Tuesday, May 3, 2011

tunnel vision

Sometimes I feel like I've crash-landed into this parenting thing.

I lie in bed at night, a quivering mass of pulp where my brain should be, and wonder why I can't get things done. It's only when I'm lying there, perfectly still, that I think of the phone call I meant to make, the email I meant to write, the article I meant to read, the toenails I meant to clip. Then, of course, I'm too tired to even make a list.

During the day, I scramble to keep up. I flail two steps behind the mess-makers, trying to negotiate peace. I yell and cajole. I make deals, I bribe, I entertain, I build things and then wreck them. I wrestle. I prepare food and serve food and clean up food, ad infinitum. I stare into space by mid-afternoon and pray for dinnertime.

It takes so much creativity, this work, something I thought I had plenty of. But my talent is for arranging shapes and colors into pretty pictures, not in coming up with new and different and awesome ways to get toddlers to stop mauling each other.

I'm three years in, and I still can't remember to pack the diaper bag the night before.

I'll do better tomorrow, I resolve. I'll be more willing to play. I won't get so annoyed when they splash water out of the bath.

But tomorrow comes so quickly, usually after someone has woken me up at least twice during the night, and they hardly wait for me to have some coffee before they attach themselves to my legs and start needing things. Then we spend the morning becoming little wind-up toys, ticking the spring farther and farther back until the tension is too much and we must explode into forward motion or we will seriously malfunction. There is inevitably a potty accident involved.

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Isla is obsessed with balls and dolls, is easily entertained with a set of keys or a serrated knife pilfered from the dishwasher. She's really a sweet and mild kid, but mischievous too, and has learned from Auden the finer points of how to avoid getting dressed, and how to keen backward dramatically when you really want someone to pick you up.

Auden usually wants nothing more than to assign roles and act out some story again and again, which sounds delightful until you've taken turns all day being Nausicaa and Lord Yupa and Super Why and Wonder Red and Pee-Wee and Little Richie and the Wonder Pets and R2-D2 and Luke Sykwalker (and sometimes Luke Skywalker's cousin, no lie), and Caillou... Caillou. CAILLOU. DAMN YOU, CAILLOU, AND YOUR INSUFFERABLE PLUCK.

It's my fault, though, I admit it. I rely heavily on TV when I want to, say, eat a meal, put Isla down for a nap, or indulge in a few minutes of sewing. I'm really good at justifying it -- He's fine! He's super smart! A little TV won't hurt! -- and I only feel guilty when he goes catatonic in front of the screen and throws epic tantrums when it's time to turn it off. Oh, wait, that's every time. Garr.

Isla is old enough to get into Auden's shit, and is lightning fast in grabbing his robots or toppling his lego masterpiece. She's also old enough to understand that I'll come running whenever she screeches about some injustice, whether she provoked it or not. Auden, for his part, is only too ready to be provoked, and no amount of stern talkings-to and stair time seem to disavow him of hitting and biting and tackling to get the toy he wants. Which, of course, is the toy he didn't know he wanted until Isla had it in her hand.

I get it. I do -- he doesn't get nearly as much attention as Isla, and spends a lot of time itching with jealousy. He even pretends to BE Isla sometimes, which has the unintended effect of annoying me even more. Poor kid. The ego blooms only to be totally hammered by wind and rain and little sisters.

So. I juggle their needs with mine, all day every day, and I'm an awkward juggler, tripping and grunting.

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But there is light (you know, at the end of the tunnel): Jason just finished his semester of teaching, and today we breathed out a huge chugging sigh of relief. We're going to have TIME to do things TOGETHER. LIKE TALK.

And then I'm going to be all, Welcome to My World, Muaahhh haaaa!

Course then I'm going to have to give up the righteous mommy martyr thing. Huh.

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While it's true that I'll have lots more time for myself in the coming months -- relief, sweet relief! -- it's also true that I've had a lot of help getting through the past few. Okay, eight. Annnnnd it's also true that I can polish any grievance to a high shine with my constant attention and verbosity, making all the normal growing pains into Mother's Lament: The Fugue.

I'm working on it, okay? I'm a stubborn perfectionist, a character flaw that doesn't jive at all with being a parent. As we have seen.

Recently a friend sent me a quote from Marshall Rosenberg, the "Nonviolent Communication" guy, that went something like,

"The goal is not to be a perfect parent... the goal is to be progressively less stupid every day."

Crash-landings notwithstanding.

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6 comments:

Rachel Carson Pomeroy said...

Awesome. Man, I feel like you are giving me a glimpse of my future and though I'm excited they will someday actually play together, I also realize that I will always want that to A) last all day and B) allow me to get away to write at least 15 minutes every hour.

Oh, and yes, DAMN YOU CAILOU!! Whiniest kid EVER who taught my perfect kid how to WHINE.

Emily of Deutschland said...

Oh, Robin. This is exactly the rub of every day. You have nailed it, absolutely. I, too, am just stumbling around in motherhood. I always wonder and gawk at those professional moms who, with their three kids, somehow manage to also coach the toddler soccer team and keep putting on makeup every day.

Emily of Deutschland said...

p.s. Caillou is creepy. What four-year-old is still bald? And so well-mannered? He makes my skin crawl, but Joshua loves him.

Robin Danely said...

I'm so relieved I'm not the only one creeped out by Caillou... seriously, WHY IS HE BALD?

Wood said...

This is so well-written. I loved reading it. And I feel you at every word. Maybe next time I'll remember this and not get so upset when half the bathwater is on the floor. Doubtful, but maybe.

andrea said...

Girl, this is one of the best posts i have ever read of anyone anywhere and it makes me miss you oh soo soo soo soo much! please come back. oh please oh please oh please! i miss you so much. and i'll love that liddle auden so much that the jealousy will just fall out of him.

ha ha.... love you!!!! x o x o
andrea