Monday, February 2, 2009

Mountains out of Molehills

So the boys were with their dad this weekend and for 48 hours I was responsible for only my activities, my emotions, my food and my preferred sleep patterns. There were no cartoons on the tv and no inane songs or stories playing on the iPod. It was pretty blissful. I feel a little guilty about how much I enjoy my weekends without them but I know they enjoy the time with their dad and so I try to make the most of it rather than angst over what a bad parent I must be to not even miss them a smidgeon.

Soon it was Sunday afternoon and time to pick them up. I felt a little knot begin to tighten in my stomach. Sometimes the weight of responsibility of being back in sole charge is a little scary. There is an inexplicable mix of dread and excitement at returning to single mum mode. I tried to shake the feeling off - the last thing I wanted to do is to turn up with a face like a wet weekend, as though I hadn't been waiting with baited breath for this moment from the minute they departed on Friday night. I'm sure it's not going to do wonders for their self-esteem to get an insight into how much I skip around the house when they're not there.

And of course as soon as I see them my breath is taken away by their beauty and exhuberence and sheer perfection. My boys. God I love them.

As soon as I arrive they go into full blown hyper mode - leaping about like mini druggies on speed. All wild eyed and talking a mile a minute gibberish. Their dad is not so chipper. In fact he is distinctly churlish and within a couple of minutes of my arrival has dragged both boys off to the naughty corner for leaning over the arm of his sofa and saying the word poop. I feel the knot in my stomach return with a vengeance. There's lots of shouting. Both boys are crying and of course I do the adult thing and support their dad, all the while thinking Oh for God's sake please chill out. Everything about the situation is tense and ackward and filled with unspoken anger and resentment. I keep my mouth shut while ex stomps about and do my best to keep my voice light and cheery while helping the boys clear the table, pack their favourite toys, get their coats and shoes on. I remembered weekends when we were all living together being like this with absolute clarity. I couldn't help but be grateful that I was no longer in that situation. I wondered if this is how it had been all weekend and felt guilty that I had handed them over without a backward glance.

Why are we like this as a family, as parents, I wondered on the way home? What is the catalyst? Why has there always been so much tension? Have I instigated this behaviour or has he? I am certainly no stranger to shouting or over-reacting to the boys behaviour. I probably exhibit the exact same tendencies as ex that I find so abhorent to witness. It all felt very sad.

This morning when ex called to speak to the boys I asked him if everything was okay - that he seemed a little tense yesterday. Was he alright? Yes, he replied, he was fine. He's just pissed because the boys spend the first night and day with him completely acting up and having to be constantly disciplined. After 24 hours they begin to behave and listen and co-operate...and of course when I turn up it all goes pear shaped again. I listened and then said that I thought we ought to cut the boys a little slack - that this back and forth arrangement is still pretty new to them and is a big adjustment. Even though they both seem to be adapting well they're too young to be able to articulate their emotions. These outbursts of slightly rebellious behaviour are possibly a reflection of that.

But I know it's more than that - I know it is a difference in parenting style and boundaries that is becoming more and more polar. I am slightly more relaxed about the boys (bad) behaviour than ex is. Do I want them to jump all over the sofa, using 'potty' words with gay abandon? No. Of course not. But is it high on my list of discipline priorities? I have to admit it is not. They do get told to SIT ON THE SOFA IT'S NOT A CLIMBING FRAME YOU KNOW! The poo-poo, bum, butt, wee-wee head references just tend to get ignored (isn't this natural tendency to toilet humour just an inherent male gene that they never grow out of anyway?). I don't encourage it and I do remind them it's not acceptable but unless they are shouting it at me as an insult then the naughty step/thinking corner/get to your room options all seem a little extreme. They will grow out of it. They're only 3 and 5 right now and I am happy to pick my battles and try to use my energy either distracting or giving them the attention that they are seeking in that moment.

This is such a small thing - a molehill really. So why does it feel like a mountain? Why do I feel so on edge and jittery over such a small thing? It should be pretty easy to discuss this as parents and agree common ground rules for both houses, so the boys see we are on the same page and their transition between us both is easier. But the point is it's not. Nothing about this situation is easy. It is ackward and chock-full of layer upon layer of emotions that lay simmering under the surface.

Still. If everything in life were easy then where would be the sense of accomplishment? I still have a utopian vision of a loving and integrated family for our future and I will do everything that I can to make it happen. Starting tomorrow. Tonight I am going to sit and stew a little more and pray for divine guidance in resolving our molehills. Wish me luck.


  1. My husband and I have this exact same argument over the sofa-climbing and over using silly words. I agree it should be straight forward to agree on things like this, but we can't either. Good luck with resolving your molehills and if you do, tell me the secret!

  2. No resolution as yet - but there is a ceasefire. Thank you so much for visiting my blog - I love yours and will add to the list I follow!! Nx

  3. We used to be like this - just stressed when all together - note how lovely your evening was with no stress compared to the other one....not that I'm suggested being on your own is necessariy better - just v often the unexpectedly more enjoyable, calmer, easier option. You're doing a great job. I know just how you feel - those bloody mole hills, I'll get my boots on and come and jump on them for you Lx

  4. I think kids are clever enough (even at a young age) to sense and understand that different adults have different rules, so you are probably doing them no damage by not being able to be totally consistent on each issue.

    You do write very clearly and beautifully about the situation.

  5. Family Affairs - I guess having a good ol' stomp could be fairly therapeutic...get your boots on and come on over. I'm ready when you are. And thanks so much for the support. It means so much.

    Iota - You're right. And thank you so much for the lovely compliment.