Wednesday, February 29, 2012

The Resonance of Children's Books

Do we all have one?  A children's book from our childhood that holds a special place in our memories.  Something semi-iconic (if only to us alone?)

I'm curious about this. I'm wondering if everyone has such a book.

I have a few.  And snippets of them come back to me at such random times, it is like their memory is woven through several layers in my brain.

Do you like my hat?
I do not.

Puppies Are Like That
Frog and Toad
A book on colors whose title still escapes me
I Can Read
a book about a spider named Helen who lived in a zoo...Be Nice to Spiders (pity, the advice didn't stick)
Are You my Mother?

What are yours?

I'd love to know!

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Three Ways to Unravel

Don't you think it is remarkable how fast a perfectly good day can devolve into something you'd sooner forget? (Well, before you learn how not to repeat it, that is)

Maybe only slightly more remarkable is that I'm not talking about catastrophic events that we don't expect and are ill-prepared for.

No, I'm talking about the drip-drip-drip of daily life that occasionally has the power to break through our sandbags of sanity and make us cra-a-a-zy.

Lately, these little drips have been known to push me a little closer to the edge than I like to be:

1) When Landon is in a good mood, his ready reply is, "Why?" Now before you bash me as a woman who does not nurture her child's natural curiosity about the world, imagine hearing that word after everything you ever said, regardless of context.

"It's time for dinner,"  Why?  "Please don't climb on the table," Why?  "Do you know where your shoes are?" Why?  "Would you like me to read a story to you?" Why?  "Are you hungry?" Why?

The word doesn't even make sense half the time.  But this is not what makes me is when I hear myself and Bill actually trying to answer each one of these "Whys" (and the subsequent "whys" our answers solicit) with all the seriousness and earnestness of the educators we are trained to be.  I'll catch myself doing it and feel a little tricked, like I'm some kind of talking robot with a lame logic chip: hear-word-why-must-answer. (And I hope you read that in the staccato robot-voice I  just imagined)

Or I just get grumpy with the fact that my little free-wheeling toddler's sense of autonomy far outweighs his desire to please.  It seemed so much easier when it didn't matter what we said, it was a good idea, without question.

2) When Landon is in any mood that is less than good, his ready response is "Stop it!" (Usually said in tones that would make you think he is practicing for a self-defense course.)   After awhile, I start to feel like a naughty puppy in obedience school being trained by an impatient taskmaster.  The trouble is, I'm not making any headway.  I still must change his diapers, dress him, buckle his seat belt, or insist that food not be thrown around.  Again, it is not this behavior that is the crazy-making part.  It is, after all, coming from a toddler.  No, I feel like I am losing it by small degrees if I catch myself answering back impatiently, "Stop telling me to stop it!"  Did I really just say that?!

3) In between being ready to give an answer for not just my faith, but every detail of our daily lives, and being told to stop everything short of breathing, Landon can be a gem.  A bundle of hugs and love and lots of "I like you, Moms," and smiles that melt my heart.  But lately, there's one hour in which we cannot escape a trial, no matter what: bedtime.

If my nerves aren't already frayed from the above two things, bedtime is becoming a guaranteed shredder.  (And I remember feeling proud of all our routines, rituals, consistency, boundaries, etc....Pooh pah!  Dumb luck.  Do we ever really SOLVE these things or do our children just move past them?!)

Maybe in another post I'll describe the saga that is bedtime.  Maybe you can conjure your own images of the ordeal.  Bill and I know we don't want to lose our patience with him.  We don't want to give him a show of a good reaction.  We don't want him to see us get frustrated and upset.  We know all these things, so Landon gets the tight-jawed, quiet version of ourselves as we struggle to wrap up the day.

And then we go in our room and snipe at each other and uncork all the frustration we were trying to conceal from Landon.  It's a real mature moment.  It might be funny if I wasn't so busy trying to figure out how to do a mind-wipe on Bill so he would instantly forget he ever heard me saying the irrational things I tend to say when I'm annoyed.

A lovely day: filled with family, fun, and good food, and at the end of it Bill and I find ourselves holding onto each other in a helpless hug, saying a humble prayer, and hoping we get another chance tomorrow.

Friday, February 24, 2012

Writing or Wandering

Here's what I've noticed about myself and writing.  The more I write, the more I want to write.

When I stop writing, the sand blows in, and it takes a great deal of strength to hope that it could rain in a desert.

When I stop writing, it doesn't take long before I start to believe I'll never have anything meaningful to say.  To anyone. Ever.

If I continue "not writing" it doesn't take much longer to believe that I have never had anything meaningful to say.

Not then, not now, not ever.  Writing well feels like finding an Oasis: a temporary, fragile place blessed by the water of inspiration, just as likely to be reclaimed by the desert of self-doubt and lack of ideas.

It's a noisy, howling desert, whipping words off the page before I even have time to finish forming them in my head.  It's blank, and boring, and seemingly endless.  Nobody wants to wander in that space.

I wish I could learn to saddle my camel with enough inspiration to last me til I get to that next place of creative profusion, where words flow like rivers.

Better yet, I wish I knew how to move to the writing rain forest.

Anybody know how to get a ticket?

Gone in a Moment

It is entirely accurate when they say,  "He was RIGHT here a second ago."

I was not being a bad mom.
I was not leaving my child unattended without regard to his whereabouts.

I was, however, shopping with my mom and Landon in a thrift store that allows for a generous margin of touching everything we see.

Which is why we go there.  

To read the books, play with the toys, touch and talk about all the little household gizmos, ride the plastic vehicles, and generally fill some time with a free adventure out of the house.  More often than not, we go away with nothing but some fun memories.  (and a little deposit in my reserve of sanity)

Until today.  Today Landon was quietly sitting in the aisle reading kids books and I was in the same aisle browsing cookbooks.  My mom came by and asked, "Where is he?"

And then that line, "he was right here a second ago," hit me in a way I really didn't like.
Because clearly, he was completely not there.

My mom went near the front of the store (and exits) and I roamed every aisle.  (in a store about the size of a grocery store).  To the back.  To the toys.  Calling his name with more urgency and volume each time.

My heart rate goes up.  Adrenaline shoots through.  I have a picture of myself sobbing and saying, "It happened so fast," that is flickering on the edges of my thoughts, while another part of my brain is urging me to ignore the drama and FIND my son.

I lock eyes with my mom across the store and can see that she is starting to bubble alarm, too.  I know she'll guard the front doors.  I'm headed to the side "Employees only" exit and banging it open a little too forcefully. And starting to raise my voice, attracting attention, and looks of pity or contempt, I care not.

I've swept this whole store once.  This is going on too long.  I hate myself (Cookbooks?  I lost him over cookbooks?!) and I hate this situation and I hate not knowing where he is and I wonder how long it will go before I totally LOSE it....

when a  little blonde head whips by me, riding a wheeled plastic vehicle.
He's going under all the clothes and having a grand ol' time.

Until he sees my face.

We are leaving. Right. Now. You did not stay near me and I did NOT like that, and we must go.  Now.

No spanks, no yelling, no shaking him, but the steel in my voice must be new because he starts to cry a little as though he had gotten a spanking. 

My kindest mom says nothing but, "Wow, they can really get far fast when they are riding on one of those things."

I was not being a bad mom.
But it scares me that in this gig, there are times when "good enough" just isn't going to cut it.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Persuaded by Bear

I went to school to learn how to teach effectively. I haven't taken a single hour of parenting classes.

There are times when the only parenting tools that come to mind are not really parenting tools at all, but old classroom management tricks that work for the eight and younger crowd:

"I like how Kayla is showing me she is ready to start."
"Thank you, Jackson, for following instructions."

 Focus on the behavior you want, and thus get more of it.

So what to do when you have an only child?  Who is two?  Who doesn't have the benefit of being positively swayed by praises to others who are leading the way?

It was way past bedtime.  And my little buggy was so tired, he could no longer find the will to move.  Just cry and grouch and fuss and fret.  Kicking at me if I tried to pick him up to move him to his room.  We were at a standoff.

 I found myself using a low, slow Eeyore voice to make Landon's bear speak to him.

"Come, on, Landon, I'm really tired.  Won't you please take me to bed?"

Oh!  Did you hear that, Landon?!  Bear is really tired.

Bear intones on: "Yeah, I want to snuggle with you, Landon.  Let's just go to bed."

Landon wouldn't you like that?  Bear's ready for bed.  Why don't you go upstairs and put him in bed?

Kay?  Please?  Sweet-light-of-my-life-boy-who's-wearing-me-out-tonight.

I don't realize how much I have hanging on whether he is going to go for this newest ploy.  He is exhausted and tottering on the edge of a long and difficult meltdown. 

I'm exhausted and tottering on the edge of one, too.

"Ok, come on, Bear."  He drags Bear by one arm up the stairs. 

I exhale.

Bear's entreaty worked when all mine just stirred the pot.

Thank you, Bear/Eeyore/God.

With no degree in Parenting, I'm just making this stuff up as we go along.