Some days I feel like screaming. I clench my fists and I squeeze my eyes closed and I just feel like screaming at the top of my lungs until my throat burns. Sometimes I think it would help to scream – that if I could just get all of my frustration and depression and fear and guilt and anxiety out of my body, then things would begin to look up. I keep catching myself crying and I wish I could be alone to just let it go, cry myself into a hitching ball of tears.
I just feel so stuck, in so many ways. We’re at a point where we don’t know what the first step to something different is. We don’t want to live in my mother’s basement, we don’t want to feel so much resentment and anger toward our oldest child, we don’t want to have to think about the needs and feelings of a half dozen people before we can do a simple task like the laundry. We can’t have a conversation without someone overhearing. We can’t have an argument without someone listening in. We can’t discipline our kids without someone passing judgement on whether it was severe enough in their almighty opinion. We can’t have sex because nothing separates us from the living room except a thin curtain that doesn’t go all the way to the top of the ceiling.
Business is busy, extremely busy – too busy almost, though I’m not complaining. We have enough work to occupy us for the next month, but it’s due in half that time, so we don’t get breaks for personal or fun stuff. If we stop to watch a movie, I’m doing paid knitting. If I have to stop the machines for the kids to fall asleep, I do bookkeeping or file order sheets. We’re both tired all of the time and for the first time since we opened this business, I find myself dreading answering customer emails and inquiries. It’s not that I’m tired of the business, because I love it. It’s just so hard to work here, so hard to feel like a fully functioning adult here.
I feel at a loss as to what to do. We can keep taking in orders and have plenty of money most of the time, but when will we move when we have so much work to do. If we stop working, we can move but where will the money come from? We’re paying rent here – which half of me believes in only fair, and the other half wonders how I’m supposed to save up to move out if I’m paying rent here. Rent feels a trifle unfair when we don’t even have a door to close and call our own.
Our single biggest problem is our oldest child Lakin. Lakin is difficult. She’s always been difficult – I don’t know why I keep expecting this to change. As an infant she was very fussy, extremely clingy with much crying, much more so than the average infant. I can remember sitting on my bed rocking her when she had been crying for 7 hours one night. She wouldn’t even stop crying to nurse, she didn’t have any earache, didn’t seem to have gas, no teeth coming in – nothing that we could diagnose. She was screaming at the top of her lungs and I was so tired, Drew was so tired. I remember feeling like I needed this child to stop now or I was going to either lose my mind or hurt the baby. I felt so guilty just for thinking it but I really felt it and still she screamed. We ended up dosing her with baby Tylenol to make her sleep – because as much as I don’t like giving kids medicine for every little ill, we decided that a little Tylenol was better than feeling like we wanted to hurt the baby.
She progressed to a stubborn and demanding toddler and now preschooler with a selfish streak a mile wide and very little remorse about anything she does. When I sit with her and ask her “why are you behaving like this?” or “why did you bite your sister?” – her answer is “I like being bad, it makes me feel better”. I just don’t understand that. She gets a lot of attention, good attention. We read books to her at night before bed and it’s one of the few things that we try to never take away, because she really loves to read. We go to the park, the zoo, the library, the mountains, on picnics, to festivals – whenever we have a break in work and can afford to go somewhere for an afternoon, we do. If the kids want something and we can afford it, we will get it for them. Not when they’re whining for it, we don’t reward that, but if I know they really want it, we’ll buy it and surprise them with it days later. We’re big fans of little celebrations – we decorate for Halloween, iron fall leaves together to hang in the window, look for signs of fairies when we’re walking in the woods.
All things that I think would help to create a happy well-adjusted child. But no, we can go somewhere, let’s say the zoo – Lakin will be having a great time, laughing at the monkeys, waving at the tigers, happily munching french fries with her sister. And when it’s time to go at the end of the day, no matter how many times we prepared for her it (“we’re leaving in 20 minutes, okay 10, just a couple more minutes girls”), she can’t handle it. She dissolves into a mess, screaming that we are “jerks” and “mean to me” and “you just go away”. All the while she is refusing to use her legs to support her body, so we have no choice but to haul her up and try to walk gracefully out of the zoo, teeth clenched, feeling humiliated and very angry at this child. At the car we have to force her into her car seat and hold her there while we get it buckled. She is screaming, kicking, biting and saying mean things. This continues until we are one block from home. When we arrive home L bounds out of the car to tell Grandma that “I was bad at the zoo” and then Grandma gives me that look like “oh boy, here we go again, you can’t even control your own child you worthless wretch”.
Dinner every night is Miserable, with a capital M. It’s gotten to where I dread meals. Breakfast we can eat downstairs alone, lunch we can suffer through because no one but my brother is here, but dinner…. Miserable. Lakin will not stay in her seat, instead she bounces from here to there and when asked to sit down, she always says the same thing “I have to go to the bathroom”. One of us has to take her to the bathroom or else she will play with the sink. We come back, sit her down, scoot her chair in and place her meal in front of her. We take great pains to make sure it’s something she likes – yet still, inevitably, she will shove her plate away with enough force to spill something on the table. We take it away – “you can eat when you’re ready to calm down”. She starts screaming and we ignore her.
Everyone at the table is now rolling their eyes, shooting daggers at us, making comments in their heads that they will share with each other later, when we are out of earshot. Finally she calms down, eats all of her food and wants seconds and then thirds. She screams when we don’t allow her to eat the entire dish – then we wrestle them downstairs for bedtime, leaving behind the family who can’t wait for us to leave, and who has said so to our faces and behind our backs.
Downstairs is no better. She yells at us, fights about every tiny little detail of her life. She argues about the color of her spoon, the color of her towel, the length of time she brushes her teeth, the blanket on her bed, the way her shoes are tied… everything. By the time the girls get in bed at night, we are both exhausted, depressed, feeling like the World’s Worst Parents, feeling like we really are doing a shitty job as this whole “raising kids” thing. She screams from the bedroom that she hates us, that she wishes she had a new mama and daddy, then with no provocation save us both saying “be quiet and go to sleep”, she launches into a full-blown nasty seizure-like tantrum. This goes on for anywhere from 10 minutes to 45 minutes, almost always ending only with a dose of children’s Benadryl, which of course only makes me feel worse, as though I can’t control my child without medication.
We have tried the Feingold diet for ADHD kids, as well as eliminating all refined sugars and food dyes. Admittedly we were doing better with this before we moved in here, where the food keywords are SPICES and SWEETS. We have tried firmer discipline and we have tried less discipline. We have tried time-outs and for a very brief time, spankings. We always come back to gentle discipline with the occasional time out “to think about what you did”. Not that it helps, not when her answer is always that it doesn’t matter to her if she hurts feelings or people, because “it makes me feel good”.
We have come around to thinking that we need to see a child or family psychologist, a thought that upsets and terrifies me, while also giving me a sense of hope. It sounds horrible and I feel guilt all over again, but I almost hope that there is some correctable imbalance with Lakin, so that we can figure out how to fix it and make her a loveable sweet child who lets me give her hugs and kisses again.