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A wolf, a sheep, and a basket of cabbage

by Miranda on June 22, 2012

Do you know this puzzle? A man has a wolf, a sheep, and a basket of cabbage and he has to transport all of them across a river but his boat is only big enough for himself and one of the items at a time. He’s got quite the dilemma.

He can’t leave the wolf and the sheep because the wolf will eat the sheep. And he can’t leave the sheep and the cabbage because the sheep will eat the cabbage. But all of them have to get across somehow without anything being lost or harmed in the process.

That’s sometimes what this momming of two kids feel like.

I never know whose needs should be met first.

Last night, Dan worked late so it was my first attempt at handling bedtime with both of them. Bath was easy, relatively speaking. But bedtime, actually getting Joshua into the bed, reduced me nearly to tears.

The evenings are Emma’s witching hours. By about 8:30 she’s DONE WITH ALL THE THINGS. She wants to be swaddled and nursed until she falls asleep (which might not be for another hour and a half some nights).

Joshua wants books at 8:00, followed by prayers, followed by one of us to sit with him for a minute or two while he winds down. Then he’ll say “Mama close the door” and that’s the cue that he’s ready for sleep.

Emma can make it through one book, maybe two, but by prayers it’s like we’ve called an old priest and a young priest and they’re on the way with the good book and some Holy Water. There is no sitting quietly with him with her in the room. And he just doesn’t understand.

I felt like such an awful mother last night. She was screaming but he’d grabbed on to my arm and refused to let go and then he started shoving a stuffed Cat in the Hat in my face as a way to make me stay with him. And I just kept trying to leave.

He acted out as a way to get my attention before bed and all I could say was “I’ve got to go put baby sister to bed. Please let me go put baby sister to bed.” All he wanted was me and all she needed was me and all I could think about was how high, exactly, my blood pressure was at that moment. Because good God his room became a furnace awfully quick.

He said “mama don’t cry. I made you sad. Don’t be mean. Be happy!” And all I could say was “I have to go” while trying not to cry harder because of his consolations (which are, quite honestly another post for another day and an area where I think I’m setting him up for therapy).

Some say that we should always put on our own oxygen masks before assisting others. In that case, my need to pee or flee trumps their need for whatever it is they need right then.

Others say take care of Joshua’s needs before Emma’s because he’s able to remember and putting him off will cause resentment. Oh, god, resentment. Do I have enough material to write about that for a month. Dare I say it, but Emma’s existence alone seems to be causing resentment so shouldn’t he be learning about waiting and delayed gratification?

The part of me that is set on fire by the sound of the Angry Cry says Emma’s needs come first. Otherwise she’s a screaming ball of fury with her heart set on burning my soul out of my body with her baby rage.

It’s quite the conundrum, and it’s causing me more than a little anxiety.

So, moms of more than one, how do you handle this sort of thing?

Wolf, sheep, or cabbage first?

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