Friday, April 25, 2014

7qt: Needy kids suck

... the life out of me, that is!


I don't know what's gotten into my kids the past few weeks.  It started with Marko refusing to ever be alone, even in the bathroom.  Then he started waking at night again, and screaming bloody murder at the notion of not having an adult sit with him for a good hour while he gets back to sleep.  Then he wanted to be in my lap for hours if he could get away with it.

Of course Michael's response to this was to get clingy too.  So it seems I always have one child in my lap and one climbing up the side of my chair crying and demanding "uppie." 

Needless to say, this kinda drains my batteries.  I end up standing up and saying I am done with lap time for everyone.  Then I wash dishes while they pull my pants down around my ankles in their attempt to climb up my legs, crying all the time.


My best guess as to the cause is that they are sensing that I don't have a lot to give, and so they're jockeying to make sure they drain out every drop available.  Kind of like with nursing -- as the milk dries up, Michael spends more time nursing to get what he can.  But with emotional energy, it's counterproductive.  I feel I would have plenty to give if only they gave me a few more breaks!

Why don't I have a lot to give?  I blame pregnancy.  It does make me depressed and irritable.  Michael's sleep hasn't been too terrible lately, but he's always up at least twice.  Occasionally he won't go back to sleep again so we have a truly dreadful night once a week or so.  When I have some good nights in a row, the mood lightens around here considerably.

Of course their neediness spurs a great deal of fear that they will still be like this when the baby gets here, so I will have THREE of them hanging on me crying.  I'm trying not to let my mind go there, but of course it does.  I do remember that Marko was this needy when I was pregnant with Michael, and it didn't last once Michael was born.  However, six months later or so he had a truly awful phase for months, so ..... not sure what that means for us.

Another contributing factor is that John has been super busy with work and politics.  But there really isn't any helping those.  We are really careful when accepting new obligations, but there are some really important ones we've already committed to.  And anyway the only thing that would make Marko happy would be for John to quit his job and snuggle him fulltime.  He has an epic meltdown, still, every morning when John leaves for work.


I also think that the two boys have reached a tough stage in their relationship.  Michael is no longer willing to accept the toys he's given and play Marko's way.  He grabs, a lot.  He takes toys that Marko didn't want to share.  (My rule is that, aside from a few really crucial things like sippy cups and new birthday toys, if you weren't playing with it, your brother can.  But Marko feels that everything is his and should not ever be shared.)  And if Marko tries to "get back" a toy he thinks is his, Michael bites him hard.  So I spend a lot of time, when I am not holding one or the other of them (and even when I am, because they fight on my lap too), trying to stop them from escalating their conflicts.

But it's hard, because I am not sure how much good it does to say "don't grab your brother, don't snatch his toy, don't push" while grabbing one who is about to hit, snatching a toy to restore it to the one who had it first, and pushing off someone who is climbing up the side of my chair.  Yet I don't know how I can avoid these actions and still prevent everyone from getting hurt!

I'm trying to just put lots in the "love bank" of each kid by snuggling them every moment I can.  But it's driving me nuts, first because it truly feels like they are sucking the life out of me just by touching me, second because they won't be still EVER, and third because it's a rare moment that I can have just one kid touching me.  It turns out that having two people touching me at once is my personal hell.  It is hard to explain what's so awful about it, but it is.

And then when I finally do get everyone happy, they go back to playing with each other and two seconds later they are both screaming, there's a bite mark on Marko, and Michael is flat on the ground.  I can't so much as pee without war breaking out.


Someone gave me the advice yesterday to just "lower my standards" on the housework.  First, my standards aren't really capable of much lowering --- I'm pretty relaxed.  And at this point, doing housework is a special treat.  I never thought I'd say that!  But doing something that isn't holding anybody, plus getting some of the overstimulating mess out of my environment, is something I do for myself.

I was in a conversation recently online about the needs of Catholic mothers.  We're all kind of overstretched and overwhelmed.  Some people said that single women and older women should be pitching in more.  Some said we need to work harder to build community to help each other out more.  Some said all they really wanted was someone to talk to.

And I thought ... I don't have it in me to do one more thing, not even if that one more thing was making a friend.  I usually talk to someone at least once a week, and that's overstimulating enough -- considering we are always, always interrupted every five minutes.  I had to cut short a phone call with my mom and one with a dear friend this week, because trying to pay attention to both the call and the kids was making me want to scream.


I guess the one thing that would really help would be a 30-hour work week for John.  Because I feel that all mothers do nowadays, the stress and the overwork, is all just trying to compensate for the absence of fathers ..... fathers who do every single thing they can, but who are dragged away from the home ten hours a day (if you count commutes and mandatory lunch breaks), five days a week, and given back to it with no energy left.

Decades ago, people predicted that we would be working thirty hours a week by now, because technology would have increased productivity to the point that we could fulfill everyone's needs with only that much work.  And the fact is, we could.  Productivity per workers has increased beyond even what was predicted.  The trouble is, the fruits of those labors belong to a few.  The rest of us have to deal with the other kind of 30-hour workweek ..... that is, underemployment.  Did no one predict that less need for work would result in less availability of work for the worker?  And does anyone have a solution yet?  At my more pessimistic moments, I can't help but wonder if the increasing wealth inequality in this country is just a result of increasing technology, not solvable even by the best political management.

I want my farm.


Speaking of farms, here's a happy garden update!  I put my tomato plants in on Saturday.  We've had some cool nights since then, but I put upside-down buckets over them and they did fine.  And the upcoming ten days are all warm, with warm nights, and quite a bit of rain.  GREAT!  I think I will go to the garden store this weekend and get some bell pepper plants, because this weather should be fine for them.  (I can't grow peppers in my house to save my life.)  I also need cucumber seeds, because I forgot that I ran out of them last year.  But all the other seeds are planted: beans, okra (never done this before, we'll see how it goes), watermelon. 

I am trying to sprout a sweet potato to get slips -- curious how that will turn out.  I am told sweet potatoes grow here with little effort and great yields.  All I know is, I have the space and I am not growing squash this year to flummox the bugs, so why not sweet potatoes?  I love sweet potato fries, especially with spicy homemade mayo.

Right now it is pouring down rain.  I love the way Virginia does rain.  It comes down so hard, and then the next day it's gorgeous again.  It makes me happy thinking of all the seeds I planted today (cilantro, oregano, basil, parsley, dill, more lettuce, more beans) getting nicely watered in.


We got a new car the other day.  Two years or so ago, we traded in our 2003 GMC Safari for a 2002 Ford Taurus, to save on gas.  It did use less gas, but in every other way it turned out to be a trade-down.  The Taurus had a lot wrong with it, and by the time we decided to get rid of it, it had a number of electrical problems.  Sometimes the transmission didn't shift right.  Once the electric went out entirely while John was barreling down the freeway -- power steering, power brakes, lights, everything.  We're not picky about cars, but our general rule is if we're scared to drive it, it might be time for a new one.

So we got a 2012 Dodge Caravan.  Seven seats, good condition, not a whole lot of miles.  Our goal was to get the newest car we could afford, so that it could last us awhile this time.  So it's nothing fancy, but it stands a chance of outliving the loan we have on it.  I hate getting into more debt, but a car that can pass its inspection every year is an investment, and I'm grateful we can at last afford to have it.

We thought of keeping the old car so I could drive around and get errands done while John is at work, but the dealership offered us $600 for it (a good deal more than it was worth, in my opinion) and so we traded it in.  That's for the best, because we no longer have to pay insurance or repairs on the old car.  Thank goodness I am a recluse anyway -- I rarely wish for a second car.  Getting out on the weekends suits me fine, and anyway there is a bus in town.

How has everyone's week been?


Amy said...

My 3-year-old is really clingy at the moment as well. He is constantly trying to sit on my lap, with little regard as to whether the newborn is already there! And I completely agree about fathers My husband is gone 12 hours a day, and it is just so hard for all of us.

Enbrethiliel said...


I mostly can't comment on these takes because they're totally beyond my experience. But #5 is right up my alley because I have a 40-hour workweek that often turns into a 50-hour workweek because of the nature of my job, and I've been thinking about the horribleness of it for a while.

Have you heard of Parkinson's Law? "Work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion." We may be able to do 30-hour weeks now, but because we're stuck in the 40-hour week mindset, we just give ourselves more work to fill the time, which inevitably burns us out!

I think that inflation and the devaluing of wages are the huge reasons we are all struggling now. I wouldn't say technology in itself is a real problem. What I observe is less a case of one machine putting ten people out of work than a case of twenty outsourced labourers putting ten people at home out of work. This is possible thanks to better technology, but it's not an inevitable outcome, any more than better kitchen and housekeeping technology making women "bored" at home made it inevitable that they'd flood the workforce in huge numbers. (Have you read that theory?)

With respect to outsourcing, I must confess that I enjoy a bit of that pie. I'm an English trainer to clients primarily based in Europe, and there's a sense in which I'm taking jobs away from English speakers in the UK and elsewhere on the continent. A trainee said to me a few months ago, "I think your big boss is really profiting from you." (Can you tell he's French from the phrasing? LOL!) He explained that my company charges as much money for Filipino trainers' services as competitors do for US- or UK-based trainers' services, then voiced his suspicion that my take-home pay wasn't nearly as good as what those other trainers could command. He was right. =( Outsourcing can be insulting both to those who can't get work and to those who do get it.

Sheila said...

You're probably right. I have often heard the "wages are low because women work" argument, but I don't buy it. John points out that in America, women flooded the workforce at the same time as we abandoned the gold standard and inflation became rampant. So rather than women pushing down wages, we had women going to work because their husbands' wages were already devalued. It disguised the effect so we didn't see it for decades.

Many say that globalization is the secret to ending poverty around the world, but I just don't see it. It seems the method by which a few exploit the poor for their own ends. But in a world this connected, what exactly can you do? How can the poor be the beneficiaries of globalization instead of its victims?

entropy said...

Congrats on the garden! I am a terrible gardener but I'm trying again this year. We're waiting another week here before planting tomatoes but my potatoes are looking good!

Clinginess is so hard. Maybe you could set a timer? That way the other one knows he'll definitely get a turn, there will be only one at a time on you and, best of all, a definite end.
Or a park? When I just can't seem to deal anymore, getting out of the house and giving them something else to focus on helps.

Learning to share is so HARD. And biting is hard to cure although one of my biters got bitten back before I was tattled-to and she hasn't bitten since. Don't worry about *your* snatching etc. you're the authority and you have to do what you have to do.

The Sojourner said...

My little guy had a long-overdue double frenectomy on Monday, so he has been a very sad panda this week. And this comes on the heels of four-month growth spurt + developmental milestone + probable teething. (He rolls back to front now but hasn't produced any actual teeth to account for his drooling and gnawing.)

When he was a newborn the lower-standards advice made me ragey. I mean, after a certain point the crusty dishes and overflowing trash can become a health hazard, and I'm pretty sure my standards should not be low enough that my newborn is in a house full of vermin, you know? And "make your husband help" doesn't work either, because he's gone 40+ hours a week and he occasionally wants to spend time with us or get some downtime, rather than coming home from work and doing chores until he falls asleep.

Sheila said...

Entropy, if the park had been an option lately, we definitely would have done it. Between the lack of a car and some bad weather, it hasn't happened. Today, I was going to do it, but then we actually had a really easy day for some reason! Well, I'll take it and no complaints.

Maybe it's because this morning I carefully explained to Marko, "Sometimes *I* can take a toy back from Michael, but you are not big enough to do it without hurting him, so you have to ask me to do it instead of trying to grab it back yourself." That, and the very clear "no hands on each other" rule, which I'm trying to enforce as lightning-fast as possible before things escalate, seem to be kicking in to cut down on the fighting. Perhaps John was right, that Marko's clinginess comes primarily from his upset over being bullied by his little brother.

Sojourner, glad to hear he has gotten the snip, and I hope it helps with things! Marko's tongue tie has stretched a good bit, but I still wonder sometimes if I should have gotten it clipped when he was younger.

Husbands can only do so much when they are that exhausted from work. And they're never available when you REALLY need them, at three p.m. when it seems the day will never end!

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