Preaching to the Choir

August 21, 2008

Sorry it’s been a few days.  I just haven’t felt like blogging–no particular reason, just nothing interesting to say, I guess.

But then yesterday happened.  It started super early in the morning with BabyN waking up yet again from teething pain.  The sleep interruption disturbed all of us, making the morning already get off to a bad start.  He was up for the day a short time later, so I didn’t get the later morning I desperately needed.

PJ didn’t seem too off at first, but about the time his ECI teacher got here, we could tell.  I have never seen him like that before.  I mean, there have been moments that I wondered if he needed medication–or some sort of large animal tranquilizer–but yesterday went beyond even that.  The whole time his teacher was here, he ran in circles around the house, slamming the door to his room (often while the dog was stuck in there), and generally ignoring anything I had to say.  He was literally out of control.

The ECI teacher and I discussed ways to help him cope with the over-abundance of energy.  Apparently making him do something difficult physically is not just common sense but an actual strategy they teach.  At least she knows that he isn’t ever like that; she usually gets to see him at his sweetest and most cooperative.  I was also grateful that she didn’t bring up those letters I dread hearing: ADHD.  Although yesterday, I might have been quite receptive to the idea of medication.

His afternoon nap just about didn’t happen.  I put him down early (you think?) and went down for a nap myself as soon as BabyN did.  I woke up an hour later when I realized I was hearing the lawn crew outside.  They were already almost done, which means they had probably woken PJ up about half an hour earlier.  He certainly sounded like he had been awake for a while.

Needless to say, the afternoon was only barely better than the morning.  M got to witness it when he got home from work.  We were lucky that PJ seems to mind M better than me, so he was at least better controlled when M got home, but he still spent much of the evening in time-out.  And they ended up in bed early.  Obviously.  I couldn’t take any more of being ignored while PJ ran around the house and screamed like a banshee.

For the first time in a long time, I questioned my abilities as a parent.  It was probably mostly because we had company, though.  I didn’t want to put PJ in time-out for every offense while his teacher was here so that she could attempt to do something with him, but I also didn’t want him to just run around like crazy.  It was hard to find that balance.  I also know that if she sees anything questionable, she is obligated to report us as potentially abusive–or neglecting–parents.  I’m pretty sure I don’t toe the line on either side, but how am I supposed to know what she might interpret as either?  Is it neglect to let him run around in a diaper because I can’t keep clothes on him for more than thirty seconds?  Is it abusive to grab his arm (even gently) to deter him from a harmful activity when he won’t listen to me?  Is it either one when he opens his door hard into his head because I didn’t put him in time-out the first three times I warned him not to do that?  (He still has a bruise from that one.)

I know most days that I’m a good mother–maybe not phenomenal, but definitely not bad.  My kids are clothed, fed, loved, and disciplined.  Most of the time they are charming and well-behaved around strangers.  The only areas I feel I lack as a mother are those that society has told us are important, whether or not they really are.  Does he have enough “educational” toys?  Do I read to him often enough?  Get him enough social activity?  New experiences?  Does he know enough numbers, letters, colors, and shapes?  Does he know his kid songs and not watch too much TV?  I may fail at these fairly often, but he doesn’t seem to be suffering from it.

So why do I let myself feel guilty?  A perfect mother is not the one who succeeds at all these things.  That mother doesn’t exist; we’re all going to beat ourselves up about letting them watch one too many episodes of Blue’s Clues in a day or that one time we slipped up and he didn’t get organic food (don’t let me get started on that one) or any number of other things we have decided are important, regardless of whether or not they really are.  If we let all of that get to us, I firmly believe that’s when we start to slip in our parenting skills.  We need to do what we feel is right and not worry about a lack of perfection.  Our best is good enough; it has to be.

So obviously I’m preaching to myself here.  I need the reminders after a day like yesterday that I am a good mom.  My kids are healthy and happy and loved.  All the rest is just details that will take care of themselves in time.  I’m always striving to be better and trying new things to be better, so one bad day when I feel like a failure is not enough to convince me that that’s who I really am.