I am not one of those bloggers who lays out her daily life- her inner-most emotions or beliefs or hopes and dreams– to be read and analyzed by strangers across the world wide web.
I don’t share every thought or whim that comes to mind, mostly because my brain is a miasmic vessel of such things– I don’t have time to write about one idea before the next pops up. And I am post-40 if you know what I mean. I can’t imagine that the wind blows without a kiss from hormones. I am not sure I have a solid emotion or care that isn’t somehow stamped by estrogen.
But recently I have had a feeling… a concern…a worry. It has so stalwartly braved the trenches of mental muck on a journey to the forefront of my thoughts, that I know I need to give it some attention.
The older my kids get, the less fun they seem to be.
I didn’t know it was going to be this way. I am thrown for a loop. I am befuddled. I am stumped by this phenomenon I did not ever expect.
I have a colleague who once who told me that she “only likes kids of a particular age”. My neighbor wouldn’t hold my daughter as an infant because “she doesn’t do babies.” I remember my dad saying he really loves kids, until about age 4. (This is not true; he loves kids of all ages and is actually very good with them, largely because he has strict boundaries and no child dares to cross them.) My paternal grandmother, I recall, felt the same (This one is true- she wasn’t good with them at any age. She had these ornate table-lamps that dripped real oil in an endless loop of Liberace-esque, light-reflecting and color-refracting delight. They were so fascinating. How could a kid NOT want to touch that oil, to NOT figure out how it just kept dripping and dripping but never pouring? NOT ALLOWED. Hands off the oily lamps!)
These people made aversion to kids seem normal. Even so, I never understood or believed that I wouldn’t want to spend every waking—and sleeping—moment with my children. I love my babies so much. From the moment each of them was born, I have wanted to wrap myself in and through and around their soft, innocent, inquisitive, funny and cuddly bodies. They offer me so much love—so much unconditional love—and I know I have always received much more from them than they from me. And I know that time is more fleeting than I ever previously imagined. And so I have always wanted to be with them and experience them and life through them…all the time.
Except for lately, when it seems that sometimes I do, but maybe not always and definitely not when I have other things on my mind and certainly not when…. I don’t want to.
I like to think I was a pretty great mom when my kids were babies. In fact, when it comes to bottles and binkies and potty training, I’m set. Endless amounts of patience, endurance and fortitude.
For awhile now though, those qualities seem to be lacking in our house. Here’s why:
They have mouths and brains. And they like to use them.
Remember in the good old days when you didn’t dare look cross-eyed at your parents? I remember being sent to my room for some horrid grievance (I am sure it was particularly bad because in my memory both parents are present and clearly agitated and if mom got dad involved that meant you were in the hot pot) that I knew and insisted my sister committed. I clearly recall crying “well, that sucks”. My dad not only spanked me but also grounded me to my room for a whole week after school. My only reprieve would be doing chores before heading to my room. You know what I remember best about the whole affair?
Never to say “that sucks”. Or to talk back to my parents. Even when I wanted to. Remember how that worked? Well my kids don’t. I think it might have something to do with the fact that I was chased with a switch while my kids get the gentle (but obviously inefficient) “no no sweety, please don’t do that”, which more lately than ever quickly morphs to “I SAID CUT IT OUT!”…and while you are at it, just leave me alone. I’m not set up for this sort of mouthy aggravation….
And also because they are succubai (plural succubus): the more attention I give them, the more they want, and my bank account is running low.
And not least because a mother’s time by herself so so sacred, so sacrosanct, so precious, that it’s addictive. Really. It’s like a drug. The more time to myself, to be my old-self, to pursue and do what I want to do, (namely not scrubbing toilets or wiping butts or using my mental prowess to wash dishes 4 times a day) the more of that time I want.
My kids are so good. Really, as I sit here and think about them and lay my family life out on the page, I can say overall they are average, lovely children. They don’t lie, cheat, steal or hit (other people).
But boy are they sassy. And mouthy. And particular! I can’t claim that these qualities don’t affect our family dynamic.
#1 can’t take teasing. She breaks down in real tears at the slightest breeze. And if she is singing or dancing or more or less living, she doesn’t want anyone to look at her. She’s recently taken up the disturbing habit, more than 6 years after learning never to talk to mama that way, of shouting NO when asked to do the simplest of things like homework or brushing teeth or going to bed. She walks around in an imaginary cloud, in absolute la la land, singing a song to herself (usually the same refrain, repetitively and tirelessly) a focus rarely applied to any other, more productive, activity.
And #2. Oh, #2. What you do to my aging! He won’t go to sleep unless a particular routine is met: kisses just so, blankets just so, specific lights on, specific music playing. He doesn’t like underwear or socks and will only wear certain shoes that fit in specific ways. He won’t eat a vegetable unless it’s a raw carrot and that maybe only a bite or two. He survives on peanut butter toast, pizza and sautéed apples. And he is brilliant. He’s learned that if he screams loud enough, he will get what he wants. Just Brilliant.
So you can imagine what travel is like. Or really most any family event.
For any new parent with visions of family outings that are fuss-free, seamless, relaxing or frankly easy—well, just put that out of your mind now.
Unless your kids are aberrations to the human race, that trip, whether to the grocery store or to the Amazon, will be fraught with minor skirmishes, major scuffles, forgotten essentials (if you consider that one particular hot wheels car, one of maybe 100, to be THE ONLY CAR that will suffice), spilled drinks, crumbs, snotty tissues handed to you mucus-side-up or personal effects dropped and forgotten without a wayward glance and unless you are very lucky, a husband or spouse who also does all of the above, usually around the same time as the kids, then you will quickly realize that moments will come when you believe in your core, spoken or no, that family outings are overrated.
In other words: you will feel like you are losing your mind. Your sanity. Your sense of all that is right and proper and necessary in the world. You may think you are failing at the core job that is parenthood, namely, to not freak the hell out on your inconsiderate, crazy, misbehaved and disrespectful family of succubae.
At least I have. And you know what has been lost along with all that? A keen sense of the key lessons I want my kids to learn before they leave my home: self discipline, self- control, respect, tolerance, patience.
If we are our kids’ first teacher, if we are who our children will come to be, then mine are in great danger of becoming vociferously irritable adults.
My dad used to remind us, jokingly (because we were 7 kids and it’s just not possible) that children of a certain age should be seen and not heard. I don’t think so. I want my kids to be seen and heard and embraced and listened to. So I have decided to take back my patience, to look beyond the aggravation of the moment to find all the positive things about my kids: their age, their personalities, their quirks and worries and hair-pullingly ridiculous inability to not fight over who gets in the car first or who sits by the window on the plane.
Here are ideas for how am I going to do that:
1. Zip It. Lock It. Put it in my Pocket. (Not likely. Not in my DNA)
2. Consider the P Principal. (More likely. Definitely in the DNA. I used to be very good at this, before all my energy was sucked up in the vacuum of whining, bickering, bossy-ing and sassing).
Poor Planning Means Piss Poor Performance
My husband just loves to remind me about the P Principal, which, even if he were right, which he is but I am not admitting it out loud, I will tell you does not go over well.
Remember the character in Mr. Popper’s Penguins who uses P alliterations? “Pippi Peponopolis. l’m Mr. Popper’s personal assistant. l process his paperwork and procure his periodicals.”
That’s me when my husband tells me I am not prepared. I think of every P word that possibly applies and there you go, the Brooklyn in my just flows. PR—K, Pre-PUBESCENT P-CKER, P-SSHEAD, PUTO…etc. Just ask me, I know ‘em all. In multiple languages.
3. Round the corner. Turn the page. Go back to my old self, the one where I had endless amounts of tolerance for all things juvenile. (Slightly more likely than the previous two ideas, with obvious exceptions and low expectations of total success).
4. Put myself inside the mind of a child (even a 48 year old one). Go have fun. Don’t sweat the small stuff, even when its chicken poop tracked through the kitchen or toothpaste spit on the bathroom mirror. Turn off the computer, put away the broom, set down the cell phone to celebrate my children in this moment. Embrace this beautiful but oh so short life.
5. All of the above.
Time does pass so very, very quickly. Do I want to spend it losing my mind or do I want to spend it making memories? Do I want my kids to remember mama hollering or to remember me calmly leading them to adulthood? I choose the latter. Because I don’t want my kids to ever tell my grandchildren that they should be seen and not heard. And because I think kids, young and old, are great at every age.
And that my dear reader, is why we have visited every damn pumpkin patch in the great state of Maryland….in case you were wondering.
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