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”.