Rube Goldberg Parenting

Sometimes, the theme of my life being so much easier before having kids can be overwhelming and I wonder if my stories are too negative. Maybe it gets to tiresome to hear or read about it. Do I focus too much on the negative? There's so much good having kids has brought to my life. I laugh at things much harder now because I have more to laugh about. I have much more interesting conversations both with my kids and other people since they were born. I feel an overwhelming sense of contentment over the most mundane things that previously would've gone unnoticed by me before. Sitting on the floor and making up stories on a Saturday night is better than any amazing restaurant I could go to on a similar night pre-kids.

There are times, though, when the kid energy gets to be too much and all I want to do is go back to the nights when I could eat dinner without worrying about the kids or being interrupted every time I try to eat my cacio e pepe. As far as themes in my essays, the good memories don't lend themselves well to the flow of my stories and come across as too self-congratulatory. Also, there are just times when I have a head cold and all I can see is the negative because my mind and body are too focused on how uncomfortable I am. 

Today is one of those sick days when I miss the pre-kid days. Specifically, I miss the routine of my previous life. I could go months without a single interruption to my set schedule. Maybe once every six months I would get sick and it would throw things off for a couple of days, but it would be easy to get right back to where I was before. 

Now, I have about a week or two of stasis before everything is turned on its head. In those times, everything is calm. I feel like I can be a present parent. Positive reinforcement is our parenting style. We reward with marbles. Once they earn enough marbles, they get to watch TV on the weekends. If they don't earn enough marbles, there's no TV. (I ALWAYS make sure they earn enough marbles). I have much more patience and listen to the kids complaints about one another with complete attentiveness. I, then, respond thoughtfully and strategize ways to make things easier in the future. I brag to myself about how amazing of a parent I am and wonder why all parents are doing things the way I'm doing them. 

Since parenting is a rube goldberg device, it takes one sickness or vacation to decimate my world of mindful parenting. Negative reinforcement creeps its way back in. Privileges are being stripped away left and right and they're in timeouts multiple times a night. Once that cycle starts, it's hard to go back to the marble system because, in a fit of frustration, I revoked all their TV time for the coming weekend. (And I berate myself for punishing both them and myself. How am I supposed to entertain them for a whole 48 hours?). Everything is frustrating at these times. I continuously get upset with myself for not being that mindful queen I was in the previous paragraph. I get overwhelmed by the feeling that I'm failing them as a parent. 

There are times when I let myself go down this path; to focus on the negatives of my parenting. Other times, I can pull through the haze of a head cold or frustration and find the bits of parenting I did right. I remember that I apologized for losing my cool in the morning and how I had a productive conversation with Darla about it. How I still managed to make her lunch despite feeling so tired. Or how hard Jude and I laughed when he showed me a cool new trick he learned. Even when things are more frustrating, there's still good. 

I can, also, shift my thinking on how I view this constant flux of parenting. Before having kids, I was rigid and very committed to my routines. Now, as a parent, those routines are much more fluid and prone to change. Maybe being immovable wasn't the most fulfilling way to be. I definitely have been forced out of my comfort zone and have learned that the world doesn't fall apart if I have an off day. Somedays, I can embrace how fluid life is and don't miss the pre-kid days. Then again, it would be really nice if I could swing an actual sick day every once in awhile.