Sunday, July 25, 2010

Solitary Confinement

This week I am working diligently on a query for an agent possibly interested in a book about motherhood. And so, it seems to be a great week to bring out an oldy but a goody. This post resonated with so many moms, and I got bombarded with comments both private and public. Ultimately, in a society of mothers, our problems that take place in our families are ours alone. This is a small slice of what takes place in my house and leaves me feeling helpless. Please read and feel free to comment. Have you ever felt a solitary figure in a sea of mothers and advice? I am with you. Read on!  

Lately, I am a lonely mother.  I know--even in a world with millions of moms and mom-blogs and mom-circles and mom magazines, even though my closest confidants are parents: I am a solitary figure with solitary problems living in a deep dark solitary vacuum.  What about those social networks you ask?  Well, amongst 143 friends on my Facebook page only 20 of them aren't parents.  (Mostly my former students, others who have made conscious choices NOT to be moms and dads, and one priest.)  I suppose I could turn to the remaining 123 friends for parenting companionship and mutual begrudging, but somehow it feels fruitless. 

It's a funk I'm in, and I'm not talking about James Brown and George Clinton.  I am talking about one heck of a "woe-is-me-black-cloud-over-my-head" funkadelic funk.  I just get tired sometimes.  I mean, this mother is endless.  I once read that women during the Salem Witch Trials would be subjected to something called "pressing" where rocks would be piled on the "witch's" chest one after the other until they confessed out of sheer panic of being crushed under their weight.  I think my funk is due to a sort of emotional "pressing" where issue after issue has piled up crushing my mind.  Trying to figure out solutions to all the problems that plague my children in various ways is exhausting.  How to help one son find confidence and work to his potential, how to squelch one son's seemingly endless conceit, how to keep a son with stitches in tip top shape so he is able to keep up with the varsity cross country team that he has been asked to join, how to not throw one son over the South Glens Falls Bridge the next time he sasses...which will probably happen before I finish this next sentence... not to mention the constant refereeing that takes place every time the boys are in the same room together.

I know that every family has its own set of "stuff."  I know I am not alone in that.  But is there anyone else out there that just feels beaten every once in awhile from the never ending bag of do-do that seems to be thrown at us mothers constantly and consistently?  Take last night for instance...

Aidan was at a party.  His curfew is 11:30.  But as 11:30 came and went, he didn't show.  I texted him three times only for him to ignore them.  I called his phone and the phone of the boy with whom he was supposed to get a ride, all to no avail.  So at five after midnight, Aidan's step-father went to the house to get him.  Ten minutes later as they arrived back at the house...all holy hell broke loose.  Let me remind you it was 12:15 AM.  But no matter.  Aidan comes in to the house blustering about how unfair we are and how embarrassed he was.  This blustering is done with Aidan's full voice which of course leads to his little brother waking up and coming out to see what all the fuss is.  Once he realizes that his brother is in trouble, he begins to gloat openly.  Saying things like, "Mom you won't be able to trust him anymore!"  (Parroting a discussion that I had had earlier with Gannan who is the "great exaggerator.")  He continues, "That is it! Right mom?  No more parties for Aidan.  That is what you'd do to me."

Aidan then becomes indignant and much louder at his brother's goading.  I now have to deal with the curfew issue and the fighting issue.  I send Gannan back to his room, where he waltzes down the hall singing "He's in truuuuubbbllle..  He's in truuuubbbllle"  I turn to Aidan who now has slipped out of the kitchen and exits to his bedroom in the finished basement punctuating said move with a fierce slamming of the door.  The slamming of the door (OF COURSE) wakes up the baby who begins to wail at the scary noise that jolted her out of  her sound sleep.  Predictably and understandably, my husband is livid at the commotion caused by my two boys who have now woken up his daughter.  A commotion mind you that is still continuing.  Gannan is taunting loudly from his bedroom.  Aidan is blustering boisterously from his bedroom.  Jeff is fuming in the living room.  I am trying to sooth a ten month old who clearly would rather have her father-- indicated by a stiff back arch that keeps her as far away from me as humanly possible, the finger pointing to the closed door and the incessant "da da, da da, da da," that is coming from her quivering lips. 

Her father, after trying to compose himself, finally comes into the baby's bedroom.  She instantly stops the heavy heaving crying she has been doing with me I dare say it???? Well...she smiles...sigh.  I leave daddy and daddy's girl to go back to the sanctuary of my bedroom-beaten and battered, angry and anxious, resentful and rageful.  An hour later (that's 1:30 AM for those of you keeping a tally on the time) I am still feeling all of these things that come in the form of a mish-mashed rounded heavy ball in the pit of my stomach.  If I could categorize the chunks that make up the spherical agony-it would be self-wallowing and jealousy due to the fact that Ila really and truly prefers her dad to me and an absolute fiery fury directed at the boys
who in their need to be contrary and ornery forget that their anger and contentiousness causes chaos and misery to innocent bystanders like a ten month old sleeping baby. 

Around 2 AM desperately needing to sleep, I walked to the kitchen for a glass of milk hoping it would bring on the needed zzzzzzz's.  I am incredulous at the quiet.  Husband sound asleep on the couch in the living room.  Ila tucked away in the corner of her crib.  Aidan's basement teen palace dark and silent.  Gannan's long legs hanging off the side of his bed in sleepy angles.  Only me awake with my thoughts, awake with my anger and frustration.  A solitary mother bathed in the light of the refrigerator.


  1. I would tell Aiden if he hates being embarrassed in front of friends play by the rules and he won't have to be embarrassed...all he had to do is call home ....saves alot of anxiety on everyones part...

  2. Oh, my! I love your honesty. I had a week similar to yours except the problems I am overwhelmed by relate to my four younger sisters and not my own children. I know that even though my friends are all out there in cyberspace, I too long for some one-on-one REAL time with my friends away from the pressures of home, work, and my family. I am sure it is partially the control freak in me, but I wish I could not take the weight of the world upon my shoulders because those "stones" sometimes feel suffocating. Sounds like you need some girl time away from things. Working from home must be especially hard because when do you ever get away from it all? I so enjoy reading your work-both this blog and your column. Keep your chin up!

  3. here's the thing my sweet friend whom i can't wait to meet someday.... as mom's/wives/sisters/daughters/females... we are the anchor and rock of the family. now don't get me wrong- i don't remember the fine print when i signed on to be all of those titles above, and frankly i think that lil piece of information is kept from us on purpose like the actual pain of childbirth or why short mom hair is a bad idea for most of us. and while it may not seem fair, and there are days that our shoulders aren't wide enough, our strength not strong enough, our wisdom not smart enough-- it doesn't matter because our families are still counting on us. this is why sisterhood is so important. we need to find one another and help carry each other's burdens from time to time.... because we've all been there. you are not alone. breathe. lean on us. and regroup because sooner or later we're gonna need to lean right back! from the light of my fridge to yours.... sending love and prayers and reminders to keep breathing!

  4. awesomely written, Logan

    Mine are 18 and 21 and they are still giving me that sinking, why the hell do I even bother feeling, too
    Lets all run away from our children till they are 25 or 30 and behaving like decent, grateful humans...really...I am not being sarcastic here....I mean, I can understand why some women just walk away...really they just get pushed away for the last time and then don't look back
    Kids shouldn't be the only ones who get to run away...wives and mothers are given ample reasons to flee
    It is a career path a young woman would be wise to consider very deeply before she starts making whoopy with anybody.

  5. @ Suz...Is there an equivalent to Bro-mance...because if there is..I am having one with you, a sympatico woman whom I haven't even had the great pleasure of meeting face to face yet.

    @all...thanks for the support. I especially appreciate anon who suggested that we run away until our children are 25...just last night I was "night dreaming" how different my life would be if I walked away say to a flat in Soho and became a mysterious recluse. Want to come with me?

  6. Okay, I know that I happen to be one of those 20 "friends" without who am I to say a darn thing. But I had a few typical "Lanni" thoughts while reading your blog this morning.
    1) Aidan went to a party! And Aidan came home late and broke curfew like so many boys his age. YEAH! I mean we shouldn't be applauding that, no...but deep inside you have to be cheering right?
    2) Gannan taunts Aidan, but at least the two actually talk to one another and don't walk around ignoring one another...fighting among siblings is NORMAL. You have two NORMAL teenage boys... I do remember two of my older sisters fighting like cats and dogs...hee hee...(remember the time someone locked someone else out of the house... something about the telephone if I recall).
    3) Ila loves her daddy... and would prefer him over you. Would you have this any other way? Think about that for a second. Imagine what life might be like if it were the reverse.
    4) And finally, you are up in the middle of the night standing in the light of the kitchen...but there is SILENCE isn't there? YES!

  7. @La....Damn! You get me every time! Nice way to wake up though...sing it with me..."You've got to ACCENTUATE the positive...ELIMINATE the negative...."

  8. VERY well written, Logan. I LOVE what Suz said............I want to meet her too!!!!
    I know oh so well what you are going through! I used to fantasize about being extremely sick in a hospital bed & my son changing forever just to have me live!!! I was even willing to die if it would make him a better person! Living that way was no way to live anyway!........but I'm here to tell you that it does get better, especially the sibling they get older & mostly when they don't live in the same household, which will be here much sooner than you think! Some of what Lanni says is true.........some of it is normal. You and I are sensitive souls & the constant beatings get to be too much sometimes, but hang in there, my friend. Your time will come.

  9. Ok, I'm going to try to be a voice of reason here because I have been where you are and I am sooooo far from the perfect mom, but I'll tell you what helps me:
    1. Remember that if your kids aren't acting the way you want, you can change that. You are the parent AND you teach people how to treat you. You know what we do when little ones use their mouths inappropriately? They get a teaspoon of hot sauce. They've each had it a few times and now they don't sass nearly as much, I just threaten the hot sauce. :) lol
    My point is, I would have jumped to nip that behavior in the bud. I would have said to my husband: go upstairs and take care of the baby please. I would have then headed after Gannon and told him that taunting his brother is unacceptable and punished him. Period. I know teenagers are hard, but consistent work at the time of the problem should help. A family meeting might be in order.
    I then would have told Aidan to come upstairs and apologize to his stepfather and little sister. I would have meted out his punishment right there (for example, if he can't come home at curfew, he doesn't go out and if he can't answer his phone, you can take it from him for a while---he's not using it anyway!).
    2. You are a mother but you are still a woman. You are still your own person. I had an epiphany while scrubbing toilets one day and said to myself, "Is this it then? I'm just destined to clean up after everyone for the rest of my life?" I decided then and there I was going to spend less time cleaning and more time doing what I wanted. You will not be on your death bed moaning about how you wish you had spent more time cleaning! You need something(s) for yourself! Read, cook, garden, whatever your old hobbies are, dust them off girlfriend! Make a regular girls' date, monthly, weekly, whatever you need to go meet and have coffee. I don't know about you, but my husband pretty much does what he wants! lol He doesn't hesitate to plop down and play video games for a while or to run out and get some coffee or cigarettes----with no thought to bundling up the kids and taking them along! lol You need to adapt more of that kind of attitude! :) Delegate more, make yourself more of a priority. Think of this: your kids mimic you. If you are a workaholic, they will be workaholics (and you'll be worrying about their stress levels!). If you do everything and they (and your hubby) don't help, they will expect the woman in their life to do the same!
    3. The next time you're that angry, sit down and write. Just grab some looseleaf and a pen and write until you feel drained. Get it out. Holding anger in is poison, I can tell you!
    I've really had to learn the hard way to make changes in my life. My eldest son is 6 and he is a huge challenge! And my middle son is 4 and starting to be very stubborn and nasty to us and my 13 month old daughter is starting to buck naps and scream, morning, noon and night! But those problems aren't my sole focus. When my kids are acting out, I try to get proactive---I promise you, it will make you feel so much better to attempt to chuck those stones off your chest rather than sitting there waiting for the next one! :) Nobody's perfect, no life is perfect, but you can make it perfect for you! ;)
    If all else fails, see a therapist---a FEMALE therapist, who can commiserate w/you and validate you! :) Your one commentor was right: we women are the heart and souls of our families. And I bucked against that and it isn't fair but then I thought of this: if I'M not happy, nobody is. It's ok to be a little selfish! I let my family know, in a joking way when things are getting out of hand and I'm tense, I tell them, "Hey, do as I tell ya! Remember, if I'm not happy, nobody is!" lol ;)
    good luck!!

  10. Oh my! I can remember being over curfew and my parents coming to get me at a house. :) We all have our challenging times as parents, maybe it is what makes our lives to interesting?? Chances are you would of been asleep instead of dealing with all this right? Yes sleep in nice but now you have something to blog about. Trying to keep with the positive here. :) My love and strength is sent out to you!
    much love