The Boy has been pushing the limits lately. On everything. Push, push, push, push...test, test, test, test. And I get it. He's three and a half. That's what they are supposed to do. Not to mention that he has a new sibling that has encroached on his life as the only person who deserves attention. The good news is that he isn't taking any of this out on his sister. He loves the shit out of her. He is taking it out on me. And if I had to choose between the two, I would obviously choose that he take it out on me and not her, but man, it makes for some hard days.
When I mentioned above that I could understand things but not necessarily have the ability to change them I meant that as a single parent you can only be in so many places at one time. You can only stretch yourself so thin before you break. Let me use tonight as an example.
I took both kids to daycare today (The Girl doesn't start full time until Monday so this is supposed to be my last week at home with her before that happens) so that I could get some work done. And after I dropped them off at 9:30am I literally worked ALL.DAY.LONG. I pumped two times and drove to three different clients and worked for a fourth from home before I left for the other three. So when I went to pick the kids up at about 5:00pm I was already exhausted from a very long day.
So I picked them both up at school (something that my mom usually does, but I was in the area and trying to give my mom a break so I handled it today) and on the car ride home I had long and extensive conversations with The Boy. Good lord can that boy talk. We talked about how he's three and his friend at school is 4 and how he thinks Mommy must be 41 (not sure why, but that's what he thought). We talked about using the potty (oh good lord, that is a whole other post), we talked about the planets and the sun and we talked about spiders and spider webs; his latest obsession. But man did we talk. We engaged and chatted and good lord did those conversations go on and on, but I was there and present and talking away.
We got home and he discovered that his new car seat had arrived. He demanded to have it put together immediately so I stuck his sister in her jumperoo and sat down with him while he "helped" me put it together and get all the straps in the right places etc... He was right there the entire time and while this was happening I was literally ignoring his little sister, who happens to be getting her first cold and was pretty pitiful and probably just wanted a little Mommy love herself. By the time the car seat was together and we were done we had been home a little over an hour. At this point I turned my attention to The Girl who wanted to nurse and be held. The Boy went into the kitchen to torment, I mean help, my mother make dinner. I dealt with The Girl for about 30 minutes until it was time to eat. I plunked her down in her bouncy chair, got The Boy's plate ready and sat down at the dinner table.
Then The Boy not only refused to eat everything he had just told me that he wanted, but he played with his food. He stuck his fingers in the soy sauce from his edamame, he tapped his spoon and fork on the glass table, he did everything he knows he's not supposed to do. So I was reprimanding him. I had no patience. He is too old to be pulling this kind of crap and I eventually took his spoon and drained all the excess soy sauce off of his plate. He burst into tears and acted like I was the most horrific Mommy in the world. It was at this point that my mother pointed out to me that I kept looking down at The Girl, who was falling asleep in her bouncy chair cause she felt so shitty and saying things like, "I'm sorry you feel yucky Peanut," and then looking at The Boy and yelling, "Stop! Use your fork to eat. You asked for those strawberries and we cut them up for you, now you eat them!!"
He wanted attention and negative attention is better than no attention at all. And not only that but he was seeing me give The Girl love and give him grief. So he was acting out.
It was at this point that I almost cracked. I mean, what else can I do? I had given him the entire drive home, and almost a full hour and a half after we got home where I focused solely on him and gave him "positive attention." And I had only done that for The Girl for about a half hour. And during dinner? Well he wasn't doing one goddamned thing that deserved positive attention. And am I just supposed to sit back and let him act like a jackass because he has a new sibling and is feeling like he needs extra attention? And am I supposed to let the beginning months of my baby's life go by with her sitting in a bouncy seat because her brother needs extra attention? What about her? She's little and doesn't exactly understand it, but she deserves love and time too. When her brother was little, he got IT ALL. She at least deserves some, doesn't she? And by default, if I am giving it to her, I am withholding it from him. Sigh.
This is a hard balance. I understand that due to circumstances there are times when he is playing quietly in his room and being wonderful and I don't acknowledge it. And I don't acknowledge it because I am busy emptying the dishwasher, or nursing the baby, or cooking dinner... And that I should probably take that time to go to him and give him a huge hug and tell him how much I love it when he acts like a good boy and plays quietly and basically praise him for being good. But I don't because I am just so happy to have a few quiet minutes to try and get everything done that needs to be done. And I don't think of it. So I relish in the quiet and run around like a crazy person and the next time that he actually gets attention from me is when he is doing something wrong. So I am giving him the attention he desires, but he only gets it when he acts like a shit.
I get it. I get that isn't the right way to go about this. And in a perfect world there would be enough hours in the day to make everyone happy. There would be enough time to give everyone the love and the squeezes and the attention that they so desperately need and deserve. But there aren't enough hours in the day. There isn't enough of me to go around. I try very hard to make sure that they both get what they need from me. I honestly do. But some days I just don't feel like I am cutting it.