Friday, October 30, 2009

i am two different moms.

Unacceptable amount of time between posts. I haven't been wanting to write lately, have been sort of coasting along rather than examining my life and mothering--which is a good thing.

I've recently realized that I've been a better mother to Clark than I have to Frances. Clark is easier to mother--that's the biggest reason. Yesterday I had trouble at the end of a play date wrangling two kids into socks and shoes and coats, and we got home late for Clark's nap. If this had been 18 months ago and Frances was the one late for a nap I would have been so anxious, a mess of rushing and panic and irritability, and with good reason: it would have meant a looming tornado and possibly no nap at all (the result of which, as you know, is an entire afternoon and evening of tornados, one after the other). But with Clark it only means a little grumpiness and then immediate sleep. (When I got him out of the car he put his blanket down on the filthy floor of the garage and lay on it...) It was/is in those/these anxious moments that I parent badly--that White Trash Mama appears and tosses the Little Tykes slide down the basement stairs (just as an example). These moments come when I feel out of control--not of the kids, but of schedules, or meals, or other things I believe I should be able to control if only I pay enough attention. I know I'm a little fanatical about things like nap schedules, but now I realize that it's not just me--I had to be because Frances required it if she were to remain collected. Clark glides along much better, and I can relax about these things. And when I relax I yell less, I rush less, I like life more, I parent better.

But it's also timing. Clark and I went to the mall earlier this week while Frances was in school and it was so much fun. I kept thinking how Frances wasn't so jolly and agreeable and fun at this age. Then I talked to my mom on my cell while Clark climbed on and off a bench and squinched his eyes at me, and she pointed out that when Frances was Clark's age I had a two month old and had just moved half way across the country. Oh right. I guess we weren't hanging out at the mall. My mom said Frances was indeed this much fun, I just missed it. Yup, I did.

Today, though, Clark and I were at Home Depot and it's christmas there, all the inflatable yard art displayed. It reminded me that I used to take Frances there when it was too gross to go to the park--to get out of the house and look at the yard art and christmas trees. (Ah, the simple pleasures.) As Clark and I were leaving he stepped into a little shed they had displayed and stomped around inside. I leaned in the door and said "boo" and he laughed and laughed. We had a great time. And that reminded me of being at Costco with Frances--another regular outing of ours--when I was pregnant with Clark. They had some very similar sheds displayed and we played the same game for all kinds of time, in no hurry at all. This must have been during those few weeks after I stopped working but before Clark was born. She was fun. And every bit as charming.

I used to worry about this discrepancy in my mothering, worry that perhaps Frances is difficult because of my anxiety and Clark is easy because of my lack, but I think that's backwards. No, they are different kids tempermentally, and I can't help but react to them differently. Truth is that my temperment is more in harmony with Clark's. And that's just something that is, just part of my story and each of theirs.

Monday, October 19, 2009

pacifier love

She's three years old, there are sores around her mouth, and her bite has a gap she can stick her finger in. It's time. A couple of weeks ago I tried to change the rule so that she only used it upstairs in the house--anywhere upstairs--but she was so distraught and anxious that I told her we could wait to set that rule. Turns out she was getting sick. But for a few days I talked to her about how we were going to have to change the rule soon, told her about her teeth and about the sores and how the paci was causing these problems. I told her how sorry I am that she can't have the paci forever. I also told her big girls don't use them. I don't like playing the big girl card--I believe it often backfires and encourages them to just act like and decide to be babies. Also, it's so much pressure--to be big and grown perhaps before they're ready. But it's also the truth. She's three now, she's getting to be a big girl, and the truth is that big girls don't use them.

So I waited a few days, talked about it, and got her sort of on board. The doctor says we should just have the paci disappear one day, just get lost. He says there will be a few rough nights after that (yeah, I'd say!) but I don't know. I don't know that I like that approach. It seems heartless, for one thing. She's having to adjust to many new things, to new skills and the idea of being big, which is scary to children. And just then to take away the thing that gives her the most comfort...? I don't know.

She doesn't ever need it at school, or at the kid area at the gym, or at her sitter's house, so clearly it's just a habit. But the anxiety of not having it at bedtime or when she's really really upset is very real to her. Just because I think it's not necessary does not diminish her very real feelings about it. It seems to me that having it just vanish is disrespectful to her, and also doesn't give her very much credit for being able to do this on her own. It is her paci, after all. And I think she's capable of understanding the problems it causes. My next step is to get her to the dentist and let the dentist tell her about how she's going to have to let it go. Maybe an authority figure that isn't me will help things along.

She's definitely got an oral fixation. Downstairs, now that the paci's not allowed, there's much gum chewing. I'm fine with that. But if we can break the habit down here, and when she's watching tv, and when she's in the car, it will be great progress. Then maybe we can restrict it just to bedtime. Mitch says it's kind of like quitting smoking by cutting down to fewer and fewer cigarettes and the feeling I got from that was that he thought it was a bogus approach, but come to think of it I quit smoking that way. Funny.

Friday, October 2, 2009


I quit working about five weeks before Clark was born. During that time I couldn't carry Frances because I was so hugely pregnant and uncomfortable, which meant that everywhere we went we walked at her 16-month-old pace. I had a great time with her then. Going to the park, the grocery, the museum, just climbing up and down the front steps. I didn't want it to end. In fact, when Clark was born I mourned the loss of my alone time with Frances, something I blogged a little about here. That blog post doesn't really describe the sorrow I felt. Loss, sadness, something gone from me forever. My relationship with Frances changed, irrecoverable.

But! Something interesting is transpiring. Clark is now about the age Frances was when he was born. (This is hard for me to believe... I CAN NOT imagine having a newborn right now omg.) And now with Frances in school in the mornings, Clark and I have some time to ourselves. Today I trimmed one of the trees out front and he helped me drag the limbs to the curb. He was adorable--so excited to be helping, pulling a leafy branch behind him and then heaving it onto the pile. He'd stand there and look at his success and grin, then turn and toddle to get another. Today it occurred to me for the first time that I'm getting time with him in this 18 month old stage, at just the age when I had to give up time with her. It's redeeming. I'm remembering why I so loved being with her--how much fun this age is. He's still a baby, still so cute in that baby way, but he's also able to point to the doll's ears and then his own, to say "blue" and point out everything blue in the room, to tell me through gestures that he wants pretzels and not yogurt. He has opinions, but he also finds everything so exciting that I can take his mind off trying to follow the cat across the street by suggesting he help me pull the limbs to the curb. It's not distraction with which I succeed (oh no--there's no distracting), but with suggestion of something else enticing. And there's so much in the world to see and discover!

Most of last summer, when Clark was tiny and Frances was not yet two, is for me a blur. I have a picture of them on the front steps of our new house together, but I don't remember what it was like. I don't remember what SHE was like. I was so entangled in taking care of a newborn, so sleep deprived and overwhelmed and drained. That, combined with the loneliness and sheer effort of the move, and I feel like I lost nearly a year of her life, missed it all together. I'm glad to have his.