A friend on Twitter recently wrote that she understood my recent parental venting because when her child was a toddler she felt like, and I quote the awesomeness, “an abused wife”.

YES. That is EXACTLY how I feel these days. Like I’m in a painful relationship with someone whose unpredictable behavior constantly swerves from one extreme to another; one minute he’s screaming and throwing things, the next he’s curling into my arms and murmuring that he only gets mad because he loves me so much, baby.

At 20 months, he has no in betweens, no neutral setting whatsoever. He’s either a delicious ball of pure joy, a creature that fills my entire soul with bright sunlight—or he’s a complete monster, a tiny Jack Nicholson peering around a doorway and shouting HEEEERE’S JOHNNY!

When it’s bad, it’s horrid. I get fed up beyond all reason with the tantruming and howling and screams of “NO! NOOOOOO!” My head aches and I think over and over how this is like a jail sentence, how if it were just Riley we could be doing so much more right now, going places and having fun, instead of being held captive by a pint-sized dictator who so often seems hell-bent on making our lives as miserable as fucking possible.

Sometimes I wonder if he hates me. I mean, I know better. And yet.

But when it’s good, it’s so very good. My god, he can be so loving and so cuddly, so much more than Riley ever was at the same age. He climbs us like jungle gym equipment, stopping occasionally to touch foreheads and rub noses. He wants to be picked up and then he clings like a koala, chattering happily. He laughs great meaty old-man guffaws at things he finds funny, he chirps “I eee yooooo” when we play peekaboo.

There’s so much to love. There’s so much that makes me want to curl in a ball and cry. I know it is fleeting, that he’ll be a bigger boy soon and these months will be a memory . . . and that I shouldn’t wish them away, because I’ll never get them back.

Still, this entire year has been so hard. It’s just been really, really hard. I love my boy so much, but goddamn it’s been hard.


60 Responses to “Stop me if you’ve heard this one before (spoiler: YOU HAVE)”

  1. Lo on November 4th, 2009 12:21 pm

    It’s cool Sundry, I thought I included enough disclaimers that I’m not angry, you have every right to vent, etc. Apparently not.

  2. Anne on November 4th, 2009 1:29 pm

    OK, I’m sorry to add to the pot, and please know that I’ve been sitting here thinking about whether to comment on this for the past 20 minutes, but I feel like I just have to.

    Linda–I love your blog and your irreverent humor and I understand your analogy is hyperbolic and you did not mean to draw an exact parallel between parenting a demanding toddler and domestic violence.


    My father was physically abusive toward my mother while I was growing up, to the point where I was often afraid he might kill her. To this day I get shaky and nauseated when I watch media about domestic violence.

    I have also raised a toddler, who, while she never has eaten dog hair (!), has had her share of tantrums, screaming nonstop for over an hour straight, hitting us, whining, and straight-off-the-cliff mood swings. I understand the tyranny of this part of parenthood, and the urge to run out of the house (or, in my case, hide in the bathroom), but I have to respectfully disagree with the lightness with which most of the commenters have taken your analogy.

    I’m not saying don’t use hyperboly (sp?) in your writing, since of course this is part of what makes it fun to read. And you’re right–regardless of the issue, there’s probably someone who is going to take some offense to something. But I would like to request, as respectfully as I can, that when some of your readers note that you’ve hit a sore place with them, you acknowledge that *for them* it is a sore place.

    Again, sorry for adding fuel the fire here…

  3. g~ on November 4th, 2009 3:30 pm

    Sometimes, I think that parenting (and the miseries and joys involved) is completely unable to be explained because, honestly, if it were able to perfectly and precisely articulated, NO ONE would do it.
    So we have to rely on imperfect parallels to express our feelings.
    Possibly this might work, though. TODDLERS SUCK BIG, FAT, HAIRY DONKEY BALLS. And there are times when you would inhale them into yourself if you could for their utterly perfect adorableness.

  4. Hopi Gesteland on November 4th, 2009 3:40 pm

    I am 69 year old grandmother and know exactly what you are talking about. I had four boys in four years and thought I might exterminate them at times.

    Don’t allow anyone to criticize you for your feelings. Most of them are liars. No one loves being with their children every minute. So hang in there. They will grow up and cause you other problems.

  5. Redbecca on November 4th, 2009 7:16 pm

    Our kids are MORE kids. More cuddly, more emotional, more happy, more excited, more miserable, more angry, more… MORE. Read Raising your Spirited Child….it has nice perspective.

  6. Okay Already on November 5th, 2009 9:04 am

    If you stare into the abyss long enough the abyss stares back at you.

    Why not get some noise-cancelling headphones and a high chair? You’re in charge, mama.

  7. Lorenka - the culture of food and garden on November 5th, 2009 11:52 am

    […] can be difficult sometimes, but I’m nowhere near here yet. Is life with a toddler really that bad? I guess it puts troubles with a 3 month old in perspective. On nature @ November 5, 2009 | By […]

  8. Gleemonex on November 5th, 2009 2:50 pm

    This morning, I attempted to stop a meltdown (over a spilled shopping bag full of toddler toys and books OH THE HUMANITY! HOW CAN LIFE GO ON!). I righted the bag, put things back in it, said it’s OK. The two year old, light of my life, love of my soul, kept screaming and crying, so I gathered her up into a hug, usually a solid coping strategy when she’s just about to go off the rails, whereupon she hit me in the face, an openhanded slap with all her two-year-old force. I said, at about 2.5 times normal conversational volume, “OH YOU DID. NOT. JUST HIT ME.” I carried her (thrashing, screaming) to her room, wading through a black pit of rage so deep I needed hip-high boots, deposited her gently on the floor to continue her tantrum in safety, left the room, and closed the door. As I knelt there in the hallway, head against the door frame, counting to thirty very slowly before opening the door again and asking for a hug and an “I’m sorry,” I thought to myself: “Sundry. Sundry would understand this.” It lightened the load, Linda, it really did. And when the storm had mostly passed and my sweet darlin’ had come back to herself and kissed me and said sorry, we relaxed in the kitchen, her with a yogurt and me with my coffee, and I thought of you again, and, well, here we all are. :-)

    PS: all this happened in about 10 minutes, while Mr. Gleemonex was in the shower. Somehow that is HILARIOUS to me. Heh.

  9. I think we’ve all felt this way at some point « An Unencumbered Life on November 17th, 2009 12:12 pm

    […] I was browsing some of my favorite blogs during lunch and came across this gem of a post from All & Sundry – I don’t think I could have said it any better myself. Especially after the past […]

  10. 3 Stinky Boys and Me on November 17th, 2009 10:37 pm

    Ummm… Yeah. Been there, done that. If fact, I did that all day today. It was a brutal parenting day. Oy!

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