Maybe it is the weather. Maybe it is the time of year. Maybe it is the age.
Or maybe it is genetic.
My seven year old has now said, more than once in the last month (and certainly more than once in her lifetime), “I just wish I was an only child.”
My mom swears I used to say this too. For a long time I figured it was some re-fabrication of history. I couldn’t conceive of actually thinking (let alone voicing) such a profoundly egocentric thought at the age that my mom claimed I did.
But here we are.
It seems, once again, that every time a mother prays for her child to grow up one day and “have a child just like her,” God is squirrels it away in his little wait-and-see-back-pocket.
*Pause. Digression on that last point: Why then, I ask you in all honesty, does Eliott lack even the teeny tiniest pinky bone of organization within her? How is it only April, and the child no longer has a single pair of pants left without holes in them? How has she managed to destroy not one, but two pair of shoes in a time period of only one school year? Of all the traits she inherited from me (and John for that matter), she seemed to get nothing of our ability and desire to maintain order among personal belongings.
For the last seven years, I admit, I have been praised on an above average basis for how well-behaved, how cute, how easy my children are. And I’m thankful for that. If nothing else, my singular parenting goal for this time in my life is to have children who can at least maintain some semblance of consideration and manners in public. I could be wrong, but I assume no woman aspires to be the mother of The Hellian in the church nursery.
But I can promise you this goal does not come without some serious behind the scenes work.
Sometimes I am proud of my creativity, grace, and forgiveness in dealing with the underdeveloped emotions and disconnected frontal lobe of my children.
And other times I am just weary.
Weary of the same fight over and over and over again, between Eliott and Carter. Weary of the same attitude in the car on the drive home from school which must be repeated five days a week, and could conceivably go on for the next eleven years, give or take a few where one of them has a license. Weary of the same directions, repeated, day in and day out, hour in and hour out, minute by minute. Really. Freaking. Weary. Of the messes that nobody seems to see but me.
And so some days, like today for example, creativity and grace and forgiveness are the last things on my mind when that familiar noise erupts from the four year old before 7:15am. Some days, like today for example, the only thing I can do is survive.
Hence, our current modus operandi: if you cannot say anything nice, do not say anything at all.
But it isn’t quite so simple. Because my secret to success lies in removing all other options. Burying my children in such a hole, so to speak, that their only option is to dig their way out, but then further removing all tools for digging and climbing except the one and only thing I want them to use.
Actual words to come out of my mouth before school this morning: “If you want to be an only child, I will let you experience how it feels to be an only child. You will not speak to your sister. You will not play with your sister. You will not even look directly into yours sister’s eyes today lest you attempt to communicate without words. When you get home you will do all the kid-jobs in the entire house, because you have no sister to help you. You do not have to share any of your toys with your sister but you may not use anything that was once given to her. Oh. And you might want to bring home some imaginary friends from school today, because let me tell you what. Being an only child is going to be a boring and lonely life.”
Survival mode, people.
I’m not saying I’m perfect. I’m not even sure I’m doing any of this right.
But I’m surviving.