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.


I’ve been thinking a lot about magic.

I find that magic shows up in my life when other things feel completely prosaic and mundane. I’ll be totally fed up with my work and my writing, parenting or my relationship will feel humdrum, and then there will be this little glimmer of something–an interesting coincidence, maybe, or a good turn done unexpectedly or even something strange and painful that makes me pause (magic isn’t all good–remember Lord Voldemort). The magical: A few weeks ago, when I did that great yoga workshop, I had an intense moment in meditation when the word “cleave” starting running through my head. For some strange reason–maybe because I am one of those types for whom strange words running through the head is sort of normal–I wasn’t alarmed. More than that, I got it. I have felt since I gave birth to L that the experience caused me to sort of split in two, in a very weird, esoteric, almost-too-deep-to-access (and really too personal to talk about) sort of way. So I’ve been kind of carrying that word around a bit. And this week at a doctor’s appointment I learned that, in fact, part of me did split in two when I gave birth. You ever have something happen that you would never have known was about to happen but then, once it does, you realize you knew it was going to happen? That’s what I’m getting at. It’s a little…magical.

So then, this morning, I was chatting with a friend on the street. She’s not been having an easy time of it, and I remember a week or so ago her telling me that she had been so out of it one day that she’d forgotten to put her son in a nighttime diaper and generally made a right mess of things in her life. I don’t think she told me but she also lost a favorite earring that day. This morning, as we were chatting on the street, I looked down and said, “Oh look, an earring”–at which point she went ballistic with joy. I’d found her lost earring and the weirdest thing was that it was lying at a place on the sidewalk where anyone could have stepped on it. In fact, it was directly in the path of a car that could have backed out of its driveway at any time and crushed it. She lost the earring ten days ago. But it was beautifully, perfectly intact. To me, this was sort of medium magical, but she is convinced I’m the next Hermione Granger.

Well, okay, if you say so.

And oy, here’s the mundane: I had a rib injury in December, as I think I’ve mentioned. I either cracked a rib or pulled a muscle from a particularly violent bout of coughing. This injury was healing, slowly. But yesterday I sneezed and I literally felt something pop in my side. Then: agony. I’m very barely mobile on 600 mg of Ibuprofen. I’ve been able to sit at the computer for a while but I should probably go lie down again. Doctor’s appointment at 2:45.

And can I just say, toddlers are not capable of empathy? Trying to explain to L this morning that Mumma had a really big owee and I needed him to cooperate–failure. After B left for work L climbed back in his crib. He climbs in, but he doesn’t climb out. I couldn’t really go in after him so I had to wheedle to get him to the edge, then one-armed drag him out. He gave me hell putting on his shoes, etc., and all the while I was trying to find some adult place to connect to that would understand why he should be ginger with me. Not happening. Good to know he’s developmentally appropriate, I suppose…

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