Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Emotional Whiz Kids

I have two amazing little boys who teach me so much about the world. I am learning that they are also excellent mirrors for me and sort of a litmus test for my own inadequacies.

You see, if you don't already know, parenting is a humbling experience. Imagine with me...

  • Realizing you've left the house with no makeup or appreciable hairstyle, but plenty of drool and/or snot on your collar.
  • Talking down a child who is insisting on a balloon from the party store, when you only wanted to run in and return a $2.99 item. He plunks his bottom on the sidewalk and refuses to walk to the car.
  • Having your nursing babe grab at your shirt in front of complete strangers, only to have them return a smirky smile.
  • Holding out your hands, imploring your child to just, "throw up here" so he doesn't get it all over the carpet at the library during storytime.
A wise person said, "I was the perfect parent until I had children." We think we know a lot about how children should be reared until we are in the trenches, dealing with tantrums, sickness and just plain immature behavior.

I've long said that if my boys have the basics--enough rest, food and opportunity to eliminate--life is swell. However, after some recent experimentation and contemplation, I have two more items to add to the list:


Eye Contact
When I was growing up, my Mom (a cat fanatic) explained to me that if you want to bond with a cat, you should look it in the eyes and slowly blink at it. I'm still of the opinion that cats tend to choose one favorite person in the house, but it's commonly agreed that emotionally healthy people like eye contact.

I realized how often I was expecting my kids to "just play quietly for a minute" so I could tidy the kitchen, put away groceries, or pack the diaper bag to go somewhere. They were supposed to be happy on the floor while I was quickly walking back and forth. So when I read part of this book and realized that I wasn't giving much focused eye contact, I tried it out on my kids. So far, it really seems to be making a difference, not only in them, but in me. I find some very maternal feelings welling up when I take just a few seconds to gaze into their precious blue eyes.

Free Play
I really do think that my kids would be happiest if I just laid on the floor with them all day long while they played next to, or on top, of me.

That idea just about bores me to death. I thrive on accomplishing things.

These kiddos, they are smart. They know when Mommy is rammy* and can't just BE. This is something I'm really trying to work on, mostly for their sakes. Being present in the moment and lingering a little too long on the couch is not a bad thing.

The bad Mommy police will not come after me if we are a few minutes late to storytime, but the kids will remember if there was yelling and a battle to get dressed. The more exasperated I become, the more irritated they become, and the spiral begins. I'm the parent and I need to choose to go more slowly.

It's also really important not to overschedule their day. They want to wrestle and play trains and rearrange every.single.toy. in the house. And slowly, gradually, I am able to fold laundry or knit or even clean nearby while they do their "work."

What are you learning about the needs of others in your life?

*Sorry if you aren't PA Dutch. This means agitated, wiggly, a little anxious and eager to get a move on.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Deja Vu

It's déjà vu all over again. -Yogi Berra

It seems like this house has been on an every-other-week cycle of sick-recovering-sick-recovering. And most amazingly, it's been Mommy who's been down for the count more than anyone else. (And we aren't talking sniffling, sneezing, etc. We are talking full-out stomach sickness, twice.)

I am totally learning how to ask for help from others. Getting over the guilt of having to call family members home from work to do "my job"...not so much. 

There are a number of growing edges for me in this situation: 
  • There is no choice but to let the housework go.
  • I must accept help from others without being able to quickly reciprocate. It's fascinating how I display this pattern of having to "even the score" with those who assist me. Like I'm afraid they will reject me if I need too much.
  • My boys really can rise to the occasion when Mommy struggles to do more than lay on the floor. I was so impressed with their emotional IQ on this. (More in a future post.)
  • I've been reminded again that I cannot keep running on fumes, and maybe a 9pm bedtime isn't cool, but it's what I need right now.
  • We must wield the bottle of hand sanitizer as a mighty anti-germ-warfare weapon every time we get in the car from an errand or play date.
Allow me to share with you my new triage plan for personal sanity in times following illness:

Deal with the dishes
I get really grossed out thinking about what grows on the dishes that accumulate on the counter during these spells of illness. The first thing I tackle is unloading and reloading the dishwasher (washing hands often) and cleaning the counters and table.

Gather laundry
More heebie-jeebies lurk on towels, dishcloths and clothing (especially if your kids are snotting on your shirt...and don't pretend that never happens in your house!) I at least try and wash everything on hot and dry it, even if it sits in baskets for a few days before being put away.

Finally I wipe down all the bathrooms and any surfaces that we tend to neglect--doorknobs, light switches, remotes, etc. because heaven knows you've been stumbling around and watching more TV than usual.

Just step over the clutter and go to bed. It will be there in the morning!
(And for whatever reason, it's just easier to clean when there's daylight.)

So what's your game plan when sickness has thrown your household into chaos and confusion?

Today's disclaimer: For those of you familiar with the roots of déjà vu, I do not believe in reincarnation.