Thursday, July 18, 2013

The Boss

Oh my word.  This child is like the final exam of parenting skills.  She is like the boss at the end of the last level in the game of parenting... her specialty attack being her monumental pessimism and grumpiness that knows no bounds, coupled with an overly mature understanding, usage, and comprehension of language.  My specialty attack, the most powerful spell in my inventory, would be that my own stubbornness, competitive nature, and all encompassing passion for winning the prize of raising decent human beings that people would actually want to be around.

Today has been a good day.  I took the kids out to run errands... treating them to Dunkin Donuts for some good, old fashioned, refined sugar and artificial coloring.  It was a relaxing, fun trip.  Ivey dressed herself in her Minecraft t-shirt, yellow skirt, and heart antennae headband, the girls brought in their stuffed animals, Addison brought paper and a pencil, and taught me a math concept that he learned in a book in the car, sigma notation.  Asa brought his Kindle.  It was nice.


And then, it was time to leave... and Olive preferred not to carry her stuffed ducky.  This wouldn't have been a problem... except for her delivery.

"Carry my duck." 

I bent down closer to her level and nicely said, with a smile, "I'd be happy to!  But, can you ask me in a nicer way?"

The girl stared at me.  She didn't shake her head no, she just didn't say a word.  She tried to hand me the duck.  I calmly, but firmly, told her that I could not carry it without her asking me nicely.

She climbed on a chair and tried to hand it to me.  Frowning at me in stubborn silence.

I was still calm, but did not waver.

"I am so very sorry, but there is no way that I can carry your duck when you cannot ask nicely."  I went on to explain that, in doing so, I would not be helping her to learn how to be a sweet, nice person.

She stared at me, still silent, with her arm stretched out.  She squeezed her ducky in her outstretched hand.

And dropped it.

I noticed an old man who had been watching us the entire time.  He was mildly entertained.

I leaned over and said, quietly, "Olive, I know something that you do not know.  A lot of your stubbornness came from me... I am the master at this.... and I will always win.  Pick. Up. Your. Duck."

Olive picked up her duck and we walked to the car.  Asa was glancing at me with the, "oh my goodness where did this kid come from and who does she think she is" look.  It's like a humored and amazed smirky smile and head-shake.  We are all getting giving that expression to each other a lot these days.

I buckled the girls into the van.  Asa and I were still standing in the parking lot, beside Olive's opened door.  I handed him the duck... to show Olive just how this scenario went down.

Asa and I acted out the scene... "Carry my duck," and so on, ending with the ducky on the ground.  I looked at Olive.

"That was no fun!  Man, can you believe how that sounded?!  Let's try it again with a better choice."

Then, Asa and I acted out a better scenario. It still started out with the demanding opener, but ended with a question, a please, and a thank you.  Olive watched.

"Wow!  Did you see THAT?!"  I probed.

Without hesitation, or expression, this three year old pain in the rump let out a "No."

Holy cow.

This girl has a very high understanding of the world around her, of language, even expressive language.  SI can talk to her in a way that most three year olds could not even understand.  And yet, she is so stubborn that it makes it all fairly useless... or it at least seems that way.

She know that it is our job to help her become a nice person, a sweet and respectful human being.  She knows when she is tired, she knows when she is only whiny because of hunger, she knows when a hug will help calm her down, she has an amazing, innate, self-awareness.  She just doesn't want to be nice... and she will explain it.

"I only want to be a little nice to people."

"I don't want to smile."

What does one do with this?  According to Mom, I was a lot like this... enough to earn her calling me  "Melancholy-Holly".  But, was I this bad?  I know I was stubborn... Very stubborn... But, was I this stubborn?  Olive prefers it when her siblings all go off without her.  She thrives on her own, playing happily, no one to interrupt her or tell her what to do.  I am not sure that I have ever personally met anyone who values their independence and adulthood as much as I do.  Although I married a wonderfully laid back awesome man who couldn't care less what I do around the house or where I move furniture or if I even cook dinner, I still prefer to move couches and beds in the silence of 2am, on my own, just so I don't have to voice my plans.  We come from a long line of stubborn women.  Although I am sure it made me a pain to raise, it is core to who I am, and I appreciate this quality.  I thrive on independence.

I guess I just keep plugging along.  She doesn't make it easy.  Try explaining to your three year old why she is in trouble and having her look up with a frowny brow and state, "If you would stop talking, I would start feeling better."  Not easy.

I did make up a rhyme yesterday that, although will most likely do no good, was cute.  During a grumpo moment in the car, I asked Olive to reach up and feel her forehead. 

"Do your eyebrows feel bumpy?  If you feel bumpy, then you are too grumpy!"

Sigh.

It's a good thing that, even if the day racks up a lot of damage points, my health car is usually nice and full by the time those little feet come stomping across my floor at the crack of dawn.


Tuesday, July 16, 2013

A letter to my 2004 self.

Holly,

As you stand in front of the dilapidated old home that you have fallen instantly in love with, there are some things you should know.  First of all, it really is a great house.  The potential that you see, through the shabby, old, bare gray siding is truly there.  The house is as amazing and modestly elegant as you knew it would be.  It is truly a wonderful home, and you will love it.  You already do.

However, as you and Jeff complete the incredibly difficult and painstaking work that lies ahead, it would help you, in the long run, to focus on the less obvious reasons for all of your effort.  Instead of believing in imaginary figments like "sweat equity", or equity at all for that matter, ask yourself if the work itself, the learning, the example you set for your boys, the gift of life that you will give to the house itself, is enough.  Maybe thinking of it as a fitness routine would even help. 

Holly,

if you go through this process with the idea that something will come of it other than these intangible benefits, you will be setting yourself up for disappointment.  As you stand there, chubby twins on your hips, you cannot know the changes that lie ahead.  Although you fought long and hard for those two boys, your family will grow more than you can imagine.  There are unforeseen injustices (yes, more of them), as well as incredible joys, ahead. By believing that your work here will "pay off", you would plug through the renovation.  

The economy has other plans.

If you do not focus on the alternative reasons for your effort, you will be left feeling lost.  You will leave this beautiful house with nothing more than a printed blog that hurts too bad to pull from the shelf.  You will not take anything from this work to help you to create a new home for your family... other than knowledge, memories, and the habit and lifestyle of hard work.  Maybe that is enough.

If possible, try not to love this house too much.  Try not to put so much of yourself into the decisions.  They are not nearly as important as you think they are.  The closet that you wait so long to use will not be full of your own clothes.  You will not be the one plugging the vacuum cleaner into those outlet covers that you searched around to find.  You will never see that master bath.  These things would be easier if you did not make these decisions, or complete this work, thinking otherwise.

It's not your fault.  The downspin of the market will hurt a lot of people... many in ways that don't come close to your situation.  Try to prepare yourself to not feel defeated, or exhausted, or crushed.  By thinking that your hard work as a financial investment, you will leave yourself emotionally ill-prepared for your next monumental journey.






Holly,


Please try to cut those heart strings that are so firmly tied to this house early on... when the first move is made.  You would have no way of knowing it, but if you do not, you will grieve this house four separate times.  The first will be when you think you are losing it all through an injustice that you could not foresee, the second will be when you believe it has sold and move out, the third will be when that falls through and you have to go back and do it again. And then, it will happen one last time.  You love this house too much.  Maybe you just cannot accept leaving the comfort, the pretty paint, the beauty of the rugs and chairs and curtains.  The comfortable home you made yours... that finally required no explanation or excuses to visitors.

Now, decide.  Given these things, is it worth it?  


Holly of 2013 is having a hard time swallowing that it was.

What helps is hearing the voices of excited, young, newlyweds from the next room... standing in front of that gorgeous mantle and that marble tiled fireplace that Jeff cut by hand, talking about how they can't wait to move in.  What helps is hearing them explain to their realtor that she was right... they would find the one house that was perfect for them.

Your family is not a house.  

Pace yourself.

The disheveled old house in front of you is only one leg in the journey.