Parenting and Mania: 5 Tips to Keep Your Head On Straight

Parenting is hard enough as it is, but parenting with bipolar disorder introduces its own set of unique challenges.

We all know little kids are certifiably insane energetic.  They’re excited all the time!  And why not?  Everything is new to them, everything’s an opportunity to learn!  We have so much to do, and we have to do it right now!  

Childhood really is kind of like mania… but unlike you and me, kids don’t really have the ability to completely destroy their lives.  Ah, the good old days!

I mean, I guess your kid could do this too.

But look, when you yourself are going through a manic episode, it’s hard enough to concentrate on 1 of 1000 things running through your head.  Add in some little kids running around, screaming, demanding your attention, and well… it’s enough to make you lose it.

But since losing it is generally undesirable, expensive, and you know… potentially marriage ending, it behooves us to keep it together.

So here’s 5 things I try whenever I feel a hard-core, mania-fueled, child-ignited, explosion of a freak-out session coming on.  And by the way, these 5 tips apply just as equally to those who aren’t suffering from bipolar depression.

 

#1. Drink.

 

 

#2. Get in the Car and Just Start Driving for a While.

 

 

#3. Freak-out just a little.  You know, scream into a pillow and then sob quietly in the closet.

 

 

#4. Maybe gamble a little… like a few hundred bucks… to start…

 

 

#5. Start that brewery!

 

#6: Buy a motorcycle.  #7: Grow a beard.  #8: Get in a high speed police chase and run from the cops?

 

OK, don’t do any of those things.  Seriously, try this instead:

#1. Keep a Schedule.

It’s easier to get through the day if you know it’s going to end.  If the kids go to bed at 8 or 9, then there’s always light at the end of the tunnel.  Set a time, then divide and conquer.

Here’s what I mean: say your kids are driving you to drink enjoying the innocence of childhood, and it’s… stressful.  Don’t think this is endless.  Think, I just need to get through the next 30 minutes.  Then another 30 minutes.  Then 1 more hour and it’s bedtime and I can get some sanity time to myself.

#2. Set Me Time.

So I said put the kids to bed at a decent time.  How about after that you stay up for an hour or two?  Make sure you have some you time.  Chances are your mind’s racing, and there’s a bunch of stuff you need to get out.  Well that’s no good if you don’t have any time dedicated to you.

I’m not saying sleep isn’t important, of course it is.  I’m just saying, get that me time (Also known by my family as “F-You Time”… as in, “F-you, I’m doing what I want to do”).

I know this one seems obvious but it can be really hard.  I’m too busy I can almost hear you saying; or I don’t have the time.  But chances are you just aren’t making the time.  Or maybe you feel guilty making the time?  I have to catch up on whatever chore, or maybe I have to spend every waking second with my significant other. 

Again, not saying you shouldn’t spend time with your significant other… and maybe that’s exactly how you want to spend your free time, and if so that’s great.  But you shouldn’t feel guilty carving an hour or two out of the day for just yourself to do what you want to do.

Besides, you want the time you spend with your partner to be quality time… and it’s not going to be quality time if your manic hyper-brain is making you trace patterns on the brick wall, or if you’re counting bumps in the ceiling, or if you just noticed the floor board joints make a pattern if you look at them from the right angle; or if you’re trying to write a blog post… oh wait.  Hold on honey, yeah, yeah I know, I just need a couple hours to finish this post.  Also, I’m taking the van this weekend, I’m going to Jimmy’s place on the lake… no, no, it’s just a dude thing, you can’t come.  Oh come on, don’t be like that, you’re so unreasonable.

#3. Get a Sitter.

It takes a village.

Ever hear that?  Well it does.

Don’t try to raise these kids by yourself.  You’ll die trying.  My wife and I were too proud to ask for help for the first 6 months of the life of our first daughter.  You know what happened?

Get some help.  Hire a sitter.  Call in a favor with that friend.  Get the grandparents involved.  They’ll love seeing your kids.  And then when things get hard for them?  They can leave!  And by the time you get back you’ll be ready to go again!  2 hours out on the town is like 2 months in parent-years.

#4. Get your kids into something interesting.

I’m not saying take your son whose clearly more into dancing than football and have him try out for the squad.  Don’t force your kids do do something they don’t wan’t to do, or be something they don’t want to be.  Don’t impose the same paternal inferiority complex on your kid that your father imposed on you.  Break the chain!

It looks cute to us – but that kid is devastated.  He’ll remember that forever.  This is how super-villains are made.

Get your kids into something they enjoy, and something you enjoy.  Get them, and by extension you, off the couch.  Make the time you’re going to spend with them no matter what fulfilling and interesting and you’ll both benefit.  You’ll get some of that manic energy out along the way.

But I’m a dude, you say, and I have daughters.  I don’t want to get into dance.  Well whatever dude, your loss.  Get over that toxic masculinity and start living the best life you can.

Get creative.  Go out of your comfort zone.  Don’t you want your kids to do those things?  Well set the example.  And make yourself better, and scratch that manic-itch to learn something new.

#5. When it gets hairy – take a minute.  Or ten.

You’ve been pushed to your breaking point.  Your kid is inconsolable.  You feel stressed.  You feel helpless.  And then you feel angry.  I do everything for you, you have everything you need, why are you still crying?!

What happens next isn’t going to be pretty.

Ask yourself these questions:

  1. Is my kid safe?
  2. Are their basic needs satisfied?  i.e., are they clothed, dry, warm, clean, fed?

If the answer to the above is yes, and you feel yourself crossing that threshold into anger, then walk away.  Put the baby in the crib, make sure the toddler can’t get into anything, and walk out of the room.  I’m not saying leave the house.  I mean, you have to stay in the house, pretty sure it’s a crime if you leave (definitely is).

But you can walk out of the room for a minute.  Collect yourself.  Don’t feel bad, it’s OK!  Really!  Sometimes you have to chill.  We all do.  That’s completely understandable.  You might have to do this everyday!  You’re still a good parent, this is really hard man!  Your kids will forgive you… hell, they probably won’t even notice.  You need to forgive yourself.

What’s not good is freaking out in front of the kids, hurting them, or hurting yourself.  Or punching the drywall.  Or kicking the dog.

So that’s it friends!  What helps you?  Let me know below!  Follow me for more!

 

 

 

Shameful Moments in Parenting #1

So I’m a wonderful father who is completely infallible.

End of post.

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..

….

Oh, you’re still here aren’t you?

Alright, let’s talk about some stuff.

So, parenting can really suck.  Sometimes frequently.  Often frequently.  OK… lately it seems more like usually.  I mean, I love my kids more than anything, and I’d do anything for them of course, but let’s be real for one minute… sometimes I just want to get in the car and start driving until I run out of gas.

Would I ever do that?  No, of course not.  But the thought gives me solace in times of trouble.

A time of trouble.

So I think I’m a pretty good dad but… well… sometimes not so much.  So here we go:

My job is very stressful (said everybody).  But really, it is… more on that some other time.

But anyways, everyday I get out of work, and every day I get stuck in traffic for an hour.  Every.  Damn.  Day.  Then I get the kids from the sitter and we go home; then the real fun begins.  When the doors of my dad van open, it’s like the door just dropped on the landing craft, and we’re storming the god damn beaches.

Welcome home.

The dogs have been locked up all day, so as soon as I open the door I know they’re going to go ballistic.  A tiny, angry chihuahua and a pug celebrate my return by digging their tiny little dagger paws into my shin and screaming (barking, I guess) as loud as possible.  Why are they screaming so loud?  I know why I am.

My 3 year old needs juice in her cup, but she already has it, she’s just confused for no reason.  But no, she actually doesn’t want the juice, she wants chocolate milk, but we don’t have chocolate milk.  WHAT DO YOU MEAN YOU DON’T HAVE CHOCOLATE MILK?!

Then my 3 month old is screaming because she’s still coming to terms with the fact that mommy also works for a living, and daddy doesn’t have lactating breasts – just worthless man boobs; and I’m starting to sweat thinking I’d trade my testicles for a damn boob right about now.  My balls just make problems… boobs solve them!

Image is completely necessary.

Now the dogs are done eating, which means the Chihuahua’s timer has started – if he is not outside in 15 seconds he is going to shit everywhere.  Then he’s going to eat it.  Then he’s going to lick my face later… and my daughters’.

So then I open the door a crack to get the leashes, but there’s geese in our back yard, and the Chihuahua said FUCK THOSE GEESE! and shoots out the backdoor like a bat out of hell.  The pug gives me a quick, sorrowful look as if to say I know, he’s an idiot; I nod in agreement, but then he walks outside, stops short of the grass, turns around, stares me straight in the eyeball, and takes a dump on the patio.

Meanwhile, tiny humans are screaming.  My 3 month old is still strapped to her portable car seat, and is currently rocking it so violently that she’s skidded the thing about 6 feet into the living room.  My oldest continues to lament the lack of chocolate milk with an anguish befitting a funeral.

“Where’d chocolate milk go?!” – Tiny, insane human.

I contemplate letting the dogs continue to run free but then realize I have absolutely no explanation for their disappearance prepared for my wife.  So I run out as fast as I can and shepherd them back into the house.

Remember, I’ve been in the car for an hour before this, and it’s hotter than hell right now.  So like a good, healthy person, I’ve been hydrating all day.  This is great and all, but it has the unfortunate side effect that my bladder is so full right now that my back teeth are floating.

Apparently my 3-year-old’s is too, or at least it was, since she’s currently standing in a puddle of definitely not chocolate milk.  But don’t worry, she’s using the absorbent properties of her stuffed sheep to soak it up.

After mister pee-sheep gets thrown into the wash, I get my daughter and the puddle cleaned up, and I make her a sandwich.  Perhaps 5 minutes have passed since we pulled into the driveway.

Now it’s finally time to tend to the baby.  I get her out of the car seat and she continues to freak out.  I look in the fridge for a bottle but only find a bag of still frozen breast milk.  With one arm holding baby, I clumsily fish around at the back of the bottom cabinet looking for a pan to heat some water.  I know you’re not supposed to boil frozen milk this way but the screams of the tiny baby human in my arms are telling me that doesn’t matter right now.

I put the baby down in her pack and play while the milk is warming up.  My older daughter realizes that there’s a chance that peace might return to my life.  WELL WE CAN’T HAVE THAT!

There is no peace.

“Daddy, can you put on the show?”

The show… I hate the show.  The show is one of those awful things you find on Netflix or YouTube with the computer animated kids and animals that sing the same 10 songs on repeat until finally they become the soundtrack to your nightmares.  I begin to wonder how much gas is in the van…

“DADDY, SHOOOOOOOW! PEEEEEEEAAAAAAAAZZZZZ!”

I begrudgingly turn the show on.  The music seems to placate her for the time being.(Daddy finger, daddy finger, where are you?  At the bar, at the bar, how do you do?  By the way, who wrote that awful song?!)

By now the milk is warming up and I can actually take care of the baby.  I get a brief respite as the children are eating, and I sit down for the first time in what feels like hours.

“Mommy finger, mommy finger where are you?…” – certified asshole.

But soon my oldest is finished with her dinner, and I’m surprised that it’s already almost 8pm – I hadn’t realized how late I’d stayed at work that evening.  So it’s time for bath and bed for my oldest.

So we all head upstairs, and I put the baby down in her crib.  Bath time proceeds as normal with my oldest one playing with her bath toys in peace and my baby actually taking a break from screaming.  But after a few minutes the baby starts screaming again so I try to coax my oldest out of the bath.

At first I try to do the nice thing, ask her if she’s ready, try to ease her out of it.  But it’s clear she has no intention of getting out of the bath, so I’ll have to make her.  I start washing her and she loses it.  She knows that means bath-time is over and she’s not ready.  But baby’s screaming in the other room and I can feel that familiar feeling of “baby is crying, I need to do something” panic rise.

My anxiety is finally reaching a breaking point as I have to lift my oldest out of the water with one arm while I wash her bottom half because she refuses to stand up on her own.  The screams from the other room intensify, and the wriggling child in my arms begins kicking wildly.

Then at last my anxiety overcomes me and I break; I spank my daughter – hard.  And not just once, but ten times.  Over and over.

She stops resisting for a moment and is in complete shock.  Then she starts crying in earnest.  I quickly finish washing her, then lift her out of the tub to dry.  She’s inconsolable.  I do the only thing I can think to do to calm her down – I hug her.

She cuddles with me for several minutes while the baby cries in the other room.  At last, she allows me to let her go, and I scoop up the baby from the other room, and I tuck my oldest into bed – but not before she makes me read her her favorite books.  At last she asks me to turn the light off, and I kiss her goodnight.

I’ll admit, this incident freaked me out.  Many parents are fine with spanking their kids; they think it’s good for them… even think it’s necessary.  That’s never been my thinking but I know plenty of people who spank their kids and everybody turns out fine.  What upset me was my loss of control.

I wasn’t spanking her because I decided to, or because it was some life lesson about listening to your parents, and learning discipline.  I did it because I was pissed, plain and simple.  Now maybe she deserved it.  She was out of line after all, and she was the one who caused me to lose my temper.  But she’s 3… what does she really know?

So now am I someone who beats their kids?  A deadbeat dad who comes home from work and loses control?  I don’t know, maybe that’s an overreaction, but it’s something that will probably stick with me for a long time, and definitely qualifies as a Shameful Moment in Parenting.