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Fine, I Admit It! My Children Are the Boss of Me

Photograph by Getty Images

You know how there seems to be parents out there who have their stuff together and are in control of their lives and their children all at once? They're good with nailing down even the smallest of things, like what the kids eat for breakfast and how they dress.

I have to say I admire those parents. And I desperately want to be them. But I'm not. I'm not at all.

The truth is, somewhere along the way, the power in my household shifted, and slowly but surely, I lost all control.

My children, it would seem, are actually the boss of me. And I have no idea how to fix it.

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In the good ol' days, parents were solidly in control, weren't they? They laid down the law in a way that seems impossible to me today. Kids sat down and shut up and worked the land and played outside and did what they were told, right? Or at least that's what our nightly readings of "Little House on the Prairie" tell me, along with giving me some serious guilt for everything that Ma was expected to do in a day. But I digress.

Someday, I tell myself, I might actually wake up in the morning and have some idea of how our day will go.

The point is, I've realized that for us, modern-day parenting comes with a different kind of stress than those prairie days when you had to fight to survive. Modern-day parenting, for me, feels incredibly stressful because I feel like when it comes right down to it, I'm really not the one in control here. You'll probably judge me as a parent and that's totally cool with me, because trust me when I say no one is a more harsh critic than I am when it comes to my failures as a parent.

I try do the best I can, I swear I do. But on a daily basis, especially as a weird sort of stay-at-home/working mom hybrid, I feel like my kids are the boss of me. From the moment I wake up in the morning (a time generally dictated by my children, of course) and how well they slept (if at all) to the three different breakfasts I generally make to accommodate their picky palates. I've tried to lay down the law, swearing up and down everyone will eat the same meal OR ELSE. But after a few years, I've realized that it's more important to me that my kids actually eat instead of go hungry, because they happen to be as stubborn as their mother, apparently.

I keep hoping that my life feels so out-of-control because of the ages my children happen to be (four under 7), along with the fact that they are constantly sick, making me feel like I'm trapped in a nightmare of fevers that never end.

Some day, I tell myself, I may be able to brush my teeth without children clinging and crying at my feet. Some day, I tell myself, meals won't consist of me sprinting around cutting meat and fetching ketchup and getting drinks and cleaning up spills and trying to teach manners, all before I can get a bite. Someday, I tell myself, I might actually wake up in the morning and have some idea of how our day will go without hoping and praying that someone won't break down, have a tantrum or surprise with a diaper explosion.

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But today?

Today is not that day. Today, I know I will wake up and maybe—just maybe—if I'm lucky, I will hope that today will be a "good" day. Though at this stage in the little kids game, a good day is sometimes as simple as me actually getting to drink my coffee before it turns to ice-cold sludge.

If my bosses let me take a coffee break, of course. We'll just have to see.

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