Sunday, July 31st, 2011 | Secret Buddhist | 7 Comments
I struggle with impatience.
With ranting voices in my head telling me how much I SUCK, and Everything SUCKS and my whole day is a great big pile of SUCKITUDE. Which is just patently not true, but the voices are amazingly determined.
This is as bad for me as it is for the rest of the family. Worse, really, because I have to listen to both the voices AND me yelling or snarling or snarking, while they just have me. And they can get away from me, while I cannot.
So, in summary, it is far, far better for me if I can stop that cycle before it starts. Which, sadly, I only figured out in the past couple of years, meaning that I lived with the whole thing for far, far too long. And meaning, now, that as I said the other day, when I can’t stop it–when I rant and crank and work myself right up into serious misery–it’s even worse, because I know I have no one to blame but myself.
So I’ve tried to stop. Of course, if it were that easy, I’d just stop, and there I would be, and everything would be sunshine and roses for the entire world as we all just decided to be kinder to ourselves and by extension to others. World peace, right there. But that is not the way my mind works, it is wired to want things to be EXACTLY LIKE IT WANTS THEM TO BE and if it does not get that, then off we go. I have to convince myself daily that it is better, and possible, to stay happy even without things going my way.
And my new way of doing that is to write helpful things on my arm.
I am a word person, words are what mean most to me, and knowing the words to use to answer the voices is what’s most helpful. But my brain has trouble remembering to, um, use its words in the face of rising winds. So I write them on my arm. Here’s what I’ve written this week:
Do not let impatience overcome you.
Peace is possible.
The wall is a habit of your mind.
These cryptic comments are all from Sylvia Boorstein’s Slow Down, for Goodness Sake, and they all have something behind them, of course. The wall, in particular, comes from a story she tells of there being a yogi who walked through walls, and of a young boy who asked her–but what if she lost her concentration midway through and got stuck in the wall?
Well, that would be a problem, of course, if also a pretty dramatic epitaph, and it made Sylivia realize that for her, at least (who can say for sure about a yogi in India?) the walls were mental, and they were habits of thinking that could be simply walked through. If you let them.
Those others are more self explanatory, at least in that whatever they mean to you, it’s likely to make some sense that they might help a wordy, impatient person to manage to be a little less so. It’s surprising to me how well they’ve worked. No tattoo necessary, in fact, I think the constant change and affirmation of intent involved in writing it again is part of the process.
My husband thinks I’m crazy, though. Calmer, but crazy. I can live with that.
Friday, June 3rd, 2011 | Connecting the Dots, Secret Buddhist | 3 Comments
I’m not sure what pushed me over the edge.
I was on it anyway. A wonderful friend accidentally pushed all my “terrible parent” buttons when I tried to explain why I’ll never take all 4 kids to NYC. “I just wanted to share the place I love with them,” she declared, and I realized: that’s the last thing I want to do. I want to keep the place I love, and have all of my professional interactions, and get work done, all to myself. Possibly forever.
But there I was, hovering, heavy with guilt, as we left her house. Then Wyatt and Rory started it all up in the car in the carpool line: Move! Stop it! Stop it! That’s mine! Stop it! Gimme that!
Then Lily got in and had forgotten her shoes. Back we went. And then, off to (dun dun DUN) piano lessons.
Piano lessons are my Waterloo. I used to pay someone else to drive them, but those days are gone. And it’s a beautiful day. And there’s a playground. But no, oh no. You didn’t bring a SNACK! And (this is Lily) I don’t want to GO! And I’m HUNGRY! And [I don't remember the rest but it was loud and there was kicking of my seat and...]
Me, mildly: Do that again and you get a checklist for the privilege of riding in other people’s cars.
Lily: MORE OF THE SAME! MORE OF THE SAME!
Me: I’m not going to warn you again. Act like you do in other people’s cars.
Lily: MORE MORE MORE YELLING!
Me: That’s it. No more other people’s cars.
Lily: I HATE YOU! I WANT ANOTHER MOMMY WHO’s NOT MEAN AND DOESN’T DO THAT! AAAAGGGHHHHH!
From there things just slid softly downhill. When we finally got to lessons (after dropping Sam off to Rob), I told the teacher I was so sorry, but this was it for us. We have to find a teacher who will come to our house, as I cannot cope with the half-hour plus drive and then the kids who refuse to get out of the car and play on the lovely playground but instead want to crawl all over me and the front seat in various annoying ways. Then, after Rory’s lesson but during Lily’s, I had another half hour drive, this time to pick up the farm share. Rory and Wyatt engaged in a battle over windows. I pulled over and got out of the car.
But even after the windows were resolved, I fumed. I smoked (figuratively). I snarled in my head and chewed on every awful thing that had been said and done and then coughed up a few awful things from the past week and gnawed those over too until I had a fine cud of ugly misery going, and when i got Lily back and got Sam in the car and hauled them all home I said, “Out. Out of my car. And take your car seats with you.”
Oh, the furor! Why? Why no car seats in the car? What would they do? How would they get to school? What about (this from Wyatt) tennis lessons?
“I’ll consider driving you,” I said, “but I don’t have to. And I don’t have to keep you seats in the car. If you want to ride in my car, you’re going to have to make some promises.”
I stand by that. I think that’s a pretty good plan, really. But I’ve left some stuff out. Some stuff about me yelling, and snapping, and snarling. Some “That’s ENOUGH!” and “WILL YOU STOP THAT” and even “I don’t want to TALK to you right now.”
At home, I went straight into my room. I got a book. I lay down on the bed. Lily, Wyatt and Rory gathered a snack and sat in the kitchen, and I heard this:
“NO! I don’t WANT to sit by you right now!”
“STOP FOLLOWING ME!” and even
Damnation. This is so not the goal. But I wasn’t feeling big enough to get past this, yet. I wasn’t sure I had anything in me to show them something different. I just wanted a break. But these three–who are usually pretty good friends–I could feel it. They were miserable. And they were taking it out on each other. And I knew why.
I slid into the kitchen and gave each a hug. I’m sorry, I said, I’m sorry that I yelled at you, and I don’t want you to talk to each other the way I talked to you.
And all was not right with the world. I went back to try to lay down, and they oozed in with me, one by one, until my bed was filled with all four AND the dog, and my heart was still hard. I really wasn’t charmed. I could see that I should be. I could see that, on reflection, I might be. But I mixed up a pot of macaroni and cheese and turned on the first Harry Potter movie and shooed them out.
And now, after an hour, I am just about ready to appreciate this:
I am still not the parent I want to be, or the person I want to be. It’s not the privileges lists, or the requiring them to agree to certain parameters before earning the right to ride in my car. It’s not even quitting piano—that was the right thing to do with an activity that has pushed me over this bridge far more than once. We can find a way to make that work without it costing my sanity, and if we can’t, well, they can learn to play the recorder in 4th Grade and we’ll call it good.
It’s the yelling. It’s always the yelling. The yelling, and the fact that I mean the yelling. I am not yelling to make a point, or get their attention, or put a little healthy fear into them. I am yelling because I am angry. Really, truly, angry. At them. At me. At my decisions and the things that get me to the yelling point. I’m disappointed and upset and I cannot, as I want to, as I tell Lily to do, take a breath and choose not to take those feelings into me, but let them go.
The car seats will stay on the garage floor. The piano will stay, for a few weeks, silent. But there’s definitely something about today I wish I could take back, and it’s that stomach-churning anger I know I’ve passed down to them. What I want to pass down to them is the ability to deal with it. But first, I’m going to have to learn that for myself.
Thursday, May 19th, 2011 | Secret Buddhist | 2 Comments
I’ve always tended to react to evenings—you know, after bedtime, when you regroup and try to figure out what on earth went wrong and how others could change to make it better—based on how the kids were. “Lily was in rare form,” I say of my girl with the curl right in the middle of her forehead. Or “Wyatt just could NOT leave Rory alone.” And I think of how things went—whether there were bedtime books, whether I’m glugging the Kahlua into my bedtime milk—as completely a function of their behavior.
I’m so wrong.
Today was a full-on afternoon, 12:30 pick-up, straight-into bedtime solo, that featured:
Chocolate-chip cookie baking (Mommy time for Rory while Wyatt had a playdate).
Meringue-making (actually, “Princess Puffs,” thank you, cookbook someone gave Lily for her last birthday) by Miss “I can do it all by myself,” who didn’t realize I’d put the three egg whites required into the mixer bowl already and poured them all over the counter and the floor trying to put the bowl on the mixer. Also, dinner, and a big playroom and living room clean-up (no meringues until chores are done, and make your lunches too!) and the continued creation of our scale model of Spaceship Earth for Sam’s upcoming report on Walt Disney (about which, oh, my STARS, more later).
This last involved Model Magic and a rolling pin, and everyone, but everyone, wanted in on the act. There was much rolling and squeezing as Sam and I dealt with various construction crises, all of which would have doomed the project for any less sunny child.
Rory was frustrating. Wyatt went to his room for some hitting/disobeying incident. Lily also went to her room, with the world’s easiest sheet of homework, and screamed and called her teacher a poopyhead over it for twenty minutes. Rob didn’t come home before bedtime as expected, and all of the various reading activities had to be coordinated under one umbrella–not a big deal, but unexpected and thus a potential minefield. I can report that it all went well, but not because the kids were any different than the kids usually are.
What was different is that I managed to keep my own temper in check all night. I realize I do not deserve a cookie for this. I get that this is no more than 99% of moms bring off daily, and that really, big-girl pants have long been in order. But I’ve been a long time coming to the “yo, you’re the adult, so be one” fold. And so I am proud.
By the time 8:00 rolled around, I wasn’t, as I so often am, snapping or shoo-ing or stomping or shrieking. I had not taken any of the various baddish situations and made them worse, as is my wont. I let what was happening happen. I let incidents unfold on their own time. I let the playroom be cleaned however they cleaned it. I let the model magic be the group project Sam didn’t at all mind it being. I let Lily put both butter and soy sauce on her rice.
And at the end of the night, everyone was much, much happier than we often are after 8 solid hours of Mommy duty. Especially me.
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