I remember when I was a kid, every day around 3:00 pm, my mom would ship my sisters and I outside to play so she could watch her soap operas. We lived in the country, and we had plenty of space to run around freely.
I remember how much fun it was, running around with them. Sure, we’d occasionally get into trouble, but nothing dangerous. It was more along the lines of “she hit me!” and “she’s not sharing!” We never veered too far from the house. My parent’s had built us a fantastic playground, with swings and a slide and a lot of sand we could dig in. We also had a treehouse. We had hours of fun out there, and we played outside often. We loved it, and I’m sure my mom loved the 45 minutes she got to herself. I don’t begrudge her for taking those 45 minutes. With three small children home, who wouldn’t need at least 45 minutes to themselves?
She would check on us every commercial break. We were very good at playing independently, we enjoyed it. If we weren’t behaving, we’d have to come inside. Since we loved it outside, we’d behave. Those were the days!
I’m trying to allow my boys that same freedom. Trying, within reason, of course. The world has changed and they are still young…but no younger than we were when we’d have our outside play time while Mom watched her soaps. We have a fenced in back yard right now, with nothing dangerous in it. I can see them from every angle if I sit on the far right corner of the long couch. Every day, I’ll try to ship them outside for a good 45 minutes, to get some fresh air and irritate each other (instead of me). I can still monitor them closely while giving myself the tiny illusion of a break.
Only, my children hate doing activities by themselves. They’ll both stand at the sliding door, staring in at me like abandoned puppies. (Actually, Archer’s fairly good about it, and likes playing outside…unless Nolan’s at the door, as he usually is).
“Go play!” I’ll urge them. “You’ve got a sandbox! You’ve got countless shovels and pails! You’ve got two play houses! You’ve got a plasma car and a tricycle and….just go play!”
They’ll just stand there, staring at me, whimpering. Banging on the sliding door.
I won’t lie, I’ve tried closing the blinds, ignoring their pleas. Never for long, just a minute or two to see if they’d give playing outside a go. Come on kids, I’ll think. It’s the great outdoors! It’s bugs and dirt! Aren’t boys supposed to love bugs and dirt?
I’ll admit, too, that I’m a tad frustrated about their inability to just go play. They are boys! They have each other! They demand to go outside from the moment they wake up, and when I put them outside…they suddenly lose all interest? WHY? Is it because they know I’d like to accomplish some around the house chores? Do they worry I would burn my tongue on hot coffee, as I’ve never had it? Is it because they secretly do not ever want me to write, ever? Is it because they want to watch the sanity slowly seep out of my every pore?
Okay, I know. I’m being a tad dramatic. The last few days have been extremely trying for me, especially with no evening breaks from Matt. He’s, you know, unable to give me those regular evening breaks and I honestly didn’t realize just how much I depended on him for my own sanity.
Then and again, the kids haven’t exactly been angels…
On Wednesday, during their outside play time (while I attempted to start dinner), Nolan pulled down his pants and took a crap in the yard…which Bane tried to eat. Both the dog and Nolan had to be cleaned up from that mess (and the remnants bagged and thrown out). In addition, Archer had also filled his diaper with the number 2 business. All of this happened within five minutes of me putting them out back, and, not to mention…Nolan had started knocking on the sliding door after, like, two minutes.
On Thursday morning, I went upstairs to have a bathroom break. The boys were occupied with their hot wheels, and I honestly wasn’t going to be any longer than two minutes. No sooner did I flush the toilet, I heard Nolan calling for me. “Mommy! Archer is dumping milk!”
I kind of thought he meant that Archer had his bottle and was dumping it out, but nope. Archer had the entire sleeve of milk, and he had dumped it all over my couches and floor. I put the boys upstairs so I could deal with that mess (and, you know, calm down). Once it was all cleaned, I got them downstairs and gave them cream cheese bagels. I turned to wash the dishes, and when I looked back…Archer was rubbing the cream cheese all through his hair. They were arguing and not sharing, and any time Nolan claimed he needed to use the bathroom, he’d go wake up Matt. I could accompany him upstairs every time because Archer was on a mission to destroy everything.
So, by yesterday afternoon I was really needing a break from their mischievous ways. I got them all dressed and shipped them out into the backyard, booted up my computer and made a hot coffee. Within seconds Nolan was banging on the sliding door.
“Seriously Nolan!? You just went outside! Go play!” I told him. He sulked off, the hard done by child that is. One minute later, he returned. I was so desperate for some decompressing, alone time that I gave him suggestions. “Go knock five pears off the tree using that ball,” I suggested. That should keep him busy.
Two minutes later, he returned. “I can’t do it!”
“What do you mean you can’t do it? You tried once! Keep trying. Don’t give up!” He sulked off again, weakly throwing the ball and accidentally backing into Archer, who fell down on his face and started bawling (he was fine, just cranky and tired).
And so, thus ended their outside play time. The lasted ten minutes and all I managed to do was make a hot coffee (which I later chugged back, ice cold) and get my computer turned on long enough for the home stuff to load.
Sigh. This obviously isn’t working.
And before anyone suggests I should sit outside with them, I usually do. Nolan will still whine after 10 minutes, Archer mimicking him, and it doesn’t matter how many activities I try to get them involved in. The only time they’ll willingly play outside for longer than 10 minutes is when we’re at a park, have a friend over, or have the pool set up.
I am just exhausted and incredibly sore. Doing everything, literally everything, solo sucks. It probably wouldn’t suck so much if I myself didn’t have a chronic pain disorder. My “spoons” are constantly running out, and that means my patience is constantly running out too. It’s hard to be zen and patient when you’re in more pain.
I haven’t been able to do certain tasks, because it would use up too many “spoons” too quickly. I haven’t been able to stay on top of laundry. I haven’t been able to take the kids to the park, or the dog for a walk.
Matt feels bad, bad that I’m in pain too and bad that he can’t help, because his pain is far worse. I’m not mad at him at all, I’m still incredibly thankful that he’s ok. I’m not impatient or angry about his healing process at all, I understand. More than most, I think.
What I need is for someone to walk my dog, and someone to watch my kids for a couple hours so I could take a mental break and run some errands I need to run. I need to buy groceries and all that, and while most people would be able to bring their kids along for that, I find that task uses up ALL of my spoons at once. Wrestling with the boys, pushing a cart that’s over 50 pounds heavy with just them (never mind the groceries), loading up the van and getting them and the groceries inside once we’re home….ahhh.
Kudos to those of you who have a spouse in the military or working out west. Kudos to those of you who are doing this single style. I’m not meaning to irk anyone by complaining about my two weeks of solo parenting, nor am I looking for a “pissing contest”. I’m aware that it could be, and nearly was worse. I feel guilty for even feeling overwhelmed and tired and sore. I feel afraid to truly ask for help with the kids for fear that I’ll get the oh my gosh, it’s only been a few days and you can’t handle your kids already?
It’s not that I can’t handle them, it’s that my own pain is making handling everything else + them difficult.