Cycles of Struggle

I was about to write a post about how things have been going really well lately. And quite literally the day I started drafting it in my head, shit seem to hit the fan here. Osita is having a really hard time. Again. I was really hoping that the farther out we got from 3 1/2 years old, the better things were getting. And they were for a while. Then it all went to shit again. LeSigh.

I find, during these times, that I don’t want to write much. Part of it has to do with the fact that I don’t feel all that comfortable talking about specifics when it comes to Osita anymore. But I think really what it boils down to, again, is shame. I feel very alone in the struggles with my daughter. I just don’t read about it on other people’s blogs. And I certainly don’t hear much about it in real life. Sure people can relate to a specific situation of defiance, but with very few exceptions, no one seems to be dealing with these things over and over again, or to the degree that we are. And while we certainly don’t deal with them constantly, we cycle through these difficult times more frequently than I’d like to admit, even to myself. I would say we spend more, if not most of the time, reacting to really difficult behavior, than we do enjoying the tranquil times.

It’s hard to discern why there is shame around this for me. It’s not that I think she has diagnosable issues that require professional attention (I think if that were the case I would feel less shame). But I also don’t think that what we deal with on a daily basis is necessarily “normal.” Can both be true? Is there a grey area between where most people experience parenting and where those with “diagnosed children” parent? Is everyone dealing with these same challenges, and I’m just totally incapable of navigating them?

Because sometimes these issues just feel so overwhelming. And I feel so wholly unprepared for the task. I literally feel like I can’t do it. That’s a horrible thing to feel as a mother, because I have to do it. I have to figure out a way. Except I don’t know what that way is. And it’s isolating. And it’s frustrating. And it makes me feel inadequate and inept.

And I guess that is where the shame lies. In the fact that I feel incapable, and in the suspicion that others are dealing with the same thing, and are MORE capable than I.

Anyway, I was hoping that by putting it out there I’d feel better about it, but honestly? I don’t really. My poor girl is having such a hard time and I don’t know how to make it better. I don’t know how to help her through it. And I don’t know if what I’m doing it improving her difficult experiences or exacerbating them.

And the idea that we’ll be doing this, in some form or another, forever, is… well overwhelming doesn’t really seem to suffice.

Maybe, the whole point of this is that sometimes you can’t know what to do. Sometimes there isn’t a right answer, and you can’t make it better, and in those situations, being a parent is just about loving your child unconditionally, no matter what they are going through. Maybe right now my biggest job is to just be here for her, even when she’s angry at me, or upset that she has to go to school, or overwhelmed by her own emotions and what little control she feels she has in this big scary world (at least on that point, I can absolutely empathize). I know what the hard boundaries are, the ones it’s absolutely not okay to cross. I can hold those boundaries. The rest exist in various shades of grey, and it’s okay if I muddle through that part of parenting.

At least I hope it is.

12 responses

  1. I’m right there with you, absolutely, and also not blogging about it, so that’s why you aren’t reading about it! We have a diagnosis now and I’m really thankful for it so we know it isn’t us and is her and that the normal best parenting is just not what she needs. I also think that nobody wants to talk about it because it’s embarrassing that you can’t figure out how to handle your kid. Our faith community has parents get together during faith formation time, 45 minutes a week, and it is so helpful to get a good idea of what is just the age (as it works out, 5 other kids are the same age as the kid so we can easily compare notes) and what is unusual behavior. I’d say the kid’s uncontrollable behaviors are at the high end of normal on a good day but since it all happens when there are no non-parental viewers around it’s hard to explain too. People see her in public being a saint and have no concept of how unruly she is at home. Feel free to email me and I will tell you all about how we are and aren’t managing to cope.

  2. See, E, I don’t know if I am going through the same thing (I often wonder if something is really quite wrong with B & am literally and figuratively battered and bruised by the physical and emotional shitstorms he throws at me), because no one posts specifics. I get it—they are getting older and its not always our story to tell—but yet I can’t tell from your post, for instance, whether the struggles you are hinting at are easier/same/worse than ours. You’ve inspired me to share some specifics sometime soon…

    • I think this gets really hard, because I WANT (BADLY) to give specifics but I’m trying to be really careful about it now. I know I use pseudonyms, and try to make it hard for people to know who I am and therefore who my kids are, but I worry about putting too much out there. Especially on this topic, which has a lot of potential for being shaming later in life.

      I was actually thinking of you when I was writing this. Maybe we could email each other and see what we’re dealing with. I think it might be pretty similar.

  3. I have zero advice for what you are going through. But I will say this: trust your gut. You know your daughter better than anyone else. Do what you feel is best to help her through this time. Whether it requires professional help or not, you’re the best judge. Keeping you in my thoughts as you navigate this period. May there be smoother times ahead soon.

  4. A friend of mine once told me that NO ONE has their shit together, that everyone is faking it. And it wasn’t until I started asking questions and mentioning how inadequate I feel to random people that I started seeing it for myself.

    Everyone is faking their way through parenting. You’re definitely not alone in feeling like you can’t handle it. Hell, I only have one kid and there are days where I have no idea how I get through the day.

    Hang in there. xoxo

  5. I need to tell you that between 3-1/2 and 4, I questioned every decision that I ever made as a mother. It was that bad. The good news is that shortly after 4, it was like a switch flipped and we we’ve been fine ever since.

    Second, do you read Ask Moxie ( She describes 3-1/2 as the nadir of human existence, and there’s a big community there of people who share the same struggles. Do a search for 3-1/2 to read about what other people have gone through.

  6. There was a point where I emailed my friend asking why this small child did not realize how much bigger I am than she is. Does she not know how easy it would be for me to push her of that mountain over there? I CAN TOTALLY TAKE HER. But no, she remained fearless, rude, 4 going on 17, fits for every single transition even if we were moving on to something she likes. Exhausting.
    I question every single decision I make 100 times over. Sending light and love and calm thoughts to you both.

  7. Parenting is difficult! You express yourself and your frustrations very well. When my boys were young, I always confused a developmental stage with a character trait. This will not go on forever. The threes are difficult! Have you ever read YOUR THREE YEAR-OLD, by Louise Bates Ames. Her books gave me sanity when my kids were young. P.S. I think you are doing a better job than you realize.

  8. This may sound trite and I don’t mean it that way, but have you had a discussion with your pediatrician? They may be able to point you to resources for dealing with behavior. That said, I have heard from so many friends that 2-4 was the. Worst. Especially friends who have assertive girls.

  9. We are dealing with a “spirited” child as well. She will be 6 soon. It does get easier as time goes on, but not as easy as it seems other children. She literally melts into a puddle on the floor if something doesn’t go her way. It can be triggered at almost anything, like getting into the car first or not winning at a game 100% of the time. It is exhausting and scary and no I don’t talk about it very often.

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