I've complained endlessly that the worst part of my day is walking in the door after work with all 3 kids and having to leap right into the grueling work of homework, dinner, lunches, giving kids attention, general triage. All I really want is a few minutes to change my clothes, relax, and transition to my "home work."
Today I got us all home early enough that in theory, a few minutes to myself first was possible. But as I was changing my clothes, I heard Katrina screaming and crying in the backyard, and it wasn't stopping. It wasn't pain; it was like when Gabriel takes her little 12" bike and rides it around laughing and taunting her as she runs after him crying her broken little heart out.
Furious at getting my few minutes interrupted so rudely, I changed hurriedly and ran downstairs, to find Katrina trapped in the backyard because Gabriel had shoved the garbage cans up against the opening (he was supposed to put them away). Meantime, he and Julian were running around outside with their knapsacks on the ground, their lunches nowhere near the kitchen, and homework nowhere close to started. As usual.
I go through this every day, and habit does not make it easier. It only makes me madder, more upset, more depressed, and more frustrated every day at how difficult this part of the day is. The boys continued to disobey while I attended to Katrina's tears, and as usual were defiant and rude when I instructed them again to go put lunches away. Pretty much every step of the way -- literally, getting them in the door, is a huge struggle.
Usually we can recover around dinnertime, but only through a tremendous effort on my part. Tonight I talked to the boys about the recent C-17 crash in Alaska that grounded the C-17 demo at the Watsonville airshow last weekend, but some days I just don't have the energy or creativity to find something to distract them from their nonstop noisemaking, complaining, demands and making obnoxious repetitive sounds to irritate Katrina.
Katrina, on the other hand, has been the model child. Charming, talkative, helpful, cooperative, funny, smiling, even affectionate; full of happy chatter and astute observations. She has much more concept of continuity and sequencing than the boys did at her age; for instance, she knows her birthday is coming up and that's almost 4 and she talks about it a lot. She also remembers, or perhaps just communicates, surprising little details about things that happened a long time ago in her world ("Remember? Remember we had alphabet pasta at CAMPING?" (in August 2009 when you were 2, no I had forgotten about the alphabet pasta!) The boys at her age thought much more in-the-moment -- still do, really.
But it's difficult to enjoy her when I'm trying to make dinner and I hear a smacking sound followed by a pathetic wail and then a haughty, "well you DESERVED that." Then I have to send Gabriel to his room, never a simple affair -- he responds to the initial instruction with defiance, "NO I'm going to do my homework down HERE," and rudeness, "Can't you SEE you're in my WAY," and outright refusal, followed by my threatening to take something away (like dessert) if he doesn't comply immediately. He might walk away slowly, then he might return with an item from the office, and enter into the kitchen holding the item up. He'll walk up to me with no fear at all and show me the item (in this case a jack converter for headphones) and say deadpan, "If this were a weapon, I'd shoot you right now."
So much for "Send him to his room and that's it."
After the brief pause at dinner, Julian resumed the cause and was a nonstop litany of excuses, complaints, obnoxious comments and tones of voices, and then screaming and crying when even the slightest consequence was applied ("That's it, go upstairs now").
Would my not working full-time make this any better? Would having more time with them in the afternoon give us more margin for error, or only increase opportunity for conflict? I know well that full-time momming is no picnic and is very prone to the "green grass" syndrome. I can't say for sure if I was happier being a full-time mom, since the kids' phases of life were so different and I was so different. I started this job not long after Gabriel started kindergarten, though it was part-time until recently -- still, school life and work life hit together.
I like working, I like being around grownups and being focused during the day....but the transition to being a mom again in the afternoon is brutal.