Survivor: Child Island

October 12, 2006

So many things to write about, so little energy and time, and the distraction of this terrible, nagging, obsessive thought: that I am a bad mother.

A really bad mother, not a bad-as-in-cool mother: a mother who does not know what to do, who is totally and completely at loss when it comes to managing her ten and half month old baby. I am currently thoroughly convinced that I am doing something wrong, that there is some secret mothering practice pertaining to the care and feeding of babies-cum-toddlers that I have somehow overlooked or that has been kept from me. It’s either that, or WonderBaby is a freak-baby who can totally dominate adult human beings without stirring one of the twelve fluffy little hairs on her downy blonde head. (Some months ago, someone – I think that it was Blog Antagonist – e-mailed me to suggest that perhaps WonderBaby was a ‘spirited’ baby; she said that based upon her reading of WonderBaby’s energy level and general baby comportment, she felt that there was an argument to be made that she, WonderBaby, might be more precocious than the average baby. So we’re not ruling out freak-baby.)

She is constantly on the move. She runs, she clambers, she climbs, she programs and re-programs the DVD player. She slows down occasionally to pluck the glasses off of my face and dangle them before me, hooting her command that I put them back on now, only so that she can repeat the action. Sometimes she comes to a complete, if brief, stop, to place a book upon my lap and hoot at me to turn the pages and read. (Today, that book was, I shit you not, Aristophanes’ Clouds, and no Eric Carle or Lucy Cousins board book would distract her from the tissuey pages of that small Loeb Classical Library hardback. I did not, it may comfort you to know, read to her from the Greek text on the facing pages.) But the pauses in action are only ever brief, and it is never long before the running, hooting and climbing begin anew.

And I – I am only ever part of her circus. There is no sitting quietly aside with book or laptop or cup of coffee (oh god for a quiet cup of coffee); I am compelled to join in her leaping and frolicking and hiding under blankets. And I am, I really am, happy to do this – I love these moments of play. But they are never only moments. The circus, in our house, lasts the whole day long and into the evening, and woe betide the mother who tries to interrupt the revelry for meals or naps or any other activity that involves containment or restraint. The mundane tasks that are necessary for the collective survival of our mother/child dyad – sleeping, drinking, eating, toilet – are hard fought and hard won, if indeed I do manage to win, which is by no means a given.

Each day is a battle of wills – a battle of wills between a thirty-something woman with multiple degrees and a ten and half month old baby.

The baby almost always wins.

Something is wrong with this picture. It cannot be this way for everyone. It simply cannot. How has the human race managed to propagate itself if babies have always been able to overpower their mothers? It is inconceivable to me that, if this is indeed how hard it always is (and don’t get me started on the brutality that labour is, or that breastfeeding can be), more women haven’t just said ‘fuck this’ to motherhood and marched off to convents or the academy or Hollywood or wherever else women go when they want to try to reject their biological calling.

I must simply be a bad mother.

Today, I spent nearly an hour in the toy section of a department store because WonderBaby refused to be put back in her stroller and refused to be carried. I had forgotten the carrier at home, and because we had traveled by subway there was no easy retreat. WonderBaby was entirely engrossed in racing up and down the aisles and removing toys from shelves so that she could climb those shelves, or perch there herself. There was, curiously, no interest on her part in the actual toys on the shelves – just the shelves themselves (and, briefly, some Hot Wheels). Any efforts that I made to restore her to her stroller yielded screeching and arching of back and flinging of tiny self to floor; and efforts that I made to simply lift her and cart her out of there in my arms yielded exactly the same result. I was helpless. At one point, finally, I began to cry.

WonderBaby just looked up at me, pointed at my tear-streaked cheeks, frowned, and hooted. And then dashed back down the aisle.

All that I could think was, this is shameful. I have no control. I don’t know how to parent.

I am a bad mother.

I’m trusting that anyone reading this will understand that I am not in despair about my maternal capabilities. I’m surviving, and I’m loving my child, desperately, through this experience. Every day that I spend with this brilliant little being is filled with great joy. But most days are also filled with tremendous frustration, and confusion. How can it be this hard? How can such a sweet-natured baby be so complicated? Why can I not figure this shit out?

Bubandpie wrote recently about maternal rage, the anger that bubbles up when we feel frustrated beyond measure, and wondered whether the subject was unbloggable. Kristen of Home on the Fringe wrote about struggling with the feeling that she was the only mother in the world with a challenging child, because so few parents seem to blog about such hard times. Well, these are my hard times, and my feelings of frustration, so I’m going to say them out loud: I feel, sometimes, that I cannot manage my child, whatever that means, and I fear that that makes me a bad mother.

I know, deep down, and not so deep down, that I am not really bad. I love my girl, I love her something fierce, and she lives in the light of that love every day. For that, if nothing else, I am a good mother. But I feel like a terrible fuck-up with the rest of it.

Could somebody please tell me that it’s not just me, that it is, sometimes, this hard? Maybe not for all mothers, all of the time, but maybe, just maybe, for some of us, some of the time?

And? How, exactly, does one manage a hyper-mobile, precocious baby? She’s too young for any sort of reasoned discipline – for any discipline – and can’t be argued with. How do I stay in charge?

Will to Power in repose.


So many thanks to all of you who had such kind and supportive things to say in response to my gloomy Charlie Brown post of the other day. And, ditto to all of the whoots and rah-rahs in response to my profile. All of it was wonderful, and all of it made me feel better during this very challenging week.


I’m aware of this whole content-theft issue, and the Bitacle debacle, which you can read about here and here and here. There are a zillion things that I want to say about it – not least, fuck you sploggers for causing MamaTulip to shut down – but it hurts my head too much, and my limit for head-hurtage is very low right now. I will say this for now: if you are reading this on Bitacle, you are reading stolen material and if you know this already but continue to read, you should be ashamed of yourself. Oh, yeah, and? Fuck Bitacle.

*This content is the copyright of the author and may not be used without express permission.*

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    Awesome Mom October 12, 2006 at 11:25 pm

    My Harry is like that but to a lesser degree. It has been quite the shock since Evan (my oldest) was a much tamer and compliant child. I am just planning on hanging in there and enjoying the white knuckle ride.

    Shannon October 12, 2006 at 11:59 pm

    Oh, man! That is tough! I’m afraid all I have to offer is commiseration. My first child, while exceedingly strong willed, is physically quite mellow and cautious (not to mention somewhat inept), but my second, whoo boy, she’s busy. Your daughter, however, looks like a speeding train in those pictures (except for the last, how precious!). No wonder you feel like you’re being run over!

    Shannon October 13, 2006 at 12:02 am

    Oh, and Conner does the arch-the-back-go-limp-and-slither-to-the-floor manuever, too.

    Lena October 13, 2006 at 12:06 am

    I’ve come to the conclusion that our doubts about ourselves as mothers is all part of nature’s way of making sure that we are always self-correcting. You rock, you fabulous mommy.

    And, I know you read to her in Greek. I’m no fool.

    Gidge October 13, 2006 at 1:12 am

    It is so totally not you.
    It’s what they do.
    They test us, to see what we will let them become.

    Go Mama October 13, 2006 at 2:35 am

    It is NOT just you. Honestly, mothering any child is difficult at times, but mothering a willful child can be brutal. You are not alone. That frustration, rage, hopelessness you speak of, I have felt too. There were plenty of times in the early months post child I too wanted to run off and “reject my biological calling,” except that’s what my parents did and I was sure as shit not going to repeat that one.

    Slowly, it does get better, more manageable as we make the enormous adjustment required.

    Some things that have helped me. caffeine. cocktails. more cocktails.

    Ok, seriously, finding a group of local moms to hang out with, compare notes with, let off steam with on a regular basis. Getting some help so I had more breaks. Finding ways to bring more down time into our day (as much for me as for her) which might be putting a blanket out in the backyard and lying under the tree with some snacks and a few toys. Using music as a focusing, calming influence, if possible. Or, clearing a safe space and using music to totally wear her out. Baths with lavender essential oil. A cheesy ocean sounds/nature sounds player in her room. Some of these ideas might help, or none of them might, but main thing, the real main thing is for you to try to take care of yourself. You are the center, you are the mother, you are in control (even when they think they are.) Don’t succumb.

    Stay strong, my sister! You’re doing fine.

    Kim October 13, 2006 at 3:07 am

    I am right there with you. I made a comment today about how I couldn’t believe that my son was 7 months already, because I really feel like I should have some inkling of what the hell I am supposed to be doing as a parent by now. My son isn’t walking yet, but in a few months I KNOW that I will be right where you are. He is very strong willed (and physically exhausting) and does what he wants, when he wants to do it.

    ewe are here October 13, 2006 at 3:34 am

    Oh god yes. The arching back, struggling to get away, flinging self to floor. I think every parent has known this child. I know I have. and we made a conscious decision early on to nip it in the bud gently.

    On Wednesday I faced a tiny mutiny at our local little toystore: MF did NOT want to leave. He wanted to keep playing with the trains and other children and started to struggle when I put him in his stoller.. And yesterday? MF did NOT want to leave the local playground and struggled again. Both times, I gave told him he could have a few more minutes, but then we were leaving. No, technically, he may not understand or ‘get it’. But he knows the drill, and he did go in on the second attempt both times but only because he KNOWS I mean it.

    The reality I think is, they’re not actually too little to discipline, and by ‘discipline’ in this case I mean ‘not caving in’. No, they’re not going to get a timeout, or a lecture, or, for those who do it, a spanking. (Christ, who spanks a baby?!?) They ARe too little. But most are going to understand you mean it if you don’t give in and take them out of there, even if they are shrieking at the top of their little lungs as you strap them into their strollers. It may take a few attempts, and a few slightly embarassing moments, but they will get the message, and that’s really all they need to get. The people I know who let their tiny ones win generally because ‘they were too little to understand’ or just couldn’t cope (a cousin of my husband’s comes to mind, sadly) are now facing terrible behaviour problems because they know they can win if they just keep it up. So be gentle, but be firm. And explain your actions to the wee one all the way: ‘no, we have to leave the store and go home now honey.’ They may not ‘understand’, but they’ll start to get it. Eventually.

    Hang in there.

    Now I have to go. MF takes personal offense if I stay on the laptop too long, which means he’ll start whacking at the keyboard. ;-)

    ewe are here October 13, 2006 at 3:36 am

    P.S. Oh. And I believe we’ve all cried at one time or another. I know I have. You’re really not alone in that.


    Lady M October 13, 2006 at 4:24 am

    I love how your photos show WonderBaby’s constant motion. However, dealing with that constant motion? Not so easy. She can come keep Q company, especially tonight when he decided that his father leaving the room to take a nap was a cue for the world to melt down.

    You are totally right – sometimes it’s really, really hard. Hang in there!

    Elizabeth October 13, 2006 at 7:31 am

    Oh honey, you are not a bad mother. You are the tired mother of a high-energy baby. Ewe are here is right, you have to show her what your rules are. If she sees that she can “refuse” to get back in the stroller, she’ll fight you on it. You will have to endure the screaming and flailing and the glares from the people around you who aren’t parents, but she’ll figure out that when you say it’s time to go, it’s time to go.

    Does she still refuse to sit still in the highchair? At home, when you need to pee or put the laundry in the dryer or whatever, could you use one of those Super Play-yards? Hang in there, and keep reminding yourself, you are not a bad mother. You are doing your best.

    Kristen October 13, 2006 at 8:01 am

    Q was a tough baby but it was mainly sleep that drove me nuts. I don’t know how you do it, however, I can imagine now how I see moms with kids running around like little nutballs and moms going “oh, what a bad mother.”

    I think this is a time for all of us to realize that some of us have spirited kids and we really just need a pat on the back or a stiff drink and no judgment.

    But really, you need not judge yourself. This is HER spirit – something is driving her to be on the move. Go with it the best you can and enjoy those quiet times in your office, friend.

    metro mama October 13, 2006 at 8:20 am

    I wish I knew how to stay in charge. As sure as hell am not.

    bubandpie October 13, 2006 at 8:22 am

    I was thinking of you this morning, dear HBM, between 4 am and 6 am when my children were taking turns waking one another up. This is their tactic: they debilitate us with the preemptive middle-of-the-night strike and then they stage their coup d’etat as we stumble through the so-called waking hours. Courage!

    penelopeto October 13, 2006 at 8:40 am

    on several occasions i have tried to spend an afternoon doing only bee-directed activities. my little experiment always sees me tiring before she does. i just can’t always keep up.
    gone are the days of infancy when strolling meant just that, with a sleeping baby in the sling or carriage. now? we time things very carefully, and always, always inject running around time if we’ll be out for a while. you’re not a bad mother – i constantly wonder how in the world someone expected me to get this right.
    my only reprieve – and oh, how i feel for you on this one – was that bee did not walk until 12 months.

    michele October 13, 2006 at 9:14 am

    I am half with you.

    I have 19 month old twin boys. At right about the same age, 10 months or so, they went from sweet, smiling, docile cherubs to, well, sweet, smiling, whirling dervishes with me in sweaty, frustrated pursuit. I felt like I was in a bad episode of “I Love Lucy”. I fenced and gated things off, distracted, praised, and entertained. And cried.

    Now, they run from one thing to another, and they argue and swipe each others toys and climb onto tables and jump off of sofas. So we spend alot of time gently but firmly redirecting, restating rules, removing from situations, and chasing. It is working, but it is FREAKING exhausting. I still cry about once a week, and spend every weekend saying No about three million times. But it is paying off. They are finally, BLESSEDLY, able to sit still and play together for stretches of time without a squabble. They will finally sit for (almost) a whole book. They respect most boundaries, will walk calmly holding my hand, and realize that when I say something is “All gone” it means they arent getting it back no matter how loudly or dramatically they scream. And they will sit on our laps and snuggle and smooch and chat. Months ago we had to get our kisses on the fly or snuggle when they were sleeping because they WOULD.NOT.STOP.EXPLORING.

    This is the half where I am not with you. I never felt like a bad mother. I have curious, lively, spirited kids. They wanted to climb and smell and touch and throw everything they saw, and once they learned to walk they were off like the races. My job was to allow as much exploration as I could without them hurting themselves or others. Sometimes it required a much hollering on their part as they were put back into their stroller or car seat. Was it embarassing? Sometimes. Was it frustrating? Every damn time. But is it getting better? Yes!

    I think that most parents who see another parent trying to wrestle an angry, screaming toddler into a stroller can relate and are silently offering you their sympathy. If only sympathy=cocktails. Hang in there. It will change for the better.

    Recovering Wino October 13, 2006 at 9:27 am

    Given that I am a blogger who definitely reports the bad with the good, I feel what you are going through.

    There are days in motherhood where you are absolutely at wit’s end. I know that I have questioned my ability and patience more than once. (more than a hundred times!) She could be “spirited”, then again, she could be like most babies “who finally got her wings” and learned to walk and wants to “be off”. It’s frustrating, but you’re not alone.

    I’m thinking of you.


    TB October 13, 2006 at 9:28 am

    Of course, I have nothing from personal experience to add, but reading through the comments above, it’s clear to me that you have touched on something that so many mothers are dealing with.
    Sending you vibes for patience and energy today.

    Mir October 13, 2006 at 9:38 am

    You are SO not the only one, Catherine.

    I will have more to say once I finish wrapping my brain around this Bitacle thing….

    crazymumma October 13, 2006 at 9:39 am

    Dearest Bad Mother, please take comfort that every parent in that toy store was looking over at you, feeling your pain, and thinking to themselves “thank god it is not me ….today”.
    I have written many times that parenting is humbling. They bring us to our knees. I cannot tell you how many times I have been moved to tears in a battle of wills that I often have lost.
    Ummm…and hey, you seem to have a pretty high energy level…so perhaps the apple does not fall far from the tree;)
    And they do become reasonable, I promise. In regards to discipline…I have nothing, just consistency and hope. Hope springs eternal…

    kittenpie October 13, 2006 at 9:58 am

    NO, you aren’t alone, and it’s not you. Some times I just sit back and watch her as she whirls around busy, busy, busy. They are perpetual motion machines, we are not.

    What I think I’ve learned is this:

    - It seems we have to reach our true breaking point before we figure out some strategies for coping, be it with sleeplessness, stubborness, or high-energy, um, ness. When you’ve hit the wall, you’ll figure out one or two things that work for you out of sheer desperadoes.

    - Sometimes we don’t have to keep up, just let them run and make sure they’re safe.

    - Sometimes you have to ignore the tantrum and make the thing happen anyways. I have been known to growl, while stuffing small resistant limbs into coats and clothes, “This is not a choice!”

    - Small children can be tucked neatly and firmly under your arm like a football, where they can wail and flail all they want, but are relatively safe and even leave you with one free arm for the stroller.

    Oh yeah, and? Cuuuute hat! (But you knew that!)

    Lisa b October 13, 2006 at 10:06 am

    I have long felt like a contestant on survivor mom. Many times I wondered how I could get voted off the island. When K was wonderbabies age I had pretty much given up my will to live. I was so frustrated to not be in control of my life I just gave up trying to do anything during the day and would bolt out the door the seond my husband got home.
    I think we are due mellow babies next time right? Kids who will sit in their stroller? Sit anywhere for that matter.
    On the up side I just tell myself clearly she is a genius to be able to devise so many ways to torture me. Keep telling yourself the same.

    Jerri Ann October 13, 2006 at 10:11 am

    having a spirited child (and I agree, that you do have one spirited little being) does not make you a bad parent, it makes you a tired one, but not a bad one. In my opinion, it is harder to parent a spirited child (I have one of each) and it teaches you so much in retrospect, but bad parents use their children for weapons or hang them out the window, spirited parents only think how glorious that would be for one second, then they move on to hide-n-seek or destroy the kitchen…such games are good for the soul, babies and paretns! Good luck Lady!

    sunshine scribe October 13, 2006 at 10:11 am

    It’s not just you. And it is hard more than just sometimes. This hard.

    My guy was a handful until he was two when he decided to mellow out. Like Anne said, parenting is so humbling and the loss of control has brought me to tears in places like department stores more times than I care to admit.

    I wish I had a magic spell for you to cast over that sweet child but I think you wouldn’t use it if you had it. Because that “spirit” of hers … it’s all hers … and as exhausting and often defeating as it is, of course, it’s part of what you love most about her.

    I do have a 5 year old who is smitten with your indominable Wonderbaby and would be glad to get together to keep her busy for you some day very soon. He even mentioned it just yesterday. Seriously … five year old active boys (who still throw tantrums when their overtired) … are a great distraction for such busy wee girls.

    Hang in there dear Catherine.

    mad_hatter October 13, 2006 at 10:19 am

    You. Are. Not. A. Bad. Mother. Period. Motherhood is hard. Babies and toddlers sometimes/often manifest themselves as wild animals. Implosions on both sides of the battlefield are destined to happened.

    But remember this, the journey is long and there will be far more good times than bad. Discipline is a multifaceted tool that must be administered over a long period of time. And, most importantly, there is room for mistakes–lots of them. I was raised in chaos and I still managed to come out the other side relatively intact and well behaved.

    Miss M has had 3 tantrums in 3 days. It is extremely hard to find the joy in such moments but the joy does return. Chin up, chin up, HBM. You will be fine. Wonderbaby will be wonderous, nay spectacular.

    Mrs. Chicky October 13, 2006 at 10:20 am

    So you want to know you’re not alone? Chicky Baby just had a major tantrum because I told her we were not watching shows this morning. I kept her at bay for just over an hour, stacking blocks and reading books, until I finally gave in and turned on Sesame Street. She now sits, slack jawed, with her stuffed Elmo and her blankie on the chair next to me. And I? I get a couple of minutes of peace to drink coffee and comment on this post. How’s that for shit parenting? No, my friend, you are not alone.

    Laural Dawn October 13, 2006 at 10:25 am

    You are so NOT a bad mother. (except in the cool way)
    My toddler is so similar to WB in so many ways. I think the term precocious is applicable as is free spirited.
    I wonder all the time how I can love my child so much and be so frustrated at the same time.
    As soon as Matt discovered movement he did not stop. I felt I couldn’t take him anywhere or do anything. And then I’d spend time with people who could take their children for coffee and they would sit while my son would be throwing coffee, pushing chairs and generally tearing the place apart. I can’t tell you how many times I stood and watched as destructo baby turned toddler tore some place apart. And all I could do was try to stop him or cry.
    I could relate to your toy aisle problem. I’ve been there, and am still there all the time.
    I don’t know what to do either. I just carry on. I try to take him places he won’t tear apart (fine dining right now is McDonald’s and that is okay with me). I have set up my house so that the fragile stuff is out of reach (except he knows how to move chairs). I try. That’s all anyone can do.
    And, you know, as he gets older this rambunctious crazy spirit of his gets better.
    I’m beginning to reason with him – and he gets that if he wants to walk without holding mommy’s hand than he better stay close. And when he sees a car he stops.
    I’ve learned to let go a little more than some parents are able and I think that’s a good thing.
    Hang in there. It is frustrating, but it’s so worth it. And you’ll get through this. And, I guess sometimes you have to fight it out just a bit.
    But, as my mom always says the strong will that is so frustrating when they are little is a survival skill when they are older.
    It’s true!!!

    mothergoosemouse October 13, 2006 at 10:29 am

    No, you are not alone.

    Tacy was – and is – compliant, eager to please, and fabulously verbal.

    And to think my second baby would be the same way. Bill Cosby was right – God has a sense of humor.

    CJ is not compliant. She beams when we praise her, but she rarely shows any reaction when we correct her. She’s nearing two and says two words recognizable to someone besides me: “Mommy” and “NO!”

    Tacy recognized all her letters, sang the alphabet song, and spoke in complete sentences of more than three words by this point.

    Needless to say, I was spoiled the first time. Now I’m getting a taste of what I suspect most parents must endure.

    Piece of Work October 13, 2006 at 10:49 am

    Some kids are just more active than others. When Isaac was an infant, he was an angel. He either slept or smiled until he was 7 months old and started crawling. Then, overnight, he became a maniac. A complete an utter crazed lunatic–pulling out wires, toppling over bookshelves, climbing on tables, running into the street. He had ZERO impulse control, and god knows I couldn’t control him. Of course he didn’t understand me and I didn’t understand him and I didn’t know how in the hell I was ever going to manage. Especially since I had gotten pregnant right around the time he started crawling, before he turned into the strange excitable beast. So, yeah, that was fun. I cried a lot. And barfed. And it only got marginally better until he was about 20 months or so, when he finally started understanding consequences. Of course, by then I had another infant so–oh it was all hell.

    But it gets better! You will get through this, just keep reminding yourself. You are doing the best you can and that’s exactly what WonderBaby needs.

    ali October 13, 2006 at 10:57 am

    motherhood is, among many things, humbling.

    it can bring a more than capable person who doesn’t!cry!ever! to tears.
    it’s HARD.

    you know you aren’t a bad mother. i don’t have to tell you that. but, just know that MANY of us have been there. many times. we just don’t always want to admit it. because it shows that we are vulnerable and not invincible.

    Slackermommy October 13, 2006 at 11:02 am

    Big hugs to you! You are not alone. You are right so many moms don’t talk about the ugliness of motherhood. Because of this so many moms feel ill-prepared, defeated and insecure about their parenting skills. I often joke on my blog about my family being birth control. Spend a day with us and you won’t want to have children! I have four and two are very spirited with neuro-bahvioral issues. Let me tell you there have been many days I’ve locked myself in the bathroom and cried. You’re doing a good job and you’ll find your way because you are willing to explore and talk about these feelings. I wish I had other “real moms of motherhood” to talk to back when I had three kids under 3 1/2.

    Andrea October 13, 2006 at 11:05 am

    I haven’t read the previous comments so maybe this has already been said. You know those kids who can sit for hours and play with puzzles, or look at picture books, or play with magnets on the fridge and coloring books, and other quiet activities? For hours on end, it seems. We know THEY exist. So why not their polar opposite? There HAVE to be children who must run, jump, climb, hoot, and be free like the wind, to turn the wind into a tornado and make their surroundings their own, be damned to anyone who tries to stop them. Clean and picked up house? My son might as well say, “Bah, woman! Just try to keep a clean house around me! Try to concentrate on that book for a few seconds! You want to make dinner?! Foolish pipe dream!”

    You are most definitely not alone in this. While my child may be a little less, um, dirvish like to a certain degree than WonderBaby, and he can sit down for meals or calm himself for a nap, he’s also very much a climber, jumper, runner. He recently jumped down half a flight of stairs just to see what would happen. He fell awkwardly, cried, got a hug, brushed himself off and then tried it again. Fearless. And apparently my husband was similar as a child, regardless of dangers, of heights, of hazards that more careful children are less susceptible to. My mother-in-law has told me on more than one occasion that it was all she could do to keep up with him, because she couldn’t hope to reign him in.

    All we can do is keep up, show our love and our concern over their utter fearlessness, and hope that we all come out of this stronger for it. I don’t have any answers. But I DO know how you feel. When Gabe was WonderBaby’s age, I had to keep a constant eye on him. He wasn’t walking yet, but the crawling didn’t slow him down at all. I lived in fear of him hurting himself and utter exhaustion for months. As he gets older, and he can verbalize and focus his energies, it’s gotten better. He’s still a tornado, demanding all my attention, and discipline is particularly trying, but I think we’re making headway. And someday, he’ll put this same energy to everything he does (just like my husband) and he’ll cultivate deep friendships because of his loyalty; he’ll find new frontiers because of his fearless explorations; he’ll marry because he’s head over heels in love and for no other reason; and most of all, he’ll LIVE. While it’s hard to keep up now, and maybe always will be, I know that he’ll be living out loud and up close, because the fire within him will have it no other way. And that leaves me with hope.

    Julie Pippert October 13, 2006 at 11:17 am

    Seriously, did no one warn you abotu this age?

    Do you have any of those month-by-month baby development books? Go look at one.

    9-10 months I have never met a baby who didn’t morph into “OMG what the eff happened to my sweet and cute precious baby!” child.

    Have you measured her skull lately? I’m serious.

    The kids have LEAPS, like Superman level leaps. You’ll catch up.

    Listen I’m on my second chance here and I still get left in the dust. I grant you I have two so-called probably spirited children, btu what you describe sounds 100% normal.

    In fact, go see my blog entry from yesterday/day before/whatever about my not-quite-two whirling dervish.

    Anyway this is the age and stage.

    I bet her sleep patterns changed too.

    I’m probably the 38th person to tell you this. LOL

    Still. Redundant as it might be.

    It’s all cool.

    braiding mommy October 13, 2006 at 11:26 am

    Just adding in –

    Lydia is now 3 and she has always been “active and oppinionated” – ever since birth. The child does not stop moving. Ever. I’ve tried to find the root of this problem – Her dad has ADD, so I’ve even mulled over that one in my mind (by ‘mulled-over’ I mean “OH MY GOD MY CHILD HAS ADD WHAT DO I DO!!?!?!”). Mostly, I come to the conclusion that I am a bad mother – Because I am young or selfish or just plain bad. It has become especially worse as of late – due to the fact that my nephew is the ‘baby saint’.

    Anyway. I ran into a friend from high school that used to watch Lydia for me amonth or two ago. I mentioned something about her activity level and she replied by telling me that Lydia is a free-spirit and that this world needs more women free-spirit. I can live with that answer.

    Hang in there.

    Mother Bumper October 13, 2006 at 11:47 am

    hello, not alone, I repeat not alone (and can I say her hat looks stunning). Bumper is all over the place and coincidently I cried in the grocery store yesterday for the same reasons. Not alone, I repeat, not alone. I also went to her first year check up and left feeling dejected and not a good mother. But I know I am a good mother, a very good mother but I still can’t escape that feeling.

    In other news, thanks for the heads-up on blog theft, I feel violated beyond belief but I’m gonna figure out a way to rip these thieves a new one. Word.

    I’m sending you cyber hugs from me and bumper.

    Veronica Mitchell October 13, 2006 at 12:00 pm

    Oh, HBM. I have been there. Reading this was like going through that age with JellyBean all over again. When we all got together for the holidays, the rest of the family quickly decided one person could watch the eleven other grandchildren, but JellyBean needed one adult chaser all to herself.

    It does get better.

    Blog Antagonist October 13, 2006 at 12:20 pm

    I’m not sure if I’ve we’ve talked about this in regard to wonder baby or if it was someone else I was talking to. sounds very much like wonderbaby is Spirited. Spiritedness varies in degree a great deal from child to child, but they are always challenging.

    My youngest child is Spirited and there are days when I wonder what the hell made me think I could actually parent any child, much less one like him. I love him. Make no mistake. But there are days I don’t like him very much, or myself because of the way he makes me feel.

    There is a book, called “Raising You Spirited Child” by Mary Kurcinka that helped me a lot. It’s not a magic bullet. It’s not a solution. But it will give you some constructive ways to deal with the behaviors, instead of screaming, or spanking or hiding in the bathroom crying, all of which I have done.

    Here is a post I wrote on the issue of his spiritedness. >The Spirit Moves Him. It has a couple links that will explain what Spirited is.

    You are not a bad mother. You are being challenged in ways that most mothers never dream of. My first child was very easy going. I couldn’t imagine what was causing children to have tantrums in grocery stores or to refuse to nap other than bad parenting. The universe taught me a lesson in a big way when Diminutive One was born.

    If you’d like to talk more, please feel free to email me. I’m not an expert by any means, but I’ve been dealing with my Spirited Child for 8 years now. I’ve learned a thing or two. :? )

    Kristen October 13, 2006 at 12:23 pm

    Several weeks ago, I had to leave a restaurant before my food came because my kids were so berserk. Climbing around people’s tables, throwing things, screaming. And they’re 3 and 5. When they were WonderBaby’s age, they weren’t doing this, of course, but I’m just saying (even though you know this from my “Ballistic” post), uh, yeah, I’ve left public places in tears because of my kids. Oh yeah. And I’ve thought it was all on me, this absolute suck behavior, this complete lack of respect for bounds of any sort.

    The thing that I learned when I posted “Ballistic” though, is that OH HOLY HELL, it’s not just me. It’s not. just. me. It’s not you.

    WonderBaby does sound spirited. How do you handle it? Just like you are. Stay consistent, breathe deeply, love her, and vent. You need to vent – whether here or to someone who knows. Get it out so you can keep focusing where you need to.

    And I can say, even with two challenging kids pulling me limb from limb these days, there *are* better phases thrown in here and there. It won’t be this constant madness all the time. It’s just, when there IS madness, it will be constant…so recognize when it’s gone temporarily and relish that.

    Hang in there. You’re not alone.

    Anonymous October 13, 2006 at 12:36 pm

    How did the human race survive? Only 100 years ago there were hearth-fires for children to run into & horses to be trampled beneath. How did women make bread & pluck chickens without Dora the Explorer to entertain?

    I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but if you think Wonderbaby is “challenging” now, wait until she turns 2.


    CrankMama October 13, 2006 at 12:59 pm

    You are not alone… I have a spirited child like WB and 2 easier kids (yes, I’m going to hell)… and you know what? The easy kids (the ones that let you type on your laptop while they play quietly) engender MUCH less maternal angst and frustration than the spirited child. Since Josephine is part of a twinset, and I was single for awhile I always always second guessed myself about her… as in, what the fuck am I not doing right here? *However* since I had another baby the EXACT age who was easier, easy, peaceful, cheerful, and prone to resting and snuggling and holding still I got to see that the child’s temperament has a direct correlation to the level of skill the parent feels.

    In a way, I guess I’m saying that what you’re going through is unusually hard. And perhaps that will at least make you feel less crazy.


    jen October 13, 2006 at 1:02 pm

    I have to tell you, Bad, that i could have written your post myself. I have a wonderbaby too.

    It’s the hardest single thing i have every done in my entire life, and i’ve done some hard shit. i used to cry 3x a day. and then when she’d finally go to bed, i’d cry again from the relief of it.

    the good news is, though – it’s gotten a lot better as M has gotten a bit older. she’s still a maniac, but something shifted, perhaps inside of me.

    Blog Antagonist October 13, 2006 at 1:08 pm

    Okay, did you just add that first paragraph, or did I just completely miss it the first time??? I blame it on my eyes, which are STILL dilated.

    So, you’ve read the links and info, sorry for the redundancy!

    Everything else still stands. You are not a bad mother. Not.

    Jo October 13, 2006 at 1:17 pm

    As I’m sure you’ve gathered from the many comments – it’s definitely not just you. Thank you for posting about this and thank you for linking to BubandPie’s post on rage. Both of your posts truly struck a chord with me. I’m beginning to fall in love with the world of blogs. I feel so “not alone” lately. I’m on my own in the parenting world…and I feel that rage BubandPie describes often – sometimes it’s all I can do to restrain myself. My kids are older so it happens less and less, but it still happens…often. For me, it’s less of a ‘lack of sleep’ thing and more of a ‘lack of control’ thing. I. Want. To. Be. In. Control. These little creatures that live in my home have their own minds and I cannot control them. I cannot make them think the way I think, I cannot make them act the way I think they should act. It is a constant source of frustration. I can only, over the course of their childhoods, teach them the value of self-control. I try very hard to remember that the best way to do that is by example. It’s never easy and I often fail. But, I think they see that I try…I hope.

    Stacie October 13, 2006 at 1:45 pm

    Oh, boy, you have my sympathy.
    I have a pretty mellow four year old, and on the days that he is going non-stop, I am exhausted and frustrated. I can only imagine how it is for you to be going full-tilt non-stop.
    I have a sister-in-law whose children are like your sweet girl-constantly on the go. Fortunately for my SIL, she is the same way. As a child, she rarely slept driving my in-laws up a wall. We aren’t surprised that her children are incredibly active.
    I don’t have much advice for you, but I just wanted to leave a comment to say that I feel a lot of sympathy for you, and to let you know that you sound like you are really enamored with your beautiful girl and that no, you don’t sound like a bad mother to me.

    nonlineargirl October 13, 2006 at 1:54 pm

    “How can it be this hard?”

    I ask myself and others this question no less than 4 times a week. I’d ask more if I thought I’d get an answer. Some days I truly don’t understand how people ever have more than one kid.

    For now all I can say is that she won’t be 10.5 months forever. You got a special challenge with such an early walker, but they do change. (I saw a 2 year old at the farmers market last week – he was running away and his mom said “stan, freeze and turn around” and HE DID! )

    Everyday Superhero October 13, 2006 at 2:14 pm

    YOU ARE NOT ALONE. Ok, so those words by themselves aren’t much help. But, they’re completely true.

    All the good mothers doubt themselves, their abilities, even their choice to have kids, sometimes. You know that they are the good ones because they care enough to want to do better for their monkeys.

    I have three boys under 25 months (the twins just turned two)…. and some days it just doesn’t pay to get out of bed. My second born (by two minutes) has started to take off down the sidewalk at top speed when it’s time to get into his carseat. Then, when I catch him, he does the arching-back-screaming-like-he’s-being-beaten thing. Today he fought so hard that he gave himself a nose bleed. Just lovely.

    As long as all those awful-what-the-hell-am-I-doing days are balanced with some Wow-am-I-ever-good-at-this days, it all comes out in the wash. I think.

    Annie, The Evil Queen October 13, 2006 at 2:19 pm

    Everyone we visit with Sam says, “Wow, he never stops moving, does he?” And I tell them, “No, no he doesn’t. That’s what I’ve been saying.” Why would I lie?

    I’ve got my house set up so that he can basically have free run of the great room (living/kitchen/dining room) and the outdoor deck. I also have a playpen in my living room. Attractive? No. But I can stick him in there when I have to pee/get the dishwasher loaded/drain boiling pasta in the sink. Does he scream in there? Sometimes. Do I worry about it? No, because I’m in charge and some things just have to get done. But, honestly, a lot of chores just wait until he’s in bed or my husband and I can tag team. Our garage isn’t connected to our house and I hardly ever go out there unless Sam is in bed. The stack of empty suitcases in my spare room can attest to that.

    Out in public, it seems so much harder. You feel like your parenting skills (or lack thereof) are on display for judgement. You have to just do what you can.

    Her Bad Mother October 13, 2006 at 2:21 pm

    I cannot tell you all how much this is helping. Really.

    pkzcass October 13, 2006 at 2:23 pm

    I have two boys who are three years apart. If you think that the running around like maniacs and jumping on the couch and climbing things stops in a year or two, be prepared. It’s still going on in my house. Kids have this amazing source of energy that they use to drive their parents nuts!

    Just today, after a horrendous morning getting the rats out the door and off to school, I got in the car on the way to work and thought, “I can’t stand those kids. I hate having kids.” Am I a bad mother? No. I am only a bad mother if I actually tell them that. Having those feelings occasionally doesn’t make you a bad mother. It makes you human.

    You are only a bad mother if you allow your child to continue to control you this way. Then you will find yourself raising a spoiled rotten brat. I read somewhere, “You don’t want to raise a child that nobody likes.”

    Be strong HBM. And make sure you get enough sleep.

    Christina October 13, 2006 at 2:36 pm

    I think you are feeling what every single one of us goes through. If a mom never goes through this, then either she’s not remembering it right due to too much Xanax, or she needs to have another child, for there is clearly something wrong with the first one.

    Cordy is also a “high-spirited” child. And any advice I give here will probably be looked down on, but it is what has worked for us.

    Around 15 months, when Cordy was first walking, she was exactly as you describe Wonderbaby. Screeching right and left if we didn’t give in to her demands. I was slowly being worn down by it all, and decided it was time for her to have some lessons in “life doesn’t always go your way.”

    That meant that sometimes, when we really needed to be going, I grabbed her, and wrestled her into her stroller, walking out of a store as she screamed bloody murder. Or I carried her away from something she didn’t want to leave, while she screamed and kicked and hit me.

    I started telling her “no” more, which also led to meltdowns. I got a lot of looks out in public, but by that point I wasn’t embarrassed anymore: babies get frustrated and they cry and scream, it’s part of life.

    I won’t even tell you the stories of putting her to bed in those days, which always involved a lot of screaming on her part.

    She’s still as high-spirited today, but some things are different. She knows she doesn’t always get her way, and while she usually protests, it isn’t as bad as it was. She also goes to bed like a dream child now – happy, with no crying at all. I try to make opportunities for her to get her way, and reserve “no” for only when it is necessary.

    And I still have days when I think I’m the worst mother on the planet. Days when Cordy will slowly find and exploit every one of my weaknesses until I’m calling everyone I know, begging for someone to take her off my hands. Mothering is damn hard, and some days it can really get to you.

    This is a tough period, I think. But you’ll get through it. You’re an amazing, strong woman. If she’s really getting to you, you may need to put some space between the two of you, if only for 5 minutes, and you may need to endure some screaming as you tear her away from the toy store.

    You’re certainly not a fuck-up at all. Just the smile on Wonderbaby’s face in nearly every picture show how happy and loved she is. She’s entering a much more challenging part of development (toddlerhood), and you’ll adapt and deal with it just like you adapted to life with a baby.

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