My Children Love Me. They Love Me Not.

It’s been a rough week with the kids…and it’s only Thursday. They’ve loved me. They’ve hated me. They’ve been amazing. They’ve been horrible. My heart has swelled with joy and love. It has been plagued by disappointment and sadness. My realization this week is that life with kids sometimes bears a strange resemblance to the toxic relationships you swore off in your youth.

Don’t believe me? All the signs are there.

Children are demanding, and their needs always take priority over yours. When is the last time your happiness and needs came first? When your children are hungry and demanding to eat RIGHT NOW, do you make yourself a snack first? It’s 3 a.m. and you haven’t slept through the night in weeks. You hear your child crying. Do you get the shuteye your body and mind so desperately need or do you go check on your child? When you have to pee VERY badly, but your newly potty trained child does, too, who goes first? Enough said.

Children isolate you from your friends. Your child is sick and can’t go outside, which means that you can’t go outside. Your friends see you in the window from across the street like a lonely cat sitting on the back of a sofa, and they wave. You can’t pick up the phone to call them, because the minute you do, your child either uses the opportunity to destroy something or starts screaming and grabbing for the phone. It’s just you and your little one, and that is exactly how your child wants it.

Children drive you to drink – both coffee and wine. Never have you cared so little for your personal health. You have changed your Last Will and Testament to include Juan Valdez. You are counting each glass of wine as a serving of fruit. You swear that you will turn it around – if and when your kids finally sleep through the night and sleep in until after sunrise.

Your friends talk about an intervention. It’s been days since you have showered. Your clothes are covered in spit-up or macaroni and cheese or other unmentionable substances. You give listless, sleep-deprived answers to any and all questions. You can’t remember where anything is, including your shoes, which you later realize are on your feet. Your friends are worried and stage an intervention that they call…girls’ night out.

Your children are expert manipulators. Kids like to say things like, “Johnny’s mom lets him eat Oreos!” It’s something akin to throwing the other woman in your face. And that other woman is fun and she’s cool, and you want to be those things, too. So your inner crazy jealous woman comes out, and you bite your tongue so as not to shout, “Oh yeah? Well she’s a sugar-peddling cookie whore!” Only then you realize that the only difference between you and Johnny’s mom is that you keep your double-stuffed Oreo stash secret, and she shares hers with her kids.

Your children love you. They love you not. My kids in fits of toddler rage have tried to bite me and hit me. Just this morning, one of my toddlers started kicking like a mad man when I picked him up. I know a mom whose son routinely tells her that he doesn’t love her and who recently hit her in the crotch. I have also heard things like, “You are a mean mommy!” Kids have to learn how to control their temper, and as parents it is our job to teach them. Until they learn that skill, however, we are often the most convenient – and most probable – targets. Until they have siblings...

So you see, relationships with our kids really are like the toxic ones we swore off in our youth – at least on the more challenging days. The only difference is that – God willing – it will end well and be a lasting and loving relationship. And in the meantime, we will thrive on the love and attention that comes our way and buck up on the days that it doesn’t. And when all else fails, it’s always good to know that our girlfriends are there to stage an intervention.

Shannon Hembree is the mother of a kindergartner and twin toddlers. She loves her kids more than life itself, but some days she will admit…parenting is kicking her backside. She is also the co-founder of www.mamasagainstdrama.com.

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