Home > General, Patience and Foortitude > Patience and Foortitude, Part 2: Extreme Parenting

Patience and Foortitude, Part 2: Extreme Parenting

It has taken me nearly 4 days to write this post, one disjointed 5 minute segment at a time.  You’ll see why shortly. That alone has tested my patience. The rest is a blur of what I like to call extreme parenting – parenting in an extreme way or under extreme circumstances.  Extreme parenting can also be used as code for “parenting in a way I am not extremely proud of.”

This past weekend I am sure that my patience was tested by all three of my children, but the only instances that I can remember have to do with James. I checked in on James as we got ready for church, to find James under the blankets in his pajamas, laying on top of his clothes, face down and butt up. “James, you need to get up and get dressed right now,” I said. I closed the door. Ten minutes later I peeked in again. James was in the exact same position. “James, strike one toward losing the Wii today,” I said. “Get dressed now.” I closed the door again. Fast forward 45 minutes, two more strikes, losing the Wii for the day and into strike one against watching any T.V. James was not only unresponsive as he often is, but was actually being belligerent about getting dressed. He kept saying things like, “No, I’m not getting dressed,” “I’m not going with you guys,” “I’ll just have a time out” or “I just want to stay home.” or “No no nonononono!” At this point I was frustrated and somewhat bewildered since James is usually pretty well behaved and rarely flat out refuses to do as he is told.

I strode into his room, grabbed him by the arm and stood him up. At this point James started with his usual “Ow, you’re hurting me!” screams to prove to everyone what terrible injustice he lives with. I hate those screams. They are earsplittingly loud, dramatic and make it really hard to stay calm. I grabbed him by the chin and said, “Look at me….. right…… now. You are going to get dressed or I am going to drop you off at the police station on the way to church so we can go in peace.” He roughly ripped his chin out of my hand at which point I smacked him on the butt once for good measure and left the room, saying “If you are not ready in 5 minutes I am not bringing you to church!” I left James hysterical in his room, though 5 minutes and 3 reminders later he sheepishly came out dressed. He must have realized the error of his ways because he was super pleasant on the way to church, at church, and at the park afterward. That or he was terrified of me. I mentally beat myself up for losing my temper with him while also pondering what the heck I was supposed to do the next time James refused to do what I asked.

Awesome behavior, right? It gets better. Now look, I have to pause here and say that a lot of the time we have very pleasant, happy days. I would go as far as to say most days. I don’t run around threatening my children and smacking butts on a daily basis. But seriously, 1 or 2 days a week of extreme parenting and it is easy to forget the 5 pleasant days in a snap.

After church at the park I started to feel pretty sick, which is unusual. By the time we got home I was SICK. Thank God it was a Sunday and Ryan came to the rescue, only bothering me from my bedridden misery to occasionally nurse a baby. For those of you who know me, you know that bedridden is not an adjective that I toss around lightly. Around 8 that evening I dragged myself out of bed to do the nightly medicine and bedtime routine with James and so I could see the kids for a few minutes before going back to sleep. James kept complaining that his stomach hurt and he ate too much, but since Ryan had fed the kids Chinese food I wasn’t surprised – James always eats way too much when it comes to Wonton soup. I tucked him in and he asked for an extra blanket and seemed a little teary. Again not terribly unusual because James has huge anxiety issues with being “alone,” including in his own bedroom.

Miraculously, my 6 month old went to sleep nice and early and even my toddler had missed her nap so I knew she’d be done for soon. Perhaps I would be spared the usual bedtime antics. By 10 all was quiet. I was so grateful, all the way until James walked out of his room at 11, stood in the hall outside of the bathroom door, and promptly vomited all over the wall, floors, bathtub, toilet and of course himself. He might have gotten a little bit in the toilet. Ryan was asleep on the couch with one baby and another lay perilously close to the noise in the bathroom. I swear I walked into that bathroom, nauseous, exhausted and without a shred of the empathy that would be necessary to clean up the barf disaster. As I stripped James down and shoved his clothes and paper towels into trash bags, I kept muttering things like, “Why didn’t you get to the toilet?” and “Where are big boys supposed to throw up?” and “I am too sick to deal with this right now” and my personal best “You better make it to the toilet if you plan to throw up again tonight.” After he was tucked back in James started to whimper about being left in his room again, and I actually turned around to tell him to “be quiet. you can’t wake up the babies or you will be in big trouble.”

Where was my kindness? My sense of parental duty? My patience and fortitude? I think I must have flushed them down the toilet around 8 that evening. I still feel bad thinking about how I didn’t say things like “are you okay?” and “can I get you anything?” or even “I am sorry you are feeling sick. I am too.”

I often feel equal parts guilty, resentful and sorry for James – it’s a hideous mix. This is one of those instances. My 2 year old knows to throw up in the potty – I know because my life has been cleaning up one kid’s vomit after another since this past Sunday. I feel resentful that James might never remember to throw up in the toilet and that I will be the forever clean up guy, guilty that I feel that way and was not more compassionate toward him, and sorry for him on a number of levels. I could make a resentful-guilty-sorry Mad Lib series and rake in a fortune, no joke.

Why am I telling the whole internet about this? I don’t like to talk about this stuff with my friends and family, so why potentially share it with anyone? It’s not for the reasons you might think – to gain sympathy, pity or to publicly humiliate myself into doing better. I don’t want anyone to “fix” the situation, though I always welcome comments or advice on any post. For me, it is a way for me to process why and how I reacted so that the next time might not be so “extreme.” Posting online is also kind of like an invisible support group – EP anonymous. “Hi, I’m Michaela. I’m an Extreme Parent. I have not parented in an extreme way for about 18 hours now.” Do the math – that is a lot of extreme parenting since this past Sunday.

Actually, the above statement is not entirely true. For the last 18 hours I have been a different kind of Extreme Parent. I have weathered not 1, but 2 dentist appointments with a smile on my face – James is terrified of the dentist and very vocal about it, keep an eye out for that post – Margaret’s very first appointment didn’t go quite as well as I hoped. Then later this evening I cleaned up yet more vomit as sickness returned to all 3 children, and didn’t lose my cool once. I even did the whole rubbing backs thing and saying, “It’s okay. Let’s go lay down.” And I got Sprite for James instead of the pills he threw up and the Tylenol he refused. My 6 month old has woken up every 15 minutes – he apparently is picking up a mild version of what the other two have. Now, as the thunder continues to rumble and James keeps coming out of his room because he is terrified of dentists and thunder, I am sitting awake at 1a.m. and patiently sending him back to bed, getting drinks, leaving the door open the right amount, tucking him back in, feeling exhausted but determined to finish this post and keep all 3 kids asleep for as long as it takes to regain some perspective and health in this family.

I’m as far from perfect in my parenting as James is at getting dressed without grumbling. For now, I can only hope to be as patient in dealing with my children’s imperfections as they are in dealing with mine.

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