Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Letters: my funhouse mirror

Dear Sir O -

You have been causing me no small amount of angst lately.  And by lately I mean the last year or so of your short life.


Every little thing you do - and especially the ugly things - seems to be an amplification of my flaws.  Every moment I am lazy or disinterested, or short-tempered or distracted seems to fly back at me and strike me over the head in the things you do.
You are smart enough, we'll give you that.
(Conniving might be more accurate.)
Without fail, if I turn my back on you for 20 seconds there will be trouble.  I have figured out that this is due in part to my not being consistent enough with disciplining you.  I guess you haven't quite figured out that I mean what I say.  And so it is my job now to convince you that I mean what I say every single time I open my mouth.  If I can come up with the energy to do this, then you will eventually stop needing me to prove it and start taking my word for it - so in theory this herculean assignment will pay for itself tenfold.  I'm a little wary though - both of my ability to pull this off, and of your ability to actually start being responsive.  I think I need to have more faith in  us both.

But for how much trouble you give me, you are certainly capable of being kind and helpful and friendly and enthusiastic.  You are impressively patient with the Captain who copies your every move.  You are also better than me at guessing what he wants.  (This is both good and bad though - "older sibling who speaks for him" is toward the top of the list of common factors among children who aren't speaking on time).  You want to be present for every moment of our Gentleman's unfolding life.  Not a diaper change goes by that you aren't on hand to make the baby smile and tell him how cute you think he is.

Really if we could just curb the impulse to use art supplies on anything but paper we'd be halfway there.  The ebb and flow of letting you use crayons/markers/scissors and then having to take them away is becoming a predictable rhythm in my life.  You have this odd impulse to scatter and dump and I cannot seem to wire myself to anticipate it properly.  Between that and your constant episodes of sneaking into anything with sugar or fat I am starting to feel a bit tired, or maybe a whole lot tired.

What's making me so nervous is the way our confrontations about these things tend to go over.  You are not a particularly rational little man.  I have a hard enough time confronting you myself, but whenever anyone else tries to do it - you sort of turn into an angry little flailing demon-child.  You say horribly mean things and you kick and throw.  You, my boy, haven't quite learned how to cap your rage when it starts to flare up.  I do so very much hope I can help you learn that sooner than later.  I'm still hopeful that having our own home again will alleviate this particular propensity a bit.

You happen to be sharper than any tack I've encountered and you remember everything I say.  This means I'm having to slow down and be awfully careful that I mean everything I say.  I dare not make any promises or threats that I'm not willing to carry out in full - I know you will test me on both counts.

While most of this is just an explanation of how tired I feel and why - there are so many bright sides that I need help remembering them all.

You have decided to love preschool again.  You're not so much a fan of getting up in the morning and getting ready to go - but you always come back with exuberance and an impressively good mood.
We finally got you to remember how to spell your name - orally.  On paper you're at least getting all the right letters in there....somewhere.  You are still a strong and wiry kid.  My sister complains that you have a better six-pack than she does (and she has one!)  and you've taken to dragging your night stand around your bedroom to reach things.  That's not exactly a highly mobile piece of furniture, especially with two drawers full of clothes.  (And in the name of safety that night stand will be disappearing as soon as I can find another home for its contents).

You really just want me to play with you - pretty much constantly.  You got so excited the other day when I made time to sit down and play puppets with you.  It didn't go smoothly.  The Captain wanted to join us and he couldn't quite get his fingers situated to his liking - so there was a constant background of him trying different puppets and shrieking his disapproval, plus the invariable crying of our Gentleman who can't sleep for more than 10 minutes at a time.  But you - you were happy as long as I gave you the majority of my attention.  It only lasted 15 or 20 minutes.  Three extremely short puppet encounters, then my narrating your play with the Captain on your imaginary laundry basket train.   It takes so little to keep you happily occupied and out of trouble, but I just cannot seem to give it very often.  It can be terribly discouraging to have 3 little men who want all of me (occasionally 4) and not be able to actually satisfy any of them.  There are lots of moments when I wonder what I ever had to complain about with only one child.  I expect that's a phenomenon that every mother of more than one child has experienced.

I'm still hopeful that I can get all of our acts together.  First and foremost I need to get more sleep.  (Which means we've got to get our Gentleman to sleep through the night).  Then I intend to get us all into a groove where mom is up and ready and inspired before the three little men are allowed out of bed.  I'm still hoping that such a groove will help me stay "present" with you boys instead of starting out behind, then hitting a disastrous climax when I attempt to shower before noon.  I keep feeling I could take life by the horns, if only I could get enough sleep to wake up early enough to actually prepare for each day and the challenge (and privilege) of being your mother.

So next time you tell our Gentleman how cute he is, could you try dropping some hints about sleeping with his eyes closed?


Kermit~the~Frog said...

I hate to be one of those obnoxious Internet advice givers, but have you taken the Gentleman to a chiropractor? Coming through that birth canal is quite compressing and a few small adjustments could (but no guarantees that it is the problem) make a big difference for the little guy (and by extension the suffering mom).

Off Internet advice box now. My oldest is hard to manage. He is nearly 11, and having to learn some hard obedience lessons lately. Good luck.

Carolanne said...

I have been thinking the same thing about my oldest. I think Sir O and my son have really similar personalities, and I have the same struggle of being consistent with him even though I am really only making it harder on myself by waffling in all the time. It is important though, so thanks for the reminder.

hairyshoefairy said...

I'm pretty good at being consistent with Peanut but even so every 2-3 months she goes through this nightmare period of several weeks where she pushes every limit known to man and I really have to put my foot down and remind her that no, really, she still isn't allowed to do certain things and just because she hasn't pushed it lately doesn't mean that's changed. It makes me bonkers and I feel like an awful mom who does nothing but yell. Add in the extra noise and chaos of Wingnut and it's a loud, uncomfortable time for everyone. Then somehow we get back to real life where Peanut remembers her boundaries and doesn't try to push them every second of the day. Being consistent is hard.

Aubrey said...

I loved this post so much. It had me thinking...too much. I decided to copy your letter format and write down things that have been on my mind concerning each of my kids.

Thanks for your honesty, and frankness. It is something I love about you.

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