When I became a mom, I discovered this deep and untouchable place of love that grew from deep inside of me that I never knew existed. I was head over heels in love with my daughter in a way that I didn't know another person could love. It was this huge mish mash of love, joy, protection, fear, doubt, happiness... and so much more that isn't describable with simple words.
For more than 2 years, I bathed in this emotional sensory overload every day. I wept when I left my daughter at daycare. I fretted about the stress that adding a second baby would add to her life as she knew it. I worried about her safety. I delighted in her smiles, her laughs, how she experienced the world.
When Zach was born, the love connection was not instant. His labor was much more difficult. But I bonded with him quickly after the birth experience was complete and when he and I would spend quiet days at home... I felt that deep pool of emotion washing over him as well.
I never expected that the depth of love that I could feel for my children... especially for my daughter... included such anger towards my child. Before having kids, I was one of those people that was known for being great with kids. My entire life, I've worked with kids (or been one). I've worked with kids who are damaged, hurting, diagnosed and labeled. I've worked with kids of privilege. I've worked with theatre kids and church kids. I've worked with infants and youngsters and toddlers and teens. I was known for my patience, my creativity, my responsibility. I don't know where those traits went once I had my own children. Perhaps I've never recovered from Teagan's infancy. Hours on end of crying and pacing and dancing. The breastfeeding struggles and the feeling of being so lost because there were times that neither Jeff nor I could ever possibly calm her down. Exhaustion took on a new definition.
We are coming head to head with struggles that have been building for a while now. As Teagan gets older, she's becoming more and more headstrong. And the attitude... the stubbornness... the smirk... the maniacal laughter when she just doesn't care. Jeff and I both make efforts- good ones. We attempt to be calm, to be reasonable. We use everything we know. And sometimes, it just doesn't matter. The screaming and crying and howling don't stop. She is obstinate. Stubborn. Demanding of attention. Seeking to cause havoc. Unwilling to follow direction. She asks, she pleads, she demands, she does what she wants to do anyway. She gets in trouble and the screaming and melting down begin.
I hate that there are days that I seriously want to run away from home. I hate that there are times that I have to walk away from her because I so badly want to smack her. I hate that I can feel so frustrated and so angry with this little girl.
Most of all, I think and ponder about what it all means. Is this normal on her part? Do all 5 year olds challenge and fight and push the way she does? Or... Am I a failure as a parent? How is it possible that I could completely handle behaviors and attitudes far worse than my own daughter's without batting an eyelash but my kids refusing to cooperate, refusing to be polite, refusing to listen... well, that can turn me into a twisted up ball of blechiness. I forget my head, lose my cool, get fed up and frustrated and want to just quit.
Today was a hard day. Today was a roller coaster. She was either awesome or awful and there wasn't much gray area in between. We had a big falling out at the end of the day. Huge. And once the calm down happened and she was in the bath and back to being awesome, we had a discussion about how bedtime would go so we could avoid the melting down. She came up with her own consequence if bedtime was a failure. She decided that if she got out of bed, yelled for us, cried, yelled, screamed, or whined... no TV in the morning. If she continued, we should come in her room and take away things of hers that she would then have to earn back by doing special chores or having great bedtimes. And bedtime was peaceful.
So what's the next step? Is she telling me that she needs clearly explained rules and consequences? Do I need to make a list of what the house rules are that I can clearly point to when one is broken? Do I include her in the list of consequences for breaking house rules? I don't know. I'm at a loss. I long for the days when I could just hold her through my frustration, cuddle and snuggle her and hold her close to me while singing in her ear and dancing her around the living... when a tight swaddle and feeding at my breast was all that was needed to get through the crisis.
I fear what the future holds. I fear that my perceived failures will become her eating disorder, his drug use, her abusive boyfriend, his dropping out of school. I fear what tomorrow holds- more screaming and yelling and crying and frustration and tears and fighting. I fear my failure. I fear my reactions to this little whirlwind of ups and downs and twists and turns. I fear when this starts to come from Zach. I fear that I will fail him the same way I am failing Teagan.
Sometimes, parenting is the most awesome and fun job. We get to do such cool things and be part of such an amazing experience.
But sometimes, it really sucks. Really, really. Sucks.
EDITED TO ADD: Thank you for all the great comments so far. I can't tell you how much I appreciate having this place to come and share my open and honest feelings and thoughts and get feedback from experienced and wise people. Jeff and I have been talking about what to do next. Teagan seems to really thrive on very clear and set boundaries and rules and having things in a certain order. I think it gives her a sense of control over her environment- it gives her the chance to really feel like she is the boss. I think having written rules of the house- that we will engage the kids in to create- will give her tangible limits that she can claim ownership of.
But keep the ideas and positive reinforcement coming. The best moment of my day yesterday was the validation that I got from my mom when she witnessed a minor incident with Teagan that Jeff and I had to tag team to manage... and she recalled the same feelings of frustration and anger and losing her temper with my brothers. Given that I think my brothers have turned out really, really well, it gives me hope to know that my mom felt the same things I feel when dealing with my kids. I also know that more is coming. Zach is starting to throw his own fits but, so far, he is easily distracted or calmed or just takes the "No" without much protesting.