Thursday, May 5, 2011


Two is harder than one. Terrible twos. I've heard the term. Melese and I have had a rough few weeks. In a real mothering low, I sat weeping in our desk chair while Meazi tried to comfort me by stroking my hair. She couldn't really, because her tiny hand was clenching some "Goddamn coins she'd better pick up before her brother eats them." I have been at my wit's end. He has been throwing tantrums, whining, crying, and literally destroying every item in our house. Steven has been working ridiculous hours, which adds to Melese's frustration. In an even lower mothering moment I barked to Steven on the phone, "He is being a real asshole!" Yep, called my darling, formerly docile son, an asshole. What a jerk I am.

I realize he is asserting his independence and that is good. I am realizing that I am not a very patient person. I realize that there are some things that he is absolutely not allowed to do, like hurt the dog. He doesn't respond to, "Stop that." He laughs when I put him in a 'Time In'. I have been yelling at him. I feel terrible.

Also, he has been sick. Since the fundraiser. Several times in the past I have taken him to the doctor for a cough and the doctor has said, "It's a cough. Nothing you can do about it. Ride it out." My friend Amy spent an hour with him the other day and told me the cough sounded bad. I took him in. He is on antibiotics. I am a jerk.

The saddest thing that I have ever seen him do happened this morning. He woke up, looked at me, looked at Meazi, and said, "Where's my daddy?" I told him that he had to leave early for work (5:30). He burst into hysterics, "I want him! I want him!" We called him on the phone, and Melese just held the phone to his chest for a half-hour. He whimpered and whimpered just listening to Steven working on the other end. It was heartbreaking. 

He is talking about Ethiopia. I don't know what it is going to take to make me step up my game on this stuff. Meazi's early revelations, and surprisingly early discussions about her past should have made me realize that Melese was going to want to talk about this stuff 'early' too. I am not trying to completely beat myself up about everything here, but I really have failed a lot lately.

Luckily, my beautiful son is forgiving. I believe we had a break-through today. He was on the potty and he said, "Africa, I have someone there mommy." I said, "I know you do Melese. You have many someones there." And we said their names together. How is it possible that these kids are so wise at such a young age? Is it that they have lived lives with huge events already?

My son is not a terrible two. He is a resilient, brave, beautiful being and I am going to do better.

I have to.


  1. (((hugs)))) Julie. All mommas have been there! Do not be too hard on yourself. I think you are awesome!

  2. Go easy on yourself there, I can see classic two year old testing the boundaries, but I can also see that Miss Meazi must adore you to stroke you hair like that, and that your little guy feels loved and secure enough to test you out and also tell you his stories.


  3. I'm willing to bet money that he is all of that. Resilient, brave and beautiful. But honestly? I bet he's terrible, too. You ain't perfect, but neither is he, if he's anything like my not-quite-two, and reacting to that does NOT make you a jerk. Mothering through tantrums is an extreme sport - I had no idea how extreme until I found that *I* was shaking with rage in the middle of it all. He needs looking after, but so do you. Sending you a big ol' cyberhug, and hoping that the sick, at least, lifts soon.

    (ps - the talking! Wow! What a smarty. We are still pretty much stuck at 'duck' and 'car').

  4. We all have these moments... Cindy's right. Don't be too hard on yourself. He's got himself a great momma and he knows it. Hoping you find a way out of your rut soon. Hugs.

  5. Everything you said in this post is all to familiar to me. When I was reading it it reminded me so much of how things have been around here (like exact- I think you are watching us.). And I was talking to my computer (yea.. we are sleep deprived too) saying that you are a great mom and these things happen, they really happen. I don't know if I was saying them to you or me. Some days will just be so hard and all we can do is try harder the next. I like to go by the hour at the moment. Thinking of you today and hoping its better.

  6. You know, even though I consider my son to be pretty sensitive and generally kind, he is still a wild beast. His expression of his emotions is often quite physical, messy, and destructive. I tend to stay away from gender stereotypes, but I think there is something to said for the physicality of boys. They wreck shit. You have insight, Julie, it's my favorite character trait in a friend. You've got it down.

  7. You will both survive this! Fortunately, his big sister is being a super sweetie, it sounds like.

  8. Oh sister. You are brave to say it out loud. We have all been there. I called my mom one day and chewed her out (while bawling uncontrollably) because she "never told me I would hate my children sometimes".

    You are a good mama. A. VERY. GOOD. MAMA. The exhaustion of parenting is unlike any other. Let us lift you up.

    (And later let's talk about addressing that laughing during a timeout-- not ok, would send me over the edge too.)

  9. Julie, I love your blog and your family. I also have an Ethiopian daughter who consoles me when times are tough. She is 12 years old and wonderful and beautiful and bright, just like your Meazi. I also have a 22 month old who has tested me from day one. If I am fortunate enough to be an old woman one day, I will surely look back on Ezra's first two years of life as the hardest time in mine.

    I have said horrible things about and to Ezra in my darkest, hardest moments. I can relate to your post. Just know you are not alone.

    Sarah in Raleigh NC
    (mom to two awesome teens from Ethiopia and a home-grown holy terror)

  10. A beautiful post by a beautiful, brave, honest Mommy. You are so good at this... it is what you were born to do.

    And having said that... the terrible twos SUCK!!! My youngest son was a PUNK from 18 months to 5.5 years. But it did (finally) pass. A great book I a friend gave me at the time really helped- "Making the Terrible Twos Terrific". It's old- but very wise.

    You are doing a GREAT job. Really.

  11. Grace Julie....extend it to yourself and your sweet son. When they go through new stages, it's tough. Also, may I just say, I have found in my house that when daddy is suddenly gone more, it's a trigger for these fragile little ones. They seem so secure and attached, and then something changes and they crash. Take a walk, do something for YOU today! Thanks for being so honest.

  12. I'm sorry things are so tough right now, but secretly (or maybe not so secretly) releived that I am not the only mother who does not have as much patience with a toddler as she thought she would, and who loses her cool when they laugh in your face while you are trying to discipline them. I don't have any good advice, just comiseration...

  13. If it's any consolation (damn, I really should make this a regular blogpost series because I have so much of this 'if its any consolation' shit)... the other day, I asked Oa "What did I just tell you!?!?" And he goes, "I don't know." My response was "Don't be a liar!" And guess what? He has been calling me a liar now, and I regretted I ever said that in a moment of sheer, 120% frustration. Who the eff calls their two year old a liar when they are just acting out like a two year old. Wow, L-o-w.

    I've realized that my frustration tends to correlate with heightened "acting out". It's as if we feed off each other.

    I've thus been making a concerted effort, esp now that Royce is gone, to keep it calm. If I need to discipline him, it's taking away things he wants in a calm voice after giving him the choice of compliance or removing the thing he wants or activity he wants to do, or placing him in a corner with a calm voice.

  14. Whether we moms are willing to admit it out loud or not, I really think ALL of us have been there and we all feel like we have failed and "ruined" our kids at times, I know I have and still do. Give yourself some grace (I know, easier said than done) are a great mom!

  15. You will. Be better. But you will also be worse. We all have. The perfect mother is a myth! Why should mothers all be saints? It is hard, constantly changing circumstances, high risk, work that we do. And we learn mainly on the job. Because no two kids are the same. Nor are any two mothers.

    Hey! Keep on truckin'!

    The rate of return is high and overall the success rate is really high too! most kids turn out pretty well and most mothers survive to tell the story.

  16. Ok, first of all, coughs can get worse, antibiotics aren't necessary and then the next day they are. Matthew had h1n1 and we didn't realize it till he had beat it.

    Matthew started this stuff around 18 months and didn't really move on until recently. He's 3 1/2. BUT - when we started spending more time talking about Ethiopia as a matter of daily conversation, like the weather, his behavior improved noticeably. You are starting now - you are ahead of the game.

    And, also, we showed him how to share his emotions without being hurtful to himself or others. It took me a long time to realize he didn't know HOW to do this. I suspect his early days and trauma of the transition from one family to another makes it more difficult to control his emotions. Showing him gave him control and he responded magnificently. I don't know if this would work at Melese's age but it's worth a try. I think we were sorely underestimating Matthew's abilities and he responded accordingly.

    Hang in there. There's probably a bit of an emotional let down from the run up to the event and the event itself and it takes awhile to get back to normal - for everyone.

    Love you.

  17. I also want to say that it took me 3 kids to realize how much I needed time away from them. I know you may not want to hear this - but maybe a few hours on a Saturday by yourself? Their having time with just Stephen is very good and you having your own time is very good. It's a win win. Please believe me - I didn't when more experienced moms said it to me.

  18. Oh Julie. Oh how I've failed. And from the rest of the comments, how we've all failed. I fall down daily, in fact. Every night, I swear I'll do better the next day. I'll be more gentle, I won't yell, I'll notice the little things, etc., etc. Well, the truth is you and I and all your mom friends are doing the hardest fricking job on the planet, and we're human, so we're all gonna fall down.

    My now 5 year-old almost killed me at two. He was misdiagnosed as autistic and was a late talker. This boy would tantrum for 2.5 hours, pausing only to throw up, and then continue! I would just weep in a corner while he wrecked my house. There was nothing I could do. I would actually wonder if my life would have been better if he hadn't been born. Yeah, it was that bad. Mom fail, big time. You know what his problem was? He was deaf. And frustrated. And no one figured it out. One day, as he was doing his best screaming Tasmanian Devil impression, I grabbed him to restrain him, and shaking through my sobs told him that no matter what it took, I would fix him. And I did. I met him right where he was, loved him through it, and now I can't imagine my life or my family complete without that happy little boy.

    Your sweet, docile boy will show himself again. It may take awhile, but know that you are not alone in your journey. {hugs} ~jen.

  19. There have been nights, when A refuses to go back to sleep at 3, 4, and 5 am when I have said much worse than you have just written. Not proud moments. :(

  20. Oh Julie! You are making me cry!

    I am going thru the same things with is hard because you know how much has happened to them in their little lives but still the frustration from their asserting independence can bring you to your knees begging for mercy!

    I have never felt so weak or uprepared for anything in all my life!

    It is the two's...they get better..or so people tell me.

    They can be little assholes but then we can big assholes sometimes right! I try to remind myself I have bad days, everyone does and it is no different for kids.

    Does it make it easier when they are doing everything you ask/tell them not to? Nope!

    But you are a fantastic mother! Even when you think you aren't! You are!!!

    Love and hugs!


  21. I can SOOOO relate! Makes me feel better to know there are others out there who feel just like me! You are awesome and your wee ones are lucky to have you!


  22. What a perfect Mother's Day post...because now you can see and we all can see if we hadn't before that this stuff is all 'normal'...I honestly wasn't sure. You can be the most patient person in the world in many ways but when your beloved child is pushing your buttons and in the midst of chaos, it all goes out the window sometimes. Thanks for posting.

  23. Oh Julie. Your honesty and ability to voice your feelings and actions are awe inspiring. Two is a tough age... and it wasn't until two that I began hearing how much worse 3 is. I was worried about how I would handle it. Let me tell you, I do good rolling with the tantrums and willful attitudes some days, and others I find myself yelling and angry. There are good days and bad days, but you are an amazing mommy and it's so obvious how much you love your kids and how much they love you. Keep up the good work and don't be hard on yourself! Big hugs!

  24. Have failed so many times, too (x4 kids so my list of bad moments is long). I lose patience, I snap, I yell. It happens. I've cried in the closet for 20 straight minutes, maybe more. And then my 3 yr old will be remarkably forgiving when I just agree to play row row row your boat for 1.5 minutes. It's natural, and yet our vows to do better are important to US and to our feelings of self esteem about how we can be who we need to and want to be. Because we will fail again. And again. And we'll have to be okay with that. For our family, the 3s have been tougher than the 2s for the most part, and 4 kids has definitely taught me that I need the occasional break in order to be more patient. I feel less bad now about turning on the tv for a little while for Semagen so I can go take time for myself to read your blog, for example, than I would have with my first child. And I'm lucky as my husband has been working reasonable hours, and that makes SUCH a difference. Give yourself a break. :-)

  25. Our terrible twos sent me into therapy...that was the ONLY good thing about that year! ;]

    But seriously, here's what I learned. You need help. Lots of breaks from I think this must be why so many preschools start at two!!!! It's necessary Mommytime a few times a week!

    I started with time-ins per adoption psychology but stopped them when I was too triggered by his violence during the time-in. Time outs are preferrable for some...and it's OKAY...we do ours in the same room where I am so there's no physical removal. Unless he won't "serve" his timeout, in which case he's sent to his room for the remainder of the minutes. Two minutes at two is usually sufficient. We're way passed the year-and-a-half-from-hell and I just basically feel like I had to do what I had to do to survive and we're making up for some of the attachment stuff now that things are much more manageable.

    Also, I learned that I NEEDED a timeout most of the time. I still do this. NOw, when I'm close to calling names or about to go into a rage, I just tell him that Mommy needs a timeout and I don't come out until I'm calm. I've found this to be the only way. And now that he's older...he thinks it's very "just" that I get timeouts too.

    Good doesn't last just feels that way.

  26. Oh, Julie. First of all, huge hugs to you. You are an amazing Mama, and I can say this with certainty because I have seen it with my own two eyes. In fact, there is a blog post in my head waiting to come out how amazing you are and how I wanted to crawl up in your lap, too. Just like I see all of the other kids do.

    Secondly, two is tough. I felt like a failure daily. In fact, I felt like I failed so much that I begged J. to let me come and work for him before I ended up ruining M. for life. Hang in there. And like Rebekah said, please get some you time. Alone.

  27. Yup. Yup. Everything that yous said.

    And yup yup to everything your readers said. I'm a mean mamma too (say that with clenched teeth sometimes to get the full effect). :)

  28. I was going to try to give some bit of advice or praise for what you have done right, but clearly with 28 previous comments, you've already gotten that from much wiser folk than I...So I'll just say I love you.

  29. Oh, Julie, do you hear yourself? Did you know that I give Carter the finger behind his back when he really pisses me off? There. I said it. It's the truth. And I don't feel guilty.

    Guess what? Sometimes our kids are assholes. (Insert dramatic inhalation.) They're human. And so are we. Sometimes I'm one too. But you know what? You get past these moments.

    Kids are a pain in the ass. They really are. You know what? This is why mothers don't get paid. You can't pay anyone enough to put up with the stuff we do. Our kids may be every name in the book . . . and we still love them through the tears, frustration and looking for the store receipt (because there are times when you just want your money back)!!

    You are doing fine. It's rare that this mothering thing is easy. I think, dear, you are putting too much pressure on yourself. Really. It's time to use "Sesame Street" and "The Wiggles" to your advantage. TV can be your best friend at the most trying times. Believe me when I tell you that. I absolutely hate television, but it has saved my life (and Carter's because it kept me from killing him) on more than one occasion. When he had a horrible double ear infection, he made me play this Elmo tape—the very first tape I ever got for him—over and over for a good two or three hours. But while that tape was on, he was happy to be engaged with it and I was happy to let him be engaged.

    I had no problem admitting, additionally, that I didn't want to spend the entire day every day with my child. I just didn't have it in me. Daycare is a wonderful thing. And, as you've seen, we are as close as any mother and child can be.

    So, my dear, my advice it to give yourself a break, please. This mothering thing isn't easy. And that's putting it lightly. It's time to start deciding what YOU need. There's nothing wrong with realizing your needs are as important as those of your children (even if only for an hour a day). Never forget that.


    Remember that saying. It's never stopped being true.

  30. It is you I am hugging right now....

  31. I can't believe I spelled Steven's name wrong. Bah. Blame my mommy brain. Sorry.

  32. Two and Three are beautiful and sweet and cuddly and photogenic. They also suck. I have three again and I'm thinking at the end of every day WTF!

    You have not failed. Failure is a big word. It's like hate. You've made mistakes and you will again. You, if you are like me, will swear again. You will raise your voice. You will show your children that it is OK to be imperfect and they will still love you with those imperfections and that gives them the freedom to be imperfect knowing that you will still love them.

    Failures are those people who try to look perfect.

    It's the repetitiveness of these ages that gets me. And then when you are kind of parenting alone but not really. Know this; I made a TON of mistakes. Some of them gruesome and my son still calls me the kindest person he knows. Wow. That's how kids are. Hang in there woman. He will be four one day and you will look back on these days in wonder (although if you are like me you will not 'miss' them. I much prefer 4+ where the conversations really start to blossom.)

  33. I hate yelling at my kids. I hate when they are so obnoxious I want to lock them in the garage to throw their fits because I can' Because dammit, I took it for four hours straight already today.

    The only thing we can do is apologize to them when we screw up. I figure hey, they already know I am imperfect. They see it all the time. But just maybe they will turn out to be decent humans if they learn frmo me that its ok to mess up if we keep trying and saying sorry and loving.

    And save up for the therapists.

    Love to you all. he's freaking gorgeous.

  34. I just hope you realize that for those of us who aren't yet in the shadow of a two-year old, it gives me such hope that someone as incredible as you...can be courageous to admit the hard days. So many moms make it appear so easy and so loving all the time. I appreciate so much knowing that it get hard, really hard, and that it is okay and normal to lose my patience. Your children are so lucky to call you "Mom."

  35. And another thing, "failed" is really not a concept you should be using with regard to what you're going through. You can't rise above some of this stuff. You roll with it or simply find ways to cope. That's not failure. That's success. That's survival.

    Seriously, Julie, no more talk about failure. Remind yourself that situations will arise that you cannot make better. You will not always have patience. You will not always like your kids. That is normal. And if you pretended that your family was perfect, I'd think you'd fallen and hit your head.

    It's time to do some things for you. The one thing I tell other moms is not to lose their identities just because they've had children. The world will try to erase who you are and simply label you as Meazi's Mom or Melese's Mom. Well, those aren't your names. You are Julie. Don't lose her. Don't lose sight of her. And never ever feel guilty about taking care of her too.

  36. OMG!!! You just made me feel so much better! I have called Eli an 'asshole' several times. Not to his face though. (it hasn't slipped out yet!) This week has been a very, very, very difficult week for us. I am so worn thin. I have been leaving him at daycare until they are practically closed just because I need a break! You're not the only one who's been feeling like a failure. Hang in there!


  37. I could write this post every week. (except it wouldn't be as eloquent and would contain far more capital letter cuss words). At one point the "I will do better" was in capital letters on a post it on the bathroom mirror. (Until someone flushed it and then put laundry detergent on his toothbrush... not pointing fingers or anything but he lives in this house).

    Oh- and I reeeealy hate to be the bearer of bad news- (hoping someone else said this first) 3 is worse than 2. sorry. true though.

  38. hey friend.
    hang in there. i've been there three times... and my middle son is five and hasn't grown out of his "terrible two's"... and sammy is in the "terrible three's"... and i'm just trying to survive every day.
    it does get better... be gentle with yourself, clear your schedule, and just "be". be with your kids, be with yourself, simplify. that's what works well for us, at least a little :).

  39. Is it horrible that I was relieved to read this? When I met Melesse and Meazi, they just seemed like pure perfection ... and you the purely perfect, patient mother hostesss, fundraiser extraordinaire. Both of my boys are prone to super tantrums that test me beyond my capacities. I have responded like you and worse. And yet I love them beyond what I thought was my capacity to love, too, and am left feeling so guilty for letting my temper take the best of me. I love what KN wrote. Wise one, that one. Thanks for this post, friend. A hug for you and for your spirited, perceptive, persistent two year old.

  40. Currently parenting TWO, 2-yr-olds. I dropped a "God Dammit" on the youngest 2-yr-old yesterday, only to have the oldest 2-yr-old say, "Mommy, why you say god dammit?" Yes, the "No" of Two is leading to the "Why" of Three and the combination might lead me to the "Yes, I will have another beer" of 43.

  41. 'you can't rise above this stuff'

    I don't know who said that in these here comments, but it's brilliant. It's all about the expectations. Not one parent hasn't been brought down by a child from 2-3. Not one of us.

  42. I can't in any way contribute to the conversation here, but I just wanted to let you know that I'm thinking about you as you go through a difficult time. HUGS.

  43. I think it's safe to say these moments are fairly universal. These little people really have a knack for bringing out the terrible mom tantrums in all of us. After a full-on blow it moment, I look at the bright side, at least I'm not on reality t.v.! Nobody will be watching me lose it, in slow motion, replay. I try my best to make the moment pass. By the time I apologize and move on, the kids have already moved on. Thanks for sharing Julie.

  44. As usual Julie, I love your posts. Seriously. You are so brutally honest and open... and REAL. Your blogs is one of the few that really helps me to better understand that the transition period can be a hard and difficult one, and I so appreciate you being truthful about your beautiful (and amazing, gorgeous, resilient) children and your struggles as a parent. You are preparing future mamas... hang in there, your children love you, and you love them...

  45. I am stuck on "Africa, I have someone there too Mommy". Can't get it out of my head. It is melodic, poetic and beautifully emotional. What an amazing little guy. Your doing great....its normal to have those moments, hang in there.