Tag Archive for: children

Two young women sitting together in front of a fountain

It’s Mother’s Day and I’m thinking about my children. I woke up, having tucked my right hand firmly beneath my butt cheek to keep my arm from flopping off the side of the bed. This morning, it was because Marley (the dog) was pressed right up against my side – his bony spine as unyielding as a block of iron. But it was the memory – the muscle memory of tucking my hand underneath myself so that my arm didn’t dangle off the side and get cold and go numb – that made me smile. I developed this technique of sleeping comfortably on the very edge of the bed as a young mother.

Erin slept like Jesus on the cross – arms flung out to both sides – and for such a tiny thing, she took up an astonishing amount of room on our Queen size bed. She slept so lightly that the slightest move would wake her to angry tears. She wasn’t a cuddler, but she slept most soundly in bed with us, and it meant I could roll over to nurse her once or twice in the wee hours and we could both sink back into sleep without my feet ever hitting the cold floor. But she and Sean took up the majority of the bed and, as much as he hated that we let her share the bed, it was easier for me to avoid the conversation by fitting myself into the smallest slice of mattress I could by sleeping with one arm tucked beneath me, flat on my back, straight as a chopstick.

Lauren shared our bed as an infant, too, but she wanted to snuggle. Sean was sometimes more resigned to sharing the bed with her and other times more vocal in his resistance when he realized that with Erin, it hadn’t simply been my response to her difficulty sleeping and more of a parenting philosophy. I wanted my babies close. He wanted a bed for us and nobody else.

I encouraged Lauren to curl up against me instead of him, hoping that in his sleep, he could forget she was there. As long as she didn’t poke him or make him too hot, maybe he wouldn’t be reminded she was there if he rose up from a deep sleep to semi-consciousness in the middle of the night.

During those years, I often woke up with a stiff neck, legs contorted at odd angles, lying nearly diagonal across the bottom half of the bed to carve out some extra space, while Sean slept on his half and Lauren’s tiny frame curled into a Nautilus in the middle, her little fingers wrapped around my ear or tangled in my hair. When Sean traveled – which was a lot – he got the hotel bed to himself, and I invited Erin into our bed and slept in the center, stiff and straight, with her making her t-shape on one side and Lauren pushed up against me on the other. It was bliss.

I may have awoken stiff and sore, but I never woke up resentful. In those first quiet moments before anyone else opened their eyes to the day, I clearly remember lying there wondering at this beautiful life, smiling to myself at how amazing it was to be lying in bed next to one or both of my babies. My heart warms and tears swell in my throat at the memory, with deep gratitude that I experienced this – waking every day next to the warm little body of a person who called me “Momma.”

I’d tuck my hand under my butt and wake with a sore neck all over again for these two – these amazing humans that made me a mother. I am so incredibly blessed to have them in my life and so honored to have held them for the time I did. Happy Mother’s Day, girls. I adore you.

Well, at least that’s her story.  I’m not sure I’m buying it, but I am also not sure that it matters what either of us thinks. The part that is becoming crystal clear to me is the fact that Eve isn’t me. (I know, that ought to have been clear a whole lot earlier than now.)

Summer is a hard one for me.  Every year I try to find that elusive balance between down time and scheduled time. I know that this is a good problem to have. I have many friends who work full-time and have to sign their kids up for some combination of summer camps and daycare just to get through a 40-50 hour work week. I am lucky enough to work from home and have the flexibility to take my summers easy, if not entirely “off.”

And so, along about February I start perusing the options and polling the girls on which camps they would like to attend, which friends they would like to arrange schedules with, and budgeting how much money we can spend on which exorbitantly expensive summer activities.  In years past, I’ve horribly over-scheduled them and only realized it when we got to the end of August and hadn’t picked berries or gone to an outdoor movie or taken an impromptu drive to a beach.  I have also grossly under-scheduled them and been left with whiny, bickering, “bored to death” children who stare at me as though I am the world’s most negligent cruise director and demand to be entertained or they will fight over ridiculous things and sigh theatrically all day long.

This year I was very distracted by the sale of our house and our move and scheduled very little, hoping that moving to the city would offer us more options than carbs at Ye Old Country Buffet.

For the past three weeks, we have had nothing pre-scheduled except for a week of Math Camp that Lola attended at the last minute (and LOVED, by the way – I know, go figure).  Eve, on the other hand, is fully embracing her nearly-teenage status by staying up as late as she can get away with and sleeping until 10 AM every day.  She lounges on the couch and reads, goes for walks in the neighborhood with the dog and asks to go to the library or shopping nearly every day.  She is driving me nuts.  I ask her every day whether she wants to invite a friend to come over, sleep over, do something and she always cocks her head as if she’s considering it before declining.  She did have one sleepover with two of her best friends last week and was in the kitchen pulling me aside to make sure they left before 1 PM the next day so she could, “have the rest of my day to myself.”

I think that most of her teachers would say that Eve is gregarious, outgoing, friendly and socially engaged.  I think she is, too.  At school.  At home, she prefers to hole up in her own room for hours belting out her favorite songs or reading.  At least once per day she tromps down the stairs to find me and declare that she doesn’t know what to do. She’s bored.

I realized the other day that I was feeling responsible for her entertainment.  I was feeling all this pressure to think up things for her to do, but since she doesn’t want to hang out with her friends, this means that I have to find things for her to do with me.  Since her favorite activity is shopping and my seventh circle of Hell is shopping, that’s out.  My favorite activities involve walking in nature (or our new neighborhood) and exploring the city’s (free) cultural offerings like parks and outdoor art and farmer’s markets and she quickly tires of those, so that’s out too.  My frustration built to a crescendo the other day and I admitted that I didn’t know how to solve her problem.  Left to her own devices, she begins whining to play on the computer or watch a movie which is not going to happen since I have instituted a technology ban from 10-3:30 every day and the weather is lovely, lovely, lovely.  Foiled at every turn, she begins messing with her sister which degenerates into bickering and general nastiness on both sides.

“I don’t understand why you don’t invite some of your friends over. I’ll go get them if their parents can’t bring them.  I’ll take you guys somewhere – theater in the park or an outdoor concert or the pool.”

“I don’t want to, Mom. I’m happy just hanging out at home most of the time.”

“But you spend so much time alone. I feel like it’s my job to entertain you and that makes me mad. And I worry that you’re lonely or depressed.”

She looked at me like I was nuts.  “It’s not your job to entertain me, Mom. And I’m not lonely or depressed. I’m an introvert. I recharge away from people. It is work being around other people, especially at my age. I’m not you.

And therein lies the rub.

You see, my issue is simply this: I’m not bored. I’m overwhelmed having them around all the time. I want to be SuperMom and have fun! exciting! stimulating! activities planned for them. And then I want them to go to someone’s house and play so I can get my book reviews written – I’m behind by two – and maybe a blog post or two.  And then I want to hang out with my friends.  I miss my friends since we moved and I want to invite someone my own size to come do something with me or just have coffee. But the problem with that is that I have to ditch my kids to do that or I have to invite a friend with kids my kids want to hang out with. Lola is always up for hanging out with other kids regardless of age or gender.  Eve not so much. She would rather be alone.

So yet again it turns out that my issues with my children are simply my issues.