Monday, September 21, 2015

Consumed

I recently felt utterly consumed. I imagine I'm not alone in this feeling; to be a parent is to stay tuned in with little, crazy, brain-not-yet-developed creatures. These creatures have the ability to scream, yell, demonically grab the stairs (where they are taking a time out) and LET LOOSE at the top of their lungs, throat extended like that of a wolf at the moon. There are moments when I feel so consumed by these little crazy people that I have to leave the house. Looking for someone to take over so that I may escape, I text my dear husband who is in the process of taking public transportation home at the end of his work day. Even though I know he can't get home any faster, my texts go something like this:

me: What's your ETA? Sean is completely losing it right now. We don't have the flavor of Popsicle he wants.

or

me: Please hurry home. I need a break from Frances. She hasn't stopped screaming for 25 minutes and she's following me around the house crying if I won't hold her constantly.

or

me: Tough day with Audrey. I'm thinking of selling her to the circus. I know she'll thrive there.

Some of this craze from the kids I was expecting. It's the beginning of the school year, and this means our laissez-faire summer attitude is falling away. Instead we are waking up early, militantly keeping them on a time schedule that culminates in a frenzied push to get out the door for Sean's bus. It doesn't matter how early we wake up, it seems like the moments before catching the bus are always chaotic.

Tom: Okay, Sean, we have about 5 minutes. Please put your shoes on and get ready to go.

Audrey: (from the breakfast table) But I'm not dressed! I want to go to the bus! I want to go with you! Don't leave without me! STOP. STOP RIGHT NOW! I want to to go with you!

Tom: This is why we asked you to get dressed 20 minutes ago, and you said 'no.'

Audrey: That's because I was drinking my milk! Wait! Wait! Don't leave!

Tom: Ok, you can come, but that means you need to get dressed and put on some shoes. Now!

Audrey: But I can't! I don't want to go upstairs by myself! I'm scared!

Tom: Audrey, you are spending more time yelling than doing something. You could have been half dressed by now.

Audrey: (voice up an octave and grabbing her crotch) AAAAAHHHHH! I have to pee! I have to pee! AAAAaHhhhAHA!

At this point she throws herself prostrate onto the ground, still not dressed, still not going to the bathroom. Not going to the bus. However, not every morning is like this (lest you begin to feel really sorry for us, though we will take your pity. Thanks very much). In fact, our morning routine is beginning to take shape much more quickly than in previous years. It helps that all the kids are getting older, and it helps that they're used to us barking orders at them in the last 5 minutes before leaving the house.

I think it helps, too, that they are in a developmental stage where they emulate us. This probably won't always be true. I think there will come a time in their lives when they want nothing to do with me or my husband. They'll probably go through a very healthy, much needed distancing from our family - which will probably break my heart - and they will discover who they are as a person without the immediate context of our family system. But for today, they are emulating us. So they see us get our act together in the morning, and they want to figure out how to do the same.

Sean acts like a little Tom. Most everybody says he resembles Tom, and he's quiet, reserved, and contemplative like Tom. They both have their extroverted sides, and I am overjoyed when they show that side to me, but most often, their quiet side leads first and foremost. If Sean is a little Tom, then our dear Audrey is perhaps... a distant relative of mine. She is always putting on a performance. The other day she was putting on a magic show, but once she got into the meat of her show, she explained that she doesn't do the kind of magic where she makes things disappear. She does the kind of magic that's "just fun stuff." Like putting a donut shaped block on a stick and watching it fall from side to side on the stick just by turning it in her hands. That kind of magic. She plays "songs" on the piano while singing aloud. She's overly dramatic. About everything. She is persistent, stubborn, outgoing, and fearless. I'm not a biologist, but I think she has at least half my DNA.

So I guess the upside these days, is that this consumption is reciprocal. They are consumed by us as their role models as much as we are their eating, sleeping, and pooping habits. If imitation is the highest form of flattery, then Audrey is complimenting me right and left. We had the rare opportunity one day to leave the house together without any other kids. Special date, just Audrey and mom (doesn't matter that this date involved Audrey going to the dermatologist). Audrey obviously watched closely while I got ready to leave, and when I told her to get ready to go, she picked up a couple things I didn't know she planned to take with us. My husband captured this on our way to the car:



Though consumed, I'm flattered. 

Thursday, September 10, 2015

That Certain Je Ne Sais Quoi

It seems parenting is filled with an array of emotions. Some parents talk about not wanting their kids to ever grow up. That's not me. I try to embrace the joyful moments as they come, breathe through the aggravating moments, and take breaks when I'm about to lose my mind. I have never found that any emotion sticks around for too long. A joyful moment, where the sun seems to shine just right, the kids are playing well with together and listening to the adults, will quickly be followed with a child's poop-in-the-pants-and-on-the-hands moment, followed by 30 minutes of clean up and cursing under my breath. A pull-my-hair-out moment at 3am with a teething baby will be followed by restful slumber and gazing at my sweet one, silent music playing in my ears at how glorious this moment can be. And the wheel turns.

With the recent flood of back to school posts and pictures on Facebook, I see a similar array of emotions from parents: sadness, anxiety, nostalgia, gratitude, pride, fear, and relief. It's nearly impossible to sum up the feelings of putting Sean on the school bus, or dropping Audrey off at her first day of preschool.

This past weekend we had the great joy of going to Texas to celebrate my Grannie's 93rd birthday. Born in 1922, she remains one of the most graceful, generous, fun-loving, and sweetest women I have ever known. I aspire to live a life as integrity-filled as she has. The weekend was an incredible celebration of Grannie and every family member who has been impacted by her, both present and far away. Without me forcing it, our two older kids wanted to give Grannie a hug goodnight each night before they went to sleep. Words cannot describe how grateful I am that they have an experience with her. Though those memories might fade, at least they have a glimmer somewhere in their brains of this woman who has meant so much in my life. How can I possibly put words to that?

During this weekend celebration we went swimming, boating, jet skiing, and tubing. I can not put words to the muscular pain I am in right now, given how long I hung onto that tube, pulled behind a jet ski, trying to match my brave niece, Mia, toe-to-toe, muscle-to-muscle, clinging for dear life at 35 miles per hour. My body is still feeling the ramifications of the fun we had. I rode jet skis by myself, and at other times carried little children on it with me. There were moments out in that enormous lake, when I felt the vastness of the Texas sky above me, the cleansing of the water below me, and the humility of how small I am in this world. How insignificant I am compared to the great earth we live on. A certain 'je ne sais quoi' as they say.

After coming in from riding on the jet ski for the first time, my cousin asked my nephew, Theo, what he thought of the jet ski ride.

Theo: I was scared. And I liked it!

That sentence has stayed with me. Both scared and engaged, risking life and limb, wanting to go back while also wanting to go farther from the dock, pushing the limits of speed, waiting to see when your body, mind, and soul will "cry uncle."

All these moments: parenting, celebrating my beloved Grannie, jet skiing, they are hard to fully describe after the fact. But if I had to put a finer point on it, I would say something more akin to Theo's response. I find parenting to be scary at times because I don't always know the answers, don't always know what's the best thing to do. I feel that lump in my throat when Sean boards the bus for school in the morning and as I walked away from Audrey today, leaving her at preschool for the first time. (I also felt a dizzying freedom, having only one child in tow for a couple hours. One child? That's so easy!) I felt tremendous gratitude and joy celebrating Grannie in Texas, but it was hard to leave knowing that I may not ever see her again. If I dwelt too long upon that idea, I would be despondent. And if I dwelt too long on the fear of getting hurt on a jet ski, I would never do it. Yet it's not just one emotion that prevails, it's this bundle of emotions. It's gratitude and relief and joy and sadness and nostalgia and anxiety and hope. It's exhilarating.