I remember, one fine day, many moons ago, where I believed that the hardest age would be infancy, or maybe two years old. I reasoned that by that point you figure it all out and the rest just glides smoothly along in the Happy Land of Perfect Parenting. I mean, at that point, I was the most perfectest, bestest parent in all the land. Take note, suckers.
Ha. Then reality smacks you in the face.
Your kids develop minds of their own, because you state adamantly that you want them to feel comfortable challenging adults, when appropriate. You want them to be confident in themselves, and not be constantly attached to you all day long. Then you realize that they are reflecting some of your worst habits, and the reality that you are not the Stepford Wife Bread Making Never Yelling Woman, comes crashing at you faster then a hangover from too many bottles of wine. Of course, there is the other side where if they are not learning, growing, developing, constantly attached to you and never viewing the world, listening to your every word, then they are doing, sometimes, the opposite.
You know the stomping, and yelling when you tell them to clean their room? The demanding that they do things on their own when you are already ten minutes late? The vicious yet innocent way they screech, "Nooooo! I DON'T WANT TO!" at the most opportune time, like for instance, in the grocery store, causing many people to stare at you as though you are harming your child.
So, infancy was harder than two years old. Three was an in house training program on how to deal with demons, (I kid, mostly). Four was a lot of anxiety, and realizing that while two kids can come from the same womb, it doesn't mean that they'll be anything like the other. And five...
Oh five. I hate five. Did you know it used to be my favorite number? I wore it when I could in soccer. I always picked it when we had to pick a number between 1 and 10. Five was best. Five when you have kids? Oh. It's not best.
Last night, when I told Potato to go to bed, he yelled, " I AM SO MAD AT YOU!" And I laughed, because he said it with such conviction, as though I had truly done something horrible. I covered my face, so he wouldn't know, because I do want him to express himself. I really do, I swear, but sometimes, I just don't. Some nights it would be great to have him sing the good night song from The Sound of Music and march his little cute self right into bed.
I'm realizing that when I conquer one challenge during a certain age or stage, the next one will come, and I will be fumbling around as though I'm lost. And I am. Motherhood isn't so much about having all the answers, it seems. It's about just guiding your kids into the best possible adults they can be, and hoping that you don't fuck them up too much when you make your mistakes. Because you will make mistakes and sometimes you just won't- and that is mostly just luck.
Tonight, when after four hours of telling Potato to clean his room, I walked calmly into his room, changed the sheets on his bed, took his favorite toys, removed them, and said calmly, "It should not take you four hours to clean this room. You have been rude to both me and your father today as we have asked you to do something you agreed you would do. You are now going to bed. Please get into bed."
I closed the door with his cries echoing behind me, and I wondered, if I had done the right thing. I hate hearing my kids cry. I hate giving them ultimatums. I hate being the bad guy. I don't know. All I know is each decision is another choice, another move, and I have to do the things that aren't so fun sometimes. That's the uglier side of parenting.
Tomorrow, I'll battle with his loss of TV, iPod and now his favorite toys because of the way he's acted over the last week. Tomorrow, I'll doubt myself. Tomorrow, I'll likely wonder if I can drink before 10am. For now, I'll just enjoy the silence, and hope that one day, him and I can sit over a family dinner and we can joke about how incredibly vocal he was at five.
Because this will pass. It always does.
But, for the love of everything, don't tell me about six.