Thursday, February 20, 2014

Inside the house, four children are daunting. They come into the world young, spirited, and full of ideas. The trouble is, we have already been here for years, decades, eons. We are already tired when they get here, and then they don't sleep for years and years, so by the time it gets to the really tricky parts like making dinner and tending to their eternal souls, we don't have a lot of fight left in us.

Outside the house, four children are indomitable. Out in the public view, the parents are always aware that we are one slip-up away from losing control and becoming the subjects of small, unreasonable dictators. Our greatest asset is that, for now, they don't know their own strength.

I've been dealing with some pretty major fatigue in general, so I've been doing partial grocery trips, just picking up essentials like ice cream and Coca-Cola. A couple of nights ago, the Man of God decided to go with me, along with our offspring, to have a dinner out and then tackle Walmart as a unit.

I did a little prep, and set up Team Daddy and Team Mommy grocery lists.  Some people in my marriage were concerned about the length of the Team Daddy list and required visual confirmation that the Team Mommy list was equally long. In reality, the Team Daddy list had been adjusted to allow for Toby walking 200 feet behind while reading a book. That book was almost purchased for $9.98 before a parental conference revealed that neither parent had authorized such a purchase, and it was snatched away and refunded in a storm of pleading and explanation.

Team Mommy had the two younger kids, Tristan, who mostly said, "Can I get out now? Please can I get out? I need to touch the cereal, I need to touch the chicken eggs" and Brynn, who had dressed in full cowgirl regalia and greeted every stern Midwesterner with a "Howdy, pardner." I'd say she got about 90% blank faces and 10% confusion, but she was unmoved, already riding her horse to the spaghetti sauce. Cowgirls don't need your approval, Missouri.

Listen, the team leader of Team Daddy held up admirably. I had strongly suggested he follow the list precisely, since there have been occasions when, being sent to the store for milk and eggs, he comes back with 4 kinds of colored cereal and Easy Cheese, but maybe not so much milk and eggs. His team got all but 2 or 3 items, and I had known those were a long shot. Oh, and they also bought a massive inflated chair, so that balanced the force.

The whole project took a couple of hours. We left for home a half-hour after their bedtime. "Where are we going now??" they said, so hopefully. Team Mommy and Daddy were unified in our response of "Nowhere, ever again."

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

I bet, before the Fall, kids just automatically knew how to use the toilet. "That's absurd!" you say, "there weren't toilets in the Garden of Eden!" and maybe you're right. But neither one of us know for sure, so, checkmate. Or something.

Look, I hate potty humor, potty talk in general. If it were up to me, topics relating to elimination would just be one of those sacred things you talk to your doctor or midwife or shaman about, and the rest of the time it is just mysterious, ethereal, the magic of waste. Like the way I explain childbirth to my children, because clearly I am a concerned and involved parent. "God makes the baby grow inside the mommy," I say, mysteriously, "and then the doctor helps get the baby out." And then they ask more questions and I give everyone candy and firecrackers and that changes the subject.

I know, I know. Reproduction is such a magical part of life and I need to share it with my children. I will, you know. I'm gonna find a video where Elmo breaks it down. "This is the fallopian tube ha ha ha! Let's ask a baby about the uterus!"

But back to my original topic: I don't want to talk about poop. Well, then, maybe you're saying, just don't. The thing is, that's like half my life, people and animals pooping and me coping with it. If I skipped this topic, I would just go silent for months.

The parenting books tell you lots of things, and, like diets and exercise and building a fortune, if you just went down the checklist and did every detail, it would probably work. The trouble is, details are hard.

I potty train children like I'm reading the instruction manual in a tunnel and only have intermittent light. "...start ... during stressful times ...Consistency ...not successful... panic about accidents..."

Sometimes I buy musical dancing potty seats that applaud and bags of candy and stickers and prizes, sometimes I just strip the kid down and try cold turkey and then the whole campaign derails and I put the kid back in a diaper and decide to try again in a year. I keep hoping I'm gonna land a kid who just figures it out by themselves, like I've heard about in fairy tales and on babycenter.

In the meantime, you can re-read my Laws of Moses to Mothers of Toddlers and pray for my soul, and also for my floor.

Monday, February 17, 2014

Some people consider their children's day of birth as the best day(s) of their lives. I don't feel that way. Every one of my children was born into a wave of desperate hope and near panic. Days later, weeks, months, I could finally celebrate them, because it's hard to celebrate something you fear is temporary. 

Every birthday, though, since that day of birth, has been an altar of thankfulness and celebration for me: that I get to know them and the unfolding of who they are becoming.  

And it continually unfolds, a new highlight, a new facet of my child, who God knew from the beginning and who I am learning as we go. These are the easy days, when they have few filters and I am the safest place in their world, and so I see into the windows of their heart with little effort. Someday I know I will have to fight for that view. For now, though, they are so close. 

This year we honored our girl baby turning seven. I know gender generalizations bother some people, but my house is preeeeetty true to stereotype. Boy party: video games, cake, running with swords or what have you. Girl party: so much emotion and feelings. The birthday girl temporarily had the worst party ever and then also the best party ever. I bought all of the glitter, and now I get to keep it forever. 

In my continuing efforts to be defeated by cake, I decided to make a horse, (from this tutorial) because it was a cowgirl party. The internet has informed me that now I am all set up to start a Godfather-theme-party business, so stay tuned for that. I'm actually totally happy with the outcome of this horse head. I think I'm improving, which could be bad for my fail reputation, so I'm gonna try something really challenging for the next birthday that comes around. 
My goal was to have a day that celebrated Brynn, in all her energy and emotion and joy. We did that. I want to do that every day, to take the drama and the chaos and through it all, hear what she's saying and who she is. She is fire, this baby, and I'm so glad. 

Happy birthday to my Brynn. 

Friday, February 14, 2014

Parenthood is a choose-your-own-adventure story, except at the end the main character could just go totally off-script and do something totally unexpected. Not that parenting ever ends, it's just that for this particular analogy I had to have an end, because no book is never-ending, except maybe Anna Karenina, because I'm not smart enough to stick with it and as far as I know it just stalls out at chapter 2 and thus, never ends. Like, never.

The longer I parent, the more I realize that we should give parents a break. There are some phenomenally bad parents out there, but most of us are just trying to survive. Total care of a human soul can be pretty daunting, especially if you have anything else going on, like driving your car or eating a bowl of Ramen noodles while standing up.

And the catch is, one catch is, just when you figure out one thing and you get your Master of the Omelette badge, then another thing comes at you quick and you are back to Rookie at the Toilet Training. Does it strike terror in me, in the wee hours of the night, to think about The Gauntlet of Puberty or The Valley of the Shadow of Boyfriends? It strikes terror in me.

It's not just parenting, although that is my continual struggle. It can be a job, a relationship, life. We're all winging it.

Part of the trouble is nobody is handing out medals. "What do you need a medal for?" maybe you're saying, "when I was in that prison camp in 'Nam, nobody was handing out medals." If so, you are an incredibly specific demographic and I think you, especially, should get a medal. But back to my analogy (and thank you for your service), I think we should celebrate each other more, SAY more.

I have often pondered nominating myself for sainthood after a particularly rough bout with a diaper. "Somebody should know about this," I think, as I scrub my hands raw with a Brillo pad and citrus soap. What if we celebrated each other? Not just our best-side-to-social-media celebration but the real nitty-gritty, the hard parts? Not because we handled it perfectly but because we're still trying.

What if we said to a friend, face-to-face, or face-to-facebook or snail mail or any other variety of way of communicating, "I think you have a hard job, and you are getting it done, and you are doing a good job and I'm proud of you. Keep going." What if we meant it? What could that mean to someone who is secretly struggling and over their heads?

I'll say it to you, just to get things started: I know you are tired and sometimes it's overwhelming and you blow it. But love is what makes you get back up and try again. I honor your love for your family. You are doing a good job. It doesn't have to be perfect, it just has to be love.

Let's hand out some medals today.

© 2012. Design by Main-Blogger - Blogger Template and Blogging Stuff