Monday, August 31, 2015

Summer is over. It’s funny, I always think summer will be restful and fun and relaxing. It isn’t. It never is. It just keeps getting worse and worse. I mean, I ended up in a mommy and me swimming class. Twelve years I managed to avoid that, but X-Man is good at maneuvering me into situations that are brand spanking new.

If I ran the world, I would not have preschool open houses two weeks before school actually begins. Of course, those who run the preschool  don’t have preschool aged children and so are unfamiliar with the wailing protestations that come from being told “No school hasn’t started yet.” X-Man is camped out in from of the front door, with his backpack, demanding that I take him to school or summon a bus to take him. He is certain that in my desire to be the world’s cruelest parent I am withholding school from him. Mac and Baby are certain that in my desire to be the world’s cruelest parent, I could withhold school from them, but am not. No one’s happy with my educational choices.

X-Man is my only summer birthday. In full keeping with X-Man’s approach to life, he chose to usurp my birthday. Which, as it was an early thirties birthday, I was fine to stop tracking. So X-Man turned four. He was exztremely pleased to have made it to this age. Partly as he has lived with me and occainsionally doubted that he would make that far.  I love the birthdays for little kids, who are just old enough to appreciate what is happening. X-Man was able to be very generous and understanding that he was receiving all the marvelous gifts and Cinco was not pleased with the situation. He gallantly tried to share his loot, but drew the line at Cinco grabbing them while yelling “MINE” and trying to hide them under her bed. Cinco was convinced that X-Man having a birthday while she did not, and no she did not accept the explanation that her birthday had already passed, determined that I was determined to be the world’s cruelest parent.  The fact that I removed her from the counter she had climbed on in an attempt to scrap frosting off of X-Man’s birthday cake only reinforced this notion.  

X-Man basked in the glory of his birth. His Nana gave him a birthday card that he was completely enamored with. He refused any attempts to read it to him. Rather he held it tightly and announced “Happy Birfday! FOUR!” So far he was right. He flipped open the card an proceeded to read it “letters letters letters letters” slammed it shut and proceeded to shred the paper off his gift.  He ended the day sleeping in his bed, on piles of duplos and legos.

Cinco emerged from her bedroom the next morning and bellowed “Happy birfday!!!! Mine birfday.” 

Monday, August 17, 2015

There was a study that made the news recently. It purported to show that having children saps your happiness.  A year after having children, mothers particularly, found themselves less happy than those who had divorced or even suffered the death of a close one. Basically, having children makes you miserable. This misery is considered to be partly behind the declining birth rate in European countries. Because children……who wants that kind of buzz kill?

Of course there were those who decried the study. They found it manipulative and subjective, flawed science based upon self-reporting.  It seemed to be pushing an agenda, distorting reality to advance a cause.

I found the study to be plausible. And I didn’t find it alarming or even disheartening. It actually made sense, after a few minutes of pondering. It’s not that being a parent is awful. It’s not that sleep deprivation makes us miserable, that the screaming, the pooping the vomiting ruins our lives.  It’s that we have grown, grown past ourselves. We are no longer content with successes in our own lives, no longer satisfied seeing ourselves grow and flourish. We want more, so much more. Not for ourselves, oh no, for people who are so much more important. People we want so much more for. People we love so much, we accept the poop, the vomit, the exhaustion.  Children don’t make parents miserable. But they do deepen the canal.

While listening to the report on the study, an image of a brook came to mind. Brooks are beautiful, clear and peaceful. They are a source of life, nurturing and enabling life to flourish. But if a brook flows into a river bed, it’s small and shallow and insufficient.  What was more than enough in its own circumstances is lacking in a different scenario.

It’s that way with our hearts as well.
What brought us joy before those tiny little monsters that run ruck shod over our lives, still does. But it’s not the same. Because we are yearning for a different joy, different success…..theirs. We aren’t satisfied in our own accomplishments, we want so much more. We want the world. Not for ourselves, but for our babies.  And, which a source of frustration, we aren’t in control of that which brings them happiness.

And so our life is filled with happiness, but also worries and stress. More happiness, but more worry. And the stakes are so much higher. Not just for their future, but also for us. We see so much more that we can do, that we can give, so much harder that we want to push ourselves. Parenthood challenges us to be better, to give more, to love as we didn’t know we could. It is exhilarating, but it is a heavy burden.

What filled us up, what satiated us, what enough before is no longer enough. We want more from ourselves, we want so much more for our children. Our heart, our lives have deepened. It’s not that we aren’t as happy or now sadder. It’s that we have turned the corner, seen how much more we can give, how much more we can be.

Do children make parents miserable? No. Not full time anyway. It’s not that children ruin lives simply by being born; it’s that they upend the world they are born into. Perspectives change. Priorities change. Everything changes. When your parameters shift so entirely, the standards by which you measured life don’t hold anymore. It’s part of the responsibility that we take on with parenthood.

Welcoming little people into our lives and into our hearts is no small matter.  Life isn’t easy raising children. It’s filled with worry and doubt and frustration. And the measure isn’t our own happiness, but rather the persons we raise our children to be. And those children bring with them something much more than happiness. Something deeper, life altering. They bring joy .

And that’s worth sacrificing for. 

Monday, August 10, 2015

The father figure gave the car a tune up this weekend.

It was good enough to get me thirty minutes away from home. It was not good enough to get me back home. And that's how I spent my afternoon, sitting out in ninety degree heat, realizing that over the course of my marriage I had learned to recognize the tell tale signs of a dead battery. And that I had developed the ability to call the father figure, when the car had ceased working, and remain calm.

And the father figure learned that if he gives a car a 100,000 mile tune up, he should probably go ahead and switch out the original battery. Because at 100, 100 the battery will die. Provided his wife is driving....and all five children are accompanying her. Because, if he doesn't, his wife will overpay for a battery that is delivered to her car. And not even care.

X-Man was fascinated by the battery replacement process. He narrated loudly "He fixing the tar mommy. It's fixing!" I shared his glee. Especially since Cinco's source of entertainment involved dumping her siblings drinks into the parking lot and attempting to skate on the ice cubes. The result was three very annoyed siblings and one utterly filthy baby. She managed to not just fall on the parking lot pavement, but also the surrounding bark dust. The bark dust in which X-Man stood observing the need for AAA in everyone's life. Between that and the general grime that is found inside a car engine, he wasn't representing the family about better than his sister. One look at the two of them and I made the executive decision that our path inside the house would require a detour through the kiddie pool.

Somehow this backfired and resulted in clothing strewn all over the backyard and my toddlers' naked, still dirty bodies, now also sporting dead grass. Which sticks rather tenaciously to a child's body unless it is the vicinity of a wood floor, then it simply attaches itself to the floor and replicates in a manner similar to rabbits.

It all seemed a fitting end to the weekend. Baba spent the weekend away at a soccer tournament. She returned downright bubbly, sporting a shiny gold medal. The father figure was working out of town and left the other four with grandma as I was in an entirely different state---which is generally referred to as confusion--attending meetings. The children ended up spending the weekend with grandma as when the father figure drives my car all sorts of warning light illuminate. So he spent the weekend discovering Detroit decided to hide spark plugs way in the back of that huge engine he so loved.

For whatever reason, Cinco decided that this all was my fault. Or something. She was clearly disgruntled with me when I returned home. She sat, pointedly, on the couch when I walked in the door, refusing to great me as her siblings did. When I tried to hug her, she leaned back into the cushions, while refusing to look at me. And when the father figure had to leave, she insisted on going with him. The father figure asked her if she wanted to stay home with mommy she wrapped her arms around his neck and loudly declared "NO!"

When they returned, Cinco ran up and clambered into my nap and snuggled deep into me. Apparently she was under the impression that it was her and the father figure against the world. Furthermore, she would have free reign within the duo. The father figure was not of the same mind and did indeed actually tell her "No." At least once. Disenchanted with that partnership, she deigned to acknowledge my existence. Any port in a storm.