The Little Negotiator...and Further Reflections
"Mom. You need to give me ten bucks, because I buckled my car seat myself today."
OK, dear, you are 3; here's the deal. I will not be paying you anything for buckling yourself in your seat.
"OK Mom. How about 5 bucks? You need to give me 5 bucks."
No dear, I do not. Hard lesson, isn't it?
What a day. This one rivals this one, although it doesn't quite rise to that level. However, it did include, among other things, one lost and very needed camp binder with much searching high and low and so far no success, one bird flying through the house and getting stuck in our dining room, one trip to Costco with four children, two bank jobs (errands at two separate banks), and 45 minutes on hold with one of our lovely creditors trying to fix an error on our account.
It also featured an absolute highlight of the summer: Today we went to Jazz Art, a twice a year event sponsored by the Berkeley Civic Arts Commission. Picture one cool jazz cafe, a professional jazz trio, and art supplies. For free. With kids and adults, and all kinds of people just drawing to their hearts content while a fantastic trio played jazz loud enough to make conversation not possible (hallelujah!). I dropped Vincenzo and Lola off here, went to pick up Samuel at his first day of Shakespeare camp, and then brought him back and enjoyed another 45 minutes of drawing and jazz.
It also featured, as mentioned above, the first day of Shakespeare Camp for Samuel. I have documented his love affair with Shakespeare here and here. We are so happy that other people get to manage this obsession for the next two weeks, for his sake, of course. (wink) Sometimes, I am just not up to the task of planning full scale productions of King Lear, complete with calvary, staged in my back yard. Go figure.
A full, full day. As I was driving down San Pablo Avenue, captive to the noise in my car (I often feel like the Grinch when he complains of "the noise, oh the noise, oh the noise NOISE NOISE NOISE!") the thought crossed my mind that this must be what people are thinking about when they look horrified at the number of children I have. The sheer volume, the sum total of all the voices and laughing and shrieking and yelling and fighting and singing -- it can be downright oppressive.
But in the midst of having far too much to do, far too little sleep, and far too many needs to respond to, I do get glimpses of who I am and who I want to be. For a long time now, I have felt nothing but overwhelm, nothing but struggle. For a long time, I've felt like I'm trudging through the thickest mud, and making very little, if any, progress. I have been trying SO hard to keep my eyes on the prize, so to speak. I'm not even sure what the hell the prize is, but I'm trying to keep myself focused on what I can do in waking hours and how I can approach the tasks at hand. It's a balancing act, to be sure. It's not just a matter of balancing competing responsibilities; what's harder, and more important, is balancing my thoughts and emotions about all of those responsibilities and how I am faring at meeting them.
I want to work hard, play hard, enjoy life, and let the small stuff go. I want a house that is comfortable, not necessarily spotless, I want clean socks in their sock basket, I want happy children. I want the bills paid, the refridgerator full, and happy children. I want to talk to friends, enjoy cooking sometimes, and happy children. I want to be reasonable, playful, sensitive, happy, and maybe not so tired. And I want to achieve all of this without feeling like a failure when things don't work out the way I planned, without ripping myself to shreds when I screw up, and without regard to small losses. I guess I want quite a bit.
But mostly, I want to approach my days like I somehow was able to today, with energy and enthusiasm for the things that were enjoyable and with patience and detachment for the things that sucked. (A word I do not let my children use, but one that is oh-so-apt right there at the end of that sentence.) That spirit, that approach to life is elusive. Where did it come from, and where has it been these past several weeks and months? Will it be back tomorrow? What can I do to bring it home permanently, to have it unpack its bags, take up residence, and settle down for a good long time?
The hardest part of parenting is the consistency. And that goes way beyond whether or not I always put a miscreant child in the appropriate length time out for a misdeed. It has to do with that balancing act of keeping myself alert and ready, being gentle with myself and family, facing daunting and mundane tasks with matter-of-fact attention, and doing what needs to be done.
Today, my kids were happy. For the most part anyway. Today, I enjoyed being a mother who has way too much to do. Tonight, I am still a puddle on the couch, ready for a nice cold beer.
I wonder what tomorrow will be like.