If you ever find me asleep but groggily chanting ‘roll-up pants, roll-up pants, roll-up pants’, PLEASE wake me up!!!

And so there we were.  Again.

My younger son, Bozo, throwing an epic  tantrum in his car seat with all the bells and whistles, screaming, “I want to wear my roll-up pants!  I want to wear my roll-up pants!!”, thrashing, and kicking the back of my seat while I sat up front, driving 50 miles an hour completely dissociating from the entire situation.  It was my only escape.

I should have a sticker on the back of my car that asks, “How Am I Driving?” because on these mornings, I really have no idea.  However, let me back up a bit.

For about a year and a half/two years now, we have all had to endure what we like to call Bozo’s “Diva” behavior when it comes to his clothes, among other things.

He has two pairs of pants that he will wear and only two.  One pair he calls his “roll-up” pants because about 8 months ago they were too long and we had to roll them up (now they’re too short and have patches all over them).  The other pair he calls his “blue pants” because they’re a darker blue.  They too, have patches all over.  And the holes are now creeping out from under the patches on both pairs.  Here, I’ll show you:

IMG_3654
“Blue Pants” and “Roll-Up Pants”, respectively.

As a matter of fact, ALL of my boys’ jeans look like this.  Here, I’ll prove it:

I took this picture over a year ago.  Just picture about 10 more pairs to this pile since that's how many more pairs I've had to boy and patch and mend and ultimately discard.
I took this picture over a year ago. Just add about 10 more pairs to this pile since that’s how many more pairs I’ve had to buy and patch and mend and ultimately discard.

But, back to the issue at hand:

Then, Bozo has two shirts that he’ll wear (an angry bird pair and a yellow shirt) and only one pair of socks (green camo socks with a hole in the toe).  He likes those socks because they have virtually no seam at the toe, which irritates him, and because he can pull them way up high and tight.  Before he found these camo socks, I would normally have to bring down 3-4 pairs for him to try on.

So Bozo will only wear two pairs of pants, two shirts and one pair of socks and there are seven days in a week:  you do the math.  With all total combinations, this only allows him 4 different variations of the clothes in one week, which is not enough.  I can’t do laundry every single day and I can’t allow him to wear dirty clothes to school.  He already looks like a little hobo, I really don’t want him to smell on top of that, or else someone is going to call Child Services on me for neglect.  I was already paranoid about this when, about a year ago, he refused to even wear clothes to school, but would only wear his pajamas.  And they

began to look ratty and torn and get holes in the knees and he started to outgrow them and I figured any minute I was going to get a call from DCF saying I was neglecting my kid.

Which brings us to our daily morning debacle.

It all starts with the announcement, “It’s time to get dressed”.  With that, comes a barrage of whines and protests from both of my boys, but at least my older son just puts on whatever is there.

But Bozo over there!?  Oh he’s just getting warmed up.

He sees the pants I’ve laid out for him.  ” I don’t like those pants” he whines.  “I know, but your other two pants are in the wash.  They’re dirty.  You’re wearing those”.

“Noooooo…..I don’t LIKE those pants!!!  I want my roll-up pants!!!”

“I just told you they’re dirty.  You’re not wearing dirty pants to school, plus the holes have gotten bigger and I have to figure out a way to patch them again!  Now put those on RIGHT NOW” (no matter how many times I say it, I know deep down, none of this will fly).

He refuses and heads into the laundry room to find his dirty, holey roll-up pants nonetheless.   He comes back out livid and stomping.  He attempts to put on the perfectly good patch-less pants and complains and whines the whole time about how they feel and how they fit and so on and so on.  He’s on the floor kicking, saying over and over, “I want to wear my roll-up pants, I want to wear my roll-up pants”.  And then he yells at me because he didn’t want to wear his yellow shirt today, he wants to wear his angry bird shirt and I should have known that!!

By this time, the bus has arrived, so I take Si out to get on.  When I come back in, Bozo no longer has pants on.  “What are you doing???  We’ve got to go soon!!!??”.

“I don’t like that UNDERWEAR!!!” he yells at me.  “Will you go upstairs and get me some more??”.  “No!” I say, “because I have NO IDEA which ones are ‘good’ underwear and ‘bad’ underwear and no matter which ones I bring down you’re not going to like them.  Only YOU know which ones are okay, so YOU go upstairs and get them and HURRY UP!!!”.

See, now I’m pissed off.  Because I’ve got to get to work a bit early today and this morning is only getting worse.  I try to pack the car with everything else (bags, lunch boxes, my computer, etc) so that as soon as he’s dressed we can go.

He comes back downstairs, angry and fuming, but with underwear on.  I’ve got the cammo socks in my hand (thank god).  He pouts and won’t look at me as he gets his shirt on….but then decides to perform an encore of the earlier scene about the pants.

“I want to wear my roll-up pants!!!!” he starts to whine.  This is in the mud room of our house with me dressed and ready to go and him, laying on the floor surrounded by boots with only a shirt and underwear on.  Now, I’ve found myself in this situation before mind you.  And I don’t handle it the exact same way every time.  Some days I say “FINE”!! and grab his roll-up pants because I can’t take it anymore.  Some days I got great sleep and am not in a hurry and can take 5 minutes to sit with him and move through it more slowly.

This morning was neither of those mornings.  His pants were in the bottom of the hamper, shoved way down with the smelly old kitchen wash cloths and dirty underwear, so there was NO WAY I was sending him to school in them and I don’t have extra time to cater to his wardrobe issues.

So, I have to force-dress him today.  That means, putting him on my lap, getting the pants on and pulling his socks on, pulling his boots on and getting his jacket on ALL while he writhes and cries chanting, “I want to wear my roll-up pants, I want to wear my roll-up pants”.

I get him strapped into his car seat, I get myself buckled into the driver seat and we pull out of the driveway and head to school

I hate mornings like this more than anything.  And it’s actually not even because of the effing roll-up pants.  It’s because I love my little Bozo more than anything and I hate that we have to say good-bye in the mornings after having had such a horrible time together.  I hate that my little goof-ball boy who makes me laugh and is the biggest cuddle bug EVER, can throw me into such a fit of rage that I have to “check-out” just to stay sane.

And unfortunately, it’s not just his clothes.  It’s his picky eating, it’s bedtime ( he doesn’t want the sheet touching his body, he wants the soft fleece blanket touching his body, so I’ve had to strip his bed before to rearrange what order all of his bedding is in)…..

It’s a lot of things.

It’s frustrating.  It’s exhausting.  It’s enraging.  Sometimes it’s actually comical and all I can do is laugh at how ludicrous the situation is.  Sometimes, when all the planets are aligned, it’s a non-issue.  And I’ve noticed those days happening more and more as he gets older.  (not often enough, but I’ll take anything at this point).

It’s also not a lot of things.  It’s not Obsessive Compulsive Disorder.  It’s not Sensory Integration Disorder.  It’s not Oppositional Defiant Disorder.  Our children are not diseased or disordered.  This is how children have been since the beginning of time.  They’re willful and stubborn.  They can’t control a whole lot in their lives (especially their emotions), except what they want to wear and what they want to eat.  There is nothing “wrong” with them that needs to be fixed by a psychologist or doctor.

Wouldn’t that be just so much easier for us?

Alas, this is Life.  This is Parenthood.  This is what being Almost-5 is about.  This is nothing new.  Medieval mothers in Europe dealt with the same little Pains In The Asses that we deal with today.

Merek, I begeth thee to PLEASE don thoust frock right this minute!!!!
Merek, We begeth thee to PLEASE don thoust frock right this minute!!!! “No!  I Shan’t wear it!!!”.

These are the experiences that make us a Family and Human.  Which means, that after mornings like this, you cuddle in bed together and show each other how much you love each other and what might help things go more smoothly tomorrow, and then you get up the next morning and try again.

And then someday, when he’s twenty and perfectly normal and healthy, and brings his girlfriend home from college, you take out his two pairs of pants from when he was 4-and-a-half and you tell the story of him lying sprawled out on the kitchen floor in his underwear every morning before school screaming, “I want to wear my roll-up pants”.

Aaaahhhh….sweet, sweet revenge.  Someday you’ll be mine.

Neither Sheila E nor The Artist Formally Known as Prince have any kids. Maybe that explains why they’re keeping me up so late.

I have a question:   Will I ever sleep like I did before I had children, or, like when Kirstie Alley replaced Shelley Long on Cheers, will it just never, ever be the same again?

I am still not sleeping like a normal human being, even after 6 years.  I try hard not to blame my children for this, but as far as I can remember, I slept far less fitfully in my twenties–even after pulling an all-nighter for a philosophy paper on The Cave (I got an A+), or bar-hopping until 2am.  Or, maybe it was just because I could sleep in until 1:00.

Okay, so it might not be their fault currently, but it used to be when they were infants.   And apparently, I’m still on infant-time.  By the way, I analyzed and conjured up the idea for this post while lying in bed last night, around midnight, listening to two out of the three boys in this house snore like it was nobody’s business.  Unfortunately, I do some of my best thinking in the “quiet” of the night when no one is asking me to wipe their bum, fix their Buzz Lightyear toy, or make them another bagel with cream cheese.

I’ve realized there are a number of reasons for my chronic lack of sleeping through the night:

1) I have what my husband has coined “Bionic Hearing”.  And he’s right.  I have better hearing than our dog.  How did I get this Bionic Hearing?  From my kids, that’s who.  Any mother will attest to the quick-learned ability to hear our newborns fuss or whimper for us in the night.  But, while I assume most other parents eventually resume sleeping more soundly as their children grow…..apparently I don’t.

My husband and I could be sitting downstairs in the living room watching a t.v. show and all of a sudden, I’ll sit up on the couch:  “push MUTE for a minute someone sneezed”, I demand.  He slowly grabs the remote, pushes mute and looks at me with a mixture of curiosity and annoyance as I tilt my head.  And then my youngest sneezes for the second time upstairs in his bunk.  “Yup, I knew it was him. “.

“You’re an alien” he responds, disgustingly pushing un-mute and getting back to the show.

Gazeuntight
Gesundheit.

So, with my Bionic hearing, it gives the term “sleeping soundly” a whole new meaning.  I hear the sound of the furnace kick on in the basement, I hear the house creak, I hear the sound of my dog getting on and off her bed downstairs, I hear the sound of the ice machine kick on and make ice, not to mention the sounds and movements that come from my kids and husband.  I know who got up to go pee, who’s changing positions and who grinds his teeth.  Hm.  Re-reading all of this…….it even feels a little creepy to me.

2) I’m a restless sleeper to being with.

I will get into my bed at 8:30 at night and I’ll get in and out of it at least another 7 times before morning.  I have to pee, I’m thirsty, I forgot to turn the Christmas lights off, I left my chap stick downstairs on the kitchen counter, I heard one of the boys rustle in their bed so I better go make sure they’re both covered up.  In the process, I find my youngest just about to fall out of his bottom bunk, so I have to shove him back in his bed and on and on.  And then, after I’ve gotten in and out of bed a few times, I just toss and turn for another 45 minutes before I start to actually slip into unconsciousness.

It’s ridiculous.  My husband hates trying to fall asleep next to me because most of this occurs during the first hour or so.  And he’s snoring before he’s even fully horizontal, which is a whole other story that I’ll get into later.  I’m not positive, but I think I’m just so go-go-go-go all day long that it just takes me a little longer to simmer down enough to fall asleep.

And the biggest reason I’m ready to fall asleep by 7:00pm:

Why, oh why am I still in infant mode??
Why, oh why am I still in infant mode??

3)  I became so accustomed to getting up every two hours to nurse and change my boys when they were babies, and for some reason, I pretty much still do even though there is absolutely no reason for me to whatsoever.  Now, while I don’t physically get up and get out of bed every two hours, I do wake up pretty often.  Even if it’s just to switch positions.  But then, if I hear something it might wake me up a little more and then I’ll realize I have to pee again and then I figure since I’m up I may as well go check on the boys and make sure they’re covered since it’s 20 below zero out and I realize the furnace shut off and it’s now 60 degrees so I turn it back on and then I realize I’m thirsty again, and then once downstairs I notice our poor dog’s water dish is empty.  It’s like a Domino Effect.  It’s so much safer for me to just Stay.  In.  Bed.

Are other moms like this???  Or, do most moms go back to sleeping through the entire night knowing that if their kid gets cold, they’ll eventually figure out to pull the blankets up themselves?  Oddly enough, I don’t really feel over-tired most days, so I can’t tell if I just have ‘impaired judgement’ about my sleep, or if my body has simply adjusted to functioning on broken sleep really, really well?!

I know that I do sleep heavily some nights and I have the dreams to prove it.  Like the time I was on a synchronized swim team, or the time I was put in jail, escaped, but  felt so guilty that I went back and turned myself in again (too much Orange Is The New Black that week), or the time Stephen Colbert invited me over to his house for dinner with his family (we had lobster).

The thing I’m learning though, is to try not to get all bent out of shape if I don’t sleep heavily for 8 hours.  Because once I start fretting about it, then I’m not only lying there awake, I’m lying there awake and  anxious. I try to remind myself that I’m still laying and resting even if I am having really random thoughts.

” Crap, I’ve got to remember to get my cauliflower and curry soup out of the freezer in the morning because I want it for lunch.  And I’ve got to pick up more Children’s Motrin at Hannaford on the way to work.   That cashier person at Hannaford looked so familiar today.  Is her name Lucy?  She doesn’t look like a Lucy, she looks like a Sheila.  Sheila E.  Sheila E.   Who the hell is Sheila E?  Why am I thinking of a Sheila E???  Oh yeah, that drummer girl from the 80’s who played with Prince, or The Artist Formally Known as Prince I guess I should say.  I heard he was really short.  Like 5 foot 2 or something crazy like that.  It’s so weird to think I would tower over Prince.  He probably has a huge presence though, so that would cancel out how short he is.  He’s so amazingly talented.  He really rocks.  ‘I guess I should’ve know by the way you parked car sideways that it wouldn’t last.’  Great, now I’ve got Little Red Corvette in my head.  Shit.”

prince
And these two apparently keep me awake as well. Sweet Dreams everyone.

Dinnertime: Is it about the dinner, or the time?

I really wanted to scream at the top of my lungs that night.  It was dinner-time and I was engaged in yet another battle with my 4-year-old over what I had made for dinner.  No matter how many times I readied myself for the fight, I almost always lost.  Whether it was losing the battle of wills, losing my temper, or losing out on being able to have some quality time with my boys.

My frustration was at its boiling point and I could feel the scream linger in my throat.  But I swallowed it.  And then I just started to cry.   I didn’t know what else to do.  Dinner-time.  Otherwise known as, I-don’t-like-what-mom-made-and-I’m-going-to-whine-and-negotiate-and-cry-and-ruin-dinnertime- time.

I have two picky boys, so dinner has been a chore for the last few years now.  As time passed, I began to actually dread dinner time and would find myself getting on-edge and snarky with people knowing the battle that was ahead of me.

“What are we having?”,   “What are you cooking?”, “I don’t like Teryaki Chicken”, “That tastes yucky”.  “Please try it”.  “I don’t WANT to try it”.  “Eat 3 bites of it, or eat nothing at all”.  “Nooooooo”.

Dinner had become, simply put, one big long twenty-minute food fight between parents and kids.   I can remember feeding my children grilled scallops and peas on our back deck in the summers when they were two years old.  And then one day  they decided that if dinner didn’t involve chicken tenders or PB&J, they didn’t like it.

They eat what you put on the table or they don’t eat anything at all and that’s that”.

I swear, if I hear just one more person say this to me, I’m going to tie them to a chair and force-feed them the burnt Risotto that I screwed up the other night.  Well, this “tactic”…… it’s not working in my house.  And the reason it’s not working is because I can no longer stand the nightly arguing anymore about what I’ve made for dinner, who doesn’t like this, who doesn’t’ like that, how many bites they have to eat before they can get down, threatening putting them in their rooms if they don’t follow the rules, and so on and so on.

It’s wearing me down.  If there aren’t threats and whining happening AT the table, then there is a screaming and thrashing child upstairs in his room as the rest of us are all trying to sit quietly and finish our dinner while my 4-year-old pounds on the door.

We were dangerously bordering on looking like a scene from hells kitchen.

waddya mean you don't like spaghetti??  You did three weeks ago!?!?!
What do you  mean you don’t like spaghetti?? You did three weeks ago!?!?!

I don’t want my kids to associate eating with stress, threats and anger, even if they are eating their Brussel Sprouts.  As a matter of fact, it seems likely there would be far more potential for future eating disorders when eating has been paired with shame, guilt, and anger.   I’d rather them enjoy the act of eating and associate it with hanging out and talking and connecting with each other, not stress.

The questions I started asking myself were, “Is all of this stress and anxiety and arguing and temper tantrums really worth making my children eat their beans?”.  When they leave the table hungry because, “well if they don’t like what I cook then they don’t eat anything at all”, really worth the fact that for the next two hours before bed-time, not only will I have a cranky and over-tired child who has been at school all day, but he’ll be hungry on top of that, which means twice as many meltdowns and an increased inability to control himself because he’s tired and hungry?  Then not only was dinner shot, the remainder of our evening is going to suck as well.

Are my children really going to grow up to be gluttons who eat whatever they want whenever they want because I didn’t force them to eat my homemade beef stew or nothing at all?

And I’ve decided no.  Dinnertime at our house is going to focus more on the time aspect.

None of those things is worth it to me anymore.  I want my dinnertime with my family to be about connecting with them, talking about our days, hearing about the things they did at school, cracking jokes and just having a stress-free twenty minutes.  We all have busy, hectic lives and at this point, coming together as a family in an enjoyable way, outweighs my need to have them eat every single thing I put on the table in a game of wills.

This doesn’t mean they are going to eat Pop-Tarts for dinner.

It also doesn’t mean that I’m going to force-feed them quinoa (what is that stuff anyway?  People always used to bring it to potlucks and act like it was some kind of chocolate truffle).

What the F#*@ is quinoa?????
What the F#*@ is quinoa?????

And the thing is, they do eat a lot of healthy food.  During the day, I put out bowls of fruit on the kitchen counter.  If they want to graze…… graze on fruit then.  I put the yogurt and cheese sticks and applesauce in the fridge on the shelf they can reach.  I make dinner and ask them to try some of the things I’ve put out.  If we’re having things like Haddock or something like that, I’ll make them each something they like and then ask them to have some of the vegetable I’ve put out.  Once in a while they are brave enough to try some fish or other meat.  And there are also the rare times that they’ve been brave enough to try something new and actually liked it!!!  Go figure!!!

The other night, during our new, no-fighting dinner-time, the boys announced what they’re plans were when they each got a girlfriend, which I quickly reminded them they would not be able to do until they were 14 years old.

Si was going to take her for a nice long walk down our dirt road and into the woods and bring a picnic.  Sam was going to drink Dr. Pepper with her and bring her hunting, although she was going to have to wear camouflage and follow him and be quiet because he knows where the good spots are.   It opened up the greatest conversation about how to treat girls and how to always help with the dishes and talk nicely to them and so on.

Would I have been a better parent if I spent the twenty minutes making them choke down Haddock and steamed broccoli?

This picture is bullshit.  You can clearly see the girl in blue is saying "hurry the hell up and take the picture because this piece of asparagus is so gross and the girl in pink isn't even trying to pretend.
This picture is bullshit.  Asparagus.  Really.  They’re clearly being forced to look happy here.

I’ll tell ya, what I’ve learned so far, is that having a quiet dinner and connecting with my children emotionally is way, WAY more important to me then making sure they eat just the right portions from the 4 organic food groups.  My kids are picky.  They don’t like onions.  They will someday.   I didn’t like them either once upon a time.  Now, I love them.  I want them in everything.   Teaching good eating habits is a lifelong ordeal, not just something you drill into them when they’re young.  As long as you’re not sitting in front of the couch everyday inhaling an entire bag of Cheetos, it’ll all be okay.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have to go draw up a chart to show my kids just how many more years they have to wait until they’re 14.