Mommy’s temper tantrums

“I wish I hadn’t done that.”

This goes through my mind every time I lose my temper at Lily.

Of course, I was predictably arrogant about the kind of parent I would be before actually having a child. (Aren’t we all?) Yes, I knew myself well enough to know I wouldn’t be the perpetually cheerful, meet-every-situation-with-a-laugh-and-a-smile mom. But I did harbor delusions of unflappability. For I’d always been a driven but generally pragmatic, patient person; so I’d long pictured myself as a woman who would, in the end, be a zen/yoga mommy who’d never lose my cool – who, in the face of a kid’s irrational screaming and baiting, would just take a deep breath and let it all roll right off me, like so much white noise.

I’d never become one of those miserable harridans who loses it at her kid over nothing. Would I?

The problem with picturing what kind of parent you’ll be, before you actually are one, is that you don’t quite realize how much sleep deprivation, domestic tail-chasing (laundry, dishes, bills, etc.), job stress, parenting anxiety, and the struggle to maintain closeness with your spouse while still making a little time for yourself all play into your mood and your responses to any given parenting situation.

And if you bring it down to an even more basic level, I think, underlying a parent’s short temper is an anger with yourself because, ultimately, you CHOSE this chaotic, challenging, all-consuming path. Continue reading

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“Lily, please don’t lick your baby sister.”

Believe it or not, I actually had to utter this hilarious sentence quite recently, during one of Lily’s many affection-fests with Neve. (The sentence was punctuated, for good measure, with, “That’s gross.”)

For while I was initially terrified about Lily feeling pushed aside and/or threatened by Neve’s arrival, Lily has instead been quite obsessed with the baby – to the point that the problem is now about finding a balance between bodily protecting the baby and not completely dousing Lily’s enthusiasm for her beloved sister.

Lily always wants to hug Neve, and she’s a bit aggressive in doing so, squeezing the stuffing out of Neve, or yanking Neve’s head up from her seat so Lily can wrap her arms around her neck; Lily often kisses Neve all over her face, even when Neve is recoiling in overwhelmed confusion; Lily likes to rock Neve roughly in her bouncy seat, and playfully poke her in the face with her finger, and force toys into Neve’s tiny, curled fingers; and more than anything, Lily wants to carry Neve, at every minute, and no matter the circumstances (sitting in a chair, walking down stairs, walking from pre-school to our house, etc.).

To her credit, Lily – after about a million admonishments from us to be “gentle!” and “careful!” – has gotten better with time. She actually does a pretty good job of holding/carrying Neve now (though we still constantly shadow the pair, with our arms ready to catch Neve at any moment); and she’s gotten better about her hugs.

But something Lily still struggles to understand is our repeated pleas to not wake the baby. (This is particularly a problem because Neve is, by nature, a baby that likes to sleep quite a bit.) Lily just can’t quite contain herself when the baby’s in the room. She’s always itching to play with her and shower her with affection.

It never occurred to me for an instant that our situation would take this turn. In a sense, it’s a good problem; I’d much rather have Lily wild with love for her sister than slyly trying to harm her, or telling us to take the baby back for a refund. But a good problem is still a problem.

For there’s still a lot of anxiety in the room, as a parent, when you’re trying to keep your one child from literally smothering the other with love. When it gets to be too much, we try to lure Lily toward another activity (making dinner with Daddy, watching part of “Sesame Street” or a favorite movie, etc.), and this usually works.

But then, you also have nights like the one when I called out to Joe every five minutes, “How long until dinner?”

I of course hope that Lily always has a spirited, affectionate love for her sister, and that they grow to be friends in the years ahead.

I just have to make sure that Neve survives babyhood so that maybe SHE can enjoy the relationship, too.