I know I’ve said it before, but this time I’m serious. I’m quitting. I can’t do this parenting gig anymore. I didn’t go to school for it, and I don’t know if I’m really that good at it. Plus, I’m tired and frustrated, and it doesn’t even pay well. I mean I could be making more money at Starbucks. Hell, even McDonald’s pays better. I really think I’d be better off somewhere else, somewhere where I could work my way up. In the position I have now there’s no upward mobility. I’ve stagnated. I haven’t even gotten a promotion in 13 years, and that’s messed up. My skills are never appreciated, and I single-handedly run this operation.
I think I’m feeling particularly down about the situation because I had a really great weekend, one where I could read and not cook dinner (my two favorite things). And I did some thinking. I got to regroup a bit, and reflect on myself and my family and some things that have been bothering me, and in the peace and tranquility of the moment I said to myself, “I’m going to be more patient and kind and not the least bit sarcastic to my kids.” Which is really hard for me, but I was going to do it because it was in the best interests of everyone, and I don’t think The Kid particularly likes my cutting remarks even though she likes to issue them herself. I thought I could do better to make everything more harmonious in my family.
Then reality hit.
It’s like when you’re on vacation, and everything is wonderful that you decide when you get back to real life you are going to carry this peace and calm inside you forever. You are going to hold on to it, and not let daily irritations get to you. You have found tranquility, and there is no reason why you can’t keep it. You commit to it right then and there because it really can’t be that hard.
And then you go back to work and your plan is shot to shit in about 2.5 seconds. Well, that’s kind of what happened.
When my family got back from their ski weekend, I made a vow to say calm, to not yell about anything and to not repeatedly remind everyone about their respective responsibilities. I was going to be attentive and interested in every utterance. I was going to express the appropriate emotions at the appropriate times and be concerned about all their needs.
I made it through one day.
The thing is I may have been willing to change, but everyone else came back the exact same way. So although I made it through the first day, the next day was more of a challenge. It was back to school, back to schedules, back to routine and structure, which my kids aren’t particularly well-adapted to. The Kid made grumblings about not feeling well, which I deftly ignored (I’ve been at this for quite some time, people).
Just about every day The Kid has a new ailment, and I don’t know how I’m supposed to react so I don’t. I don’t react because I’m pretty sure she’s not sick, and how do you react to a sick person who’s not sick? It seems a little silly, and I’m just not into games. Just last week she came home from school, requesting to see an eye doctor. What kid asks to go to the doctor? What is she, an arthritic senior citizen with high blood pressure?
I’m like: Can’t you wait until they do testing in school? They do that every year, don’t they? I don’t feel like shelling out a bunch of cash on something they do for free in school. I also don’t feel like sitting in a doctor’s office for 5 hours when I’m almost positive your vision’s perfectly fine. But I didn’t say that. I was reserved. I said, “Ok,” and then thought, this is the perfect job for Mr. Potato Head (he gets all unnecessary jobs). Then she started hounding me about it. I’m like, Jeez, kid, get off my back. But I didn’t say that. I was reserved. I said, “Daddy’s on it,” which means you’ll see the doctor in about 10 years.
But that’s not the real problem. That’s just the lead up to the problem to give you a little sense of what’s going on around here. So yesterday was the second day back to school after going back for a half day Tuesday after about a million and a half days off because Snowmageddon, and The Kid tells me her stomach hurts. I say, “Well, you have to go to school. You haven’t been to school in about a week because of the snow and the long holiday weekend.”
She knows my policy. Typically, I make them go to school, and if they aren’t feeling well they can go to the nurse and have her call me. So right before heading out the door The Kid says in all seriousness, “What time would be good for the nurse to call you?” And I turned to her and said, “Are you asking me what time you can get sick in school today? Is that what you’re asking me?” I could no longer hold back the sarcasm, and although it did nothing to ameliorate the problem and perhaps exacerbated the issue, if you’re stupid enough to ask me what time would be good for you to fall ill in school so you can get out of going, you’ve just ruined your shot and you deserve to have sarcasm spit back in your face.
Then I said, “No time. No time would be good for the nurse to call me.” Which didn’t go over too well and to which I added, “Unless you’re crapping your brains out I do not want to get a call. And, I had better see actual brains in the toilet.” Which was really not the right thing to say because then she started shrieking something about actually feeling sick and why don’t I ever believe her and yada yada before slamming the door and huffing off to school.
The phone did ring that afternoon, and I told her she had to stay, but I would pick her up in the parking lot after school so she didn’t have to walk. Amazingly, when she got in the car that afternoon she looked and acted perfectly fine. I think she forgot she was sick. It wasn’t until we reached home, and I asked her how her stomach was that she seemed to remember she wasn’t feeling well.
The rest of the night went smoothly, and I didn’t hear another word about any more aches and pains. This morning she got up and strangely the stomach bug was back. She went to school.
The troubling part for me is if I call her out on any of these things all I get is tears and hysterics and accusations and stomping off to her room because I’m mean and unsympathetic. Which is pretty much the same reaction I get whenever I tell The Kid to do something she doesn’t like. She gets angry with me, the mother. And I’m thinking, shouldn’t this be the other way around?
And since my husband doesn’t like friction in the household, I find myself between a rock and a hard place. Because while there’s nothing I would love more than a friction-free home where the children gaily skip home from school excited to start in on their homework, eager to help with the chores and happy to set the table before dinner without my even asking, no matter how hard I try that never seems to happen.
So all this is to say I feel like I can’t win. Nothing I do is right even though I’m trying to do the right thing. And my relationship with my daughter suffers, but I don’t know how to fix it. I feel stuck and although I’m sure there are somethings I can do differently, to me everything seems upside down. Instead of the children being expected to please the parents, the parents are now expected to please the children. And, unfortunately, I don’t fit into the role so well.
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