Saturday, May 21, 2011

Child's Play

I have a confession to make.  It is really rather shameful and I am embarrassed to admit it, but in the interest of full disclosure and honesty, I feel I must share my secret.

I do not like to play with my kids.

There.  I said it.  In some ways I feel better, but I still feel like I am betraying them and completely neglecting my children and their needs.

Now, I shouldn't say I hate to play with them ALL the time.  There are several activities I do enjoy like playing with Barbies, coloring, painting with watercolors, reading books to the kids and going to the park.  I enjoy giving horse back rides and doing Superman on knees, but I secretly know these two games also provide a good core workout.  Hey, they used my body for 9 months each, I think I am entitled to use their weight as resistance for my benefit!

I do not, however, enjoy talking like a princess or a queen or a mean witch for a half-hour and getting scolded when I break character.  I hate playing board games, match games and puzzles with more than 10 pieces.  Part of this is because I am competitive and lack patience and the other half is because I have to battle Colin who usually has a gingerbread man from Candyland in his mouth.

Hide-and-go-seek has got to be the most painful.  Maddie still hasn't quite grasped the finer details of this game and will go hide and before I can even count to ten, she runs out and says, "Here I am!"  Then she actually expects me to get up and go hide for her, which wouldn't be a big deal except she usually asks me to play this game two seconds after I plop down on the couch to relax. 

The swing set is another one of my least favorite activities.  I long for the day when I can use it as a way to unleash the kids on the backyard for my own sanity rather than having to stand and push two swings at a time or climb up and down the stairs to pretend I am in Rapunzel's tower or watch intently to make sure Colin doesn't walk directly off the back of the playhouse that is 6 feet off the ground. I keep trying to convince Maddie to recruit Colin as her playmate instead of me, and inform her that we purposely had him so she would have someone to play with.

I know that this all sounds selfish, but let's be clear, I've never been good at playing.  I am fairly certain I came out of my mother's womb as a 35-year old, well at least with the soul of one. Because I had two older brothers who were eight and 5 years older than me, I spent a lot of time playing by myself.  I did a lot of talking to myself or to my dolls or to a tape recorder.  Once I got into school and was thrust into the world of groups and clicks, I was a fish out of water.  I hated trying to "fit in" and was fortunate that I had some innate skills that carried me through. Believe it or not, at one time I was shy.

I also lacked coordination which made sports a major disappointment.  I played softball in grade school and junior high and spent most of my time kicking dandelions in right field.  I did enjoy some success as a catcher, but once I got to high school, I found out I was the most worthless left-hander known to man because I couldn't play first base and I was a right-handed batter.  Someone should have told my Little League coach that lefties aren't supposed to be catchers and was ruining my chances of ever making the team in high school.
At the park, I couldn't do the monkey bars, the swings made me nauseous and that merry-go-round thing mad me dizzy and want to puke.  I didn't do much climbing because I was, and still am, afraid of heights.  I could never do a cartwheel and could also barely swim to save my life.

That is not to say I didn't have fun as a child, but it was limited to riding my bike, reading, playing with Barbies and pretending I was someone and somewhere else.  While I certainly have honed my social skills and love talking to people, I have always been a loner and kind of prefer it that way.

I watch Maddie at the park and she longs to find a "swiend" to play with.  I encourage her to approach other kids and introduce herself like I was never able to do as a kid.  I am pained to see her get ignored by a couple girls who are all there together and aren't willing to let an "outsider" in to their click.  Usually, Maddie finds someone just as eager as her to find a playmate and they skip off to play tag or princess or whatever tickles their fancy.  That allows me to focus on Colin who is usually stealing some one's ball or eating dirt.

I try to muster up all my energy and break free from my inability to play, but sometimes I just have to realize that my role as the mom is different.  I am jealous of my husband who seems to really have the patience for child's play, but have to realize he is a kid at heart.  That is why I love him so much.  Even before kids, he has taught me how to have fun.  He encourages me to play with the kids, but is also there to pick up the slack when I am just too tired and bored to push the swing another second. I am also the "cuddler" and the kids need to have their "Momma Time" with me on the couch before they head up to bed. 

I think my other issue lies in the fact that while I am "playing" I know there are 50 other things that need to be done.  When I take the kids out front to play with the neighbors, I know that at some point I will have to drag them in kicking and screaming so I can make dinner.  When I am lining up stuffed animals so they can wait their turn to see Dr. Maddie, Pet Vet, that there is a sink of dirty dishes that need to be cleaned.  When I am putting together a hologram puzzle that makes me see double and get a little queasy, I know that there is a load of laundry that needs to be switched to the dryer and three laundry baskets that need to be folded.

I can say with the utmost certainty that motherhood has taught me a lot about myself and most of it has been humbling to say the least. Therefore, I can admit that I suck at being a kid.  For the sake of my children, I am working on it.  I have learned to rearrange my dinner menu to make quicker meals if it means staying outside an extra half hour.  I take the kids swimming despite my fear of water and wearing a bathing suit. I have learned to enjoy swinging on the swing without getting motion sickness and will climb up and down the slide at least a few times upon request.  I am really thankful that Colin, despite his ability to seek out trouble, can sit and play with his train table for hours on end.  I am also thankful Maddie is now starting to get into Barbies because she loves to sit in her room and make them talk to each other.  Barbies are also something that I actually enjoy playing with Maddie and I could truly can sit and do (with or without her) for hours.  Now, if I could just do a cartwheel and learn to swim, my life would be complete.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Nap Nazi Part 2: No Nap For You!!

Just when we get Colin to go to bed without any major incident, Maddie starts in on her own bedtime antics.

She has become the queen of stalling and has started the whole, "Mom, can you leave the light on all night?  I'm afraid of the dark." or, "Mom, will you sleep in my bed with me?" or "Mom, can I sleep in your bed?"  I explained that I wasn't ready for bed and I needed to go fold laundry. I told her she needed to sleep in her own bed and that she should think of cupcakes and birthday presents and I would see her in the morning. 

As I mentioned in my previous post "Nap Nazi," unlike Colin, Maddie never got out of bed on her own.  Even after we removed the guardrail from her bed, she would still yell "Mommy!  I'm awake!!!" when she woke up so I could come get her.  Then a few weeks ago, Tom and I left the kids overnight for the first time (pathetic, I know) and my mother-in-law watched the kids at our house.  Maddie convinced Grandma to leave the door open a crack.  The next night when I put her to bed she asked if I could leave the door open a crack for her like Grandma did.  "Sure," I told her not thinking much of it.  Little did I know leaving the door open that little crack would allow her to swing it right open and into a whole new phase of putting her to bed and keeping her there. (sidenote: We do not blame Grandma---in case she is reading this)

Next thing you know, I would open my eyes to her little face right in mine at 3 a.m. "Mom, I'm awake.  Is it morning?" 

"Well, depends on your definition of 'morning,'" I told her.

Most of the time I would just let her sleep in bed with us because a) I was half asleep and didn't have the energy to battle her b) I knew if I ushered her back to bed she would likely scream and cry and carry-on, which would, in-turn, wake up Colin.  I wasn't too tired, however to hear the "voices in the night" that came after I agreed to let her sleep in our bed.  Those voices are of all the "experts" who absolutely do not condone letting children win when it comes to this subject.  And then there is my own voice from a few years back, denying that I would be "that parent" who gives in to letting their child crawl in to bed with them.  Luckily I clear my conscience just enough to fall back asleep.  By morning, everyone is relatively rested, and as far as I am concerned, that is all that matters.

Over the last several weeks, we can pretty much expect to wake up in the morning and find Maddie squeezed between us or laying at the end of our bed zonked out.   She has become stealth in her operation, which actually is better because now she doesn't even bother waking us up. Of course, this doesn't bode well with our 45 pound husky, Kira, who thinks she owns the bed.  Often times I wake up with someone or something on my head or pressed up so hard against me I feel this must be some sort of torture at Guantanamo.  In my morning haze it takes a few moments to determine if it is child or animal or both.

Just to add a little excitement to all of this, there still is the off-chance that Colin will also wake up in the middle of the night.  He is, after all, still getting his 2-year molars.  This is usually a fantastic scenario that has me juggling these two knuckle heads in the middle the night.  There is absolutely no way I can bring them both in my bed because Tom wouldn't be able to get any sleep.  Colin doesn't just curl up in a ball and fall asleep.  If he gets up he thinks it is playtime.  One night I heard Colin crying at his door, which thanks to a double-child proofing system I developed that gives Ft. Knox a run for it's money, he can no longer open.  I went to go check on him and I decided to try and lay in bed with him until he fell asleep.  This usually works, but just as he was settling down, guess who woke up and came trotting out of her room?  My little princess, Maddie. 

I worry what will happen if one of the kids sees the other in bed with me or me in bed with them for fear they will expect the same.  At this point, I wasn't worried about any long-term damage and my goal was just to get them to sleep.  So, there we were;  All three of us in Colin's twin bed.  I was pinned against the guardrail with a dump truck and a teddy bear lodged in my lower back while Colin kept getting up and turning the light on, turning and looking at Maddie and I and just laughing.  Things quieted down a bit and then Maddie informed me she had to go potty.  I took her in the bathroom and Colin followed us.  The two of them were parading down the hallway like it was 8 a.m. and it was time to get ready to go out and play.  I corralled them back into the bedroom and Colin did a comedy routine for us.  Once again I got everyone settled down and that was when Colin punched me in the face.

"That's it!" I yelled, "Everyone in their own bed!"

I put Colin back on lockdown and he just cried.  Maddie looked at me helplessly because I knew full well she wanted to go to sleep and started to whimper when I told her to go to her own room.  Being the sucker that I am and knowing that she would fall asleep if I just let her come to bed with me, which meant I would fall asleep, we both went to my room.  At that point, I had been up since 3 a.m. and it was now 5 a.m. and Tom's alarm was just going off.  Luckily Maddie and I were able to fall back asleep until 7:30 a.m and Colin then slept in until about 8:30 a.m., which meant we could all function for the most part.

Up until about a month ago, Maddie was still taking naps religiously. The length of her naps was shortening, but a missed nap meant she turned into a complete brat by 6 pm. Then we progressed to the point where I would put her down and ten minutes later she'd show up and tell me she wasn't tired. I started to let her stay up with me and she seemed to be able to handle making it the rest of the day without any major meltdowns. On the days she did take nap, she would end up staying up until 11 p.m. As much as I enjoyed the solitude of nap time, I knew it was time for her to start giving up her naps. Besides, she was pretty good about playing in her room or watching a few shows while I got some things done around the house.  Unfortunately, she ends up falling asleep on the couch or in my bed at about 4 p.m.  I only let her sleep for about a half-hour, but it still screws her up at night and suspect this is what is causing the stalling at bedtime and middle-of-the-night visits.

Here is how it went down a few nights ago. It is 8:30 p.m. I went through her usual bedtime routine which requires me to also leave the door open a crack and leave the light on.  I knew that within fifteen minutes I would see her little face at the top of the stairs. Sure enough, as if on cue,

 "Mom, I have to tell you something.

"What it is, Madelyn?"

"I love you," she says sweetly.

"I love you too.  Now, go to bed."

Two minutes later I hear her talking to her Barbies.

"Mom, I had a bad dream," she says from the top of the stairs.

"How can you have a dream when you haven't even been to sleep?"  I ask.  "Please, go to bed!"

Two minutes later...

"Mom, I have to go potty."

"Ok, then go," I pause "Real Housewives of New York" for the fifth time and head up to help her.

This is pretty typical of most nights lately, but that night Tom was gone on a trip and I finally gave in and told her she could just go to sleep in my room and I would be up later.  I knew there was supposed to be some bad thunderstorms and she'd probably end up in my bed anyway. I really thought that would do the trick and she would fall asleep.  At this point it was after 10 p.m. and I was worried she would be a mess for school the next day.

No such luck.  Two minutes later I see her at the top of the stairs asking when I'm coming to bed.  I told her I had to finish folding laundry and was watching my show.  Luckily most nights when she comes to the stairs I really am folding laundry, since that was what I always told her I did when she went to bed.  She didn't have to know it also entailed drinking wine and watching bad reality T.V.

She finally fell asleep about 10:45 p.m. 

At 3 p.m. the following day and I was trying to finish writing this entry.  She stayed up again and "helped me" by unfolding all the laundry I had already folded, asked me for paper, glue and scissors which she then left all over the kitchen table, asked me to dress her Polly Pocket four different times and then fell asleep on the couch. So much for my previous statement saying she could keep herself occupied while I accomplished some things.  I have to admit, I am at my wits end because this transition in her sleep really means I don't get a break unless I wake up at 5 a.m., which I actually do fairly regularly because that is when I write. (which in my defense, explains any typos you may read in my blogs)

So, here comes the part where I feel sorry for myself.
1) I can no longer go to the gym to "get away" and relieve stress because Colin pretty much got kicked out for biting.
2) I can no longer get anything accomplished during nap time, because she is awake for most of it.
3) I can no longer have some "quiet" time without her talking incessantly and asking me for things.
4) I can no longer have a phone conversation without the volume in the house instinctively going up a few decibels.
4) I can no longer sit back and relax in the evening after they go to bed.
5) I can no longer get a good night's sleep, which quite honestly never really happened much in the first place.
6) I can no longer have any "quality time" with my husband without a great deal of stress and paranoia.

So, I am hoping that this, like all the other "phases" my children have gone through, will soon be a thing of the past.  In the meantime, all I can say is "Calgon, Take Me AWAY!!"  Oh, but that would likely mean Maddie would come in while I was taking said bath and say, "Mom, whatcha doin'? When are you going to be done? Can you get my scissors and glue stick?  Can I watch a show in your room?" and on and on and on and on....