Monday, December 5, 2011

The Drunken Years

....if I were writing a book about the girls and motherhood this would be the title of the current chapter in our lives.

Why? Well because for one, this is what it's like to parent 3 year old twins right now. I constantly feel like the AA sponsor of 2 drunks trying to rationalize, negotiate, and appease them every waking hour of their little lives. Secondly, the emotional roller coaster of three-year- old-twins can certainly lead to several drinks a day. Only alcohol could numb your mind enough to deal. Thankfully the latter doesn't happen too often because of school (thank you Lord), grandma (thanks again dear Lord), and daddy does eventually come home (Good Lord I am really blessed).

What really compelled me to post this today was reading this article and watching this video. Warning: If you have no children watch at your own risk. You may never want children after this.

The screams and yells resembled the same sounds that occur in my house times two! But what really got me was the reason that caused the tantrum of Noemi and David Doudna's daughter...and I quote,
"Their daughter Katrina once had a meltdown at dinnertime because she wanted to sit at one corner of the dining table. Problem was, the table didn't have any corners – it was round. When David Doudna asked Katrina where she wanted to sit, the tantrum only intensified. "

In my opinion the article should have been named, "What's Behind The Drunken State of Your Toddler." I'm not sure if it's scientific enough but it certainly captures the sometimes mind-boggling-reasons why your child gets upset.

This is a picture of their school's Halloween parade of 2010...notice they are not wearing the black pants of their costume. Why? Nobody knows, but the teacher told me that they explained to her that bumble bees don't wear black pants. Ummm ok. Again you can't rationalize with a drunk you just say okay and move on. So long as they agreed to walk in the Halloween parade the teacher couldn't spend too much time discussing the black legs of a bumble bee. And I agree.

In my experience this has been the difficult part of having twins, the tantrums. While at our local pool one day, Catalina decided she wasn't going to follow directions of her swim teacher. So I kept reminding her, very patiently I might add, that if she didn't listen we would NOT stay at the pool after class. After several reminders Cati had blatantly refused to do anything the poor young teacher asked. So as a result I had to stick to my threat and follow through. I braced myself for what lie ahead. Don't ask me who's more strong willed of my twins because I'll say the one that's giving me the hard time in the moment and that could change any day, any hour, any minute. Anyhow once she figured out we weren't staying the tantrum ensued she screamed, she cried, she smart mouthed me but I ignored it all because in the end a battle of words would get us nowhere. I can't say it was easy to hold it together. And I guess the look on my face was one of angst and worry. Worry that I would cave because I couldn't stand the embarrassment and the dread that all eyes were on me. And I wanted to explain this this tazmanian devil was really my child I was trying to drag out of the pool.

Suddenly I heard a voice from what seemed like a crowd of hundreds of other judging moms. The voice, because I couldn't possibly stop and look up to see who it was, said "Way to stick to your guns mom. You have to follow through otherwise it will only get worse." In that moment I felt a surge of strength and reassurance that came from the voice and I was suddenly confident that I had to be doing the right thing. And any fear I had that one day Cati would be telling this story opposite a therapist, completely dissipated. To the unknown mom who encouraged my disciplining that day....A heart felt Thank You. I really needed that.

The way I see it at two they're frustrated because they can't express what they want and you're frustrated because you wish you spoke babble. But at three the frustration is exponentially higher because they can talk fairly well now and they can say please and they can "use their words" and yet they still can't get what they want. When this happens the reaction is along the lines of...WHAT! Are you serious Mom?? In my case I guess this would be to the second power. And as a result sometimes I need TWO beers after a long day with the twins. If you throw in the infant in the middle of this madness and now I need a nice little alcoholic concoction that will knock me to bed in one gulp, like a Kamikaze Shot.

Since they've turned three I've had to up my negotiation tactics. They're smarter now. Now it's about creating the delicate balance of providing options that allow them to feel empowered and me to feel like I'm still in charge here. This is no easy task. So if you're out there thinking I can't possibly do this. I'm here to tell you that you're not alone. There are many days when I don't think I can do it either. You're not a failure you're just part of the masses.

Sometimes I think that because I have twins I'm much more willing to give in and just comply. After a day of heavy deliberations I am worn out. I can't hear myself think anymore never mind thinking straight so I just give in. Inside I'm pleading for mercy and screaming "UNCLE enough already!" When is Ashton Kutcher going to jump out of a car and say this is all a big joke on you! You just got PUNK'D!!

Every day it's about strategy, how do we get through whatever activity without an emotional breakdown. At this age they're thoughtful, albeit in a irrational sort of way, so I need to be careful not give some half-assed reason for why I need them to eat their meal, put their shoes on, or go to bed. If you think you can get away with some thoughtless response, then think again my friends. Get ready for a rebuttal. You do not want to get into direct, cross-examination, re-direct, re-cross, etc. That is what you want to avoid at all cost. That will eventually end with ...meltdown. You want to address the question and calmly agree to a settlement. Done.

For example:

Twin A: Mommy I want to wear my pretty brown sparkly shoes to school.
Me: You need to wear your big sneakers today because today is gym day at school and if you wear your brown sparkly shoes they might fall off your feet while you're playing races at gym today. And you can't stop to pick up your shoes while you're racing otherwise you'll lose the race.
Twin A: Oh okay mommy. Let's put on my big sneakers.

And this is the kind of quick-thinking I have to come up with early in the morning without even having my first cup of coffee.

Things to note in this example. First of you never say "no." I try to avoid this word like my tongue will spontaneously combust if I say it. "No" usually leads to automatic rebuttal it doesn't matter what you say after that word. There will almost always be a rebuttal and so begins the negotiation. I try to always begin with words like "I want, I need, You must, You need to, Please do, or Would you like"

I'm not sure if my kids get away with way too much or if I'm way to hard them. I probably won't know until much later in life, and will probably be too late to do much about it at that point. One comforting thought that lets me sleep at night is that I'm trying. In my heart my intention is not to scar my children for life or allow them to become degenerate burdens on society. I am doing the best that I can. I hope that one day they can look back at their childhood and see that we tried very hard to be good, positive, and fair parents. I hope they can look back and see that our intention was not to rob them of the pleasures of life but to protect them of the dangers that lurks in the world today. I hope that they can appreciate what we wanted to teach them about life and how to deal with the the success, the struggles, and the sometimes painful experiences that their life might bring them. I hope that one day when I'm long gone they can say with gratitude that we prepared them for their future.

And this is why it's so hard to deal with the little drunks. Because I want so much for them to understand why I make the choices I make and why I can't just let them roam the planet like little savages. I know that one day I won't be there for them to make that crucial decision and so I pray with all of my being that I have given them the tools necessary to do the right thing. And I hope that my little drunks grow up to be sober adults :)


Sadaf Trimarchi said...

This is brilliant. I read that study you cited (another parent posted it on FB). Too funny. Imagine being the grad student helping out with that one.

Cheers to the mom who encouraged you at the pool. go girl! Mamas got to stick together!

I have no advice. None. I've given up thinking I know anything about parenting. I'm just waiting for them to turn 18.


Jennifer said...

Thanks S! 18 sounds like a good age ha ha!!!

Susan said...

OMG Jenn, You are so funny and all is so true. I hate to let you know but the tantrums don't go away cause the child gets older? Eric is 14 and its an on going battle - do I run away from home now or after dinner. Choose your battles wisely and remember---there's always boarding school! Love you honey and hang in there,