Decisions, Decisions

I’ve had one of those days with L where, you know, I nearly lost my cool a couple of times. Really it’s been a lovely day: the weather here in NorCal has been utterly perfect of late, and we spent a long morning playing at our favorite park. Then I pushed L a little too hard by attempting a market trip on the way home when it was too close to naptime. When L dropped to his knees in the middle of the street and refused to go on, I found myself feeling pretty weary. The thing about two-year-olds: they’re not rational human beings. As my friend C says, their brains head in one direction a while and then completely short out and/or go in a different direction; there’s not a lot of follow through. So even though we had a deal–the groceries would ride in the pram, and L would walk, since Mama has a busted rib–L decided to change the deal at the last minute and get seriously annoyed about the pram sitch and thus, throw a mini-fit. I can’t remember my tactic, but disaster was averted, we made it home, and L slept for three hours, so, all was well that ended well.

But. Of late I find myself repeatedly…repeating myself. “L, please put these toys in the basket…L, please put these toys in the basket… L, please put these toys in the basket…” until I eventually threaten something like, “Put the fucking lotion in the basket!” (Kidding.) B and I discussed it last weekend and agreed that it’s been a stress of late, L’s REFUSAL TO DO WHAT WE WANT HIM TO DO and our FAILURE TO COME UP WITH A GOOD SOLUTION TO THIS PROBLEM. I know, I know, I push him too hard. He’s two, right? And, in case you’re wondering, yes I DO use all the solutions in the handbook of two-year-olds: I give him warnings, I set clear boundaries. Yet L is the kid who, when you have very carefully established that something is happening in two minutes and then you say, “Okay, L, it’s been two minutes, time to put the toys in the basket” holds up his hand and says, “FIVE more minutes.” And will argue with you until he’s blue in the face (or you are).

I should insert here that my kid can be one of those infuriatingly nice children who drives other parents crazy. As a general rule he’s not aggressive; he shares, usually; he sleeps well; he can articulate what he needs; and he has been known, when seeing another kid in distress over a toy, to just give the toy to that child. He appears often to have empathy and he’s really, really sweet. Over the weekend, in fact, L pitched a fit in front of his aunt and uncle and Aunt C said, “wow, this is rare, huh?” She’d never seen him pitch a fit before. For a second I thought about lying. “Yeah, he never does this. Ever.” But as I am compulsively honest I had to admit that since L has turned two fits are pretty much an every day occurrence. Generally, I don’t sweat it. But his whole thing about refusing to do what we ask him to do has been seriously bugging me, maybe because I have this rib thing going on, and laryngitis, and B is working late all week. When your kid pushes you over and over, and you’re already tired, you just feel defeated and like he must be the most ornery kid in the world.

This is not L.

And then it occurred to me. L is just like his father. B, my husband, may be the sweetest man in the world. I mean, total love muffin. Kind even when I’m acting like a real pain. Giving. Affectionate. And the most argumentative SOB you have ever met (he says the same about me, but we know better). His parents report that he used to say, “You’re not the boss of me.” Even now, if I say something to B like, “Ooh, you know what you could do for me–” he is likely to set his jaw and give me the bilious eye. HATES to be told what to do. And L is, apparently, very much his kid.

And now I know what you’re thinking: who does like to be told what to do?

Eek–me. I do. I admit it. At least three times a day I wish someone would waltz into my house and tell me what to do. I swear to God. I’d like advisers in the following areas: child-rearing; career-development; house-cleaning; and cooking. I’d like someone to come along and tell me what I’m doing wrong exactly with L, and how to minimize onion smell in my house, and which magazines are likely to publish me, and how I can get rid of that nasty mold in my bathroom. I know this makes me a consummate dork, but I’m comforted by this myth that there are experts out there and that I can benefit from them, that they know better than I do.

Something tells me that B, and L, would rather figure those things out on their own. Anima, animus.

Thank you to everyone for your well-wishes. I have costochondritis, which basically means the cartilage separated from the bone on one of my ribs. As L would say, owee. In fact, he offered to kiss it the other day. See what I mean? As long as you don’t demand that he kiss it, he’ll very lovingly do it on his own. Hmm, maybe I’m onto something.

Hey Babe, Where’s the Mayonnaise?

Something I’ve struggled with since I started blogging, and writing such a personal memoir, is the fact that we Americans just love to talk about ourselves. It’s not lost on me that psychoanalyzing my two-year-old and rehashing the events of my week, though cathartic and, I hope, marginally enjoyable to read, is a pretty privileged vocation. I belong to that camp that believes that human pain is human pain; even the most privileged people in society have problems. And I think if you spend all your time saying, I don’t deserve to feel what I feel, because of the starving children in India, you’re going to wind up with some really specific and bad neuroses. Nonetheless, there are vastly different human experiences, and sometimes it boggles the mind. I always remember the time my good high school friend L said to me, when things were awful in Haiti about two years ago and we both had small babies and were sleep-deprived and generally unhappy, “I do not even know what I would do if my kid was crying because she was hungry and I didn’t have anything to feed her.” I remember we both sort of stopped short and thought about it for a second, feeling very, very grateful.

I have very little idea about what’s going on in Syria at the moment, mostly because my experience of listening to the news goes something like “Scott Horseley, NPR News. In Damascus today“?”Mom! I need more milk!”?forces pushed into?”Mom! I need a snack!”?UN Resolutions?”Hey babe? Where’s the mayonnaise?”, but yesterday in the car I heard that children are involved in the violence and have been murdered, tortured, kidnapped, and sexually abused. I’m not sure whether the horror of those crimes is more horrific to me now that I have a child myself and can imagine being in a place where children were caught up in something like that?but any way you slice it, it’s horrific. And I just wanted to acknowledge that, I guess.

Hmm, mayonnaise

Close to home, things are going well. February has thus far been kinder to me than January was (which strikes me as odd since I think of February as the cruelest month. The kindest? September). You’ll remember I took that yoga workshop last weekend, and it changed my life. Not my life life, but my immediate actions, attitude, and the day-to-dayness of here and now. We started off by writing, and in that brief ten minutes I articulated for probably the first time how depressing and demoralizing I find the competitiveness around trying to get published (a man in the workshop helped me come to this, when, after 20 people had introduced themselves with variations of the phrase “I’m a writer” he said, “I’m an author,” and, well, I did not feel the yogic loving kindness heading his way). Then, we did some asana, just simple yoga but at a perfect pace and difficulty level. Then some meditation, during which time I had my second important realization: that my next project will be about childbirth. Then came the best part. One of the teachers pointed out that many of the students had said that they were feeling “stuck.” “In my experience,” he said, “being stuck just means that you’re hammering away at something from the same angle over and over again. Try something new.” How is it that something so obvious could have been so completely lost on me until that moment? And that was realization #3: I need to stop sitting in the same coffee shop day after day pulling my hair out. I need to go for a walk with a tape recorder so I can hear my own voice again. Or put the book away for a while. Go to an art museum. Do a prompt. Write a poem. Do yoga every day (I have been; just ten minutes in the morning, but it’s ritual, and it’s good).

In other good news L has started at his new daycare. Those of you who have been around me of late know how worried I have been about my dear sweet L, who proved to be sensitive, clingy, sad, and whiny at his old daycare. I assumed for four months that this was just who he was when I wasn’t around. But now after two days–two tiny days–at Lorena’s he is a new man. He didn’t ask for me once. On the ride over, he said, “you dropping me off, Mumma?” And I said yup, I sure am. See you after lunch. No problem at all. I am cautiously optimistic that this will keep up. He even told me he’d like to try taking his nap there on Friday. Could be a disaster; we’ll see. And as though to drive home the rightness of this decision, today we visited his old daycare, to say a proper goodbye. I noticed that while I was enjoying the camaraderie of the women, who are chatty and fun and sweet, L was sort of lost. He didn’t want to ask for things. He didn’t have any skills when another kid didn’t want to share. He was out of sorts. So I think we have made a good choice.

This is getting awfully long, so I’ll stop there. Blessings to you, party people.