344. That’s the number of questions my four-year-old daughter, Alice, asked in a single day late in July.
And 276 is the number of times my son, Rowen, completely botched his pronunciation of motorcycle the following day, opting instead for the three-syllable, made-up noun, my-kyko. (Not that I can blame him. He’s two).
Where did I come up with these numbers? From a mechanical tally counter I bought from Office Max. I kept it with me all day these last two days on a beaded necklace chain, plunging my fist down my scooped-necked tank tops and pressing my thumb down on its smooth, metal clicker at quick, jerky intervals, looking like a timekeeper with Tourette’s, or a compulsive boob-scratcher.
Why would I subject myself to such a bizarre means of biding my time? Because I’d recently read a Facebook meme stating that the average four-year-old asks a total of 437 questions per day. And that got me thinking about some of the contributing factors to my recent season of uncharacteristic crankiness (an increasingly inquisitive four-year-old being one of them).
I like to deal in facts, which is why I bought the clicker. (And I’m glad I did. There’s something about pressing down upon that disc-shaped trigger that is so incredibly satisfying. Goodbye, fidget spinners, hello tally counters!) While I was a bit disappointed that Alice didn’t reach the quoted 437-question claim, I was confident that she could have if she hadn’t had a solid two hours of quiet time in her room that afternoon.
I don’t know which chisels away more effectively at my sanity—Alice’s 344 inquiries and requests or Rowen’s near-incessant repetition of a single word. It doesn’t matter. All I know is, when both things are happening simultaneously all day, every day, for an extended period of time, I suppose it only makes sense that, over the past several months, I seem to have evolved into a momster I like to call “Crankin’stein.”
Yes, I am thankful for my children, and yes, I love Alice’s chirpy curiosity and Rowen’s raspy-throated enthusiasm for bipedal vehicles, but when you combine those traits with Alice’s growing sense of independence (and sass—no doubt thanks to my recent surge in supply) and Rowen’s propensity for running wild and free—sometimes straight in the direction of open traffic—it can easily become a recipe for irritability. I used to think that the term “the terrible twos” was descriptive of a child’s behavior—tantrum-throwing and the like—but it has since occurred to me that perhaps it’s just describing a terribly challenging season for the parent…
Rowen is adorable—from the way he insists on wearing his submarine-printed rain boots with his shorts to the way his small, sweet singing voice perfectly balances out his loud, rowdy growling—but he can also be very headstrong (you have to be in order to say the same word so many times in a day), very busy (I can’t let him ride in the basket portion of a shopping cart because he would—and almost did once—flip over and smack his white-blonde head on the hard tiled-floor), and very clingy (sometimes you’d think the little guy didn’t know how to walk with how much he likes to be lugged around).
Oh yeah, and I’m currently eight months pregnant with our fifth family member, which doesn’t make the lugging-around exactly easy. Or the chasing. Or the wrangling.
The common side-effects of pregnancy are so well-known, anyone can rattle them off the top of their head. I suppose it’s because many pregnant women like to make them known, and I know, I know, it can be kind of annoying. Sometimes it’s like, just shut up already and stop hogging the attention away from the baby who’s making you so extra-special right now…
Yikes. That sounded really mean, but I’d be lying if I didn’t say that’s how I’ve felt at times.
It’s like…enough with the incessant belly-rubbing!
…could you please tone it down with the flowy-clothed, dreamy-eyed, bare-bellied maternity photo shares because they make a lot of us feel just a *little* uncomfortable? (Such as these!)
…my goodness! Quit broadcasting every single physical complaint you’re going through with such a glaring sense of self-satisfaction! If it pleases you *that* much to talk about it, it’s probably not bothering you to the extent that you claim.
Yes, I realize that there are plenty of women who do these things out of the purest and sweetest of motives (and I know many who have), but for those that don’t…oy…being around them is worse than…well, being in labor.
…And that’s saying a lot.
Anywho, I went into all of that to say that I hope I’m not coming across like another attention-seeking pregnant person in writing this, but rather to explain why I’ve been a super-crank this past winter/spring/summer both to myself and to anyone who has felt the serrated blade of my edginess.
Speaking of edginess, I once volunteered with a youth group that included a couple of notoriously surly girlies. When I was pregnant with my first child, one of the girls came up to me, marveling, “I can’t believe how cheerful and bubbly you still are! When my aunt was pregnant, she was so crabby!”
I just smiled at her and shrugged, “Oh, well, thank you. I guess I just try not to let the way I’m feeling affect how I treat other people.”
Another youth leader who had been standing nearby sputtered out a laugh and gave me a twinkly-eyed look from behind her thick-framed glasses that said, “I can’t believe you just said that, but I’m glad you did!” She’d picked up on my not-so-subtle knock at the girl’s typically less-than-pleasant attitude.
At the time, I’d been secretly smug about my response. I was proud of the fact that I could stay effortlessly upbeat most all of the time. Now, I wish I could travel back in time and kick my cocky old self in the head. Going through this season of increased testiness has helped me have so much more compassion for all of the chronically cranky people out there.
It isn’t fun when the sound of an approaching ice cream truck makes you scowl rather than smile (because you know your kids are going to beg for it), or when you snap at the overly-excited preschooler who’s trying to sell you cookies at his mom’s garage sale when you’re just trying to shop, for crying out loud, or when your four-year-old wakes you up from a mother/daughter sleepover by rubbing your back and your first instinct is to swat her little hands away and shove her off the bed. Things that formerly seemed sweet now cause steam to seep from your ears, just above the bolts jutting out of either side of your crankin’stein neck.
You feel like a Grinch, a Grouch, a Grumpy Bear… but instead of having an image of a storm cloud imprinted on your big, round belly to mark your general state of being, you have stretch marks (or what I prefer to call “the lightning bolts of wrath”).
The pregnancy symptoms that seem to be exacerbating the situation most are fatigue and the nebulous-feeling-as-it-sounds “pregnancy brain.” I’m slow enough at processing information as it is, so adding exhaustion and fog-brain to the mix have made me a real dud, and an impatient one at that. I never used to be one to answer questions with a dark and moody, “What”—but recently, I have. And I think it freaks me out more than it does my kids. I usually catch myself and replace it with an overcompensatingly-syrupy-sounding, “Yes, Alice?”
The other response that helps me recover when I’m suddenly struck by overwhelming frustration and frazzledom is a short, demanding prayer: “Help me, Jesus.” It’s usually breathed out simultaneously with a sigh, and more often than not it’s accompanied by a massive eye roll. Sometimes I can’t quite tell whether I’m rolling my eyes at the situation or at God for allowing me to experience it. Generally, I try to be more respectful towards God than to demand things from Him, but when I find myself at the end of my rope and on the verge of flipping out—well, I figure He’d rather take a little attitude from one of His big kids than to watch me completely lose my cool on one of His little ones…
As I bring my weary words to a close, an obvious question remains. It’s the gray elephant in the essay, peering out from behind the black-and-white typeface: will the dawn of Crankin’stein truly find its sunset after our new little bundle of joy arrives?
Realistically, no. Middle-of-the-night feedings, a husband with a heavy work schedule and no family support for miles, two older children who are already pretty possessive of Mamma and her time, and the fact that infant crying is an instant stress-inducer for me don’t bode very well.
And yet, I remain hopeful. From my experience, the paradox of caring for a new baby is that it is also a very soothing, uplifting, and yes—even energizing—time.
…And speaking of time, only time will tell whether this season of extended crankiness is nearing its end or whether it’s only just begun. Maybe I should pull my tally counter out of the kitchen junk drawer and start keeping track of the number of groans and grumbles I utter in a day so I have a basis for comparison once the baby’s born.
But the clicker only counts as high as 999. I suppose that could be a problem.
**And this wasn’t the tank top I was wearing, but I just found it, and I think it’s really funny!**
**Eclectic Eccentric Etcetera is an Amazon Associate.**