Saturday, March 26, 2016

magic

My son (age 8) still believes. Believes in it all. Santa, the tooth fairy, the wood fairies that live in the "enchanted forest" behind our house (the ones that periodically leave a gift of a glass gem or gold bell), the Switch Witch who comes on Halloween and trades your candy for a toy. Once in a while he makes a grand announcement that he, in fact, does not believe, but then the Switch Witch fails to trade candy for toy on the first night because, even though she was at Target returning things two days before halloween, she forgot all about her duties and neglected to pick anything up. But my son's crushing disappointment leads me to conclude that his proclamations are just for show. He believes.

And tomorrow is Easter. Although I'm pretty sure that the Easter Bunny comes of her own accord and does her thing unbidden, my kids decided to hedge their bets and leave a note with requests. Clark's note says: "Instead of a stuffed animal, can you leave me a playmobil set?" Pretty sure that's not gonna happen. And there are carrots for goodwill or, perhaps, bribery.

For a while I worried that Frances, in particular, was getting too old for this belief. She will be 10 by next Christmas, and aren't we in dangerous territory if she is still hanging on? As a child I was unburdened of belief at age four, so I don't understand the value of continued belief, don't understand what good it does developmentally. But my most recent thought is that there is no harm. That, in fact, belief in this kind of magic is important, that it enables them to believe in unseen things later on: friendship, love, God, goodness.

In fact, isn't Santa really God embodied?? The one who sees us when we are sleeping, he knows when we're awake. He knows if you've been bad or good. He hands down judgements from on high: toys or coal, but who gets coal? A benevolent kind grandfatherly type, and he loves you so much you get to sit on his lap! The protestant ideal.

Plus, I've come to believe they will arrive at the Truth on their own.

So I've let go of the worry. I do not lie to them; when they ask directly (the boy has asked maybe twice in his life) if Santa or the Easter Bunny is real, I simply turn the questions around: "What do you think?" And he enters into a lengthy monologue about his thinking, demonstrating that he wasn't really interested in my answer after all-- he simply wanted an outlet for this thoughts.

Just before this past Christmas, two of his school friends kept telling him that Santa isn't real. He didn't know what to make of this. He brought it up to me several times, what these friends were saying, but interestingly during this time he never asked me directly. Finally he said that he had proven to one of them that Santa is indeed real: he said, "If Santa isn't real, when you write him a letter, where does it go?" His friend said, "Nevermind," and dropped the subject.

And Clark knew then that he had stumped him.
Indeed.

He is the more mathematical and scientific minded of the two. She is the artistic one. Her belief is less wavering-- when he first announced that he thought it was perhaps parents and not Santa or the Easter Bunny that brought things, she said, "Maybe it's the fairies!"

Yet I see the questions behind her eyes. I hear her mind whir when she asks what's in the sealed box filled with Easter candy she happened upon. She chooses to accept my explanation, but she wonders. She suspects. She sneaks around and leaves presents for Clark from the "fairies" or "leprechauns" and shushes me not to tell him. She plays the game for him, the bringer of joy. She understands the function of the magic. She chooses to believe. 

Thursday, March 3, 2016

hello again.

Things are changing for me. I'm in a kind of personal transition, a remaking of myself, a shift of identity and approach. I feel it inside my bones, a basal sliding. And it's most evident right now in my parenting. I'm becoming a different parent.

I haven't written here in a long time. I haven't wanted to. I started the blog when my babies were tiny, to help me through the trials of having tiny babies, and two of them so close together. Around the time Clark turned five I realized I didn't need this blog anymore in the same way. I no longer had babies. My work was no longer the universal work of caring for these tiny people, but was now the complicated work of relationship. And I didn't want to write about that. It felt too personal.

But now... now I want to write again. Now I'm seeing them through new eyes. It's a change in me, the frame through which I look, and I need to process it again.

I thought about starting a new blog--that perhaps this one is finished, or that it is too awkward for me to come back here after so much time away; but here is where I write about these children, after all.

They are different now--they are full people for sure. Clark will be eight on Tuesday, four days from now. Today when I picked him up from school I told him to put on his hat and gloves because the dog and I had walked, and he said, "Awwww! I don't want to walk-- I'm tired." And then he happily hopped from snow pile to snow pile all the way home. The snow here has warmed and softened, and then frozen again, so is a kind of snow cement, the kind you can mostly walk on top of without breaking through, or can slide down the mountain side of the plow pile, a miniature glacier at the end of each driveway. Clark's trick was to slide down on his feet, to land right side up. At one point, watching his evident joy at simply being outside, I said, "It's too bad we walked. You're not having any fun." And he grinned at me.

I want to hug them more. I want to hear them talk. Before, I was emotionally exhausted, was overwhelmed, had trouble giving them my energy. Now I want to be with them. Tremors underfoot.

Frances is nine. She wants all the grown up things--the make up and the clothes and the music, and I've surprised myself that I haven't wanted to resist her more. I loved that little girl she was, but I'm fine with the change. She's not allowed to wear makeup out of the house, but she often wears it inside, and yesterday we went shopping for bras--well, bralettes, little thin sports bra type things with no padding--even though she is shaped the same as she was at five, just taller. She says they keep her warmer, here in the snow belt. Perhaps.

This age is better for me. I loved the little ones, but they pushed my every button, and without meaning to. Somehow the preschool age in particular triggered things in me--I think the tortured child inside me is probably that age. This age doesn't push my buttons the same way. Even the eye rolls, the defiance--I can handle that so much better. Maybe this is why I don't mind the make up and bras-- because the younger ages weren't easy for me to begin with. Maybe I'm eager to let it go.



Thursday, February 26, 2015

anniversary


Fifteen years ago today I woke up in my old life. I called my friend Jim to see if he was going swing dancing later that night but Jim wasn't home. Instead, his roommate Mitch answered the phone. (Ah, landlines) We chatted. We chatted some more. We talked about our recent failed romantic endeavors and who knows what else. Eventually Mitch invited himself to come with me to the coffee shop. We spent that whole day together-- played chess, ate lunch at First Carolina Deli, threw frisbee in the park-- and danced together that night. It was in the park on the cool grass and warm sunshine that I looked at Mitch and realized everything had changed. From that day on we were together. Five months later we moved to Idaho. Two years later we were married. Six years later we had our first baby. And this morning -- fifteen years later -- I was awakened in snowy upstate NY by a girl lying on top of me, the full long length of her, saying, "I love you, Mommy. Time to get up!"

resistance, disconnection, and Clarktime

There was a time -- about a year, in fact -- when Clark's response to every single request, no matter how minor or innocuous, was NO. (He was not two when this happened, by the way. He was five.) "Clark, please buckle your seat belt," "Clark, please wash your hands for dinner, " "Clark, it's time to put on jammies," "Clark, can you please clean up your legos?" No. Nonononono. Sometimes a screaming NO!!! 

I thought I had broken him somehow.

And then one day he said something amazing. He said, "okay." It was shocking. He started saying it more and more. "Clark, please put on your shoes so we can go." "Okay, Mama." Every time he did it I was stunned briefly. I realized it had indeed been a stage. The No Stage. We had moved on! But, of late, at 6 1/2, he has slipped back in. I'm beginning to believe this is just his way, his style.

My latest response is to look at him calmly, pull out my phone, and say, "Just a moment. I'll be with you in a moment. I just need to make a note..." When he asks what I'm doing I explain, "Oh, just making a note of how you are unwilling to comply with this very simple and reasonable request, so that I'll remember when you next ask for me to help you with something." Last night his next request came -- I am not kidding -- within two minutes. It's a problem, frankly, that I do too much for him anyway. So when he, mere moments later, asked me to bring him the scissors, I said, "No, I don't feel like it." He smirked. I said it many more times in the next hour, as it turns out he asks for my help about every five minutes. Each time he smiled a little, a sort of understanding smirk. Maybe it will work. At least it may teach him the reciprocal nature of relationships, rather than my lording over him and forcing him to put the dang cereal box away. And yet, perhaps at 7 years old, he is still too young for this reciprocal concept of help to mean too much to him.

A-Ha Parenting says that his unwillingness to be helpful and agreeable is about his disconnection with me, and that if I can fix our connection, his attitude will change. I will buy this. When he was little, probably around 1 and 2, I was so depressed and impatient, and I was not a stellar mom. He was a screamer then too, and sometimes when his screaming button was stuck on and my migraines were active and my patience was thin thin thin, I screamed back at him. Sometimes I was rough with him. Sometimes I put my hands on him. Sometimes I frightened him. Sometimes I hated myself. I feel certain that I taught him that I could not be trusted, that I was not entirely on his side. So, yes, the connection could use some fixing. (Or is this just the way of the world, his story and mine, and the damage done? Should we just go forward from here and hope for the best? I have no idea. No one has any idea how to do any of this, it seems to me. But I do take solace in Dr Laura Markham in that she says the connection can always be repaired, though it may take time and considerable energy. I choose to have hope.)

So yesterday I also began something else new: Clark Time. It's what A-Ha Parenting suggests (they call it Special Time), setting aside time that belongs to the child only, 15 minutes where you do nothing but be with him, and play whatever he chooses (actually they say 10 but that seemed too short to me). No fixing dinner, checking your phone, helping another kid. His time alone. Frances had gone upstairs to practice her ukelele and he asked for me to help with something, so I thought it a good time to introduce. I told him about it, told him we could do whatever he wanted except screen time. I set the timer. He chose for me to help him cut out paper puppets from his Mo Willems Pigeon activity book, and then we colored together.

The 15 minutes went so quickly for me that I eased the timer back a bit when he wasn't looking. Funny thing -- I didn't want it to be over so soon! Today we organized his Pokemon cards, and again I didn't want it to end. I had a great time. It will be interesting to see if it changes his behavior on a larger scale. I have no idea...

I've also started -- just last night -- taking a parenting class about play therapy. I will be trying out some of their ideas with Clark too. Will keep you updated.

It stands to reason that we can indeed heal wounds, and that we can show people we have changed, that we can be trusted although we could not previously. It's a malleable world we live in.

I teach a writing class and the women in it are my mother's age. I love them oh so dearly, think of them as very wise and wonderful. Yesterday I was talking about this issue with Clark, and they all said, "Don't worry. The relationship will fix itself." At first I took solace, but then I realized they are of my mother's generation, the generation that parented me, and perhaps they were speaking out of that generation's perspective and limited wisdom. My generation is certainly trying to do things differently than have ever --really -- been done before. The world is different now, faster moving with more pressures and choices, and we have seen how our parents failed us, not simply as individuals, but as an entire generation. Our parents were not prepared to parent in this new changing disconnected world. They didn't have the tools. We are trying to acquire them now. Godspeed.


Friday, January 30, 2015

snowbelt winter, and my kids at 8 and almost 7

I heard from two different folks that the sunrise this morning was spectacular, but I'm having trouble imagining that because it would require SUN and today is so completely soaked in gray that I feel it press up against me.

Yesterday there was sun. For the first time in a hundred years, a full sunny day, glistening on the snow, amazing, delicious. I walked the dog for a long time, even though the air was cold cold cold. I felt like I was drinking long pulls of cool water, the sun. That was yesterday. Today there is steel gray everything plus hail. 

I definitely have the winter blues. Seasonal affective disorder. Cabin fever. Crazy person syndrome. The conviction that everything is heavy, everything is hard, everyone is tired, life is monotone and endless. Doesn't that sound great? 

We live in the SnowBelt and this is an actual Thing-- four cities in a line, snug up against Lake Erie and Lake Ontario, all writhing under the power of Lake Effect. We get more snow than anyone else in the country (although whenever I see those statistics I never see Alaska listed. Do they just think of Alaska in another class? Are they only interested in continental US? And how on earth does anyone live in the Alaska winter anyway? I cannot imagine. Rather, I can imagine--SnowBelt cold and gray but with less light and more dreary dreariness. What I can't imagine is how people live and work there and come out sane on the other end). 

It hasn't been snowing much this year. Winter is always gray and cold, but usually there is more snow, more of it blowing around in the air. I miss it. It's what makes all this tolerable. 

Ok, I'm done with the weather.

Frances says she wants to grow up and marry a regular guy and he will win the lottery (why he instead of she?) and they will live in a mansion with a pool and go to Disney world and have three kids two boys and a girl. And for work she will be a bartender. 

I said, "That's your plan? That's what you aspire to do with your life?" Wow. 

Clark said he is going to grow up and not have kids although the getting married thing is unclear, and he will have a cabin in the woods and collect shotguns. He will also have a house in the country. And for work he will be an artist. 

Who are these kids? And what on earth does Frances know about tending bar? For the record, they haven't been to Disney and no one in our family owns a gun, shotgun or otherwise. No idea. 

Recently I had two far away friends ask me to post again on the blog, a way to keep up with me and with the kids. And recently two new friends asked to see the blog so I forwarded them a link. Whenever anyone asks to see the blog I take a look at it too, try to see what they will see, and then I get a bit sidetracked reading about my kids when they were littler. So much of it I don't remember, and I'm so glad I have it written down. One of the posts I read was about toddler Clark and how to keep him in his bed at night, and I asked for help and suggestions. One of the comments (by anonymous) said: "OMG. Makes me so glad for picking a sleeping philosophy and sticking with it. Parenting doesn't have to mean giving up your life, your boundaries, and routines.  My suggestion? Toddler bed--not a fancy bribe, just a bed. In his room. (It's where one sleeps.) Put him back. And back. And back. And back. Period. I just don't see it as subjecting him to some awful powerlessness. Kids need to know that a trusted adult will make decisions, provide structure, be in control, and can be relied on to do just that."

Thing is, I wasn't always a trusted adult, I don't think. I wasn't always in control. Sometimes I pulled the van into the garage and sat in the driver's seat with my head on the steering wheel, sobbing. Sometimes when Clark wouldn't stay in his room, I would become every so slightly hysterical and scream a tiny bit and lose my cool. Sometimes the gray and the toddler hysteria and the schlepping of things and the lack of support and the complete tetheredness was simply too much for me and I would break. Just a little. I agree that kids need a trusted adult to help them cope with their big and confusing feelings, but sometimes a trusted adult simply isn't available. It's unfortunate. It's imperfect. It's the way it is. 

But now--now that they are in first and second grades, now that Frances is 8 and Clark is almost 7, now that they can dress themselves and feed themselves and empty the dishwasher and vacuum the family room-- now I can be a trusted adult. Now I can stand solidly on the ground and provide a home base, a place to reground, to regroup, to check in to see if everything is normal, is ok. Now I think of myself as a good parent (thank all that is good and holy). My earlier struggle was the primary impetus for the blog in the first place. Which perhaps is why I slid away.

But since loved ones have requested, and since I'm still teaching the memoir class and wanting to do some writing too, I'm going to spend some time here. Hello again! If anyone is still out there, hello!!

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Back on the horse, and Halloween Sleep

A couple of weeks ago was halloween. Some of my friends think it's nuts, but we don't limit how much candy the kids eat on halloween; we feel they need to experience the glory of gorging now and then, and the sickness of what happens after. If they don't do it now they certainly will do it later, so why not be present for the fall out.

But that's just the set up for what I want to talk about. The gorging, of course, took place late in the evening, after much tearing around the neighborhood in a frantic trick or treat blitzkrieg, when they usually would be going to bed. They aren't used to very much sugar in their little bodies, and certainly not so much chocolate-bound caffeine, and I was certain they weren't going to sleep very well.

Do you know about the Switch Witch? She has a very strong sweet tooth, or is perhaps quite greedy--hard to say--but if you leave your candy out for her she will take it in exchange for a toy. She browsed the aisles of Target a couple of days ago and the comedy is not lost on me that she emerged with a small Ninjago Lego set for Clark and a Barbie with a blue stripe in her hair for Frances. (A couple of years ago, wedded to the Waldorf Way, I would not have seen this coming. Funny how you don't know what kind of parent you're going to be.)

Nonetheless, the Switch Witch arrived, claimed her candy and delivered her gifts not long after the kids were asleep. Mitch and I stayed up for a long while after that, and then at midnight as we lay in bed talking, Clark awoke to use the bathroom. Mitch and I got quiet and listened (whispering that someone needed to put on some clothes), then huddled under the covers as Clark entered our room, eyes bleary and hair a mess, his lego set clutched in his hand. He clearly thought it was morning, and when we explained and then convinced by showing him the clock, he climbed into our bed beside me, pulled the covers up around him, and fell asleep.

Mitch and I stayed where we were and whispered for a good while, somehow got on the subject of when the kids were babies and no one ever slept through the night. How long did that go on, I wondered, the not sleeping? Was I sleep deprived for years on end? And why is it that I don't remember clearly? Because I was so sleep deprived? Or because of the general amnesia that comes with being a mom?

I remember this: when they were still nursing but no longer newborns, they woke once a night to eat, and then when they weened (they both self weened: Frances at 6 months (no idea why on earth..) and Clark at a year) they still woke and had to be helped back to sleep. What did we do? Rock them? Hold them? Why can't I remember? After talking a while with Mitch I did remember the sound of the cry rising up, a complaint, a whine, nothing too urgent at first. And Mitch or I would nudge the other, say the kid's name, and the other would roll out of bed and stumble into the hallway before opening an eye.

We played musical beds-- everyone started in his own, but sometime in the night a kid would cry and one of us would go to him, and lie down in his bed, and fall asleep there. This is why they both have full beds rather than twin. Or a kid would come to our room and want in bed with us. We tried to mostly take her back to her room and lie there with her, but sometimes that was too much to accomplish, and the kid made her way under our own covers. Two hours later, when I realized I was sleeping not even a little with a writhing slumbering child up against me, I would remove myself from my bed and retreat to her now empty child's one. Many a morning I woke there alone, the sun gleaming through her pink curtains. It's all coming back to me now.

For years I didn't sleep a full night. Years. It wasn't bad--it wasn't 4 times a night like some moms complain. I didn't think too much of it. There was a point with Clark where I did get desperate enough to ask advice on facebook about how to keep him in his bed, asleep, but for the most part I just took it as the texture of this chapter of our lives.

And now! Now everyone sleeps in his own bed. For the whole night. Every night. Every night except Halloween when some people wake to pee at midnight and think it's 7 am. Now everyone sleeps in his own bed every night and wakes in the morning and goes downstairs and pours his own cereal into bowls he himself has fetched from the cabinet. And I sleep on.

I wonder how much of my current parenting sanity has to do with sleep alone. It's impossible to say, but I wonder anyway.

There was a woman in Target day before yesterday with 2 babies in a stroller. I asked her how close in age they were, and she said 364 days. She was smiling, pleasant, didn't look strung out or unbathed or filled with rage. "How is it? Is it hard?" I asked. She shrugged. Shrugged! "It's great!" she said. "Well, they both sleep through the night, so that helps." "You must have lots of family to help," I said. "I do."

I've been teaching a writing class for over a year now, reading their stories and commenting, digesting and suggesting, and it's been making me want to write. I keep wanting to write, but I keep not writing. But here I am! Look at this! My blog--at least it's a start. Maybe it will be something larger next. It's like doing cartwheels after so long. A little dizzying, but the legs are straight I'm pretty sure. Cartwheels down the driveway and after a bit they curve and you lose control, there's only so many you can do in a row. But here I am. Showing up. Excellent.

Sunday, November 17, 2013

keep this moment


Wegmans on a Sunday, midday, is a crazy place. Craaazy. I didn't know so many people even lived here, much less shopped all at once. I tell you this this because the kids and I found ourselves there last Sunday at 2pm. Although both kids wanted to hang off the sides of the cart like trash men, I said someone had to ride in the cart because the store was just too damn crowded. They decided they both wanted to, one sitting between the other's legs, stacked back to front like a train. I pointed out that if they were both in the cart the food wasn't going to fit. "Sure it will," said Clark. "We can sit on it."

They had a blast. Seeing as my cart was 95lbs heaver than it should be, I focused on not plowing over people's ankles, so I wasn't paying much attention to the letter of their play, but jeez they were having some fun. Laughing and laughing and rocking the cart, funny faces and funny scenarios and funny rhymes. Everyones' heads turned when we passed. In every aisle. Frances happens to have the best laugh on the planet, magic chimes in her belly (seriously - someone needs to record it for advertisements) and they drew mega attention.

One woman covered her mouth to try to keep from laughing at them. As we squeezed between her and the coffee grinder she said, "I'm sorry. It's probably not helpful. I can't help it." Another person asked, "are they always this happy?" "Absolutely," I said.

At home afterwards, I marveled at how pleasant it all was. Me, two kids, Wegmans midday on a Sunday. How did we get here? It feels like a room we accidentally wandered into.

The next day my friend Emily came over with her two kids. Apparently she had spent some time wandering the extremely crowded aisles of Wegmans herself, and she described her experience in colorful detail. She did not have the miraculous and unanticipated success that I had (no one even hassled me for the free cookie! They were having too much fun to even remember!!).

Emily's description of her 23-month-old's flinging himself to the floor in the checkout line and taking the two bottom rows of candy bars with him was hilarious, and it also made me realize something: I don't remember! I don't remember. I don't remember exactly how trying it is to grocery shop with a toddler. I remember the comedy, and the anxiety about what was to come as I pulled into the parking lot, but not the dark desperation, the embarrassment, the feeling of failure.

Clark is only five and a half. I know moms forget, that somehow the human brain filters out the horrific numbing exhaustion and defeat (and the labor contractions), and keeps safe the memory of pure love and adorableness. But that quickly? It was only 3 years ago that I wrote this blog post. It hasn't been long. Although he's bigger, he still has to watch counter corners for fear of whacking his head. He's little. He still wants to be carried and sleeps with his blankie and cries if the legos won't snap together easily.

It's bizarre that our mama minds do that with so much sweep and reach. This ability is, of course, what keeps the human race from becoming extinct, but it is also why women put such pressure on each other inadvertently: they only remember the joy joy joy and can only assume you are feeling it too. Which you are. Just not at this moment in the check out line yes they are adorable thank you for saying so i'm trying to enjoy every minute yes I know it goes by so quickly no pressure there. Which makes you feel like you must be doing it all wrong for it to be so painful that you want to burst into hot tears this minute.

But you're not. Doing it wrong. And I'm not either, cuz hey look at the cool battery robots we made yesterday with a box of batteries and a glue gun! Plus, yay us we made it through Wegmans without anybody shouting or crying or even whining! I think I'll pat myself on the back for that. Pat pat.




clutter makes me craaaazzzzyyy

I wrote this post last month and I don't know what happened or why it wasn't posted, but here it is. It's mostly one long gripe, and if you're not up for that at the moment I suggest you skip it. But since my mom prints these blog posts and I collect them in a giant binder as a sort of record of the childhood of my children, I'm going to post it. Cheers!

*

Last month, the night before Frances's 7th birthday, I sat down on the family room floor at 11pm with wrapping paper and the biggest stack of gifts I've seen since last christmas. Seriously - it looked like christmas. Gifts from us, from my dad, from Mitch's parents. Multiple from each. I had a moment of pure panic that the affluence in which we are raising our children, are raising this entire generation, is going to have dire consequences down the road. I think I have this same panic every birthday and christmas as I arm myself with scissors and tape and colorful paper. It makes me want to 1) give the kid only half of what I have in front of me, saving the other half for the next holiday, and 2) throw out or goodwill or recycle 80% of the toys we already own. I seriously need some new storage options.

Let me tell you: it was a bumpy start to the school year. Everyone came down with a hideous flu about 10 minutes after school started (here I am complaining though I promised I wouldn't in a previous post. So sorry.), and Frances missed 5 of the first 8 days of school. For me, of course, the flu hung on and hung on way past when the kids were well and doing laps around the first floor, and since all I could muster was the minimal in the way of meals and not much else but lying on the couch, my house went to shit. Major clutter like a tide rising that I can't dam. It just builds and builds, piles of paper creeping creeping growing across counters, heaps of used but still clean sweatshirts and fleeces and blankets and I don't know what all on chairs and sofas, baskets of clean laundry to fold, toys toys toys.

Clutter makes me anxious.

I used to have this magical and inexplicable relationship with a sitter wherein she whisked the kids away one afternoon a week, fed them dinner elsewhere, bathed them and put them in jammies, then texted me to tell me she was on her way so I could vacate the premises for their arrival. While they were gone I straightened the house. All of it. Then I breathed an enormous sigh of relief. I received her text, walked the dog, and didn't have to participate in bedtime. After she and the kids were upstairs and in bed I would sneak back in the house and down into the basement where I would finish the laundry. It was heaven.

But she went and got engaged, and now is busy planning a wedding (in which my kids are the flower girl and ring master, as Clark likes to call it). She doesn't have time for a sandwich much less kid occupying. And I don't have the quiet of an empty house to straighten. Turns out a solid straighten every 7 days is really what it takes to keep us from sinking under papers, random plastic things, loose change. I gotta figure something out. I apparently can't get the house organized when the kids are here, leaving debris behind them like a cyclone.

A couple of years ago someone handed me a book called The Highly Sensitive Person. It's a bad name for what the author is trying to get across, which is not emotional sensitivity (getting feelings easily hurt) but sensory sensitivity - to noise, crowds, commotion, chaos. I'd never before thought of myself as a sensitive person in this way, but turns out I am. It helped me to see myself differently and to respect my limitations a bit more.

All of this is to say that the clutter in my house is making me NUTSO. (This post is really just one big whine) I have got to get a handle on it. Next year the kids will both be in school full day and then I will have no excuses. I can't wait.

Friday, October 4, 2013

supermom yearning is the pits

I'm exhausted. All from stressing myself out.

Today is Frances's 7th birthday, and I didn't start seriously planning her party or considering gifts until about 4 days ago. Thank you thank you Amazon Prime and your 2 day shipping, else I would be seriously up a creek.

Plus, pinterest. I opened my pinterest app yesterday, knowing full well the danger and believing I could guard against the pressure to be Lunatic Perfect Mama, but still wanting - needing - to get some help and ideas for the party that is going to take place mere days from now. Which I got: thank you beaded fairy bubble wands and mushrooms made from apple slices and marshmallows. But I also - of course - got the other too. The pressure to make a cake like this one, to set up a party that looks like this one (or this one, or this one), to go above and way beyond and create something magical that my child will remember forever. Which of course she won't. Which is why I am having a Perfectly Acceptable party that includes popcorn and grapes for snack, sidewalk chalk on the driveway, and decorate your own cupcakes rather than the masterpiece I usually attempt.

I have to keep reminding myself: Good Enough Mama is actually healthier for the kids, sanely deciding to forego the cake in favor of less stress, being able to enjoy books on the couch instead of rushing stressing short tempered all to win the non-existant pinterest award. Still, I cannot get the voice out of my head that says I'm a bad mama if I can't do this again (the link is the cake I made for her 5th birthday fairy party), when in fact all the kids want to do is play together. That cake does not make me a good mama, although it was fun and I'm very proud of it.

I was going to do away with a cake not only for the party, but even for tonight, the actual birthday night, and was going to take the kids to Wegmans to pick out the these super fancy cupcakes they always beg for. (You gotta see these things. Seriously gross major white flour white sugar all sugar rush and crash. If I ate one of those things I might die. But also amazing for a grocery store. That place may be the #1 reason to live in Rochester. Not kidding.)

Then after school Frances mentioned her cake for tonight, and there I was, 4 pm, turning on the oven and tying my apron. I opened a 1945 Better Homes and Gardens and made a chocolate fudge cake recipe I've never tried before. I used 1/2 whole wheat flour and 1/2 Bob's Red Mill gluten free mix. As we sat down to dinner (take out chinese, at Frances's request) I put the two layers in the fridge to cool enough to frost, which I did with plain whipping cream because I didn't have time to make actual frosting. It was delicious.

And because of the cake, because I was able to whip it up at the last minute, from scratch, a double layer frosted in pale yellow with pink sprinkles, for that evening I felt like Supermom. I keep thinking about a post on another mom blog that admits her strengths (pintrest worthy parties in fact) and acknowledges the things she doesn't do so well, not in a self-depreciating way, but in a so what way. (this is an excellent post, btw. Read it.) Cuz we all excel at something, we are all succeeding somewhere in our parenting. And none of us are doing it all. This is the trap pinterest brings us: the illusion that moms should be doing it all, and doing it with perfectly organized houses and great outfits. It's not true.

But it is true that we all do something beautifully, whether because we prioritize or because we're born with it, or because we outsource. (I make cakes!)

Even with that major cake success, the anxiety about the party 3 days from now has decended. I don't have time for perfect party planning. I don't have time. Last year I when I thought of decorate your own cupcakes (her birthday falls in a really inconvenient time for party planning it turns out) I thought of myself as brillant. This year I just feel like a slacker. Which I'm not - I just seriously don't have time, it is clear I don't have time, just acknowledge your limitations forcryingthefuckoutloud.

Sheesh. I've gotta give myself a break. Sometimes the guilty parenting voices are so loud. And not only do they lie to you and take up space in your brain, but they suck your energy and keep you from being the best mom you can be. The good enough mom. That one.

Sunday, September 29, 2013

new world, big kids

So I guess I need to address the very obvious fact that I've been away awhile. Looked like I jumped ship, didn't it? Not entirely true, because I've been writing half posts and never completing them, thinking about writing posts that I don't even begin. And then there's that other blog still percolating. I'm inclined to believe that intention should count for something, somewhere.

And then in that last post I didn't even acknowledge the oh-so-long break in posts. That's because I got moving with the writing and didn't want to stop for explanations.

Let's just pretend that you're already caught up, shall we? I hate coming back after a break because I feel I have to address the absence in a post that isn't really a post but some space filler of explanation that essentially always means the same thing: blah blah blah. Life takes a winding course and except for tragedy it's all mostly the same. I'll let you know if there are any tragedies.

I've moved into a new parenting time slot, did you know? Since I last hung out with you there have been major developmental changes. I heard this truth most loudly at an event for folks with babies and very young children recently. I happened to be there without kids so my attention was not diverted by my perpetual role as referee (oh the bickering drives me craaaazzzyyy). I looked around at the strollers and diaper bags and parents chasing escapee toddlers, and I thought "I don't live in this world anymore." It was a funny realization, especially since it should have been obvious. Those days were so tiring, a hundred hours each, and ran on one after the other without pause. Although intellectually I knew it wouldn't last forever, I never believed it. Suddenly I felt naked without my stroller: a kind of shield, a buttress, and let's face it - so helpful with the schlepping of stuff.

Things changed and I didn't even notice when it happened. I've moved from babiesandpreschoolers to schoolagedkids. The most obvious illustration of this new world is school, but the most important difference is developmental. It has to do with a mental progression, an ability to understand explanations, to not completely lose one's shit when asked to clean up the legos, to control reactions when frustrated hungry tired overwrought. Mostly.

The immediate down side is that the first of school also (evidently) means a soup of germs, which felled us straight away. Looking back on this blog, I want to acknowledge that I have spent a good amount of time enumerating our illnesses, which are many. I've spent a lot of time complaining about being ill, about fevers and stomach flus and many tv filled sick days in preschool. More weight in illness than a blog should carry. So none of that now except to say that because I've done nothing but lie on the couch or take care of sick kids for over 2 weeks now, my house is a DISASTER. Which makes me Crazy Lady. Just so you know the temperature of our spaceship.

So. Kindergarten and First Grade. A brave new world. I no longer have a child in the Waldorf school, which is sad, but it's also kind of exciting for the next thing, for us to be here.

And where is here? It is with a girl turning seven this minute, a girl who is sometimes overcome with so much love that she just has to say it, "I love you so much, Mama."It is here with a boy who is right on the very tip edge of losing the last of his babyness, and he's scared to see it go, scared not to be a baby and feel coddled, scared to have to learn and accomplish things.

video

It is here. Here where we all put on our shoes and our jackets at 8 am, leash the dog and trek to school 3 blocks away, watching for the trolls under the bridge. Here where Clark often pulls away from my kisses, where Frances is apart from me all day in a climate I know very very little about. It's odd to have her gone away from me so much, to feel so out of touch with her social life. I have to just trust that she will make good decisions, that she will choose the way that is warmed by the light. I know that often when I ask about their days they will not tell me, and I have to be open and present, so that when they do want to talk I am listening. I don't want to miss it.