the me i want to be
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.
Monday, May 23rd, 2011 | Feeding the Devils | 3 Comments
I’ve just finished reading Anne Lamott’s Imperfect Birds, which, long and very absorbing story short, is about an AA mother, her newly druggy teen and her writerly second husband, and how the mom and stepdad wise up to their too-clever daughter. On the surface. Under that, it is, of course, about a lot of things, and not the least is how crushed the mother is by how late it is with her daughter. She’s been her mother, and not always been great at that, and not, at least on the surface, done much else.
I actually often wonder what my kids will think of the memory of me. I don’t think they think much about me now at all, or at least, not me as me. They think of me as Mommy quite a bit. But what else will they remember me doing? Yelling, probably. Sitting at a computer. Reading? I think of myself as a reader, and I read a lot, but often on an iPad, which is indistinguishable from a laptop to a kid. I’ve vowed to return to print books and I have a fantastic pile of them going now. I’m going to make it a point to sit down with one in their view often, even though I don’t really expect to read it at that point (nor do I necessarily want to—I get really lost in a book!).
But I am 100% sure they will remember me cooking. You know all the things you pretend to like to do for one reason or another (like watch hockey) or mostly like but don’t necessarily love (yoga comes to mind here) or kind of have to be pushed into doing? Cooking isn’t one of them for me. I really do love to cook, and I love to eat well, and so I cook, and we all eat well.
We eat our share of take-out and I have plenty of uninspired nights, but especially now, when afternoons tend to require that I be up and interactive but not necessarily doing anything particularly focused with the kids, I’m really cooking again. This indoor version will last about another month before it gets too hot to cook inside and then move out and onto the grill and the salad bowl, but still, I’m finally able to mix up and try new sauces and dressings and get really excited about even a mundane meal—which is all that pasta turned out to be: spaghetti, with olive oil and parmesan, no more, no less.
There is so much I am having a hard time getting right with the kids. Helping Lily to master her moods, which are so like mine. Convincing Wyatt to be Dr. Jekyll and not Mr. Hyde. Paying attention to Sam, who is so easy and can so easily not be heard. Giving Rory an underlying web of love that she knows is solid enough to bounce on. I think I’m blowing all that.
I guess we’ll always have spaghetti.
Saturday, May 14th, 2011 | Connecting the Dots | 1 Comment
I love my NPR. In the car, it’s pretty much solid NPR all day long, unless it’s Car Talk or one of the guest-oriented programs has someone on that I’m just not into.
But NPR creates conflicts—namely, that all of my kids consider themselves, as conversationalists, way, way, WAY more interesting than even the most fascinating NPR story. And so should I, right? They will only be young enough to want to share with me, for a 25 minute drive, their vision of what our house would look like as a farm, with illustrations, for a little while.
I try to at least not acknowledge that I’m only half-listening. I do want them to talk. I’m glad that they talk. I enjoy it all in the abstract and in the idea and in the retelling. I’m just not good at enjoying it in the moment.
This morning, though, I brought Lily to a birthday party half-an-hour away (the perils of country living), and she felt chatty. And happy. And Lily is so often singing her complaining song that a happy Lily is something to be seized and subtly rewarded with as much love and attention and affection as I can pour on, in the hope that she will finally conclude that it’s better for her and for everyone else if she manages to moderate her fierce storms of misery when things don’t go her way.
(Unfortunately, personal experience suggests she’s got about another thirty-plus years of learning to go before that idea takes hold.)
And NPR? NPR was offering a story of runaway teens on the streets of Hollywood. Interesting? Oh yes. But what is a story like that for, if not to remind you to seize the moment with your own sons and daughters? What else can you possibly do?
I turned off the radio.
Sunday, March 7th, 2010 | Connecting the Dots | 1 Comment
We are not big home maintenance types around here. I do not like to grocery shop, don’t dig shopping anymore, and have the house at a stage where most of the crap can at least be pushed aside into manageable piles. There are hioe and errand-type things that I wish would just happen (for example, i just realized that we’ve completely outgrown our stroller collection, and I really wish the fairies would just come get it). But generally, on weekdays, we work, and on weekends, we do. This weekend we skied. Well, except for Sam, who built a “snowbox” and crashed it down a hill amidst many other snowboxers, which the rest of us watched, after skiing. But Sam skied today.
We didn’t call the many people we like to talk to, or put away the holiday train, or clean the basement, which has mice. We didn’t clear out the hallway, or recycle some of the magazines that threaten to take over every open space. We didn’t invite people to Wyatt’s upcoming birthday, or plan said birthday, or take actions towards acquiring suitable party favors for said birthday or anything of that sort. And there was something else I needed to do or order online, and we didn’t do that either. In fact I can’t even remember what it was.
Because we went skiing. It was a beautiful day, an amazing day, and we skied, and skied hard, and made what should have been terrible decisions, like taking Rory’s edgy-wedgy off (it holds the ski tips together) and then choosing to go down a black diamond with moguls (because it was the only way over to the other lift) for her first free-ski run and then taking that one last run, which featured yet more moguls and steepness, and expecting Rory and Wyatt to power through it all–which they did, with style and grace that provoked actual positive commentary by onlookers (not even exaggerating). They just skied, learning, one hopes, that if you fall, you get back up, and if the slope looks ugly, well, the sooner you start down, the sooner you’ll be at the bottom, one way or another.
Of course it all ended in some shrieking and tears, but not until the car ride home, so we really can’t complain. And fortunately that black diamond mogul slope was Rory’s favorite part of the day, both because she lives for that kind of thing and because it scored her much praise from me, whereas earlier in the day I’d been asking her to make more turns and actually offering some coaching. She much prefers praise to coaching. I’ll have to start coaching via praise, I guess. I LOVE how you’re making all those turns! I can do that.
Anyway, a good day, and one on which we were, kinda, the family I want us to be. I suspect I will never look back on these years and think, well, it all would have been so much better with a clean basement.
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