We just came off one of our worst parenting weeks ever. Comedy of errors, tragedy of errors, whatever you want to call it, the week was filled with parenting chaos. Kids with runny noses and hacking coughs, domestic disasters, flat tires, children who wouldn’t sleep, broken bones, sagging bank accounts, you name it, we experienced it.

Sometimes I wonder about parenting two young children while in my forties. What, I ask myself, were you thinking? Funny. I don’t blink an eye at the thought of other herculean feats in my forties (running a marathon? pish posh. Training for an ironman? no big deal. Switching careers? easy peasy). But the children. Oh, the children. God knows, I love them, but this is truly the hardest thing I’ve ever done.

Some of it is the crazy-making behavior (tantrums, pulling absolutely everything within reach down for inspection, the sea of toys underfoot, the refusal to eat yummy food I cooked especially for tepid appetites). And some of it is just sheer monotony. Oh god, oh god, oh god, I can’t take it sometimes.

I willfully grab moments of calm where I can – like when I washed the dishes last night to give myself a sense of satisfaction in having a clean sink while the girls played past their bedtimes. I had the classical music station on, the older was engrossed in books and the younger was clinking on something, I don’t know what, but it didn’t seem dangerous. They were just – occupied. For a moment. This was soon after the segment where they were playing underfoot while I cooked in the kitchen with five or six baby dolls spread out over the kitchen floor.  I felt like I should have, I don’t know, engaged more. Should I have been that mom that ignored the meal I was cooking to crawl around on the kitchen floor with baby dolls? Should I have most definitely not concentrated on dishes after they had moved out of the kitchen but followed them to see what pursuits they were undertaking? I just sort of left them to their own devices. The baby gate was up so they couldn’t wander too far. And I could hear them, mostly. And I was just so tired and somehow doing the dishes seemed so incredibly important at that moment.

Funny that last part. My domicile has received one of the hardest hits in this parenting gig. It is in constant disarray. Piles of stuff on tables as I try to keep things out of the kids’ grasp. Really. I don’t think you’d believe it if I showed you pictures. You’d think I faked such clutter. It’s real. And I live in it. And I am slowly dying inside because of it. I never thought I was the kind of person that wanted neatness and order until I had children. Now I crave it, desperately.

And there’s the constant fatigue. Picking up children, picking up their toys, not getting sleep. Even an everyday mundane task like going to the grocery store becomes a physically taxing feat when you have to tote two children with you. Both of them still in diapers. Because we are failing at potty training. Failing, I say. Older expresses no interest whatsoever in peeing anywhere but in her diaper while at home. Unless it’s on the floor.

I just didn’t honestly think it would be THIS hard. Really, I didn’t. And I hate that I feel it’s so hard. It feels, I don’t know, wasteful. I feel like I should be singing about rainbows and letting the house go to shit and telling the girls, let’s make cookies, with happy faces, and licorice hair. I think about being that mom who was so crazy and spontaneous and maybe we had a messy house, but goshdarnit, we had such fun. Only, in my girls’ situation, they just have a messy house and a crazy grumbly lady for a mother who wore the same tank top for the entire weekend – yes, into bed and out of bed all weekend long, from Friday night to Monday morning.They have a mom who collapses into a chair in the backyard and checks email on her iPhone while they drag themselves in and out of the sandbox, who keeps an eye on them while multitasking on twitter until they wander just too far out of sight.

I do engage with them some of course. But I also feel like I’m biding my time. Will we reach a point where engagement seems more natural because, oh I don’t know, they can hold up their end of a conversation with more than the endlessly-repeated word “why”? Or, because I am not literally wiping shit off their butt two or three times a day? I know there are wonderfully happy moms who adore these ages (1 and 3). And there’s a lot to adore. In small doses. With a waiting back-up in the wings in case you need to run away quickly.

I can’t watch a movie. I can’t sit on the sofa and eat take-out Chinese. I can’t have complete conversations with old friends on the phone without being interrupted by squawking. I certainly can’t take a little nap. Ever. Getting out of the house is tantamount to embarking on a trek up Everest. We have so much damn gear and then there’s the potty/diaper situation (is everyone in a fresh diaper, just how much water has older consumed in the last half hour?) and then we have the “pick me up” pleas and children who are perfectly capable of doing so who won’t walk their own asses to the car. Then we have issues over carseats and straps and just who is touching which toy that suddenly becomes so important that someone is going to dissolve into tears if she doesn’t have it in her hands. right. this. very. instant. And if I try to leave the kids behind, we have to deal with separation anxiety AND I have to take out a loan to pay the babysitter.

I knew my life would change. Sure, the kids will become the priority. Of course, I wouldn’t want it any other way. That was the easy part, those big changes. What I didn’t know was how much it would change on such a mundane level. Like bathroom time (it’s absolutely insane how much/how long I put off going to the bathroom b/c I am either knee deep in kids or can’t afford to stop somewhere and go b/c I’d have to drag two kids out of the car and into a likely filthy restroom where they will be apt to touch everything/sit on the floor). Every little thing is hard. I did not know this. <blink blink gulp> And I am struggling.

And I don’t know how to end this post. It seems disingenuous to wrap it up by saying something like, but golly, they’re so cute and charming sometimes and we have these moments when they make my heart melt and suddenly everything seems worth it. phhhhhhhht. Hallmark bullshit, I say. Of course I have nice moments. Most of them are in retrospect. Currently, I have at least as many equally terrifying moments, probably more – terror in the moment (oh god, someone’s going to poke their eye out with that), terror of the future (is that really our checking account balance? Didn’t the man get paid this week?) or a vaguely existential terror (why am I having kids right now in this world? what will they do about the debt? the earthquakes? the Road-like scenario that’s constantly just at bay?).

So, no wrapping this crap up in a big pretty bow. Parenting: it really might kill me. I shit you not.

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