My Parenting Secret: Mediocrity

A lot of people ask me how I do it being a SAHM of three small children. I often reply that it is easy: I just ignore them.

People think I’m joking. I assure you. I am not.

Here’s the thing though. Lately, I feel as if even my lowly standards of parenting have been violated. Lately, I’ve really been subpar.

Don’t get me wrong. My children are fed, bathed, clothed, and put to bed at a reasonable hour – but come on. Isn’t that like a bare minimum baseline for parenting? Shouldn’t I be doing something more?

I have been consumed with reading books (not even high literature – just your run of the mill fiction and romance novels) or watching TV. Of course, Facebook and random buzzfeed “articles.” But interacting with my children? That is rare.

I play occasionally with them or cozy with them. But most of my interactions revolve around shuttling them to and from school, feeding (okok, force-feeding) them meals, making them do homework, forcing them to bathe, and the forcing them to bed. I really can’t think of a time I spend really “being” with them.

Part of the reason is I really don’t enjoy playing with children. There is a reason I birthed siblings for them; there is a reason my house is a toy store. It is so I don’t have play with my kids. I mean, I don’t even enjoy reading to them – and I LOVE reading.

I think I keep thinking that someday, when they’re older, we’ll hang out and enjoy each other. But let’s be real. Why would they want to spend time with me if they don’t expect me to in the first place?

The other thing is that I feel conflicted. I certainly don’t recall my parents playing with my brother and I (except card games when we were older). We watched hours of TV and we both turned out fine as people. We are even both avid readers. So, should I really be worried that I don’t play with my kids and give them lots of over the recommended amount of screen time? (It’s in Mandarin! That counts as educational, right?!)

And of course, since my children are creatures of habit, I have a feeling that changing the way we relate is going to be harder than I think. On top of this, I feel guilt about homeschooling. I mean, if I can’t even hang out with my kids, how am I going to teach them?

So I find myself in quite the quandary. Ideally, I would spend some quality time with each of my children. After all, I do love them. It just seems like so much effort to change course.

There are so many things I would like to do and start doing. But then, I get overwhelmed or tired or lazy or any manner of excuses. To top it all off, I feel this crushing guilt. What manner of shriveled up old witch am I that I don’t want to make the effort to have quality time with my children?

This is why I keep having babies. Babies are easy. Simple. They have basic needs and I meet them. None of this other stuff like “relating” or whatever. Too bad babies grow up.

Any ideas on how to kick myself in the ass and just do the things I should do? (I suppose the only way out is through. Thus, the only way to get things done is to just do it. Blasted Nike and their catch phrase!)

No, but seriously. How do you motivate yourself in the face of overwhelming tasks? Let me know in the comments.

Temper, Temper

It has been a rough morning. Not sure exactly why since it really is your basic morning where my kids refuse to eat breakfast, I worry they will be hungry, then I scream at them at new volumes and crush their little souls and see them slump into their chairs, zoning me out as a coping mechanism because Mommy is yelling and mean and cruel and I know I am making things worse but my fury is so acute and I feel helpless and angry at myself and at my recalcitrant children and GAH. It’s not even 9am.

I always apologize and hug them and kiss them and tell them I love them, but you know what? It sounds really familiar. Both because I do it to my kids so often, and because I remember my father doing this to me. Well, perhaps not the apologizing. He never apologized. But he would say he loved me and hug me and kiss me after beating me or screaming at me or in general, making me feel worthless.

I feel the sweeping tide of violence rise up within me in moments of great frustration. It takes a lot of control to not want to physically throttle my kids – or worse. I abuse my power over my small children, using my voice and love like weapons to browbeat my kids into obeisance.

I make my children – especially Cookie Monster – feel small and helpless and incapable of pleasing me. He lashes out. I hear him change his voice to please me or just to clown around; insecure. Gamera will tell me not to yell at Cookie Monster and tell me I’m not kind. She will also cry so piteously. Glow Worm just stares.

I am a monster.

I am a tantrum throwing toddler.

I am my father.

I am sad and ashamed.

I realized something this morning. When I get this angry, it is the same type of anger I get when I am trying to assemble a piece of furniture only despite hours of sweat and labor, I can’t find the right part, or the piece doesn’t fit, or I’m done and there are too many leftover screws to be safe. Only when I kick the instructions or throw down my wrench in disgust and curse and bellow, I am mad at an inanimate object. I am mad because the things I’m trying to bend to my will aren’t bending the right way in the right speed with the right attitude. Except when I’m mad at my children, they aren’t things to be manipulated; my children are tiny people.

Tiny people to whom I’ve been entrusted not to break, to handle with care and dignity, and to protect (at a basic minimum). Even more so, my children are tiny people to whom I’ve been entrusted to nurture and teach and grow and help thrive.

It’s just, why can’t they be tiny obedient people?

That really would make my job a lot easier. With a lot less yelling.

Truth is, I like yelling. I mean, I hate myself when I do it, but I feel slightly less out of control (even though it’s the exact opposite). It feels like “parenting” to me. (Sigh. Just when you think you’re past a lot of brokeness, you blink and you discover even more.) Yelling makes me feel powerful. And I am. Yay me. Way to go. Yelling at small children. So strong and brave and courageous I am.

Ever since coming back from Taiwan, I have felt off. Either a mild depression or some mild dissatisfaction with my life. But I feel it seeping out in the ways I treat my family, the way my discontent sinks deeper and deeper into my bones. I’m not sure I have figured out what it is, yet.

I want to blame external circumstances and other people, but let’s be brutally honest. It’s me. I have a problem.

I want to believe that I can just power through and solve this on my own. I want to re-read good parenting books or just hope that re-reading the Bible or whatever trendy parenting blog will fix me and yay! I’m all better! But I know myself. I will get better for a few days – if I’m lucky, a few weeks, and then slowly but surely, I slip back into who I really am.

Water always finds its level.

Holy crap. I think I’m depressed. As in, not an emotional state, but a physical state of being. I will need to think on this some more.

I hesitate to end the post on such a Bleh note. Hopefully, I’m just in a funk and not a full blown episode of depression.

Wish me luck, friends! And Jesus. I’m sure I need lots of Jesus. And babies. Lots of fatty babies for me to snarfle and kiss and devour and then hand back to their mommies.

My First Typhoon

Typhoon Matmo has cancelled school and closed offices and most businesses. The children are elated that school is cancelled. Fleur and I are less so. We’re not worried. Just missing out on food!

Also, we had a “date” with some of our best friends in CA. I found out an Ice Monster (awesome Taiwanese shaved ice place) opened up in a city near our house in the Bay Area. There is an Ice Monster in Taipei, too. So, our friends in CA would go to theirs at night while Fleur and I would go to ours in the morning. Then we could Facetime as we ate shaved ice together. Our husbands think we are ridiculous. They just don’t understand that ours is a love that transcends the normal boundaries of space and time!

Because of the typhoon, we obviously had to reschedule. My friend, Irish, joked that only a typhoon could keep us from seeing each other.

A Taiwanese friend warned us that we may lose power and have leaks so we should have some food prepared. Our apartment has no microwave (what?!) or rice cooker (double what?!) so we just made a bunch of rice on a borrowed rice cooker just in case the power goes out. We have rice and some bread and milk and dwindling supplies since Fleur and I totally shoppingfailed and bought books and toys instead of food staples yesterday. (We did just go shopping on Monday – but since our fridge is small and we live with six other humans, albeit small, our supplies get consumed quickly.) Plus, we thought the typhoon was coming tomorrow.

We have four active kids, a toddler, and a baby that need to be occupied a full day as we hide inside. The babies are easy. It’s the older four that are a bit tricky. The kids have been up since 6:30-7. It is barely 9:20am and already, we have blazed through the following activities: breakfast, playdough, stickers, Connect Four, a new game I bought called Penguins On Ice (affiliate link), and jumping around. They are now watching The Little Mermaid in Chinese. I fear today maybe a day spent on “cultural immersion” aka consume as much Chinese language media as possible. The i-devices are fully charged and so is the portable DVD player. Even if the power goes out, the kids can ruin their eyes watching movies in the dark.

Unfortunately, Glow Worm had a disagreement with a corner and lost. According to some of my Taiwanese friends, because Taiwan is so humid, wounds take longer to close. We’re in the middle of a typhoon! I hope it closes and he doesn’t need stitches.

Plus, I feel bad because I was so mean. He was crying and I didn’t know he got cut and told him if he wants to walk and climb things, he has to get used to getting hurt. 10 minutes later, I notice he’s bleeding from his eye! Worst. Mom. Ever. Poor Baby Boy.

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Below are some pics of our kids and our attempts at amusing them before capitulating and putting on a movie.

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And last, but certainly not least, a pic the school posted on Facebook last week when Gamera and Omi were first getting used to school. They were crying for Mommy at the side of the kiddie pool. It is awesome.

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Let me explain. No, there is too much. Let me sum up.

1) I have become the stereotypical American abroad. There has been a bunch of miscommunication with the school and the first day was bad. Very bad. I was livid. In English, maybe I could have thought of a more diplomatic way to express my extreme displeasure, but my Chinese isn’t good enough. I am blunt and to the point and leave no room for the other side to save face.

I am a bludgeon of entitled Mama Bear.

Thank God my mom came with us and could serve as a more polite but insistent intermediary, giving room for the school to save face, yet giving up no ground.

I won’t recap the drama here due to my lack of energy to dredge the whole thing back up. But suffice to say, I wanted to call the director a Fucking Stupid C word (and I almost never choose to use that pejorative because even I find it too misogynistic). Obviously, she isn’t and was trying her best but FAIL. SCHOOL FAIL and MOMMY FAIL. All the sighs.

2) We just dropped the kids off for the third day and it was ok. They are much better at walking to the bus stop, catching their balance on the bus, and walking to the school. I anticipate it only getting better.

3) Kids still refuse to eat lunch at school. But hopefully, they will break down eventually. As it is, they are starving when they let out. I have been spoiling them with familiar foods for dinner these last two nights.

My last trip back two years ago, I appreciated having McDonald’s everywhere because it was something familiar to Cookie Monster and was finally something he would eat. My sentiments have not changed. They have only increased. Say what you want about pink slime and fillers, McDonald’s has consistency mastered.

4) My food experience thus far has been such a bizarre mixture of meh and awesome. The meh food is anytime I have to consider my older children and their insane pickiness. Cookie Monster pretty much ate white rice all of last week. The awesome food is anytime I eat with family, my mother, and without Cookie Monster and Gamera. Glow Worm, on the other hand, eats everything. (To be fair, all my kids were awesome eaters until 18 months old.)

I have decided this morning that if possible, I will eat 紅火龍果 (dragon fruit) every day for breakfast when Glow Worm is napping and the older kids are at school. I don’t care if it’s expensive. It is awesome and delicious and makes my poop magenta.

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Also, I may just have to eat 鼎泰豐 (Din Tai Fung) every frakkin day because 小龍包(xiao long bao aka soup dumplings) are happiness in my mouth parts. Glow Worm heartily approves of the place and ate at least five or six dumplings and other stuff. Each time a platter came, he would vocalize and demand one just in case Mommy forgot to feed him any and he missed out. I regret I do not have pics because I wolfed down everything and forgot. Besides, I am not a big food picture taker-er. I am the gaping black hole maw of a locust swarm. No light or food can escape the gravity pull of my stomach.

5) I have not gone to see any sights. I’ve been here before, am not big on tourist attractions anyway, and have zero desire to drag my whiny children and pay for crap they won’t remember seeing and don’t care to in the first place.

I am, however, shopping. A lot. I am a sucker for educational toys (especially if they are Taiwanese in origin and I can’t get them back in the US for the same price). I have also purchased my weight in Chinese DVDs and learning materials.

6) I mostly regret bringing my stroller. It has come in handy a few times and I am glad I brought it just because nothing is worse than needing something and not having it but suffice to say, I am sending it back to the US with Fleur’s husband. Poor guy is hauling a lot of my crap back for me. (Like the aforementioned DVDs.)

7) I am constantly hungry. I mean, I am usually anyway because of breastfeeding but now I have added a ton of walking and sweating to the mix. Also, I can smell myself.

8) Yesterday, my mom watched the kids as I ran out to grab dinner and I realized that Taipei is incredibly convenient and fast if you don’t have 20-30lbs strapped to your front (I love you, Glow Worm) and aren’t dragging 75lbs behind you (you, too, Cookie Monster and Gamera). When the kids are older, I’m gonna try and convince my friends to come back again and we’ll drop off our kids at school/camp and eat/play all day. Kinda like now but even better.

Ok. My brain is tapped out. (Plus my elbows are cramping and my arms are tingling from all this thumb-typing.) More to come!

The Well Is Dry

Parenting requires patience and kindness and the willingness to put up with the same shit repeatedly, each hour, each minute. Add multiple children into the mix and the repetition isn’t just additive, it’s exponential. The repeated nagging will drive the parent insane first. The children will be next.

They say that will-power is not a constant thing. If you are exercising it a lot then later, your will becomes weaker and wears down. I find this especially true with my children at mealtimes.

I hate mealtimes.

Breakfast. Lunch. Dinner. They used to be my favorite times of day. I love food. I love eating. What’s not to love?

Now? Now I dread it. I hate it. If I could just shove an IV into each of my children or breastfeed them until they’re in college without it being super creepy, I would.

Mealtimes are torture. Not just any run of the mill torture. Chinese water torture. Any type of torture that slowly eats away at your soul and makes you go crazy and ballistic and turns your normal fun self into a screaming, incoherent banshee.

I’m sure the kids don’t like it, either.

I’m ok in the mornings. But by the evening, my well of patience has been all used up. Oh, let’s be real. Sometimes, I’m out by lunch.

My kids would rather starve than give into me. They would rather vomit up nothing but water and bile because they haven’t eaten more than a bowl of oatmeal in two days. They would rather weep, be screamed at, and endure all sorts of threats and indignities than eat.

FFS, what is so bad about my cooking that they would rather slowly atrophy into spacey, listless, weak-limbed blobs than eat their fucking food?

It has gotten so bad that the older children have infected Glow Worm with this nonsense. My ten month old baby now refuses to eat baby food. He only wants Cheerios and baby puffs. Boy loves to snack. All my children love to snack.

I give up. I am going to feed my children only chips and cookies and milk. (Thank goodness they love milk!)

Their bones will crumble into dust (well, perhaps not since they at least consistently drink milk). Their skin will become sallow and be weirdly plasticine due to all the preservatives. Their teeth and hair will fall out. Their nails will be brittle and thin.

Their bodies will be wrecked. But I? I will be much happier.

Starving the Beast

You guys, I really am an ass of monumental proportions. I really don’t know what is my deal lately, but everything (and I mean everything) makes me angry or cranky or hypercritical or entitled or snipey or sarcastic (which, as much as it is funny to watch on television, is not really helpful to situations or a particularly kind way to deal with small children). Even attempts by Hapa Papa and poor Cookie Monster, who so desperately wants to please me, fall flat and either make me meaner or only temporarily make me feel better. Then I revert back to my horrible, beastly, selfish self.

I really want this to be a hormonal problem. Or an “other people” problem. Or even a situational problem.

But really, it’s a character problem. My character problem.

I really hate that.

I mean, even the way I wrote the first paragraph is telling. I’m some poor victim, reacting and blindly lashing out at all the cruelties and insufferable indignities my lousy children and husband are lobbing in my general direction. It’s their fault I’m cranky or mean. Why can’t they just get their shit together? Why am I the only one who has any sort of fucking sense?

But I know, deep down, that it is all my fault. I am choosing to be an ungrateful, cruel, short-tempered, exacting, whiny little child throwing a pique because I can’t have all the things all right now in the manner that I am accustomed to. I have no care for how my actions affect my children or Hapa Papa or anyone else. All I am thinking of are my needs. My wants. My preferences. My desires. Everyone else could just go suck on a rock.

Of course I know what I’m doing. I am a grown up who is not completely oblivious to social cues and how people work. And yet, I keep feeding my selfish inner beast. I choose to be a jerk and each time I give in to my baser desires, the choices become less and less obvious and become more and more a way of life and a way of being. It is becoming harder and harder to stop. (Oh, let’s not sugarcoat. I rarely rein in my sharp tongue these past few days and weeks. I’m not even sure for how long it’s been going on. This is a super big problem.)

Telling myself to knock it off already isn’t really helping either. I’m just going to have to accept the fact that vices are easy to fall into, but climbing out of them is like detoxing – rather difficult and full of withdrawals. I think first and foremost on the list is for me to just STFU. That awesome zinger I want to throw at Hapa Papa? Not helpful. (Particularly when he’s been graciously swooping the kiddos out of the way of my immediate wrath.)

Constantly criticizing Cookie Monster for whatever four year old thing he did to get attention because his mommy has been a real bitch lately? Not kind. (Gamera constantly scolds me for being unkind to Cookie Monster. She is quite a fierce little sister. Also, when I scolded her this morning, she growled, “You can’t talk to my ear! You don’t know what you talking about it!” She escapes most of my criticism because she is very good at manipulating me. Cookie Monster, however, is like a giant golden retriever puppy. All enthusiasm. No cunning whatsoever.)

But really, who wants to be a screeching banshee all the time at their kids? I’m not even yelling at them so much as tearing them down, little by little. Gamera might hold up just fine since she’s a brawler, but Cookie Monster? That sweet boy’s soul is withering right before my very eyes. (Although, come to think of it, he’s a pretty good manipulator, too. He constantly looks up dolefully with his big, brown eyes and says all wobbly, “You scream at me, Mama.” Even when I didn’t! Just because he knows I will immediately apologize and then he’s wriggled out of getting in trouble. My children are way too smart for me.)

Anyhow, before I got sidetracked by the brilliance of my own children, where was I? Ah, yes. Shutting the proverbial fuck up.

We are going DefCon1 on my inner beastie. It is times like these when I pray desperately, “Help me not be me!” I think it will take both divine grace and all my humanly power to fight my natural evil inclinations. I know at the root of it is my heart being a hard and recalcitrant piece of coal. I can only hope that a combination of God’s mercy and my tackling the outward symptoms of being mean will help.

As for being silent ? That will require a miracle. Or some metal wire.

Sometimes, My Day Needs a Delete Button

Today was horrible. It’s not even over yet. I can only hope that with the last remaining 4.25 hours, nothing explodes. I might explode. I am so furious, I just may spontaneously combust.

It’s Mother’s Day, too. Irony.

I woke up in a spectacularly shitty mood. I’ve been doing that lately. I keep hoping it’s hormones. Maybe I’m pregnant. (Nope.) Maybe I’m getting my period, finally. (Nope.) Or maybe, I ‘m just choosing to be a complete terror of a human being. (Maybe.)

Whatever the reason, I tried to snap out of it (ok, not really) but I would snap back into my funk almost instantaneously.

All I wanted was time to clean my bathroom. I hate cleaning bathrooms. I hate dirty bathrooms even more.

That’s a really fucking low bar for a happy Mother’s Day, but I don’t really care for holidays, anyhow. Besides, it’s not like I could just sleep all day, read, and eat without any small humans in the way – which is what I would REALLY LIKE RIGHT NOW.

I love my children. (I say through gritted teeth. Note to self: When you have to repeat “I love my children” like a mantra or a reminder or a last shred of sanity, it’s probably time to call it a day.)

I did not love my children well at all today. I still kinda don’t want to.

Hapa Papa left for London until Wednesday and I’m stuck alone with three small children who are conspiring to drive me crazy. He even took all three kids to the park this afternoon so I could have some alone time for a few hours. But it was not enough.

It all started when Cookie Monster and Gamera took forever to eat breakfast. They’re always laggards with eating, but whenever Hapa Papa has them in the morning, it’s even worse. Then, when I get them back, they backslide and suck and I get mad both at them and Hapa Papa for inflicting me with this. They eventually finish as well as eat lunch. They stuff their face full of snacks. It’s my own fault. I know. Then they complain and whine and whine and whine about being hungry for dinner so I make them dinner and what happens? They refuse to eat dinner. So I take it away and don’t even bother. I banish them to their rooms; I am so mad. Even Glow Worm, who normally eats just fine, is in on the hunger strike tonight.

All night, it is one thing after another. Glow Worm won’t go to sleep. Gamera and Cookie Monster burst into his room right when he is about to finally fall asleep again. I lose it and yell at them and tell them I will give them away. I force them to sit in the corner of my room. Glow Worm is screaming his brains out because hey, why can’t he sleep through his mother going ballistic? I try to comfort him, but he isn’t having it. I leave him to figure it out on his own.

And then, when I go back to my room, I turn back my sheets and what do I find all over my bed? Sand.

OMG MY BED IS FULL OF SAND.

I HATE TODAY I HATE TODAY I HATE TODAY.

There, I said it. I hate today. Fuck today. It can go suck on a rock. Mother’s Day be damned. I’ve never cared for Mother’s Day. Haven’t really even had a good one since I became a mother. I mean, they weren’t bad, really, just not anything particularly great. And today? TODAY WAS REALLY BAD.

Sometimes, when a day is going poorly, I want to hit “reset” and start over. Today is going so well, it needs to be deleted. As in, excised from my life. Poof! Monday better be a whole lot better or I’m gonna have some words.

Sigh. I better get over whatever malaise I’m going through because this cannot stand. My children will be rioting and I will be paying for their therapy for years to come. Poor little things. Too bad they’re such little shits sometimes. But what can they do when their mommy is determined to be a bitch and go rampaging?

They are much easier to love when they are asleep. (I think I am, too.)

Tomorrow will be better. I will it to happen even if it kills me.