The last couple days I’ve been really struggling. Old Behavior, it’s called. I’ve felt irritation at people several times during the day, which I can truthfully say is a very rare event these days. I’ve felt easily overhwhelmed by the kids’ behaviors, and have responded rather short-tempered. Today I spoke sharply to my daughter as I was angry with something she had or hadn’t done. Nels immediately rebuked me: “Mama, that’s not okay. You hurt her feelings. Imagined getting slapped, hard. That’s probably how that felt.”
The kids are amazing. Talk about moving targets. I used to behave a lot worse than than just taking a “tone” with them. You know, I’m glad they know a violation and say so. I am seriously so fucking glad. Somehow even in a decade of my mistakes I didn’t hammer into them to shove their feelings down deep. They feel absolutely fine speaking up.
I didn’t learn how to speak up until I was thirty-four.
It’s still not easy.
By the way, I’ve been thinking of writing a piece for one of the mags I enjoy working with. It was going to be, Practices I’ve Learned in Parenting (but with a Sleek! Hip! Sexy! Title), or something. You know. The things I’ve found helpful and consistently true. Can I write it without sounding condescending, or as if I’ve Figured It All Out (because: I haven’t)?
Anyway, today it occurred to me the care of and investment in children are wonderful exercises for smashing the illusion of Control and the resultant suffering from trying to have Control. Either that, or you can avoid this opportunity and try to control the children, and the process of living together. You will get very ill (and hurt the kids besides). In fact, just last night I heard of a friend who made themselves very, very sick trying to do this. The Control thing. Anyway, this morning as soon as Nels was up, before my coffee, he was making bread. Very ambitiously so, and he had the whole business just about right, including knowing the relevant ingredients, which is interesting because we’ve never directly taught him. But today he was 100 PERCENT INTO MAKING BREAD ZOMG!!1!
We were pressed for time, so I asked him to wait. I made them pancakes (with his very avid assistance) and cut up some fruit for breakfast so we could make our appointment on time. As soon as Nels was back home, many playdates later and in the evening, he was at it again. BREAD. By this time I was trying to finish a sewing project but I gave him the guidance he asked for, hollering measurement estimations toward the kitchen, which he followed perfectly well. The dough I sampled before we put it up for its first rise was tender, smooth, and delicious.
As I type the dough is on its final rise, resting on parchment paper. After one or two more bread-making events he’ll be quite competent.
I didn’t learn how to make bread until I was about thirty-two.
But anyway, yeah. Living with children the way we do, I don’t get to decide when they want to learn something (very different than school… which is always telling kids when to learn something and how). It’s not only about not trying to have Control; it’s an exercise in Setting Aside. Someone else needs my help and what I want to do with my life at that second isn’t so important after all.
If I’d remember this consistently, I’d consistently be the parent I always admired.