Wednesday, February 23, 2011

dancing without rhythm = stumbling

Everything is falling apart over here. The kids were both terribly sick, high fevers, congestion, etc etc, and Frances missed school for a whole week. Which meant a week where everything got out of rhythm, a week with ridiculous amounts of TV. Then about the time they started to feel well, I got it too. And holy shit it's a killer of a flu. I now understand why Frances kept waking from her sweaty naps in tears. It just hurt, everywhere. Achiness and fever of 103 and bad bad bad headache and intense sinus pressure and congestion and awful awful. So though they were better, we were still house bound because I could barely drag my ass off the couch to pour them milk. And, again, lots of TV.

Over the weekend Mitch was a single parent because I spent the entirety of both days in bed. I think this was a major contributor to the fallingapartness because Mom was home, but they weren't allowed to see me. How odd that must seem. Once when I was barely awake I heard Frances open the door to the bedroom. She stood in the doorway a moment and watched me, and then quietly backed out and closed it behind her.

Then I discovered that this week is "February break". (What? Who has February break?! Those in the snowbelt, that's who; those in dire need of a trip to the tropics.) So off schedule again, everything askew.

To add to the pile, and in fact perhaps the biggest thing of all, Clark gave up his nap just days before they got sick. He would still like to be taking it, very much, and would gladly sleep 2 hours or more if I let him. But he was staying up until 10pm, which was simply not acceptable. So I cut the nap.

Now he's exhausted and still two and a half, and we have no rhythm to our days. I didn't realize how completely the day hinged on his nap. Now what to do? How to organize? Frankly, I haven't been very good at figuring it out because I can't seem to get well and therefore have no energy for creative parenting.

We have instituted a midday storytime which is helping. But even with that, I'm having to turn on the TV for them so I can nap. I'm just so exhausted....

I've been reading parenting books again, a terrible thing for my morale, this time Waldorf books that insist rhythm is the key to the universe. And to some degree I believe it is, at least when dealing with young children, which is what makes our lack of it so frustrating. I do believe a rhythm to the day gives them a feeling of security and connectedness, and this feeling of security is what they seem to be lacking. Perhaps this is partly the reason for the clinging, for Clark saying, "Mommy, I want you," even as he is wrapped around my leg. Frances said to me yesterday, "Mama, I never want to go away from you ever." I will need to hold onto that 10 years from now when she wants me not at all...

I do have a plan, and it includes storytime and quiet time and a daily walk. I'm waiting for it to either get a little warmer, or for me to feel a teeny bit better before I implement the last. There was one spring day last week (50 balmy degrees!), and most of the snow melted off the yards and up came the mud. We took our trikes outside, and it was glorious. Like coming up from the depths after the bends. Then that night it snowed, and now we're back to our regular 20 degree high and 6 degree low with constant flurries. But for a moment it was spring! It allowed me to see what our lives will be like soon enough. With spring outside the door I think I can get our footing, get a rhythm.

Monday, February 21, 2011

spring please come.

My son took off his mittens and buried them in the snow and now we can't find them. I'm having trouble finding the humor in this, though I know it's there somewhere.

He also buried his Little People fireman, and he seems to think that loss is much more traumatic than his mittens.

He's going to be three in a few weeks, I really can't believe it. He's lengthened out recently, and suddenly he looks like a little boy, so tall and big and grown. He's not a toddler any more. He speaks so completely and well, except when he's screaming, of course; a thing we're still struggling with.

And he is all boy. Before I had kids I thought gender differentiations were more socially constructed than I now believe. Certainly much is, but so much is clearly instinct; it's weird to me. As Mitch and I were watching him toronado through the family room the other day, Mitch commented that Clark, as a little boy, has to practice for killing the big animal. So funny! And if one is indeed going to hunt big animals, he needs to be good at running and climbing and throwing things. Of course, the girls need to practice caring for the babies. I guess I believed until puberty hormones were absent in kids. Certainly and clearly not the case.

As for the caring of babies, Frances has now constructed a miniature house in our dining room, complete with kitchen, playroom, dining room, and bedroom (which is more like a dorm, baby beds lined up in a pretty row). She's never done this before, not to such lengths. And she's scared to death Clark is going to wreck it, not an unfounded fear.

Finally, I will say it: I'm ready for winter to be done. I'm ready for us to be able to step outside barefoot. I've been sick so long I don't remember what it's like to be well. And taking care of kids isn't the easiest thing when you've got no energy. Back to bed for me.

Friday, February 11, 2011

me the mama, the salve.

For the past week I've been nursing sick kids--quite sick, with high fevers and empty eyes and no appetite. Everybody's been home from school. Today, however, I had one half-sick kid and one nearly-well kid with buckets of energy. Aaaaannd now I've got the fever. The last two days I've been achy and exhausted and completely unable to do anything more than chop cubes of cheese and pour cheerios into a bowl. Since it's February and we live in upstate NY, the temp and wind have been such that the only time I even opened the door today was to let the dog out then back in.

So today when Mitch got home, I collapsed on the couch and begged to be released from bedtime duties. It mostly went well, until the end. I thought the kids would be ready for bed early, both of them still somewhat sick, but I probably didn't factor in the fact that we hadn't left the house since Tuesday. Poor Clark wailed and howled. Mama Mama Mama Mama! I listened from downstairs, wondered if I should let Mitch handle it, thought maybe it would be good for Clark to have someone else comfort him. But since he was specific in his request for me, after a few minutes up I went.

Mitch was working on his laptop outside Clark's room, and as I passed him he said, "Are you sure Clark's ready for bed?" The minute I appeared Clark got quiet and wiped his wet face with his palms. Poor guy. It's true that he seemed awake. Not strung-out-and-over-tired awake, just awake. He talked about his stuffed pony. He told me about the cricket on his shirt. I wondered if I should just bring him back downstairs and try again later. I thought I'd sing to him first, however. 

There are two songs I recently reintroduced into our nighttime playlist, both tunes that I sang to him when he was a baby, when I walked the floor to get him to sleep. It's been interesting: one of the two he wants over and over now, every night, and the other makes his eyes heavy in the first few notes. It's like a muscle memory. So tonight, though he seemed so very awake, I started the first song, assuming he would break in with a request for different lighting or some pretzels. 

You can guess where this is going. I wasn't halfway through the first song when his eyes started to droop. By the end of the second round he was so asleep that his thumb had already fallen from his mouth. It took all of three minutes. 

When I emerged from the room Mitch said, "He needed his mama. I wasn't going to do, that's for sure." Apparently Mitch had tried to comfort him, tried to hold him; Clark wouldn't even look at his daddy, just pushed him away. And Clark is crazy about his daddy. 

He's in a mommy stage, there's no question. I knew that already. (So is Frances, by the way, and the two of them together can sometimes be a little more love than I can handle.) But it's interesting to me that he calmed so quickly when I arrived, that he gave in to the deep rest of sleep so immediately. It's true; he needed me. I don't know why, but it seems odd to me that these little creatures need me so deeply, and not just for the safety and regularity of routine (I get that. I am the one home with him all the time, the one making meals and bandaiding scrapes, the one helping him navigate conflicts with his sister and his fear of the monster upstairs), but for something more intrinsic.

I'm not explaining well. I guess I mean that I'm so focused on providing the physical stuff-- cooking, and keeping the house straight, and organizing craft activities, and ushering folks into snowpants and the minivan--that I don't realize how much emotional stuff I provide too. Yet as I'm writing this I'm aware that much of the physical stuff is the emotional stuff. I keep them on regular sleep schedules and pack snacks and watch for overtiredness. I try to protect them from the bombardment of the world, while also show them what that world is. It shouldn't surprise me that he needs just me the way he does, should it? I could see it more easily if I were the only caregiver, if his daddy weren't such an amazing father... Am I still shortchanging my role in this? Do I not see with perspective who I am to my son? I think I don't. 

Frances has lately taken to calling me the "best mama in the world." Every time she does it I hear a little disclaimer in my head. But then, the other day I flipped open the book The Emotional Life of the Toddler to a random page and read that, though the parent's job is to protect the child from emotional stress, no parent can do this all the time because the perfect parent doesn't exist. And it's important to remember that children are resilient enough that they bounce back from emotional strain pretty well. 

Why can't I remember that the perfect parent doesn't exist? Why do I (and so many of the women I know) pressure ourselves to be the perfect parent? Feel we've failed when we fall short of perfection? (Why do I hear in my head, when my sweet daughter tells me I'm the best mama in the world, that no, I'm not. Why don't I just hear the love?) Why is perfection, rather than very good solid parenting, the yardstick?

Can't be. Doesn't exist

I feel like I'm rambling, like I'm circling the core of the thing. Like, if I could say it right, this post would be half as long.

Okay, jumping ship. We'll attribute the ramblingness of this post to the fever, whadayasay? I've got to get some sleep. 

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Hello Again! (and) Toddler Fashion.

Hellllooooo virtual world! My computer is back from the dead, all clean and shiny. It's been back for several days, in fact, but I've been having trouble rustling up a post. This minute, however, I need to vent about the insistence of an almost three year old.

He'll be three in a month, and his twos in general have been dominated by his focus on clothes. I've written about this before (see this post). He doesn't change his clothes so often during the day any more, but he is completely obsessed with short sleeved t-shirts and shorts.

Let's review. We live in Rochester, NY. It's February. The high on good days is 26 degrees. This minute it's 11. I assume there is grass beneath the snow but I haven't seen it in months. Everything in the world is frozen and still except the frigid and uncompromising wind. And Clark wants to wear summer clothes. For a while we just told him this wasn't a choice, that it was winter and he had to have his arms and legs covered. Then somehow the battle became too much to fight and we slid on the t-shirts. Now he's allowed to wear short sleeves as long as he has his wool undershirt on too. (Which means, by the way, that all the long-sleeved shirts he owns are going to go completely unworn. Whatever.) What is driving me nuts currently is that very few of the short sleeved t-shirts now meet his requirements.

Moments ago he threw a complete fit because the sleeves of the shirts in his drawer were not the right length. Meaning, they are still short sleeved, but apparently they have to have a specific length of sleeve, and I have no idea what that is exactly. I know he's two-almost-three, but the compete unreasonableness of it all makes me nuts. And when I throw up my hands and walk away from him he comes completely unglued.

And it's not about sensory issues, by the way. The desire for short sleeves is not because he has issues with having things around his wrist or anything like that. It's a fashion statement.

I'm having trouble taking his plight seriously.

Poor guy.

Enough about that. I have, of course, a zillion other issues I want to raise here on the blog, things I've been thinking about since my computer's been gone. Hopefully I now will be posting with regularity again. I do have some questions about whether this blog has run its course, especially now that the kids aren't babies anymore. It's something I'll explore a bit here with you. The mom blogs are an interesting phenomena, and its curious to think about the purpose they serve. But for now, hello again! Can't wait to get moving.