more, our first step should probably be to speak with the bus driver before making any rash decisions.

Man, the husband was on a roll. Right again. And so, the next morning, just this past Friday, we headed to the bus again. Belle was hesitant, but I told her that I would speak to her bus driver, and we should see how the next few bus rides went. After getting all of the kids on the bus, I had a chat with the bus driver. I let her know what Belle and other kids in the neighborhood had told me and their parents, and I asked that she pay particular attention to this kid to make sure he didn’t continue with the questionable behavior. She didn’t respond with the concern I had expected, but she said very matter-of-factly that she’d take care of it. And so, I sent my baby on her way again, with a slight lump in the throat, I’ll admit, and prayed she’d have a good ride to and from school.

I was anxious to pick her up at the end of the day, but she seemed fine when she got off the bus. When I asked her if the little boy gave her or her friends any problems she said, “no,” and promptly ran to catch up with her friends so they could walk to the other end of the street together. Phew, I thought.

But of course (yes, another but) over this past weekend Belle was back to telling me she didn’t want to ride the bus any more. And so we’re back at the crossroads we found ourselves at the beginning of the school year: To bus or not to bus? That is the question. Again.

On the one hand, my husband and I feel that this is something Belle needs to work through and figure out how to deal with. Not everyone is going to be nice to her, and she can’t avoid things every time someone is mean to her. (I should note here that, although I have not witnessed anything first hand, I do not have the sense that this little boy is consciously bullying the other kids — he is also a kindergartener, and I think he may be just one of those kids who plays a little rough and doesn’t have a sense of when “fun” teasing crosses the line and when he should stop. I am in no way condoning his behavior or saying that my daughter doesn’t have a right to get upset by it, but I wanted to put out there that I don’t have the sense he is a physical threat or danger to the other kids. At this point, anyway, with all of the information I have.)

On the other hand, we recognize that Belle is only 5, and if she doesn’t want to ride the bus any more — for whatever reason — we want to help her feel as safe and comfortable as possible and remove all cause for anxiety or unhappiness, even if she has just changed her mind and decided she doesn’t like riding the bus.

Our solution as of today is to give this some time to see if things get better on the bus and if Belle starts to enjoy riding it again. We’ll see how the next few days go and re-evaluate after that.

Have you ever had a similar experience with your kids? If so, how did you handle it?


The Orange Rhino Challenge: Update #3

So it’s been a while since my last Orange Rhino update. (Orange Rhio-what? If you’re not familiar, please click here for some background on the challenge and my journey trying to master it.) And I have a huge confession to make! H-U-G-E!

I have been a complete and utter slacker the past month and a half!

And by slacker, I don’t mean that I’ve had to keep starting over at Day 1 because of yelling slip ups. I mean slacker like I haven’t even been working on the challenge. Like AT ALL. And I feel like such a huge failure right now.

With our huge move from CT to VA in June, and then the past few weeks trying to settle in to our new life, I’ve hardly had time to breathe let alone work on my yelling. And it’s not like I haven’t thought about the challenge. Because I have. Every time I yell (and yes, there has been a lot of that lately, I’m sad to admit). But instead of using these times as moments of reflection to step back, take a deep breath, and say, “Ok, let’s start over and work even harder on this,” I’ve been a slacker who instead says, “Man, I should really start back on the challenge; maybe tomorrow.”

But then, you know what? I’ve been leaving it at that. Because not yelling, my friends? It’s hard work. That’s right, I said it. It’s work. And I just haven’t felt like doing more work these days on top of everything else we’ve had going on. I fully admit it. And I’m not proud. I have actually decided to behave in ways that I know make me and my kids feel like crap all because I’ve just been too damn lazy. Lazy!


don't give up

So, I’m getting my rear back in gear and taking on the challenge again in full force. Now I’m human, so I can’t promise there won’t be any more slip ups and rewinding, but I can promise that I am going to keep working at it. I’ve kicked the slacker out the door and welcomed back my determination and drive. Let’s do this. Again. 🙂

Until the next update . . .

To keep up with my journey, please feel free to check out my Orange Rhino Challenge page. For more information on the challenge, please visit: http://theorangerhino.com. And if you’re on the challenge, too, let me know. We can support each other and hold each other accountable. Go Orange!


What 16 Singing Preschoolers Taught Me About Being a Mom

This past Friday started out like any other day. Well, actually, that’s not quite true. It started even earlier than usual.

Ever since the sun starting rising at the ungodly hour of 5 am (ok, 5:36 am to be exact), our oldest has been rising shortly after. I think 5:50 has been the latest in the past few weeks. But she knows her mamma loves her sleep, so she’ll usually make her way downstairs to either “read” her books or watch tv. My husband is usually up and getting ready for work, so they get to have some quiet morning time together, just the two of them. And that’s cool with me.

Our 3-year-old is pretty unpredictable. Whether he wakes up with his sister or sleeps longer, though, he’ll usually just come crawl in bed with me and go back to sleep. That is also cool with me. Like I said, I love sleep.

And the baby, well, currently he’s waking up around 6 to nurse but will almost always go right back to sleep for at least another hour after he eats. Also? Cool with me.

So essentially what I’m saying is that on any given day, even if I’m up early to nurse the baby or get the 3-year-old snug as a bug in a rug after he wanders into our room, I can usually stay in bed until about 7:30 or so, with only a brief interruption of sleep.

But not Friday. Friday was one of those perfect storm mornings where all three kids managed to wake up at the same time and had no inclination to go back to sleep. Any of them. And as I sat in bed feeding the baby while the other two talked about the whats and whys of diarrhea (don’t ask, I have no idea why this was even a topic of discussion that early in the morning) and then started arguing about what to watch on tv, I realized I was not going back to sleep. Although I did get the baby back to sleep, it was a lost cause with the older two.

Turned out the early wake-up was good, though, because I had a Mother’s Day Brunch to go to at our daughter’s preschool that morning, and since it had been awhile since I showered and made myself look presentable, I figured I’d better do something about that. As I was trying to steam myself awake in the shower while lamenting about the extra lack of sleep that morning, I started longing for the days of teenagedom when my kids’ lazy asses will likely be sleeping until noon. (Because that means that my lazy ass will be sleeping until noon!) “Those will be the days,” I remember thinking. (And yes, I know those years come with their own difficulties, but seriously, I should be able to sleep, right?!)

Then, later that morning I stood in my daughter’s classroom beaming with pride with all the other mothers as we watched our children sing us a song at our Mother’s Day brunch. I cannot for the life of me remember the words that they were singing, but in that moment I started tearing up and began experiencing something I can only describe as being equivalent to a near-death experience. You know, where something happens and your entire life flashes before you. Except it wasn’t my life. It was my daughter’s.

Seriously. It was almost as if everyone in the room disappeared and all I could see was my daughter. And bits and pieces of her life over the past 5 years just started flooding my memory. The day we found out we were pregnant with her. Her early birth and weeks living in the NICU. Her first milestones. Her first birthday party. Her transition from only child to older sister. Twice. Her first day of school. Her broken elbow. How her eyes, her smile, her laughter have managed to stay the same over the years.

Because in that moment, I was struck by the realization that my  3-lb preemie had grown into the smart, adorable, precocious 5-year-old standing before me in no more than the blink of an eye. How the hell did the last 5 years go by so quickly? All I wanted to do was freeze time. You know like in that show from years ago when the girl had an alien for a father whom she talked to via a glowing rock on her nightstand. And she could freeze time by touching her two pointer fingers together. What was that show called? (Pause while I consult Google…) Oh yes, “Out of This World.” So yeah, I wanted to do that. Freeze time. (Sidenote: If you’ve never seen “Out of This World,” you should check it out. It’s pretty tremendous.)

And then the guilt set in. For all the times, like earlier that morning, when I openly wished for time to speed up. For my kids to outgrow whatever phase they were in at the time. “I can’t wait until they’re older and sleep in.” “I can’t wait until they’re older so that they stop throwing these god-awful tantrums.” “I can’t wait until they’re all out of diapers so I don’t have to deal with wiping butts anymore.” “I can’t wait for the days when they’re older and I don’t have to watch them every flippin second of every single day.” I can’t wait. I can’t wait. I can’t wait. Wait, what?! *Insert screeching tire sounds here (or a record needle cutting across the record, your choice).*

As I stood watching these 16 preschoolers singing–these 16 preschoolers who all were babies you know like 10 seconds ago–I realized I had been spending so much time wishing for my kids’ childhoods to move along that I wasn’t always appreciating them for who they are now. Right this minute.

I could hardly breathe as the kids finished their song and I was pulled away from my thoughts by all of the clapping. I stifled my urge to sob right then and there, but when my daughter came over to give me the card that she made me, I nearly hugged the life out of her.

And right then I made myself a promise to stop wishing away time. At least so much. Now I’m pretty smart. I know everything is not going to be sparkles and rainbows and unicorns all the time just because I’ve made this promise to really focus on the now. Because I know the now still includes tantrums, and not listening, and goldfish crackers ground into the carpet, and toys all over the house, and glasses and glasses of milk spilled all over the place, and butts to wipe (oh so many butts to wipe!), and never any time for me…And I know there are still going to be times where I’ll think how nice things will be when the kids are older. And those kids of mine in the future will be awesome. I have no doubt.

But really, I need to remember that they’re pretty awesome right now, too! So, a big thank you to the 16 singing preschoolers who helped me realize this. 🙂

Happy Mother’s Day to all you mammas out there! May your day be filled with happiness and love whatever you find yourself doing.



Encouragement, A Walk, and Date Night

Ok, so this is the very first time I have put out two posts in the same day. But, I wanted to follow-up on my post from this morning (What Do You Do When You Don’t Know What to Do?) in which I shared the problems we’ve been having with our 3-year-old and the emotional toll it has been taking on me.

I have not had any big epiphany on how to handle all of this, but three pretty fantastic things happened today to help me put things in perspective and put me in a better mood.


When I wrote my earlier post, I figured I’d get a handful of comments like I always do. But you fine people have really blown me away. That post has now become my second most-viewed post of all time (ok, that’s only like 2 months, but still), behind only my Momopause post from a few weeks ago. And all of the encouragement and helpful suggestions you have all shared–and even just the comments to say, “Hey, I’m sorry you’re going through this, I am/have, too, and yes it does suck”–have really comforted me and made me feel less alone. The fact that so many of you reached out to share your own stories and experiences means so much. So, thank you!! (And keep that shit up!)

A Walk

After publishing my post this morning I was feeling super introspective. So I began thinking about different ways to approach our 3-year-old’s behavior–different ways to help avoid escalations, different punishments for unacceptable behavior, different coping mechanisms, different ways to handle my reactions…

And then I remembered a post my friend Amy at Funny is Family wrote for another blog about a day she happened to be at the mall with her 3-year-old before it opened and how her accidentally leaving her phone in the car turned into an amazing morning of following her daughter’s lead and delighting in every moment. (You can read Amy’s post here.)

And this inspired me to do the same. So with big Sissy at school all day, I packed up the boys and we headed to our town green. When we got out of the car, I turned things over to my 3-year-old. “Have at it,” I said. “What would you like to do?”  “Let’s take a walk, Mommy.” And so we did.


I let him take the lead and didn’t interject one bit. His brother and I followed him around the green as he explored the rocks and sticks on the ground (every.single.one I might add) and the steps leading up to Town Hall. We wound up and around the church and even down some paths we had never been on. I never once said, “no” or asked why he wasn’t listening to me. And there were no meltdowns. It felt good.

Not only did it make me feel good, but it also made him feel good–he was able to do what he wanted on his time. It was something for him. He owned it and he was happy. Now I realize I can’t always let him take the lead like that, but we’ll definitely be taking advantage of his excellent navigation skills much more. And I’m excited to see where we end up.

Date Night

And last, but certainly not least, my wonderfully amazing friend called me up this afternoon to tell me that she was going to take all three kids this evening so that my hubby and I could go out on a date. So that we could actually go out to dinner alone. With no kids, just the two of us. Did I mention we’d be alone? With no kids?

I was hesitant at first, not because I didn’t want to go, but because my friend has 3 kids of her own (one a few weeks younger than our littlest), and I didn’t want to be a burden. But she called BS on this and said she wouldn’t have offered if she didn’t want to, she was taking the kids, that was final, and I’d better go out and enjoy some time with my husband. (She actually said it much sweeter than that, but that was the gist.)

So as not to disappoint, my husband and I did just that. We were able to go out just the two of us for the first time in I don’t even know how long. And it was glorious.

We don’t have any family in CT (our closest family members are 5 hours away), and not many close friends in the area, so being able to go on dates, or to do anything without any of the kids, actually, is next to impossible these days. I literally never have a moment alone (except for when I’m sleeping, and even then I usually have one little visitor at some point in the night), so my friend’s kindness and generosity in the midst of the craziness of the past few days really meant so very much to me. And helped me remember that my husband and I need to do this more often.

So there you have it. I’ve ended my day in a much better place than I was in this morning–and even the past few mornings for that matter. And I have the encouragement from all of you, a simple walk where my 3-year-old called the shots, and a date night made possible by an amazing friend to thank for it!


What Do You Do When You Don’t Know What to Do?


I’m sitting here with tears in my eyes as I write this because I am at a complete and utter loss for what to do. Our 3-year-old and I are going through a real rough patch as of late. Another one. And actually, it’s not just with me, really. It’s with everyone. He has epic meltdowns over everything. There’s screaming and flailing. And more screaming. And even more screaming. And there’s the whole not listening issue. It’s to the point where I’ve been in tears multiple times a day the past few days. Because in these moments, I do not like my own child. (Wow, that was really hard to write. Please note I said “like,” not “love”–I always love my children, but what’s that saying? I’ll always love you, but I may not always like you? Something like that. Or did I just make that up? No matter, I hope you understand what I mean here.) In these moments I just want to be 100 miles away from him. Doing anything else besides having to deal with his behavior. And that makes me feel like the worst parent in the entire universe. I’m consumed with guilt.

The 3-year-old is our second, so it’s not like I’m new at this parenting thing. I get that kids have temper tantrums. I get that kids get upset when they don’t get their way, and that, especially at this age, they have a hard time expressing themselves or even knowing what is going on within themselves. And I get that all kids are different. I even wrote about that early on in my Multiple Personality Parenting post. But I guess my problem is that I don’t really know what to do about it. How do I parent our 3-year-old effectively based on his unique needs? What exactly do you do when you don’t know what to do?

I hate comparing my children, but it’s so hard not to in this respect. Don’t get me wrong, our 5-year-old daughter had her moments and can still drive me bonkers, but we honestly never had these problems with her to this extent. NEVER. This is all new to us. Which leads me to a lot of questions about the 3-year-old’s behavior. Is it a boy thing? A second child thing? (I don’t ask if it’s a middle child thing because we’ve been having these issues since way before our third was even a consideration.) Is it age appropriate and our daughter was just calmer? Could there be something wrong with him, like some sort of personality disorder? ADHD? Are we raising a sociopath? Really, I worry about these things because it can be that bad.

I think part of the problem is that I have never witnessed any other kid behaving like this. Sure, I’ve heard about epic meltdowns, but I’ve never seen one with my own two eyes like the ones we experience with our son. Now that can partly be chalked up to the fact that we don’t have too many friends here in CT with kids this age, and partly to the fact that even if you see someone else’s kid having a tantrum, you’re just seeing the one instance, you’re not living with them 24/7 and getting an accurate image of what’s going on behind the scenes. Plus, no one’s kid could possibly be as challenging as your own.

The other part of the problem is that when he isn’t spazzing out, he is the sweetest, most loving, most cuddliest, most empathetic child. Really. He’s seriously like Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. One minute he’s saying, “Mamma, I love you so much” and smothering me with hugs, and the next he’s throwing himself on the ground and screaming like a banshee. It’s hard to know what I’m going to get.

And all of this makes me feel like I have no idea what the hell I’m doing. Probably because I have no idea what the hell I’m doing.

It got to the point where I was starting to get so worried that I spoke to our pediatrician. Everything sounded typical, she said. Or at least not out of the ordinary. Which made me feel a little better. “But what do we do about it?” I wanted to know. She gave us some suggestions, and we’ve implemented them with a fair amount of success. But then 5 minutes later we’re dealing with the same exact issues all over again. And I know the child doesn’t have a hearing problem because he can hear when I’m opening food in the kitchen no matter where he is in the house.

Last night I posted to my personal Facebook page how emotionally drained I was from the past few days, and many of my friends wrote to tell me that I’m not alone. Which was comforting. Not because they had to deal with this too (because god knows I don’t wish this stuff on others), but because they were dealing with this too. Like maybe this is just fairly typical behavior (and maybe our experience with our daughter was atypical). But even so, it seems like we’re all left wondering exactly how we deal with this.

Is this just how it is at this age? Another stage we need to get through? Something, much like the tantrums themselves, we just need to ride out? And how the hell long will we be on this ride? Does it ever end? (Please for the love of all things Brad Pitt, tell me it ends at some point!)

Update: Click here to read my follow-up post “Encouragement, A Walk, and Date Night.


The Orange Rhino Challenge: Update #1

If you missed it, last week I took up The Orange Rhino’s no-yelling challenge and shared the beginning of my journey with you in my first post: I’m In: The Orange Rhino Challenge. I was so excited to start this, and even got the rest of the family in on it.

My goal: 365 days. I made it 7 with absolutely no yelling. Really, none. But then I started slipping on the 8th day. I still wasn’t yelling, but I was talking through clenched teeth a lot of the time, and I wasn’t always talking so nicely. I wanted to regain my traction, so I decided to start over yesterday; rewind to Day 1. And I didn’t even make it through that day.

What set me off? Trying to get the kids out the door for a special treat and being met with a ton of fussing and whining from the 3 yo. He didn’t want to leave the house. He didn’t want to stop playing with his dinosaurs. His shoes felt funny. He hit his sister. It’s the same damn thing EVERY time we try to leave the house. And I lost it. “Why are you fussing so much when I’m trying to do something nice for you?” “Why can’t we get out the door without you pitching a fit?” “Why do you have to do this every time we try to leave the house?”

It’s painful for me to admit this and to read back what I said. Because you know what? I KNOW this happens every time. My son is 3–he doesn’t always deal well with transitioning from one thing to the next. And he doesn’t have the emotional maturity to handle his feelings and frustration during these times. So, he pitches a fit. AND I KNOW THIS. I know this so much that I usually help prep him for outings or any other seemingly abrupt change in scene. If I know we’re going out, I’ll start the day by going over our schedule–what we’ll be doing, where we’ll be going. And then when we need to go somewhere, I start about an hour out reminding him that we’ll soon need to stop whatever it is we’re doing so that we can start getting ready to leave. You get the picture. Usually this works, but not always. AND I KNOW THIS, TOO.

So really, the problem wasn’t with my son at all. It was with me. He was being a normal 3 yo experiencing normal 3 yo emotions, and dealing with them in a normal 3 yo way. Instead of asking why he was behaving the way he was, I should have been asking myself what I needed to do to calm myself down so that I could re-approach the situation without the anger and frustration. Because I’m the adult. But I didn’t, and I yelled. And we were back to square one.

So, here I sit feeling a bit defeated. And sad. But I am trying. And so are the kids. And we will keep trying. This in itself, I realize, is a huge step.

Today is a new day. Day 1. Again. We can do this. No matter how many times we need to start over.

Until the next update . . .

To keep up with my journey, please feel free to check out my Orange Rhino Challenge page. For more information on the challenge, please visit: http://theorangerhino.com. And if you’re on the challenge, too, let me know. We can support each other and hold each other accountable. Go Orange!



Lost in Translation: What I Say vs. What They Hear

lost in translation

I need a translator. Even though my kids and I speak the same language, apparently we don’t speak the same language.

What I say: “Let’s go, please, we’re running late.”
What they hear: “We have all the time in the world. Yes, you can watch 6 more shows. And please, definitely take an hour to pick out your clothes. While you’re at it, don’t forget to dump your milk on the table, ask for three more breakfasts, and tell me you have to poop as I’m opening the front door to leave. Oh, and why don’t you go ahead and throw an epic tantrum in there.”

What I say: “It’s time to clean up.”
What they hear: “It’s time to play and make an even bigger mess around here. Don’t worry, I’ll clean it all up later when you suddenly develop a sick tummy and a leg that feels like it’s going to fall off. Oh, and why don’t you go ahead and throw an epic tantrum in there.”

What I say: “Please be quiet for 2 minutes while I’m on the phone.”
What they hear: “Please scream at each other in voices that should only be used if you’re being chased by a bear, and use this time to ask me 101 questions about why we have fingernails. Oh, and why don’t you go ahead and throw an epic tantrum in there.”

What I say: “What would you like for lunch?”
What they hear: “Please tell me everything in the entire world that you do not like to eat, and make sure that you include everything that we actually have in the house and that you liked yesterday on that list. Oh, and why don’t you go ahead and throw an epic tantrum in there.”

What I say: “We’re going to the store to pick up a few things for dinner.”
What they hear: “We’re going to the store so you can run around like crazy people and beg me to buy you everything you see because even though we just had lunch I know how incredibly starving you are so a donut sounds like a great idea. Oh, and why don’t you go ahead and throw an epic tantrum in there.”

What I say: “Oh you look so cute, please hold still so I can get a picture.”
What they hear: “Immediately stop that cute thing you’re doing and make the most horrendous faces you can think of while wiggling and jumping around and looking everywhere but at the camera. Oh, and why don’t you go ahead and throw an epic tantrum in there.”

What I say: “The baby is sleeping, it’s quiet time.”
What they hear: “It’s time to get out all of the toys that make noise. And be sure to drop everything imaginable on the hardwood floors and slam all of the doors in the house. And yes, now is the perfect time to pretend you’re in a rock band. Oh, and why don’t you go ahead and throw an epic tantrum in there.”

What I say: “I’ll be right back, I need to go to the bathroom.”
What they hear: “Grab your food and all of your toys and come with me. I love having company in the bathroom. The more the merrier. Please also take this opportunity to ask me how it is you came out down there and unroll the entire roll of toilet paper. Oh, and why don’t you go ahead and throw an epic tantrum in there.”

What I say: “Quickly, please go get me a burp cloth from the closet.”
What they hear: “Please walk around the house at a snail’s pace looking in every possible closet but the one where we keep the burp cloths and then get distracted by a shiny object and never bring me anything because I like it when spit up seeps into the carpet and dries on my clothes. It makes for a nice aroma. Oh, and why don’t you go ahead and throw an epic tantrum in there.”

What I say: “Please play nicely.”
What they hear: “Yes, you two are mortal enemies and should treat each other as such. Everything in the house actually belongs to just you and no one else, so I completely understand why you’re screaming bloody murder and acting like that toy you haven’t played with in 4 months is your most prized possession. Oh, and why don’t you go ahead and throw an epic tantrum in there.”

What I say: “Let’s try to keep those new clothes clean.”
What they hear: “New clothes make the best play clothes. Yes, you should absolutely go paint me a picture and then go outside to search for worms in the mud. And if you can manage to get some ketchup and chocolate on them, that’d be just swell. Oh, and why don’t you go ahead and throw an epic tantrum in there.”

What I say: “Goodnight, sleep tight.”
What they hear: “It’s party time! After you throw all of your stuffed animals off your bed to make room for all of your jumping, please make sure you get out of bed no less than 5 times each to come and tell me that you are hot. Or cold. Or hungry. Or thirsty. Or have to go to the bathroom. Or that you hear a witch outside. Oh, and why don’t you go ahead and throw an epic tantrum in there.”



I’m In: The Orange Rhino Challenge




Enough with the all caps already, right? Well, if that annoyed you just reading it, can you imagine how my kids felt hearing me scream those things? How I felt after losing my cool and screaming at them? This happens in my house more than I’d like to admit. Which makes my kids feel shitty. Makes me feel shitty. So I’m going to do something about it.

I love my kids. Fiercely. And I tell them that so many times a day they often roll their eyes at me. I’m the first to admit, however, that I have very little patience. This is something I’ve known and dealt with my whole life and something that I actively work on. I didn’t say successfully work on, but actively. I’m trying. Really. Or so I thought I was until I read The Orange Rhino’s “10 Things I Learned When I Stopped Yelling at My Kids.” (If you haven’t already, I highly suggest you read her post. It so precisely describes, in my opinion, probably every parent’s struggle with the guilt associated with yelling at your kids.)

button5This amazing woman made it her mission to stop yelling at her kids for 1 year. A whole mother-loving, freaking year. (And as of today, she’s made it 418 days!) And she didn’t just say she wasn’t going to yell, she actually came up with a plan for how to meet her goal. Like an actual plan, with guidelines for what constitutes yelling, a yelling meter to distinguish various levels of yelling, tracking resources, rules for counting days . . . And then she turned her plan into a challenge. A challenge for other parents to stop all the yelling, too.

After reading all about The Orange Rhino Challenge, I realized that my “efforts” to work on my patience and stop yelling weren’t efforts at all. They were just thoughts that didn’t translate into meaningful actions. The conviction in my head and heart was there, but what good is that if I’m not following through with my actions? “Actions speak louder than words,” I always say. Say. Words. I wasn’t doing. “Aww hell!”

But now I am. I am going to take the challenge. I am proclaiming that as of today, April 1, 2013, my goal is to make it 365 days without yelling at my kids. And then, like The Orange Rhino, I want to keep going. And going, and going. I want to stop feeling shitty when I break down and yell at my kids. I want my kids to stop feeling shitty when I break down and yell at them. I want to stop breaking down and yelling at my kids! I want to learn new methods for dealing with my anger and lack of patience. This problem is all on me. Not my kids. I want to do better by them. I want to be a good role model for them because, quite honestly, I am already starting to see a lot of this yelling behavior beginning in them, and it breaks my heart. I want it all to stop.

It’s a lofty goal, I know, but I’m in. For my kids. For me.

Who wants to join me? (If you do, I promise we can hold hands and sing “Kumbaya.” But quietly. Didn’t you hear there’s no more yelling around  here?) 🙂