I made a prison break tonight. Crazy because usually the ones to break out of prison are the prisoners, but here instead, I abandoned my role as Corrections Officer and headed for a coffee shop. Why? Because I can begin to feel trapped in my role as CO of the Bushlack household. This comes in the form of constantly reminding (sometimes nagging, sometimes yelling at) the kids to do what I've requested.
me: No, you may not play by the toilet.
Sean: We are just pretending to use the toilet.
me: Yes, but you're still playing with the toilet, and now you need to wash your hands.
me: Audrey and Sean, stop wrestling on the stairs.
me: Audrey, take that box off your head if you're going to walk up and down the stairs.
me: Please do not use that fork to comb your hair.
Audrey: (grinning while lacing her blonde hair with peanut butter) I use it 'cuz I a silly girl.
me: Right, and still I don't want you to use the fork in your hair.
me: Audrey, please don't eat that rock.
Audrey: No, I use it as my food. It's my food, Mama. I bite it!
me: Yes, but you're not supposed to really put it in your mouth: that's yucky.
OR Audrey reaching for an empty pack of Marlboros in a parking lot, being rained on, run over, and trashed.
me: AH - AH - AH - NO - NO- NO - YUCK - YUCK. DON'T TOUCH THAT.
Audrey: (looking at the trash) What is it, Mama?
me: That's someone's trash that we are not going to touch. YUCK! Take your hands away! Stop! Do Not Touch!
OR upon finding the toilet paper in the bathroom completely un-rolled:
me: Sean, did you come in here and play with the toilet paper?
Sean: (earnestly) No.
me: Audrey, did you come in here and play with the toilet paper?
Audrey takes a moment, bends her knees, places her hands on knees, examines the toilet paper very closely, then looks up at me.
Audrey: (a slow realization) Yes...
me: Audrey, toilet paper is not to be played with. It's only used if you need to go to the potty.
Or like tonight, Sean took a metal pole away from Audrey (she was waving it around like a flag), and when I asked him to give it back to her, I gave him the chance to either listen or I would come take it from him. I counted to 3. The counting angered him so much -
Sean: NO! Stop counting! Stop counting RIGHT NOW!
- he forgot all about his choice to listen or not and threw the metal pole (albeit a thin, wiry pole, but still a metal pole) directly onto the hood of our new car. (A used mini-van, but still: new to me, and still: purchased with our hard-earned savings.) I picked Sean up and brought him inside the house and placed him on the stairs.
me: ABSOLUTELY NOT! You may not throw things at the car! You may not ignore what I'm asking you to do, and then THROW THINGS at the car!
I was furious. Sean was crying. Audrey was still standing in the driveway wondering what had happened.
I wouldn't think this to be a statement I would need to say: "Don't throw things at the car." But hey, he didn't pay for that car. What's it to him?
Sometimes the roles are reversed and they feel the need to correct me. The other night, both kids were in bed, about to go to sleep, and I was getting ready to leave the room.
Sean: (nervously) Are there going to be bad storms tonight?
me: I don't think so, buddy.
Sean: (with heightened anxiety) But what is that sound I hear outside? I think it might be thunder.
me: I think that's an airplane.
Sean: (still nervous) But are there going to be storms?
me: I think the weather forecasters said that there won't be any bad storms tonight.
Sean: (approaching desperation) But how do you know?
me: We actually don't know for sure, even the weather people are only making their best guess, but I think we won't see any bad storms tonight.
Audrey: (standing in her crib, arms tossed over the side, without a care in the world, smile on her face) Yeah, no bad storms, only happy storms.
I'm sure Sean appreciated this vote of confidence from his sister.
We were at a garage sale a couple weeks ago, and someone else at the sale commented that we should "watch out for a bee flying by... you don't want it to sting you."
Sean: No, bees will only sting you if you're trying to take their honey.
And why not let him live in a world where that's true?
Audrey playing with her fingers pretending they are real people
Audrey: "Oh Mommy, I need help, Mommy."
me: (from another room) Audrey, are you calling for me?
Audrey: No, Mama, I not talking to you. I talking to my fingers!
What's worse than me correcting them or them correcting me is when I fill the role of Corrections Officer for myself. Last weekend not only did we purchase the new (used) vehicle, but we also made an exciting excursion to the outlet mall to purchase some summer maternity clothes for me. I've never been pregnant in the summer, so I'm woefully ill-prepared for summer weather. (Never mind that spring has barely sprung in Minnesota much less any sign of heat or summer and it's June, but that's a rant for another time.) The mixture of these two purchases made me worry about money.
So I did the only logical thing I could think of: I searched my closet for clothes to sell. Clothes that belonged to my former self: that person who used to work full-time for a university. That person who'd never had her body changed, inhabited by another human being, gaining weight week by week, only to give birth to a precious infant, fall in love, realize her body would never be the same and proceed to live in sweat pants and baggy shirts for months. That person who used to take her time getting ready for work in the morning, picking out stylish clothes, doing her hair and make-up, and feeling proud of the way she looked.
This is not to say that I don't take pride in the way I look now - because I do. However, it's entirely different. Looking stylish now involves clothes that hang elegantly around my 5-month pregnant belly, but don't cling too tightly to the back-fat. Cute for me is a day when I leave the house without any peanut butter smudges on my clothes or traces of snot smeared across my shoulder. Put together is a day when I take longer than 5 minutes to assemble an outfit and get dressed. Usually I take 5 minutes, with my bedroom door ajar, listening for screams or yells around the house and wondering what I can wear that will enable me to chase after kids the best. (Read: move the fastest, roll around on the floor, pick up food under the dining room table, and eat picnics in the backyard.)
I uncovered some of my favorite professional outfits: a very sassy three piece suit, a red/creme floral silk skirt and wool brown skirt, a gray pencil skirt, and a nicely tailored pair of wool pants. Most all of these clothes I am confident I will never fit into again. These clothes had no sign of children's sticky fingers on them. Not a lick of snot, and no place where little hands clung to the pants-legs begging, "I wanna come up, Mama!" I felt myself get emotional as I quietly folded the clothes on the bed. I surveyed them carefully remembering the different events I managed while wearing those outfits, the way I carried myself, and the pride I took in looking fashionable. I felt sad and a little resistant to let those clothes go, even in the face of knowing I may not be able to slide my mom-of-three-body into those clothes in the future.
A week later, those clothes are still sitting on my bed. Partially because I couldn't part with them, and partially because I haven't had the time to go sell them. As the time ticks on, though, I think I'm waiting for something else. I'm waiting for the Corrections Officer in my head to quiet down. I'm waiting for a time when I can take those clothes to sell, not because I feel I must, or I owe it my family to balance the other recent purchases with the selling of my old clothes. I can drive myself so hard to create balance, strive for frugality, instill good values in my kids, and live a life that I'm proud of, that I sometimes forget it's okay to buy maternity clothes that I need, or get a mini-van so that we can fit all three kids in one car together when the baby comes.
Simiarly, I recognize that there are moments when I can drive my kids hard, too. I know there are moments when I could just let them play and not remind (nag) them so much. Earlier today I was cleaning out our Honda Civic as we get it ready to sell. I was vacuuming and dusting and cleaning all the crevices. I discovered mold growing around Audrey's carseat in the back - ewwww - and found decayed cheerios, m&ms, granola bars, and cranberries littered throughout the car. As I cleaned, the kids climbed around the car pretending to "drive." They were having a blast. They don't fully realize it, but these are their last moments in the only car they've ever known. This car that we brought both of them home from the hospital in, and we took numerous, grueling car trips with crying babies, poopy diapers, and yogurt flung on the seats. This car that safely brought us cross-country to start our new lives in Minnesota and usher in a whole new chapter for us as a family. They were having so much fun in the car, in their car. Meanwhile, I was focused on the fact that they kept getting mud and grass on the seats, just after I had cleaned it out.
There is a need to let go of those things that we no longer need, or are no longer ours. My old work clothes don't really belong to me anymore. I love the mom that I am becoming, and I wouldn't trade that for being able to wear those work clothes again. Likewise I make no secret about the fact that I am overjoyed to be driving a mini-van; a fact that Tom continues to marvel (laugh and shake his head) at. I much prefer to step in and out of that mini-van while I'm 5 months pregnant than curl my body, lug groceries, and get our kids in and out of our little Civic. I don't wish to go back to the past.
There is a need to both rejoice in what was and to embrace what is to come. Within that is a little grieving, a little sadness, and a lot of humility and joy. Life continues to march forward bearing gifts of the new. May I go along for the ride, not trying to over-correct myself or my family in the process.