August 1, 2016
It had been a long day. Trying to parent alone while working is tough. The girls started fighting in the backseat of the car while I was trying to work out some ideas in my head. Of course I wanted two tired, little girls to be quiet while I thought. Instead the yelling quickly escalated to fighting each other with elbows and jabs. Then one started crying and the other started screaming. Driving in Atlanta traffic, I lost it and yelled back at them to be quiet. I hate it when I discipline the kids for screaming by screaming. It’s so much harder to parent without fear. It requires a higher level of emotional awareness and energy, and I was on empty.
Once we got home, I was seething from two girls annoying me plus my reaction to the two girls. I just wanted to stay in a negative place and think about how difficult it is being a single parent and what a bad hand I got. Then when we got home, R said “I’m sorry, I was frustrated with M, but I shouldn’t have yelled or hit her.” She took the high road. Instantly, she had released me from my negativity with those words. A moment earlier I had thought my kids are brats and parenting is so hard only for that thought to be instantly replaced with my child is more emotionally mature than I am. I’m still pouting, and she’s ready for forgiveness and to move on. It amazes me how quickly they can transition their emotions.
A few minutes later, we were jumping on the trampoline holding hands and laughing, and it dawned on me that I had just experienced a journey of emotion within such a short time frame, guided by my child. To move from emotion to emotion, it was critical that I let the previous emotion go. She helped me with that. As an adult, we want to hide or hold on to those emotions. We have a bad day or a good day. It’s one emotion for the day, maybe longer. Not three emotions in an hour. It was a reminder to embrace the ride. To turn up the music and roll down the window and enjoy the bumpy road.
The girls and I decided to make the extra upstairs bedroom into an office for the three of us. We were rearranging the furniture and quickly my vision of an office with my work and the kids’ school work got overtaken with M’s doctor kit and mini “office” to take care of sick stuffed animals on her side and R’s red boa and decorations on her side of the room. I started thinking that this may be a bad idea to keep all my work organized.
I said aloud, “This may not be the best idea. I don’t want you girls getting into my work stuff and making a mess of it. I’m going to be upset if my work gets disorganized.” R replied “Yes, I know what you mean. I feel the same way when M messes up my stuffed animals when I have spent so much time laying them out in a certain way.”
I first thought that the stuffed animals getting disorganized was minor and not worth getting upset over compared to what I was talking about. And then I thought she probably thinks the same of my work. It’s all in how you view it and how you choose to view it.
My dad is a pediatrician, and my mother is a pediatric nurse. I grew up knowing how important having daily bowel movements is to overall health, and most recently the media has shown how important it is to your mental health too. So I find it natural and the role of a parent to ask my girls daily about their poop. I give them high fives for snake poops, and we talk about the importance of drinking more water and eating more fruits and vegetables if they have balls for poop.
As usual, I asked R before bed, “When did you poop last?” She said, “Today.”. “Great,” I said. “Was it a snake poop?” She said with a smile, “Yes, and the weird thing is that it came out in the letter R.” “I guess that deserves two high fives?” I said with a laugh.
A few days ago, R got annoyed with me that I was working on things and not responding quickly enough to her needs. She wrote me a letter that said, “You hurt my feelings. When you tell me to do something I do it asap. When I ask you to do something, it takes you one minute.”
Today I took the girls to the zoo. After 20 minutes of hard shopping in the gift shop, Ruby settles on buying a stuffed animal sloth. She tells me it’s name is Sally, named after me. Maybe it was my slowness, but I was amused.
Last week the stomach virus went through all three of us. When I told M it had finally gotten me during the night, she cried, “No, no mommy I’m so sorry I got you sick.” And then she burst into a more intense cry moving into hysterics. She was in the back seat. I had just picked her up from school, so I couldn’t hug her to calm her down. I told her that I was fine now and all good, but this didn’t seem to help calm her. She handed me a letter that she had written at school, Mommy, I hope you don’t get sick. I love you.
I thought to myself for a second why would she be so upset about a 24 hour bug? Could she be thinking I am going to die like her dad? So I asked, “Do you think I am going to get sick like your daddy?” She nodded her head up and down for yes and kept crying. I reassured her that my lungs were strong, and I was already better. That stopped the crying for a moment.
Then she starting crying again, “Either Ruby or I will get daddy’s lungs. One of us will die, and I don’t want us to die.” I knew she was tying this conversation to an earlier conversation about what they inherited from their dad. I told her that both of their lungs were strong, and they will be ok. “You couldn’t scream as loud as you can if you have bad lungs,” I said as a way to reassure her. She gave out a good scream with a smile that ended the conversation and the tears.
R likes to save money. She’ll do laundry, clean the car, clean her room and can be very helpful when money is involved. R had saved up to $250, so I asked her, “What are you going to buy?” She said quickly, “A castle, so I can move out and have my own place.” “Do you mean a place for you to move to after college?” I asked. She said, “No, as soon as I get the money, I’m moving out.” I asked her, “who will take care of you if you move out?” She said, “I’ll hire a nanny, of course.”
The girls were pretending and playing family with a friend. I asked who everyone’s role was in the game. R said, “I’m the mommy, M is the kid, and her friend is the nanny.”
R has always been curious about her body and what will happen to it. One day she asked a lot of questions, so I decided to tell her about the signs of puberty. I could tell that she was thinking through it all and wondering when it would happen to her.
Later that day, a little 5 year old M says with fear, “Mom, R says I’m going through puberty right now and my boobs are about to get huge.” I laughed and told her it wouldn’t be until much later. She was relieved.
The next day, M and I were waiting in carpool for R, and M was asking what the letters on the car dash meant. I told her, “E is for Empty. F is for Full.” And then she says, “And P is for Puberty”.
One day talking to the girls, M said “what would you do if an alligator tried to attack us?” I said bravely with a smile all proud of myself, “I would jump in front of the alligator and keep it from attacking you”
Both R and M bust out crying at the same time to my confusion. How could that answer caused them to cry? It was just a theoretical discussion, I thought to myself. “Mommy, no then you’ll be dead. Pick up a stick and beat the alligator. Don’t put your body in front of it,” said R.
“Why would you let the alligator kill you?” said M.
Geez, I thought. This is conversation isn’t what I thought at all. Fighting alligators is simple.
After squishing the three of us into a love seat for 6 years, I decided to finally buy a new couch. New furniture purchases are rare in my house. My mom likes to visit estate sales and usually finds something used for me. This time I decided to get something new.
I told the girls I was excited for the new couch to arrive. When it finally did, I said to them, “Don’t you just love it. It’s great!” They responded with frowns to my confusion and told me “You love the couch more than us.”
“What?”, I said in astonishment. “That’s impossible and ridiculous. I’m just excited about it is all.”
A few days later, we were sitting on the couch (that I no longer can call by name) and the girls were fighting over me. I suggested that one sit on my lap for 5 minutes and the other get the dog in their lap, and then we rotate. That made them excited and they agreed. After five minutes were up, they both wanted the dog instead of me. So I said, “You love the dog more than meeeeee” with a whine and a smile. Hopefully, that ended the couch conversation.
Laying in the bed with R one night rubbing her back and her head to help calm her before sleep, and she says to me with sadness, “I hate my ears. They stick out and the other kids make fun of me.”
I said, “I love your ears. They are your daddy’s ears, and every time I look at them, I think about him. You have something of his. They have meaning.” She smiled and touched her ears.
I then told her the story about Jennifer Grey changing her nose and then everybody liked the old Jennifer Grey better because she was unique and now she looks like everybody else. That probably wasn’t the best story to tell to show my point. R said, “Well that was mean that they didn’t like her when she changed.” I stumbled through, “Well my point is that it’s special to be unique and not look like others.”
R thought about it all for a bit and then settled in to sleep. I’m pretty sure this topic will come up again.