Archive for October, 2009|Monthly archive page

Haiku: The Last Gasp of Autumn

The ground’s bare still, but
I’m snowed under. Knees and heart,
Like trees, creak – in wait.

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Tomorrow Better Darn Well Be A New Day

My son knows exactly how to knife me in the heart.

“I want another kiss and a hug! Waaaahawaaaaa…”

Oh, how cruel I am, closing the door gently after reading him four stories, two of them twice, bedtime a half hour late.

“Mama, I need another hug! Waaahaaaaawaaaaaa…”

“Bonhomme, it’s nighttime now. Sweet dreams, go to sleep. We can try again tomorrow to have a nice day together. Tomorrow’s always a new day.”

“No, not tomorrow!!! I’m nice, Mama! I’m a nice boy NOW! Waaahaaawaaa…”

Last night, after managing the post-daycare dinner shift by himself while I was at school, my husband picked me up, with sleeping son in tow.

“All debts have now been paid in full”, he told me. “You have a son. Still alive. Be grateful.”

It’s whine after whine these days chez nous. Scream after scream. Tantrum after tantrum. Surprise after surprise. The only thing predictable about our toddler’s behaviour these days is his unpredictability.

For all those parents out there who have marvelled at my son’s linguistic abilities, let me tell you once and for all that a toddler with a phenomenal vocabulary is the same as any other toddler.

“Mama, I want scrambled eggs!”

“Look, Daddy made you pancakes this morning! Aren’t you lucky!”

“Noooo, I want scrambled EGGS! Waahhhaaawaaaa…”

“But look, Bonhomme, Daddy even put banana in them!”

“No, I don’t want the banana in it! Take it out! Take the banana OUT! Waaahaaahawaaa…”

“Love, we can’t take the banana out, it got all mashed into the batter. But it will be so yummy, don’t they smell good?”

“I want scrambled eggs! With no banana in them! Waahawaaaaa…”

“Well, I’m afraid you’re just going to have to suffer with fresh warm banana pancakes this morning. Would you like them cut up with syrup on them, or whole and plain?”

“I want them just like that!”

“You don’t want any syrup today?”

“No, I want syrup, I do!”

“OK, that means we have to cut it up if we put syrup on, so you can eat it with a fork like a big boy.”

“Noooo! Don’t cut it up! I want it just like that!”

“OK then Love, here you go.”

“Mama, I want some syrup! Wahaaawaaahaaa…”

And on it goes.

And on.

And on.

Everything’s a crisis, morning to night.

“Momma, my pajama’s unrolled! It’s ruined! Wahaawaaahaaa…”

“Look Love, I just need to roll it back up again. See, all done.”

“No, it’s ruined! I ruined it!!! Wahaawaaaha…”

“Look Love, Momma fixed it. It’s perfect now. So, which book do you want first? Harvey the Baker?”

“No, I want Harvey the Carpenter! Wahhhaaawaaaa! Not Harvey the Baker! Wahaaawaaa…”

“We can read Harvey the Carpenter instead, it’s no trouble. Here it is.”

“No, not instead! I want both of them!”

At which point he does a little mad dance, while wailing, until both pant legs unroll.

“Momma, my pants are ruined! They are ruined! Wahaawaaaa…”

A half hour of this and I’m ready to blow a gasket. And then I get hit with it, after having finally made my escape, Mr. Sweetness-and-Light all tucked in.

“Momma, I want another kiss! Momma, I need a hug! Wahaaaawaaaa…”

It’s that he’s so reasonably unreasonable that does me in. How can I not get sucked in to explaining, cajoling, arguing, defending, and convincing? And it’s not like the little turkey doesn’t know exactly what he’s doing, the conniving manipulator.

And so, of course, I go in to give him another hug.

“Momma, I need a kiss too.”

I kiss his sweet soft cheek.

“I need another hug.”

One more hug.

“No Momma, don’t go. Momma! MOMMAAAA!!!! Wahaaawaaaaa…”

I have a son. Still alive. And I’m grateful.

To Claire, For Remembrance

It has been a year since my first miscarriage.

A year since we first met, and parted, too soon.

Who would you have been, child of my heart?

You would have been fierce, and stubborn, and proud – and hell on
wheels. You would have been stunning.

I’d like to think that I could have taught you somewhat of bravery
and strength and patience, but if you were anything like your
brother, you would have been the one teaching me.

Especially that part about patience.

You have continued to be a part of my life, seen in the glints upon
water, the sparkles behind closed eyes. You have taught me how
precious life is, how beautiful, and how very much it is worth.

You were unexpected, uninvited, unforeseen.

But oh, so very much loved, and wanted – more than anything,
anything else – from the moment you made yourself known.

Someday, heavens willing, I will birth a second child. I hope it
will happen when I’m ready, when I’m strong, when I’m sound.

But if it happens when I’m not, you have shown me that my heart
holds all the strength and soundness my body or mind could ever
need.

How I wish you hadn’t gone. I will always yearn for you, with an
endless voiceless keening.

But I thank everything there is to thank that you came.

I Think I Can, I Think I Can… But It’s A Big Freakin’ Mountain, I Tells Ya.

What is it about toddlers that is so damnably exhausting?

With infants, it’s so easy to pinpoint. It’s sheer physical overload. You’re just completely zonked. Not only do you not even remember what an adequate night’s sleep feels like (let alone an uninterrupted one), but you are quite simply, run off your feet every waking (and half-waking) minute.

You spend your life picking up, carrying, washing, changing, feeding, cleaning, burping, wiping, soothing, bending, crawling, hurrying, lifting, packing, sterilizing, cooking, tidying, worrying.

With toddlers, the physical stuff is blessedly easier (which is very much appreciated by this Mom, having 39lbs and 96cm of flailing to deal with), but the mental and emotional gymnastics are so much harder. And it’s not that babies are really on your side, but they generally aren’t actively against you either. Having enduring (and effective) opposition is just, plain, depleting.

Toddlers argue. They whine. They cry. They throw. As mentioned, they flail. They make brilliant arguments. Then the next microsecond, they want exactly the opposite of what they just argued for. And then they don’t want it. And then they do. And then they scream. And then you lose it. And then they look at you, with eyes the size of dinner plates, take in a deep breath (while you close your eyes in defeat, knowing what’s coming and knowing you caused it), scrunch up their little adorable faces into the most devastating sorrow, and erupt into tears.

You spend your life reminding, asking, cajoling, arguing, consoling, admonishing, disciplining, convincing, encouraging, debating, refereeing, restraining, AND  picking up, carrying, washing, changing, feeding, cleaning, wiping, soothing, bending, crawling, hurrying, lifting, packing, cooking, tidying, worrying.

You are under attack, every minute of every day, by a small, whirling, forceful person, who is trying to see just how far they can push every single button you have. And then the next day, they do it again, just to see whether the reaction’s the same.

I don’t think I’m completely out of armour, or armaments, yet. But my performance is definitely degrading.

When Silence Roars – Ignore It. Trust me.

Today, after a suspiciously long amount of silence emanating from my bedroom (knowing my son was in there playing on the bed), I made the mistake of checking on him.

I found him, covered from head to toe and very industriously covering every porous surface with, …ahem…, my husband’s and my personal lube.

Someone, anyone, please, PLEASE tell me that this is terribly, TERRIBLY, funny.

Because right now, I’m much closer to crying until I laugh than laughing until I cry.

My son is conspicuously being very, VERY good right now. Apparently Momma impressed upon him the seriousness of his crime, or, he has noticed just how close to the edge Momma is teetering. The newly slippery, supple and well-moisturized edge.

The Lonely Load – And Some Wisdom To Lighten It

In so many ways, being a mom, and in particular a working-studying-depressive-mom, is an incredibly lonely business.

Which is funny, considering how fundamentally social this thing called parenting is.

The past few weeks have been just brutal. I knew it beforehand, while in the thick of it, and looking back (having survived). It was a perfect storm. A heavy workload at each of school and work, a looming transition to a new job, Dearest writing two crucial French exams, new friends and routines at daycare for Bonhomme to get used to, and resulting temper tantrums all around.

The best indicator of just how stressful it all was, was surprisingly not me falling apart at the emotional seams (my usual metric), but the behaviour of our trusty toddler.

Two stressed-filled weeks and two stressed-out parents resulted in one big puddle of whining, indecisive, irritable stressee – and stressor.

The time when Dearest and I most needed a peaceful, smoothly-running, predictable routine to come home to became the most contentious, loud and exasperating place our house has ever been.

Feeling alone, overwhelmed, out of steam and just about defeated as I hit this marathon’s wall, I reached out for help.

In the intervening days, I received some profound advice and reminders.

In case you’re curious, sympathetic, or quite simply desperate, here goes.

1) Trust your instincts.

Sure, there are plenty of ideas and resources and tools out there that can help you in your parenting, but ultimately, you’re the expert. No one knows how to parent your child better than you.

2) Replace juggling with a catch and release program.

Don’t try so hard to keep all the balls up in the air in a beautifully coordinated and choreographed dance – catch the balls that come at you, then release them gently back into their own natural orbits. If any of them drop – oh well. Balls bounce.

3) Aim for being a Good Enough kind of parent.

A friend of mine who shares a history of depression with me often jokes with me about the nuggets of wisdom we need to stitch on a pillow some day – one of which is “Shoot For The Middle!” In most areas of my life, I’ve managed to adopt this philosophy – but not in my parenting. It’s always seemed to me that there’s too much at stake to play it too loose when it comes to raising a child. I’ve come to realize that there may be too much at stake if not playing it loose enough. What I’ve been told, have told others, and am telling myself once again is that what my child needs more than anything else in the world is a healthy mom. And ignoring or negating my own needs – mental, emotional and physical – in answering my son’s, is not healthy for anyone. I need to conserve some energy by cutting back on practically perfect and instead zeroing in on good enough – so that I can have some energy left over for myself. (For the record – I’m not the one who thinks I might be aiming for practically perfect – a wise lady with a great deal more perspective than I mentioned that in comparison to my peers, I may be setting the bar a wee bit high.)

4) Democracy was never intended to be efficient.

Neither, I think, is raising a toddler.

5) It really does take a village.

I can’t do it all on my own, nor should I try. When I do, I crowd out all the other wonders my child could experience from all the other people who love him. My job as a mom is to identify the trouble spots, ask questions, listen, leverage, advocate, set parameters, provide some tools, make some introductions, supply infinite hugs, and get the heck out of the way.

6) Play to your strengths.

You have some. You have lots. Recognize them, embrace them, use them, respect them. Weaknesses are useful in identifying which strengths can be used to get around them (yours, or others’), and that’s about it.

7) Each individual part, let alone the sum total, of what I’m doing is DAMN HARD. So stop being so damned hard on myself.

It can be a lonely business. But only if we let it be.

An Aggregate Being

I am nominally studying for my microeconomics mid-term; my eyes gazing unblinking at the autumnal view.

I can’t cram another equation into my grey matter – operating at less than optimal capacity and fueled by too little sleep and too much stress, my brain is full.

So instead, I contemplate the silently falling leaves, and the sway of branches breathing.

I never imagined it would be this hard.

I’ve been studying part-time, continuously now for over 8 years. I’ve been working in the Canadian federal government for over 10. I’ve been a mother for over 2. My husband and I will soon have been together for over 12. All of these numbers combined total a sum greater than my lifetime. And I am living this total sum all at once.

I’m staring at my notes now, which describe aggregate demand and the marginal benefit of supplying one more unit. But I’m not thinking of rise over run or P times Q, but instead, adding demand upon demand, equaling years. And the cost looms much larger than any ephemeral benefit.

I’ve just come from a fascinating discussion of the blurring of private and public personas, and the subsequent implications for public administration. One of the students raised the sociologically-based theory that human beings are fundamentally uncomfortable with the idea of all of the different parts of their lives aggregating – we seek to keep separate the many selves we portray in different contexts, and when we can’t, we get frantic.

I’m not so sure.

Is it my inability to separate all the puzzle pieces of my life, or my inability to integrate my many selves into a cohesive whole that makes me feel so frantic? Either way, each piece demands too much from me at once.

Bonhomme has recently decided to solidly identify with the Terrible Twos. He has been experimenting with them for about a year already, but has now evidently decided to own this role thoroughly. A method actor, for sure.

Of course, what his little mind is really doing is developing a moral code, a sense of right and wrong, a system of measurement for acceptable and unacceptable behaviour. And watching Mommy and Daddy go nuts in the bargain.

It’s awfully hard to rationalize this at Oh-Dark-Hundred when gale-force shrieking rips through the house. A new record was set this morning for earliest time-out ever.

He too is trying to figure out his aggregate selves. So young it starts.

He is seeking stability, continuity, consistency, boundaries, support. And above all, the people he trusts most to hold him and tell him and show him he is loved, no matter what.

Would that I too could be so sure of that comfort.

The times I feel like screaming at the top of MY lungs are a bit too frequent these days. I guess there is some comfort in knowing that all my selves agree on this particular demand.

All of this has to add up to something.

And I think it just might be this:

“Momma, I’m gonna get bigger, and Bigger, and BIGGER so that I can study just like you! And I’m gonna get BIGGER so that I can do da drums! And I’m gonna do da fire and make crème boolay for YOU! And I’m gonna get bigger, and Bigger and BIGGER so that I can take my lunchbox, and an apple and a muffin, and put my backpack on, and go on da schoolbus! And then I’m gonna STUDY!!!”

I contemplate the loudly growing boy, and breathe in every sweet swaying breath.

The marginal benefit, I’ve come to realize, is my capacity to graph an aggregate dream curve – both demand, and supply.

And it’s not just me that I’m graphing it for.

The Harmonica: The Epitaph

Shrieking, piercing cries of a herd of baby seals wailing a torturous death knell reverberated through the house this morning, an unholy sound at an unholy hour.

Husband Dearest insists that after publicly shouldering the blame for the Harmonica Havoc, I take my turn.

I hereby proclaim:

The penny flute was, and forevermore shall be, my fault.

A link to a beautiful poem on sadness

I have a half-dozen half-written posts – but whenever I squeeze in a few crumbs of time to post, my thoughts frazzle and my words fizzle.

Luckily, I found this gorgeous gem to share with you.