The Push and Pull of Being a Mother

Jack is driving me just a little bit nuts (this is an understatement). He has had the biggest attitude lately about the smallest things. This past Sunday he refused to eat his dinner. I get so sick of him throwing a fit about every single dinner I ever make. If it's not macaroni and cheese, shells and cheese, chicken nuggets, cheese tortilla, hot dogs, or something else that is cheesy and carb-tastic, it's disgusting. Even if he has never ever eaten it before, bleh, it's gross! Okay, so it's a little funny. But it gets really old too, especially if a meal has taken a lot of time and effort to make, and he throws these fits, and I can't even sit and enjoy the food I spent an hour making!

I got so mad at him this night and was force feeding him asparagus tips, shoving them into his mouth, telling him to eat. I was so mad. He got really mad at me and started to cry a little, and said, with glaring, watery eyes trying to pierce into the back of my head, "I'm mad at you! You make me mad! It's all mom's fault. She did it." Then Brent got mad at him for saying that, to which he replied, "You're all being mean to me! Why is everyone so mean to me?" I tried hard not to laugh at that one. But I felt bad for him too. And I felt guilty of course, for shoving asparagus into his mouth.

I told him that I was mad at him, for continually telling me that every dinner I ever make is "so gross". He then said, with great exasperation, "I don't think mac and cheese is gross! Shells and cheese! Nuggets!" I finally told him to go up to his room in time out, because frankly, I myself was ready to cry and had had it.

He started to walk upstairs slowly, crying, saying that everybody was ganging up on him and he felt sad. Recently I have been having moments, or promptings, to take a step back and think about the situation. I try to really understand what is going on inside of his little 4 1/2 year old little heart and head. We are similar in some ways, and I thought, this is probably how I would have felt as a little kid, that everybody was against me, that nobody understood me, and that in my moments of greatest sadness, frustration, and loneliness, I don't want the people I love most to push me away, but rather to hug me or hold me and listen to me express what I am feeling.

So, I said, "Come here." He walked over, I put him on my lap and I asked, "Do you just want Mommy to hold you?" He burst into tears and said, "Yes!!" I went on to tell him that we didn't mean to gang up on him, but that he had hurt my feelings and had been very rude. He told me that I had hurt his feelings and I had made him mad. Fair enough.

I then said, "Do you want to know a secret? I think the dinner tonight is gross too. It didn't turn out the way I wanted it to. So why don't we make a game out of it and on the count of three we both take a bite and then take a big drink of water with it?" That made him happy, and we finished our dinner together with his little arm wrapped around my back. When we were done he said, with a huge smile, "Mama, I'm not mad anymore!" I totally feel like Heavenly Father gave this to me as a teaching moment, and I'm glad I took it.

He has spent the last two days in time out off and on. His attitude lately has been full of whining, yelling, and disrespect. Yes, I know he is 4 1/2, but, he is very smart and I refuse to raise a child who will act like that. Yesterday morning as I was opening the pantry door to get breakfast for my boys, Jack asked, "Do we have any breakfast rolls?" I looked at him, confused, then said, "Do you mean cinnamon rolls?" He said, "Yes." I said no, and then he started yelling and throwing the biggest fit. I explained that we only had 'breakfast rolls' on special occasions like Christmas or Easter and he yelled, "But I want them right now! NOW!" Oh heck no!

I calmly told him that he would not talk to me like that and until he could speak calmly and nicely, he could go sit in time out. He went up to his room for time out while I got Willem breakfast. I went up to tell him he could come out and eat, but when I stepped into the room, he glared at me and asked, with quite the attitude, "What do YOU want?" I was shocked. I said, "And that just earned you 5 more minutes in time out. Enjoy." Then left him there.

He was finally able to come down and eat, but I hadn't put anything on the table for him yet, because I had been helping Willem eat. He sat down and said, still in a snotty tone, "Where's my breakfast?!? Why don't I get anything to eat? I want something." I totally ignored him because, if he can't ask nicely and in a nice voice, then the boy ain't gettin' no breakfast. I kept ignoring him, helping Willem and reading scripture stories with him and said, "When you can ask me nicely, then you can have some breakfast." He is so stubborn. He refused to ask nicely, and then when he did, he wouldn't look at me and said it very fast and curtly. Soooo stubborn!!

I got him breakfast, but we didn't look at him or talk to him, until he said, crying, "I feel left out!" Willem was done by this point and I let him down to go play and started cleaning up the kitchen. I was so tired of this attitude, worn down by other personal matters, and just honestly wanted him to go downstairs away from me so I could have some peace and quiet. He finished eating and then walked over to me and just stared up at me, with a somewhat defiant little face. I asked, "What do you need son." He just stared at me. I knew at this point what he wanted. So I knelt down and hugged him and said, "Do you just need some love?" He started crying and said yes and that he didn't want to feel left out. He then told me, "I'm calling the shots now!" That one actually made me laugh out loud, I couldn't help it. I don't know where he gets this stuff! I have never said that in my life!

I told him that nobody 'calls the shots' in our family, but that we live in a home that is structured on mutual respect. Yeah, that didn't sink in. So I explained that every choice he makes has either a good consequence or a bad consequence. If he makes good choices, he has good consequences, and vice versa. I think it started to sink in because he then said, "These are the rules. Step 1, Nobody calls the shots. Step 2, We make good choices and have good consequences. Step 3, we don't yell." Then our day went on.

He spent time in time out twice today. I'll be honest, it is really starting to wear on me. But, I'm trying to sit back and evaluate all of it to try to recognize why he is acting this way, what the real root of the problem is. Earlier this afternoon, after he had already been in time out twice, he kept refusing to do anything I asked him to, because he was mad I wouldn't let him have a snack 30 minutes after he had eaten lunch. I asked him, "Jack, what is with your bad attitude lately? Why are you being so mean to Mommy so much lately?" He told me I was being mean to him.

I realized that he has cried, a lot, almost every time I have left the house to go do something without him. He is crying when I take him to Primary. He even cries at night sometimes when I'm saying good night and says, "I'll miss you so much tonight. See you in the morning! But I'll miss you while I sleep!"

I had been sweeping the floor, then stopped, and asked him, "Son, do you miss your mommy?" He looked up at me with tears in his eyes and nodded. I sat on the floor with him, hugged him and held him. He told me that he has missed me, wants me to play with him and spend time with him. We are going on a little date this Friday. I'm beginning to see a pattern with him, that he starts to treat me pretty bad when he feels disconnected from me. I was crying a little bit too, out of guilt, sadness, and exhaustion.

It is so hard to try to find the time to do anything for myself. And then when I do have the time, I do not have the motivation or energy, and end up wasting my time by watching TV and falling asleep.It's such a juggling act, this act of motherhood. And I don't think anything is every really 'in balance'. I think it is more a rotating act than a juggling act.

I told him we could play anything he wanted to right then. Even though the floor was half swept, I left it. He wanted to play pirates, so we proceeded to look out of the windows with fake spyglasses, wearing eye patches, and pretending to blow up fake pirate ships and look for pirate booty, then buried our 'treasure' in the cat tree. I was Captain Z, he was Captain Jack Sparrow, Sophie was Peg Leg Sophie, and Willem was Captain Will Turner (yes, there's a little bit of a Pirates of the Caribbean theme going on). Then I had to teach for an hour, but, he was happy and sweet again.

I really do believe in The 5 Love Languages, and I think I am learning that one of Jack's is Quality Time. I love him so much. It's just so hard, at times, to try to find the time to make that Quality Time, especially when I am in the middle of a 'Re-Discovering Me' drought. So it goes. I was happy to be able to make him happy today. And to figure out how to hopefully make his bad attitude begin to dissipate. I don't know how my mom did it with 7 kids!!

I wrote this poem a few weeks ago, about the connection I feel with my baby boys, the push and pull of being a mom, and in the end, how it is truly the most profound thing I have ever done. Because I know that some day, he may not vocalize that he needs me anymore. But, he always will. Because I am his mother.

Push and Pull

Nobody told me what it would be like
Birth and re-birth.
Each time, my being is stretched a little more
Each time, I give new life. A new being is born
and I am re-born.

I could not comprehend the all-encompassing
Of time, self, body, soul, past selves,
weaknesses turn to strengths.

I forget, you give too.
You give perspective, outlook, and blind trust.
You give love and forgiveness.

This is not a tug of war, as I once thought
You tugging at the cord, your life source, a part of me,
No, this is a union.
We walk out, forever connected.
We carry each other, first in arms,
forever by souls.



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