How a Fever, Sleepless Nights, & Obnoxious Kids Changed Me as a Mom Forever

by Lisa Douglas

After getting sick late Wednesday night, I spent the last part of the week in a fever-induced haze. Tired, rundown, haggard, vacillating between sweating and freezing, all while battling a suspicious fever that persisted with no other symptoms or ailments to warrant or explain its existence.

I did my damnedest to scrub the evil fever from my body on Saturday, preparing to spend the better part of the day at SeaWorld with my family for an event. The fever reared its ugly head and held me down a bit while there, keeping me from walking the park or partaking in our day as I normally would have, but I think the pool, fresh air, and seeing my friends with their families helped greatly. Miraculously later that night, the fever reducers wore off and my fever didn’t reoccur. It was gone, hallelujah!

busted lip momUnfortunately, I wasn’t able to celebrate my sudden wellness with a restful sleep of any kind that Saturday night. The baby flip-flopped ninja-style all night. I can honestly tell you she beat my @$$ because I have a fat/cut lip to prove it (she headed me). She nursenursenursed and flopped and kicked like it was the WWB match – World Wrestling Baby – complete with full nelson takedown and roundhouse kick to the head as her final blow. To say I woke up on Sunday like a zombie would be a gross understatement.

From being sick and not sleeping well in days, I can say I definitely didn’t handle the baby-wrestling fiasco well. I yelled. A lot. My husband attempted to come to my rescue numerous times, but ultimately he’s not the one breastfeeding and “in demand” all the time – I am. I always am. At one point he offered to take her, for the eleventy-billionth time, and I mumbled, “Just leave me alone.” I knew it hurt his feelings, and I was so tired at the time, I just didn’t care. I was an absolute mess.

This baby has proven to be a difficult one – the most difficult one. She demands so much more of my time and energy, so much more focus on her than the others ever did. My other babies simply slipped into our family seamlessly, as though they’d always been there, knowing just what to do. I can’t explain it, but extended family, neighbors, and close friends of our family around at those times in the past can attest.

baby v at seaworld

Baby V is horribly afraid of sand, it seems.

Baby V has been markedly different from the get-go, and it’s been a difficult challenge attempting to grasp what makes her tick, and how to alter the way I mother to amply take care of her along with my other kids. No, challenge isn’t a strong enough word, but I fail to find one that aptly fits. Struggle? Battle? Assault? I don’t know.

Sunday was a turning point for me, though. With nary a wink of sleep, a weary body from being sick for over three days, and little patience left in the tank, I took on a furiously twenty-degree colder Sunday with vigor, exhaustion, and a hearty molestation of my coffee maker. (So much so, I actually broke my three-month-old Keurig!)

The kids, though, knew all too well that something was awry (as children always do), because their behaviors mimicked the way that I felt. They were wretched and filled with conflict. I battled arguments and mitigated treaties amongst hurt feelings all day long, until finally I snapped with my oldest son. His “wrestling” with his brother, which eventually hurt him, put me over the edge, and I became the bully to show him, first-hand, what it felt like.

I didn’t like it.
It made me cry inside.
I told him no part of my becoming a bully to mimic his actions made me feel great about myself.

I confessed to him that I felt like a failure as a mother, because no matter what I tried, no matter how much I begged, pleaded, reasoned, rationalized, or taught him right, he kept failing to listen. He simply would not learn, nodding his head in agreement one minute, but going back to his old tricks of being the bigger, older brother bully the next.

I reminded him of the good boy inside him, the one who is so caring and compassionate, how great is with babies and small children, how concerned he is for others when they are in need, how helpful he is. As I reminded him of his nurturing side, I showed him how scary it is to see his cruel side so much more. I told him I wasn’t sure if it was the teenage hormones coursing through his thirteen-year-old body, or what, but I felt like a failure as his mother for not being able to help coerce the nice boy out while fighting the not-so-nice boy away.

In the middle of this talk, this confession to my son, saying it out loud – how I felt like an absolute failure of a parent – it sunk me pretty deep into despair; much more-so than the sleepless nights and terror-filled one-year-old ever had.

It made me realize that I’m not doing so well as a mom, as a person, or as a human. I’m letting a lot of stuff slide just to survive through this difficult time, and while I’m here, I’m not necessarily as present as I should be. I’m seemingly battling a lot more than a fever, sleepless nights, and obnoxious kids. Things may or may not be broken inside me, inside my body and my head, which is affecting not only how I mother, but my family as well.

I continued my talk with my son, but I could see it in his eyes, the more I talked about fixing myself, the more I saw him coming out of his retreat, and really “getting” me and what I had to say. I even jiggled the spare tire around my belly, showing him how I work out to rid myself of evil fat, showing him that I, too, was broken, and that I, too, had an evil side that I wanted to sequester.

We even laughed a little, because I am the queen at cracking jokes at inappropriate, serious moments just to lighten the tension. But I definitely saw it in his eyes that he understood where I was coming from, not only as his mother wanting to help nurture him to be a better boy, but as a mother wanting to be a better mother.

The change in him for the rest of the day nearly broke me into two – into happy tears. I could see that I’d made an impression, and I realized that, maybe, just maybe, I should open up about myself to my children more often. Maybe they’ll understand me, my actions, and decisions a little better if they knew the crazy swirling around inside my head every once in a while.

My talk with my son made me change my views on everything, to include myself. I decided to take off the expectation glasses I was apparently wearing without knowing, and don my appreciation and acknowledgement glasses. Perhaps if I stop expecting my kids to be something they’re not, and foster who they are (for example, being so angry that Baby V isn’t like the other babies, and just accept it and learn to deal with it, or mourning yet another ADHD diagnosis for one of my children), then maybe all else will fall into place.

And I can most certainly, whole-heartedly, learn to see the glass as half-full once in a while, appreciating them as opposed to trying to perfect them. We’re alive, we’re well-fed, we’re healthy, we’re active, we’re together. It could be a lot worse, and it isn’t, and I need to be more thankful and aware.

Being a parent has never been declared as being easy. It’s a constant learning experience, offering no text books, study guides, or quizzes to help us along the way. Yesterday’s pseudo-meltdown was the start of another chapter in my parenthood career, teaching me to learn, soak in, adapt, and acknowledge everything more. Better.

Last night ended up yet another sleepless night, as Baby V has seemingly come down with a case of diarrhea, dirtying her diaper several times in her sleep all night long. Despite the blurry eyes and repetitious diaper changing, I didn’t let it get to me. By remaining calm, it completely changed how well I was able to cope and sleep during those in-between times when sleep was made available. I’m sure it helped my husband rest easier, too.

I might be right back at molesting my (now new) coffee maker today (my husband lovingly replaced it in haste last night), in search of caffeinated motivation, but I’m doing it in a more positive frame of mind.

Sometimes, you find the answers to your problems in the oddest of places. Who knew my answers were hidden in a weekend chock-filled with a fever-ridden body, a squirrel-y infant, and a heart-opening, gut-wrenching conversation with my brazen teenage son?

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