Monica Bielanko
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Surrender Dorothy

We've had a kind of rolling sickness affecting our household for the past two months and while I thoroughly enjoy motherhood my enjoyment most definitely does not stretch into the perverse realms of tending to sick kids. Sick kids who have suddenly reached that horrific phase of childhood that involves pinching and whacking each other over and over and over and over again and after each transgression shouting "Mom he hit me! Mom she pinched me! Mom Sister hurt me! Mom, Henry's stanking me!" Yes, Henry's innocent and necessary habit of bowel elimination is perceived by Violet as an attack. Come to think of it, I'm starting to perceive that shit as an attack as well.

Anyhow, it's 5am and everyone is sleeping although the occasional phlegm-rattling cough echoes through the hall and strikes fear in my heart. Not because of the sickness itself - that's old news - but because I will go batshit if a cough attack wakes up one of them. This 5am business is the only time I can get to myself! A 25-year-old me just gave herself a hysterectomy when she realized the kind of early bird-ness inherent in motherhood.

That said, I find myself really sinking into motherhood in a way I've never experienced before. I kinda, sort of feel like I've been fighting motherhood until now. It's hard to describe what I mean but up until recently I engaged myself in battles I should've known I couldn't win. Trying to get them to eat certain foods, to wear certain things, to brush their teeth, even. I found myself uttering trite parenting phrases like BECAUSE I SAID SO or YOU HAVE UNTIL THE COUNT OF THREE and oh my God I totally said YOU ARE CRUISIN' FOR A BRUISIN' a couple weeks ago.

But lately I find that a lot of the battles I pick with my kids aren't that big of a deal and won't affect whether or not I ultimately raise serial killers. For instance, if they don't want to eat, I don't force the issue. "Fine. You're done." I say without emotion and tell them to take their plate to the sink. Most of the time they continue eating. Funny, isn't it? It's like they want the fight. As if they take pleasure in my begging. Without the fight there is no enjoyment in refusing to eat. Little sadists.

But just letting it all go is a kind of reverse psychology (that often works!) and also a new found freedom. But you can't view it as reverse psychology strategy or else you're still angling to win. You have to truly let go. Don't want to brush you teeth? Fine. Go to bed with dirty teeth, I don't care.

Before, I would've struggled with a screaming Henry in a desperate effort to brush his teeth, sometimes losing myself in the struggle in the same way I would in an argument with Serge. I wanted to win, but for the wrong reasons. Wanted him to brush his teeth because I'M THE MOM AND I'M TELLING YOU TO BRUSH YOUR TEETH AND YOU ARE DEFYING ME and not so much because I wanted him to have clean teeth. The clean teeth were important, yes, and the impetus for the battle but somewhere after minute ten of a logic-defying argument with a 2-year-old I was just trying to prove my authority, my mom-ness, and make him brush. Now I let it go. Not all the time, mind you. But when I see the struggle will be epic and pointless I just shrug and tell them to have dirty teeth for all I care. More often than not they end up doing what I want when they see it isn't that important to me. Oh, they're evil, to be sure. Mind games like no other.

But this sinking into motherhood I refer to isn't just because I'm learning to pick my battles better, it's a general state of mind. The best way to describe it is that I'm enjoying the chores of motherhood now as opposed to rushing through them to get to the other side. Instead of rushing through bathtime so the kids are clean already and I can attempt to read another chapter of Les Miserables (very slow-going) I park myself on the bathroom floor and enjoy bathtime. Instead of being annoyed by traffic on the way to pre-school to the point of distraction I engage the kids in conversation and am usually dazzled by the craziness that comes out of their mouths.

The shift comes from an acceptance of kids as they are. Toddlers are insane, kids are nuts and you can fight it until you're as cuckoo as they are or just relax and roll with it. And not just roll with it, but enjoy it because that's why you became a parent, for godsakes!

Yes, that's it! That's what I'm trying to say. I finally got to it there after a couple rambling paragraphs: enjoy the children in all their children-ness and be mindful of not losing yourself in the little things. Their children-ness is why you became a parent, is it not? And before you know it the whole gig will be over and you'll be sitting in your La-Z-Boy looking for an episode of CSI you haven't seen 454 times and complaining that you're out of pickled onions.

Sink into it. Revel in it. Even the arguments that make your brain leak out of your ears. Pretty soon your only arguments will be with The Bachelor from season 745 when he gives the wrong girl the rose and you give him The Business from your recliner in between sips of your nightly warm milk before bedtime.

Oop. Here's Henry now. Creeping through the secret passage that connects our closets. Time to revel in it. The early morning cartoons, silly arguments, demands for milk, dirty diapers and runny noses. I can sink into it all... Except maybe the Dora theme song.

Reader Comments (9)

I love seeing you write this. Just enjoying their kids is something I think a lot of people miss the boat on. What is so great about being "right"? Do the best you can to get them to understand (brush your teeth so they are clean and healthy, clean teeth feel nicer than yucky teeth) and if they are not going with it that day - let it go. Kids can sense when you are truly patient and relaxed and when you are faking it. It's not like they are going to never eat, or bathe, or brush their teath or hair. Kids your kids age need to feel control over themselves. They are newly aware of what it means to be independent, but not capable of a lot of stuff by themselves. Imagine how frustrating that is! When my daughter was Violet's age, I read something in a book or online somewhere about changing parental mindset to one of "yes". When the kids want something, the first impulse should be to let them do it or say "yes", then pause for a moment and think - is this safe? Is it considerate to others? And if those questions are answered ok, let them do it, even if it seems illogical or silly or boring to you. Allow the kids to determine their own path, instead of exerting discipline that is defined in terms of adult logic. At 13 my daughter is still (mostly) a sweet girl, while other mothers are engaged in a war of will with their middle schoolers. I love being a mom, especially those early morning and other quiet moments, so much more than I ever knew was possible.

February 15, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterDebbie

My husband and I just had this conversation this week. our daughter is about to turn 2. i said exactly this, "we need to pick our battles. Dinner and getting dressed are two that we are not picking." so last night she didn't want to eat, I said fine, don't eat. My husband was amazed.

February 15, 2013 | Unregistered Commenterteresa

I feel the same way (mine are the same ages as yours) and I think what helped me was realizing that I don't have to ENJOY all the little stuff (watching the same Rescuebots episode 7 times in a row, Puzzles--god I hate puzzles), I just have to realize that THEY enjoy them and I love those little turds more than anything else I can think of. So I do what I can to enjoy the hell out of my kids. Also, I'm never ever right, but (for the time being anyway) I am more sneaky and creative, so we can get the teeth brushed and get them out of the house without looking like little mental patients most days. Mostly.

February 15, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterLBH

Love this!! Thank you, thank you, thank you.

February 15, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterJulie

I don't usually comment but this is so similar to how i have felt lately. My change came as a result of watching a youtube family vlog. Family of 11, living in an rv, kayaking from state to state. Watching the way the mom dealt with motherhood was soooo different to how I approached it and totally inspired a change. She even has polar opposite views politically, and she is very vocal about it, but i still loved watching their family.

February 15, 2013 | Unregistered Commenterandrea

Boy you said it all here. Exactly what I am thinking about these days. There is something very freeing about letting things happen their own way, and not having to control the flow of events in order to maintain your life as if it MUST be done according to textbook or else... Or else what?! In my own mind, I wrote the textbook of how my life is SUPPOSED to be vs. how it is coming along. Short term, long term...all of this in the face of complete mystery which ought to be more fun. It's better not knowing, right? Not being sure of the outcome ought to be exciting, right? No? I think we do get to write some of the story line...ideas and dreams and hopes, of how your kids are going to act and grow up and become but you are soooo right. Monica. When you just stop to smell the stank and let the bathwater slosh onto the floor and let the kids deal with the consequences of simple choices ( with parental supervision). Give life your best shot and ENJOY as much of the good the bad and the ugly as you can! They really do grow up many books and shit will wait. Have fun! PS I just bought a whole crap load of good STUFFat my neighbors yardsale to ebay and am going to do it! .

February 15, 2013 | Unregistered Commentergina

Sista! You nailed it! At this age. My kids are 15 & 16 and I have to adopt the exact opposite state of mind . But they should know better by now right??? Grrrrrrrr

February 15, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterCMW

It's uncanny how often you write about the exact situation that's going on in my head/house/heart...

February 16, 2013 | Unregistered Commenterchristine from canada

Great post, Monica! It's always so fun to read what you write!!!

February 16, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterHanni

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