Sunday, April 26, 2009

tantrum awareness

Last night we'd finished the arduous brushing of teeth before bed and I was trying to get Frances to focus on which books she'd like to read when she started asking for juice. It was a delay tactic--I'm familiar with them. Bedtime in general is one exercise in delay tactics after another, and a test at how savvy mom and dad are about heading them off. The rule is water only after brushing teeth, as she knows, but she was insistent about juice and off she went down the stairs. I came down after her and got her a cup of water and that's when she fell apart. So I picked her up, screaming, and carried her and the cup of water back upstairs. When we were in her room I sat her on my lap and she finally calmed down and drank the water and said, "why I so upset, Mommy?" "You wanted juice," I said. "Oh yeah, but why so upset?" It must be really confusing for her to have her emotions get so out of control. She even talks about times in the past--a couple of days ago we were talking about one particular babysitter we haven't seen in awhile and she remembered when the sitter was here and Frances cried for mommy mommy mommy. This was last FALL when she was in full tantrum mode. She said to me, "I wanted YOU, Mommy. But why I get so upset?"

(I thought I posted about this issue before, about her awareness and confusion about her tantrums, but I just scanned previous posts and couldn't find anything...)

A couple of weeks ago she had a COMPLETE meltdown at a neighbor's when it was time to go home. She was having so much fun that she was simply overcome with emotion and could not get it together at all when I said it was time to go. The neighbor is six and has headbands and strawberry shortcake dolls and Frances' joy about it all was palpable. We were downstairs by the front door trying to get on shoes and coats and she was screaming. Huge tears. I had Clark and snacks and diapers so I couldn't simply pick her up and walk out the door. I finally wrestled her coat on her but she flung it off and would not let me put her shoes on. She was screaming "paci! paci! paci!" and I kept telling her that she could have her paci at home, we didn't have one there, but to get to her paci she needed to put on her shoes. She was leaning up against the wall and finally I put my hands on the wall on either side of her and got her to look at me. I said, "I'm trying to help you. I know you're really upset.You can have your paci at home but to go outside you need to put your shoes on because it's cold and the ground will hurt your feet if you don't have shoes." Now, maybe the tantrum was just wearing itself out, but I don't think so. I think my telling her I was trying to help got her attention. I said again, "You're really upset, aren't you?" and she said--in the middle of the tantrum--"Why? Why I so upset?" Fascinating.

Sometimes I wonder that about myself when I get really worked up. Mitch just likes to point out that she is my daughter. It's probably true.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

working writer

Recently someone commented on a previous post and included a link she thought I might find interesting.

Which I did.

For those of you who are not going to take the time to check the link, it is an article about how most famous writers are male, and those who are female are generally not mothers... Yes, alas, it's not terribly surprising. I have a friend with a 20 month old who just finished a NOVEL in 4 MONTHS and my astonishment is total. (Yay Shara! You kickass!) Now, I haven't read it and it may be complete crap, but who the hell cares? She wrote it. How did she DO that? I have no idea. I'm glad I no longer feel guilty that I'm not writing. My writer friends ask if I'm working on anything and I tell them I'm a mom and the most I can do is write on my blog. I do get a good bit of satisfaction from this little bit of creativity and expression. I'd get even more creative satisfaction, however, if I could figure out what colors to paint my family room and kitchen.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

big girls don't always get big girl beds

We got Frances a toddler bed. Borrowed it from a neighbor whose kid is big. Today before naptime we put it together and I was awfully excited about how excited she was going to be for the big girl bed, but it turns out we did it all wrong. We should have left the bed unassembled in her room for a bit for her to look at and get used to, then put it together but not put the mattress in, for her to look at and get used to some more. Instead, we just put the thing together and put her in it and somehow expected that she would be able to contain her excitement enough to take a nap. HA!


You know, I work so hard to stay ahead of things like naps and hunger. I keep a pretty tight and regular schedule, I have snacks stashed in the car and the stroller and my bag. I tend to dole out my allotment of anxiety about these things because I know that if I can get them to sleep before they are overtired, get them fed before they are starving, then we all won't boil over or melt down. I know this from experience, in fact. It has recently occurred to me, however, that I don't actually have to stay ahead of these things with Clark. Just Frances. If Clark is overtired he fusses a bit and then goes to sleep. If he's overly hungry he fusses a bit and then eats. Today we were out and he missed a nap all together and all that happened is he went to bed 30 minutes early.

But Frances? She's a bit more emotional, and has been from the beginning. I remember being at a friend's house when Frances was 3 months and my friend's baby was 4 months, and Frances got irritated about a little something. In response she flung her arms out to the side and her head back and howled, and my friend raised her eyebrows and said, "A little out of proportion to the situation, dontcha think?" We called her the baby drama queen.

So today with the bed. Up and down the stairs, in and out of the bed, needing her juice, a snack, her baby olive, olive's blanket, a different blanket, some music, the curtains opened. Mitch hung out with her awhile to let her try to work out her excitement. Finally I explained that I needed her to nap, that I needed her to stay in her bed, or at least in her room. I told her if she came out one more time I was going to put her in her crib. Which I finally did. You can imagine the response. I don't doubt it seemed totally unfair. Sobbing, wailing, flinging about, true sorrow. I held her and talked to her awhile and then Mitch took over and held her and talked to her until she was so exhausted from either the crying or the running up and down the stairs that she passed out in his arms, poor girl.

So for now, we've explained, she's going to stay in her crib. When she's not napping or sleeping we'll put the mattress back on the toddler bed and she can play in it, but since she's too excited to actually sleep, she has to spend sleep time in her crib. In a few days, hopefully, we can have her begin to sleep in the bed. Is this transition this difficult for everyone? Is it just my dramatic kid? I now understand why the convertible crib might be a good idea.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

toy love

You'd think we only have one toy in the house. It's the orange and yellow Little Tikes car which was outside until this past weekend.

Clark is completely obsessed with it.

It used to stay in the garage and when Frances or I pushed Clark on the blacktop driveway he dragged his toes and his shoes developed actual holes. I struggled with this, thinking that the shoes are meant to be worn and so what if they look like crap and don't be so uptight forgodsakes, but I couldn't let go of my anxiety about material things ruined, so I brought the car inside where the carpet and hardwood is much kinder to leather. For some reason I didn't foresee the drama that was to come.

Now, every evening, the kids take turns being pushed around the loop that is our downstairs, twice around each. When we tell Clark it's Frances's turn and he has to get out, he looks at us with this completely blank expression, like maybe he just didn't hear us right. We tell him again, and he opens the door and willingly climbs out (they're so compliant at this age!), then stands beside the car and cries torrential agonized tears. Frances ignores him and climbs in and positions her new easter bunny beside her for the ride while Clark stands and cries and cries. All during Frances's ride he totters along behind, whimpering, his face wet.

It's hard to love something so much.

Just tonight he's started to help push Frances as she rides, so big, so pleased with himself. It seems to help with the sorrow of having to get out of the car. Maybe he was sad because getting out meant not being included. Isn't being included what we all really want after all?

Sunday, April 12, 2009

easter and not spring

It's not spring here. The only things we have coming up are the crocuses and the bare pointed tips of the tulip leaves just an inch above the dirt. The trees are still brown and naked, the nights cold. Sometimes in the day it gets up to 50 and you can take off your coat if you're standing in the sun and no wind, but mostly it's some odd place between winter and spring, the world just waiting.

The easter bunny came here of course, but only brought minimal candy. We're pretty strict about that stuff and it's funny to me that I'm that parent. Frances's emotions can be so volatile and sugar only makes things more difficult, so we dole it out in tiny increments. We went to a Unitarian church we're trying out, and then home for lunch and naps. Other than that, it's a regular day here--sunny, colder than it looks, quiet. Mitch is working at the kitchen table and I'm straightening up. It's odd to be here easter without family, with no where to go or gather, and I wonder what our family traditions will turn out to be. I miss my grandmother's house at easter, everything in bloom, standing outside in a light sweater, all my uncles and cousins charging after hidden eggs in the yard, greens and ham inside on the stove.

Last fall I met someone originally from Greensboro and she told me it wasn't the winter that she missed about NC, it was the spring. At the time I thought spring was spring and I didn't understand, but now I do. In North Carolina it goes from being winter to spring overnight, the world leaping alive with surprising colorful insistence. Here I suspect it will be a forward and backward kind of movement, a slow gaining that perhaps isn't even noticeable until we're completely in it. It could still be a ways off.


I have all these projects in my brain that I want to do but I can't seem to find the time or the energy or the two together. I can't figure out if I'm just a lazy ass or if everyone with a two and a half year old and a 13 month old is in the same exhausted place. I recently read a quilting blog that said this is what she does during naptime. And she wasn't just quilting, remember. She was taking pictures of it and blogging about it in addition. What the hell? All I can do during naptime is take a short nap myself (20-30 minutes and something I really really need) then straighten up the kitchen. Sometimes I read about 5 pages of my novel (which right now is The Wettest County in the World by Matt Bondurant and is wonderful). I'm glad I'm reading these days; at least I'm doing something that's just for myself. I think that's essential in the exhaustion/meltdown battle. Do these other people just have more energy than I? Are their kids spaced further apart so that during baby waking hours they have 8 or 10-year-olds to help? Do they have parents that live with them? Maybe they're only 24 which would explain some of the energy thing. (I now fully understand why it is that we are meant to have kids in our early 20s rather than mid to late 30s.) Do they drink 8 cups of coffee a day? Maybe that's the real issue--if only I could drink caffeine, just imagine the things I'd accomplish! It's a thing I mourn regularly.

Then there's the evening time. You'd think that I could work on these projects in the evening. But after we've gotten the kids in bed and the dishes done and counters wiped and toys put away and coats hung and laundry folded, I just don't want to. I'd rather sit on the couch and watch bad tv, or lie on the floor and listen to music, or get in bed 30 minutes early and read my novel. Lazy? Maybe. I just can't tell.

Still my head goes on making plans for these projects. There are so many! Some are fix the house things, painting and new hardware and steaming off wall paper and getting art on the walls; but many more are quilting, or sewing big fun flowers on Frances' t-shirts, or painting a landscape on the inside of the closet in her room. I need to mount a mirror her height in the bathroom and want to paint a low kitchen cabinet with chalkboard paint. Perhaps the exercise of imagining these projects contains some of the satisfaction as following them through. You think?

Or maybe, a year from now, when the kids are bigger and need me less, I'll have time and energy for these things. I hope.

Sunday, April 5, 2009

daily practice

I've been thinking lately that taking care of babies is like having a daily practice--like zen or yoga--that it's something you just do, don't think, don't fight, just do over and over, and there's something amazing in that. These days I really love it and am struggling with it less. Since Clark is finally walking and the kids are a little more self-sufficient it's a bit easier on me.

This idea of daily practice is one of the reasons I think about having another baby; I want more of it, I'm afraid it's going to be over too soon--but then I remember Clark won't go to preschool even for another year and a half. Next year Frances do only 2 mornings and Clark will be with me all the time.

Perhaps when it's over and they're in school I can have a real daily practice of yoga or sitting zazen. I've always wanted this but haven't had enough discipline. I think parenting is teaching me that discipline. It's not something you should struggle for, exert your will over. It's just something you do--no thinking, no mind. Like now with the kids, I don't have to force myself to get up and take care of them, I just do it. No questioning, no struggle, no pride or congratulations. It's just a thing.

And this is my life.

Thursday, April 2, 2009


We're potty trained! Well, mostly. In any case, we are 100% out of diapers during the day. Still use them at night, and we're still having occasional accidents, but we're done with diapers. I say this loosely, of course, since I have a 12 month old who is not even close to done with diapers. Still! Frances is so pleased with herself, and anxious and frustrated with herself when she has an accident. She's clearly struggling with this new direction, this new independence. She often talks in baby talk and wants to be rocked, and she also frequently announces that she's a big girl and a big sister. Today while the babysitter entertained Clark inside, Frances and I jogged together down the block ("Run, Mommy! Run!") and she said, "When I get to be big like you Mommy, I can take care of Clarky and I can chew bubblegum."

"What would you do to take care of Clark?" I asked.

"Fix his bottle, and carry him, and put him to bed, and fix his bottle, and help him, and wipe his face, and take him outside, and bring him inside, and fix his bottle, and take care of him."

Then she said, "And when I'm big like you I will kiss your booboos."

Mighty sweet.