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.
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.
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.