Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Battle Hymn Of The Tired Mother

I could never be a Tiger Mother. I'm just too tired.

I can not fall asleep. It starts with the moonlight reflecting off the snow and casting light into the bedroom. And then when I do finally start to doze off, the cat will decide to sit on me and lick me back awake. Last night, after an hour of tossing and turning, I fell asleep only to wake up at midnight to a bloodcurdling scream downstairs because John had woken up and couldn't find his blanket. He wanted to come sleep in our bed, but he's a major bed hog who likes to kick, so I tucked him back into his bed and (groggily) read him a book. By page two, Sammy was at my elbow begging to go out. So after reading the book and getting John settled, I had to stand on the freezing porch waiting while the dog meandered around the backyard. I came back to bed, tried to go back to sleep, but there was the moonlight again, and the cat, and by the time I had drifted back to lala land, Sam appeared in our room, climbed in the bed, had a conversation with Tom, who then was awake sufficiently to want to take cold medicine, followed by Sam who announced he had to pee, which resulted in much upping and downing for a while. Then Sam tossed and turned and finally fell asleep sideways in the bed, laying across Tom and me. At 5:30am Tom's alarm went off, and soon after, both boys were in the bed watching youtube garbage truck videos on my laptop, right next to my ear.

Every night is like this to some degree. I wouldn't know what an uninterrupted night's sleep felt like if it fell from the sky and hit me in the head (but if the hit on the head rendered me unconscious, even momentarily, I would be eternally grateful). I am sooooo tired.

But as bad as the nights are, the days are worse.

I'm sick. With a virus. Yesterday, since I was feeling tired and achy, and against my better judgement, I went upstairs to lay in bed leaving the boys downstairs to their own devices. There was a garbage truck video on the tv, and the sounds of two boys happily playing garbage trucks assured me that they were in the house, and not in any kind of mortal danger.

But then I went downstairs.

My children had taken a box of mini wheats, loaded them into the backs of their five garbage trucks, dumped them out, and run them over repeatedly. All over the house.  My wood floors had turned into shag carpeting.
This is an (almost) every day occurance around here, and since I'm a namby pamby western parent, there was a part of me that thought, "Wow! You two are so creative! That looks like fun. Scoot over and let Mommy have a turn!"

 But then when I thought about all the cereal wasted, and the huge amount of cleanup this mess would require, not to mention the message my permissiveness would give them, I sternly sent them to their rooms with a half-hearted swat on the butt, bagged up every toy on the floor, hid the bags in the attic eaves, then released the boys so they could sweep up their mess. After that I sat them down and explained that the garbage trucks would be in time out until Saturday morning, that they were having nothing more than a slice of bread with peanut butter on it for dinner, and were being sent to their rooms for the night at 6:30pm.

I hate having to be stern like that, but Tom and I have told them over and over that they are not to use food in their garbage trucks, and we just haven't gotten through to them. So it was time to be hard core. A Tiger Mother, if you will. Even though there's a part of me that's really amazed by them, because even when they're wantonly destructful, and purposely wasteful, no one can fault them their ingenuity.
Sam is the Grand Poo-Bah of ingenuity around here. As an infant, he painted our bathroom linoleum with a bottle of shampoo a la Jackson Pollack. As a very young toddler, he turned every household item he could get his hands on into train bridges (think college textbooks, upside down stuffed animals, kitchen utensils, pantry items etc). Now it's mountains of shredded toilet paper and breakfast cereal in his garbage trucks, recycling centers made of legos and mommy's coupons, trains made of discarded steam valves from the radiators, and crossing gates made of walkie talkies and sunglasses.

If this is how his mind works at 4, I'm frankly terrified (I'm not sure it'll be safe to be awestruck) to see what he comes up with when he's 14.

He is named after my grandfather who would proudly tell the tale of how, as a boy, he shimmied up a tree one morning, retrieved a hornet's nest from a tree in his yard, stuck it in a sack, went to school, snuck it into his classroom, and then went back home and to bed like he'd been there all night. Then, when it was time, he went to school and feigned surprise when the school janitors were trying to get the angry hornets out of his classroom. The scary thing is, I have no trouble imagining my Sam doing the very same thing. Sometimes, I swear that Sam is my grandfather's reincarnation. They share a michievious spirit, a love of doing everything full-bore, and a particular need to get in trouble in a big way.

John is the Apprentice Pooh-Bah, who is learning absolutely everything he can from his daring, damn-the-consequences older brother. I have no doubt that when he is four, he'll have no trouble wrecking his own brand of creative havoc around here.

I keep telling myself that these two are going to be amazingly talented adults--if I can get them there in one piece.

But first, I've got to get a nap, or my children are going to leave me in their dust.

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