One of the many things you can't get until you're in it is what it means to adjust your expectations for your kids.
Yesterday my husband and I sat in the driveway after running an errand together. We were discussing our son. Specifically, my husband was praising the way I had not once screamed "SHUT THE F*** UP! WHY ARE YOU BEING SUCH AN A$$HOLE?" all day long. Not once. Not even close. He was impressed. He had managed to avoid a profane tempest by holing up in our bedroom, while I was actually engaging with the kids.
This made me think of something I'd been reminded of while discussing with Oak when he would gt computer privileges back. "He doesn't know the days of the week," I said.
"He doesn't know left and right," replied the Winemaker.
"Do you think it's fetal alcohol?" I asked.
"Who knows. I am too tired to figure it out. I don't even know where to start, and I am so afraid of being a terrible parent that I'm afraid to engage long enough to figure it out."
(For the record, my husband is in the midst of a medication change to help with his anxiety, irritability, noise sensitivity, and depression. The jury is out on whether this new med combo will be helpful.)
I keep looking for glimmers of progress. We've been doing this long enough that I have something to compare it to. How was last Christmas? What was it like going grocery shopping? How many times a day did we use to head out to walk around the block as a cool down? On all of these fronts, there has been progress.
Tonight I realized something even more quantifiable. The placemats we've used since we got married are bamboo, the kind that resemble long toothpicks rafted together. The first day the kids were home, they rolled them up and started swatting each other with them, laughing hysterically and knocking over glasses in the process. I immediately confiscated them, and we bought cloth placemats for them, ones that can be wiped off after the inevitable spills. More importantly, ones that make lousy weapons.
For Christmas, I got out the holiday placemats. These are cotton ones my sister made us years ago. Since there are only four, when we had company on Christmas day, I hauled out all the bamboo placemats as well.
As we've reverted to our regular place settings, the kids started using the bamboo placemats that match ours. I just set the table, and put actual dishware (not the plastic Ikea set) at all four spots, resting on actual matching placemats. I paused and looked at it, and realized I trust them with all of it. Not that there won't be spills. But no intentional misuse of tableware, and that is enough.
Before having kids, would I have ever thought that "safe use of placemats" would be a milestone?