I was in the middle of composing the most sorrowful, self-loathing post ever when my friend Abby called. Abby, whom you may remember from our mall adventures or that time she murdered a chipmunk, is one of my dearest friends and will be for life because I will never let her go. She has three kids, and sometimes I think she tells them to scream/cry/cavort extra loud before she calls me so I can feel better about only having one. They're among my favorite children in the world, but they're children, and when they interact they do so at high decibels and with things around them crashing to the ground. I find it hilarious that she can engage in a conversation when it sounds like the children are setting everything on fire a few feet away.
Her son is the oldest, and he's exactly one month older than Henry, so we often check in to see if some recent aberrant behavior means that one of our children is having a problem, or there's just some developmental age-related mischief at work in their increasingly lanky bodies. Henry and her son Ben are really similar, both of them smart and intense and maybe a little too sensitive for their own comfort. I think Ben is far more easygoing, but that might be because he's not mine and therefore does not push my buttons.
Which brings me back to how I was writing this depressing post, the gist of which was that I am the worst parent ever, have no idea what I'm doing, and should probably pack up and find my son a well-trained governess or related expert who can deal with him in a manner that doesn't involve 1) shouting and 2) more shouting. Because my buttons these days--oh, friends. My buttons. They are all pushed. They have been mashed down so far that they're all broken and I'm like a stuck apartment door buzzer that won't turn off and is just buzzing NO STOP IT I SAID STOP IT GAAAAH.
It's not that he's doing anything that horrible, but oh my god, everything is so…dramatic, lately. There is so much noise. It seems to be noise that is specifically designed to drive us to the limits of patience. It is usually high-pitched and/or repetitive until we are begging for mercy. There is yelling. The yelling is ignored. (And then there is more yelling. The illogic in this does not escape me.) Everything--getting dressed, getting teeth brushed, not petting the cat until she lashes out in cat-fury--everything is a fight. Everything. It's becoming so predictable that the minute we start up I just begin to yell because I can't take it. And then I end the day with a headache and a sore throat and I feel like a monster. Oh! And my child tells me that he thinks he's a bad person and I fully blame myself, and I wake up in the middle of the night wracked with anxiety because I've probably ruined my child's life.
But then Abby called. And Abby described life with her son, and life with HER son is eerily similar if not IDENTICAL to life with mine. All the same behaviors are on display. The noise- and trouble-making. The emotions running at a fever pitch. The expressions of low self-esteem. It's like the two of them have been comparing notes! And Abby is waaahaaay more even-keeled and parenting-skilled than I am. She's definitely not screwing up her kids. Therefore, I concluded, I may not be screwing up mine! Oh, I'm so pretty sure!
We toyed with some strategies. Abby mused that perhaps we should just be extra-tolerant and humor them until they grow out of this phase. I thought this was sweet and adorable and I bet she'll be able to do it! As for me, I wondered if maybe they weren't looking for excuses to rage-weep because of some kind of internal turmoil, so maybe I was doing my son a favor by losing my shit. (Abby seemed skeptical but I think I nailed this!)
Although we reached no life-changing conclusions from our talk, there's already been an improvement around here. Because I'm no longer filled with despair. And I managed to get through the night without once leaping out of bed choking in panic. I can't tell you what a relief it is to discover that my parenting is really not the problem. The problem is nine-year-olds. Which unfortunately he's going to be for ten more months. Now that I'm getting some sleep, maybe I can figure out a way to ride this out.