Recently I wrote about how it’s fine to find life hard when life is hard. I also wrote about how we’re all entitled to find our own lives difficult. Today I want to build on that by saying this: that the only way to deal with tough times is to keep going. Yes, this is a post about my own drama.
I’m finding life a bit of a struggle at the moment. One of my two gorgeous children is being extremely challenging, and has been that way for well over a year. It’s nothing major – just normal preschool boundary-testing stuff, but it seems to happen every single day, and I’m worn out with it. I’m finding it harder and harder to stay calm in the face of belligerent four-year-old provocation. On Saturday, when his behaviour forced me to follow through on a consequence that resulted in cancelling a planned outing with him and his sister, I really did get upset and fed up – but it’s actually quite unusual for me to lose the plot: instead, I feel like I’m just resigned to his behaviour (on Saturday it was because he decided that he would not brush his teeth – every day it’s like he chooses one stupid thing to argue about, and then will not budge, even in the face of treats being cancelled and favourite belongings being confiscated). And it’s just so frustrating that this lovely kid, who is so happy, cheerful, and fun to be around 95% of the time, keeps choosing to derail family life in this manner.
I’m planning to embark on a wholesale review of every parenting book I own, and several library books, to see if we’re missing any obvious strategies for dealing with tantrums and unreasonableness, but I’m not feeling very optimistic that I’m going to uncover anything revelatory. I wish I knew that we were terrible at following through on consequences, for example, so we could change our behaviour, but we do remain boringly consistent in our approach, and so I don’t know what to tweak in how we’re handling things. I know that he’s doing his ‘job’ as a little kid, and that our job is to reinforce the boundaries and ride this stage out, but it’s exhausting. It’s also starting to really upset his twin sister, who is mostly conciliatory in the face of his high-jinks (lots of “he’s just tired” comments when she sees that his behaviour is starting to wind us up), but who is clearly getting sick of the drama as well. It seems like, every night, my husband and I put the kids to bed and collapse. Here’s a recent photo of our family pedicure session, just to remind myself that we do have fun occasionally, and that life isn’t really the flurry of time-outs and tantrums that I sometimes fear it might be:
Parenting challenges aside, I’m feeling very uninspired by my degree right now. I’m in the second semester of my third year, so only have one year to go afterwards, but I can’t wait to be finished. Although the four papers I’m studying this semester are interesting, I just can’t be bothered. There’s so much to read, and so many assignments to write, and my brain is tired (probably as a result of all that battling with the afore-mentioned four year old).
And I’m sick of living on one income, which is by no means a small amount, but which does not stretch very far at all after we’ve paid the mortgage and our au pair (without whom I couldn’t study). Before we had kids, and before we moved back to New Zealand, we had two good incomes – it was glorious. We’re amazingly lucky to have been able to last for so long on only one income (thanks largely to our habit of saving a lot of one of those good incomes, when we were both working), but the savings well has run dry, our childcare costs will increase next year, and it makes me tired thinking about how I’m going to have to balance our family budget. I can’t wait to be earning again, but to do that I have to finish my degree.
And here’s the thing: I know that dropping out of uni, sending my kids to live with their grandparents, and taking my husband away to backpack around Europe for a year isn’t really an option. The only way is through. We just have to keep dealing with these everyday parenting, university, work, and financial challenges. I know that everything will improve in time, but sometimes being a grownup really does suck.