Tuesday, March 24, 2009
I want to get back to "Simple"
One of the reasons I left corporate America, moved away from the windy city and embarked this new chapter in a small midwestern town was to simplify.
I had visions of writing in my journal more, playing with the kids outdoors, baking with fresh foods not boxed foods, learning about birds, reading books, scrap booking maybe even making soaps. I know, the soap dream may be a little ambitious, but my approach was to take it easy, slow down, care for myself so that I can care for my children.
It's been 20 months since we have moved. In the beginning, I did slow down. It was like I was on vacation. We rode our bikes everywhere, spent many morning hours at the beach and afternoon hours napping. I managed the home easily with simple lists that I would write up that would remind me which days I needed to dust, clean bathrooms, floors, laundry. For some reason I was able to manage all of my responsibilities and my life was happy.
I am not sure what happened though. At what point did it all go awry? When did I stop making lists? When did the laundry pile up to the ceiling? When did my calendar go from clean white boxes to scribbles, arrows and abbreviations that I can't recall and people's birthdays that I still forget to acknowledge? When did I go from feeling like my feet were strong to feeling weak in the knees and a strong desire to sleep in even though my children wake with the sun? Why do I make plans to do all these wonderful activities then dread the days and minutes leading up to them and then resent the moments following each appointment?
It all started last night, my realization that this wasn't the life I signed up for. Perhaps this isn't my first ah-ha moment at realizing the dysfunctions in my life and it certainly will not be my final epiphany either. Sienna, my first grader's spring break started this week. Feeling like there is nothing that my daughter enjoys other than her devotion to her Nintendo DS, I made the decision to do something special with her in hopes to draw her attention away from her DS. We were going on a date, a mom and daughter date. We would get our nails done then go out to dinner together, just she and me.
When I mentioned my idea to her, at first, she became angry. Why? I don't know. I have no idea. So, I just dropped the idea and decided that we would just stay at home - again! Oh well, after all, I have mounds of laundry to tend to.
Then, later in the afternoon, she walked up to me, hugged me and asked if we were going on our date. I said sure! I wanted to grab my keys and leave at that instant, happily wanting to bond with my little girl. We waiting for my husband to get home and the second he pulled in the drive, off we went. I realize that Sienna gets stirred up if I talk too much, and when I am excited, I tend to chatter on and on, so on the drive, I tried to distant myself from her and listen to the radio softly. The sun was glowing and the spring birds were dancing circles around our van as we drove past the fields on a country road into town. Not sure what happened in the back seat, but for some reason, Sienna instantly became demanding and had her angry eyes on. We had a heart to heart and then she said she was grumpy but didn't know why. That seems to be a running theme in her life these days. Mine too.
We pulled up to the nail salon, she walked up to the window, smashing her face into the window. I opened the door for her, warned her that the smells would be strong and then tried to distract her by asking her what color she was going to pick for her nails. She instantly told me she had changed her mind and decided that she DID want a pedicure too. Originally she was afraid of sticking her "feet in boiling hot water." But, when she spotted the fancy leather chairs and colored glass foot tubs, she experienced the powerful temptation of a glorious pedicure. A temptation that will revisit her as she continues her life journey past adolescence and into womanhood. She selected glittery polishes. I selected a basic dark rose color. We both sat in the chairs, quietly smiling and enjoying the sights, sounds, smells and the vibrations coming from our massage chairs. As we sat comfortably on our pedicure thrones, the asian ladies doing our toes just kept giggling at my daughter's expressions. It was one of those motherhood moments that was priceless to share with anyone who witnessed it.
Almost two hours of pampering, and $80 later, we slipped on our shoes and coats and headed to Pizza Hut where we would enjoy a free pizza Sienna earned from her Book It Reading program. As we were waiting for a table, there was a group of young girls also waiting for a table. They were a group of fifth graders we recognized from her school. It isn't like she flinched when she saw them, but she did change her demeanor in a flash. She started talking like a baby, tried sitting in the high chair that was next to us. She jumped up and down, she pulled on me and in trying to help her I compassionately told her that I understood that she was nervous. I suggested she stand like a lady who just had her nails done and be proud and happy to be on a girls night out with her mom. But, she couldn't hear a word I said because she would jet out her jaw and pout out her lips and whine like she was a toddler not getting her way. I asked her if we should just leave and she shook her head saying "no no no no no no!" as if she was having a panic attack or a nightmare. In hindsight, I realize I should have left at this point.
But, the hostess redirected us, handed her some crayons and walked us to our table. My daughter insisted that I sit with her on her side of the booth. I agreed and at first we enjoyed playing some of the games on the back of the paper placemat. Then, the group of girls walked by our table and were seated close to us. Sienna instantly jetted her jaw out again and speak in baby language, while banging her crayons. Again, I warned her to act appropriately or else we would need to leave the restaurant.
Was I too hard on her? At what point do you allow your children to be just children, faulty and quirky and when do you do what ever you can to help them to conform in attempt to help them?
She shut down. She tried melting down to the floor, I sternly told her to sit up, bottom on the seat, feet on the floor. She obeyed but still managed laying down on the booth seat. I decided to move to the other side of the booth, sitting across from her. She acted like I rejected her and went into full vicim mode on the verge of a tearful pout.
This was a familiar experience I used to have with my own mother. I was still playing the mother role then, and she would act out like Sienna. So many scenes were caused with her. Too many public embarrassment moments to mention or even to remember. I do recall the big ones, like at my highschool play, my graduations both from high school and college, my wedding, my pregnancy and delivery with my first born... When I was a child, I was the mother to my mother.
She would give the same looks to me when I would try to set boundaries with her. Such a life that I am more than willing to leave in the past yet still creeps up when I least expect it and least need to be reminded of it.
Anyhow, the pizza arrived and I found myself catching the stares of the people around us. Trying to not accept their judgements, although they did consume me in the moment and I felt as though I was an overstrict mean, terrible mother, not allowing my child to just be a child from some glares from fellow diners. From the other glares, I felt the conviction of not being strict enough and allowing my child of getting away with poor behavior. Public opinion on my parenting is a never ending never winning jury so I decided to take a recess, box up the pizza, tip the waitress and put my daughter's coat on her since she was unable to do it herself - at age seven. As she barked and made mild puppy noises, we exited from the restaurant and were safe from a possible scene, or did we make a scene? I can never tell anymore. The lines are fuzzy. All I know is that when the door closed behind us, the experience was also behind us. Finally. A nice moment to be shared between a mother and daughter in hopes of laughter and bonding, was now turned into an experience that finally had passed. Whew! Regretfully, whew.
We walked in the cool evening to the car, both glad for the change of scenery. Our happy toes and fingers smiling at us with each step. As we approached the van, I reached for my keys awkwardly with my left hand into my right pocket so that with my right hand I could hold on to the moment of holding Sienna's soft, tender hand. She hopped into the van and we both cheerfully buckled up. As we drove home, I told Sienna, "Thanks for going out on a date with me. I had so much fun with you!"
She replied, "Mom? Are we home yet?"
Whoa! Not expecting that tone of disrespect, I thought I would take a deep breath and use this moment as a teachable time. I told her, "If someone tells you that they had a nice time with you and then they even thank you for the time that you shared with them, you could say, "Thanks," or "Shucks, I had a good time with you too" but you don't change the subject with an angry tone. That is rude. Do you understand what I just said?"
With rolling eyes, Sienna replied a hasty "Shucks... Are we home yet?"
"Sienna, I loved spending the evening with you so much. But when you are rude like you are being right now, do you think that will make me want to plan something special like this again?"
She replied, "I said shucks, just like you told me to say." Why did I feel like I did something wrong? What just happened, I thought...
Then, she cried and screamed from the back seat of the van, "I was looking forward to this day for a long time and you ruined it for me. You made me so sad." Where did this drama come from? What is happening here?
Thankfully, we were pulling in our driveway. I opened the garage door, walked inside the house. I felt a familiar confusion, a resentment that a mom is not supposed to feel towards her beautiful little girl. I needed time to process it all. After my husband tucked her into bed, and he and I started talking about the evening, guess what the first thing my husband asked me?
"A two hour manicure and pedicure? How much did that cost?"
I used to get manis and pedis at least once a month at a spa. I used feel so lost in the mounds of confusion not to mention laundry. My life used to be more predictable, goal setting and achieving, rewarding. I used to just be a girl who fought a lot with her mother. I had stresses with being a woman in corporate America. Now, my mom has passed away. And now, my daughter has Aspergers, ADHD and Mood Disorders. I don't understand how to be a good mom to her. I fail so many times at my new role as a house wife. I fail at caring for myself like I want, like I need.
I take it a day at a time. I manage what I got. I cope through writing. Thanks for reading this long narrative.
My life as a parent is like swimming in scalding hot waters, then sometimes freezing waters. I don't even know how to detect the temperatures any more. I don't even try. At times, I even forget how to swim. At those moments, I quit kicking and I cry out to God, "Calm these waters Lord. Help me to endure. I'd ask you to help me to swim, but I would rather you just let me float right now. I am weary, wasted, wet with worry and the waters are too much for me." I glance at my earlier phases of life, I had a great suit, good form, I swam even labs, took even breaths, I was swimming and swimming. I just kept going without knowing where. Now, here I am. How did I get here? What is all this laundry doing in this water?