Break

Jackson had all of Thanksgiving week off as break. Some moms and I were talking on the Thursday before the break. They were all looking forward to it. I believe the word “Woo hoo!” was used by all.

Except me.

I said, “Am I the only one dreading this break?”

Apparently, I was. One mom even said, “I feel so sad for you that you feel that way.”

Why do I dread breaks?

I love my children, I do. Especially individually. Together, however, they drive me insane.

There is a psychological reason for this. According to the Myers Briggs personality index, I’m an introvert. Introverts find it draining, mentally exhausting, to be around people. Despite their short statures, my children do qualify as people.

But then, I don’t think I need one concrete reason. Let me show you the first morning of Thanksgiving break…

Max woke up with the baby, as he always does. I woke up at about 7:45. Cassie was already done eating her breakfast. Jackson was awake and playing with one of his rabbits. Cassie screamed for me as soon as she saw me coming down the stairs. Jackson decided he wanted breakfast too, so I started getting him some breakfast while I was making my tea.

Cassie was toddling around the kitchen/dining room, opening everything she could open, grabbing everything she could reach. Despite the fact that she’s been mobile since June 2012, my kitchen was not baby-proofed until yesterday. There was a lot of “Cassie, no!” in between pouring cereal and making sure that the hot tea was far enough back on the counter that she couldn’t pull it down. All the while, Jackson was making noise. He must make noise at all times. He can’t seem to stop.

Max said something like, “It looks like I should stay home until you’re done eating breakfast.”

I said, “Why? She does this every morning. Go to work!”

He left.

Jackson got counted to three for playing with his rabbit too roughly, yelling at his sister for looking at his rabbits, and jumping around the kitchen babbling nonsense. I sent him to his room. He cried.

This was 8:45.

Cassie needed a diaper change. I told her as much. She ran away from me. I caught her. She scratched my face and drew blood. (She always pulls my hair, scratches, kicks, hits, and/or bites to avoid diaper changes. That’s another post.)

Cassie had a time out for scratching me. Jackson was in his room yelling Christmas carols at the top of his lungs.

Jackson had an orthodontist appointment at 9:30. I told him to get dressed and ready to go. I got the baby changed and dressed, between kicks. I went into Jackson’s room. He was wearing short sleeves and shoes without socks. I know we live in California, but short sleeves are not appropriate at this time of year. I have also told him on several occasions that he must wear socks from November through March, maybe even April. He’s also not allowed to leave the house without a belt, as his pants naturally sag. His waist is a size 5/6, but his height is a 7. So, I had to put his belt on for him, as he decided he didn’t know how to put a belt on that morning.

Meanwhile, Cassie kept trying to get Jackson’s gum out of his nightstand drawer, pulled a bunch of toys out of the cabinet, and generally made a mess.

We finally got downstairs… and Cassie stunk. She needed a diaper change. Once again, up the stairs, kicking and screaming we went.

I got to spend 1-1/2 hours in an orthodontist’s office with a baby who wanted nothing more than to go back and see what everyone was doing in the big dentist chairs. The orthodontist doesn’t have any kind of separator between front and back, so I had Cassie on her cow leash (whom she named Moo Moo). Cassie threw a kicking and crying tantrum on the waiting room floor. Nothing would distract her from her goal – going where she was not allowed to go.

Fun.

When both kids are home, they do nothing but fight. Cassie wants whatever Jackson has. Jackson wants whatever Cassie has. Even if the toy is meant for an infant, Jackson must have it. He behaves much like a 2-year old. He spends a significant amount of time in his room. When he’s not behaving like a 2-year old, he is Attitude Boy.

Cassie, for her part, is really putting the “terrible” in “terrible two.” She will find the least appropriate thing with which to play. The other night, I just had to go to the bathroom. Jackson was showing Cassie something on his iPod. I went to the bathroom. I came out a few minutes later. Cassie had found the letter opener and was trying to slice open a can of nuts I had bought for my dad’s birthday. Jackson was sitting on the rabbit’s table with her cage open, apparently trying to teach her to play Minecraft. When I told him no, he proceeded to run from one end of the house to the other, bounce off the front door, and run into the kitchen, all while “singing” “Jingle Bells.”

He got sent to his room.

Cassie threw a tantrum because I wouldn’t let her use the letter opener and eat the nuts, so I put her in her booster seat – more kicking and screaming because she didn’t want to sit down.

Cassie’s behavior is age-appropriate, and I can totally tell how she napped that day by her level of mischief. I have no idea how to improve Jackson’s behavior, aside from sending him to military school.

When both kids are home, I can’t get anything done. I can’t use my computer, because it’s also the television. I can’t clean up, because Cassie will come right along behind me and “help” by putting things back where they were in the first place. I can’t do laundry, because Cassie loves to go in there and try to eat the Oxiclean. I can’t do dishes, because of the aforementioned baby-proofing problems, and Cassie likes to turn on the dishwasher. Oh, and did I mention that she can climb out of baby jail now? I can’t do anything where I leave the two children together alone, because they will come to blows. Cassie shrieks. Jackson yells. It’s very, very loud here.

On break days, I don’t even get nap time. When Jackson’s in school, if I’ve stayed up late the night before, getting stuff done (dishes, writing, paying bills, etc.) then I can nap while Cassie naps. When Jackson’s not in school, I can’t nap. So I can’t even get stuff done at night, because then I’m very, very grumpy the next day. And I can’t use nap time to accomplish anything at all, either, because Jackson wants lunch and attention.

My house was not cleaned all summer long. When Jackson went back to school, I celebrated by washing the floors.

Seriously.

I hate break. My house descends into chaos. My children hate me, because I’m not giving either of them all of the attention they want. I thought, having two children so far apart in age, it would lessen the sibling rivalry.

I was wrong.

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13 thoughts on “Break

  1. How old is Jackson? 7, 8? I remember Kennedy at this age, she was very, very similar. I remember thinking. What the hell happened? Where did I go wrong? I promise you it is only a phase. All of what you are experiencing is age appropriate. We all have felt the same way, we just all don’t have blogs or a gift for writing the way you do so you would never know unless we shared it with you. You are a great Mom.

    • Jackson will be 8 next month. What the hell happened, indeed! I’ve heard a number of parents say, “I don’t know how kids live to be 9,” so I know it’s not just me. I don’t really feel like a good mother at least half of the time. Thank you for the encouragement!

  2. Looks like some tips from Nanny911 or one of those shows might be in order (do those even still air anywhere?)! Actually, I have a feeling that my home would tend more toward that chaos than it does now were it not for my husband. He expects things from the kids that most people are shocked by. Things like folding and putting away their own clothes even as young as three (his drawers don’t look quite as nice as the older kids, but it is obvious he tried), cleaning up their own toys every single time (no adult ever puts away toys in our house, and no toys are ever just laying around), and respecting each other’s personal space. Let me tell you that in some ways this is totally exhausting, but the older they get the less exhausting it is. I used to never under any circumstance leave them alone together in a room (for reasons that sound very similar to what you described just for a little bathroom break). Now I can stretch it even to half an hour sometimes before checking in just to remind them I’m still around and the rules still apply. Sometimes somebody goes to timeout, but usually it is for violating small boundaries instead of the serious injuries I used to worry about. I’d say start small right where you are. Pick one thing with each kid (no kicking/ hitting mommy or always pick up your own toys or whatever it is that really drags you down now) and focus on those. Be prepared to go to war over it. But remind yourself as you deal out consequences for the 6367532th time that day that it will be worth it a week or month or year from now. After you get that behavior where you want it, add another to focus on but don’t slack on the first. It really will be worth the battles. It’s not like you’re dwelling in peace already, right? So in theory it can only get better! I’m typing this from a waiting room in the health department as we wait for immunization records to get transferred into new names (WOOHOO!!!). It’s going on two hours. My five are with me. I’ve only had to shush them a couple times and address an “I’m bored” once. I did bring a few quiet actives as I knew this would take a while (that’s another thing – always have a plan because when they are left to their own imaginings…well…I don’t need to describe to you how disastrously that can turn out!). This would not have been how it went down 8 months ago. One behavior at a time, high but attainable expectations, and lots of loving on them to balance out all those important consequences to bad choices and broken rules. You are a great mom with her kids’ best interest at heart. You love them. And you have the power to shape them now into the dynamic characters you want them to be. This is the time – it only gets harder as they get older. And since Christmas break is coming up, you’ve got a great opportunity to think up a plan and try it out! Hope I didn’t overstep. There is certainly truth to the statement that a lot of what you are dealing with normal for their ages. And no matter what you do, prepare to be exhausted!

    • I don’t know – I don’t have cable. I used to watch Supernanny, though.
      I hear you about a plan. Jackson does very badly without anything concrete to do. Of course, it’s very hard to have a plan with Cassie, because two-year olds don’t do plans real well. Other than nap time, meal times, and bed times, she doesn’t really care for structured activities. And sometimes she doesn’t even care to interrupt what she’s doing for food either.
      I do appreciate the advice, actually. Thank you!

      • Could he have something to look forward to during her nap time? If he can’t manage his behavior he can spend nap time quietly reading? I know you are a reader- look up aba behavior plan. We use this “strategy” at home but I learned it from work. Kids are usually seeking something when they “act out” what is it that he gets when he is pushing your buttons? If you can give him what he is seeking (getting to run around, attention, etc) in a positive way before he acts out both of your lives will be easier. Mama hugs! 🙂

  3. Oh how I feel your pain.

    A typical day includes finding all the clothes in Arlyn’s wardrobe strewn across the house because she has to try on every single one. Meanwhile Talon is running around naked despite having dressed him 3 times already. And bacon for some inexplicable reason is all over the hallway.

    A week ago Arlyn closed the bedroom door on Talon’s finger, resulting in a fun trip to the emergency room at dinner time and a hairline fracture.

    Talon decided that the earbuds I gave him for his LeapPad were better repurposed as a chew toy and I found the mangled pieces all over the floor.

    Arlyn discovered the stash of push up popsicles on a high shelf in the freezer and repeated shook the freezer door open and shut until they fell down.

    It continually astounds me how much mess two tiny people can make.

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