RIS (Repetitive Instruction Syndrome)

“Your Dad is on the phone with a client, so I am going to need you guys to play quietly in your room and the living room please.” I instructed the children, as I set out a basket of oranges, graham crackers, grapes, and cheese slices, placed “Over the Hedge” on their little t.v. screen in their room, and provided them with juice and two different colors of clay, with various implements of clay creation to entertain them with.

“Sure mom!” Monkey said “I will keep Otter in our room and play quietly!”

Otter smiled, sat on his chair, grabbed a piece of cheese and the play clay knife and began industriously sawing away. Pleased that my plan to entertain the children seemed feasible, I went to the bathroom.

My mistake.

As soon as my pants were down, literally, both children were screaming their heads off in the kitchen, mere inches from the office door and Lee’s phone call with the all important client.

Rapidly interrupting and cleaning up from my heretofore necessary, but now less important, bodily functions I sped out of the bathroom and hustled everyone back into the kid’s room.

“What on earth is going on?” I demanded from Monkey, exasperated that my careful providing of snacks and two distractions had failed so quickly and dramatically. “Didn’t I just finish telling you that Daddy is on the phone with a client and you both need to play quietly in your room?”

“Well, Otter was fine until he took some of my yellow clay and ran off with it so I decided to go get it back and make him play with his own yellow clay but he didn’t like that so he ran to the office to get daddy but I knew you didn’t want him to so I stopped him in the kitchen and yelled at him so he yelled back. ” Monkey replied, in one breath.

Hmmm.

“Okay, let me get this straight. Your brother, who is two and doesn’t really understand the whole your clay/his clay concept, ran off with your yellow clay. Instead of simply letting him go and taking his yellow clay, you chased him into the kitchen, where you weren’t supposed to go, and took it back, thereby making him yell and cry. Then when he wanted to go get Daddy, you yelled at him outside the office door, making him yell and cry again. All this right after I explained to you that Daddy was on an important phone call with a client and needed the house to be quiet. Do I have that right?”

“Yes” Monkey responded, hanging her head. “Sorry mom. I won’t do it again.”

Oh, but she will. For you see, mere minutes after I deposited the children in the bedroom with new snacks, a restarted movie, new play clay, the option to paint with the “no mess” paints and paper, and NEW instructions to play quietly because Daddy was on a phone call, Monkey engaged Otter in a game of “Who can scream the loudest.” (Otter won by the way, he has a scream that can break glass.)

Then, when I blocked access to the kitchen off with a baby gate and locked the bathroom door in an attempt to at least keep them physically further away from Lee, Monkey thought she and Otter should ride around the dining room, nearest the baby gate,  on Otter’s loud new scooter, singing loudly into the volume enhancing microphones they bought with their allowances yesterday. The microphones I am now the proud temporary owner of.

I told her to get off the scooter, that she wasn’t allowed to ride it until her Dad was off the phone. She pushed it over and loudly stomped into her room yelling about how unfair it was. Then, when I followed her into her room, she screamed her head off, horror movie style, because “I scared her.” I asked her if she would like me to lock her in her room for the rest of the day and cancel the day’s activities, because I had just about had enough of her unwillingness to listen, follow instructions, and behave like a sane person. I then told her to remain in her room, on her bed, silently watching her movie until I came and told her she could do otherwise.

Of course, when I told my husband about the trials and tribulations I suffered while providing him with some semblance of peace for his phone calls this morning, he told me that my mom and dad were probably high fiving it and laughing hysterically upon reading this, well revenged for some of the shit I had pulled on them growing up.

I informed him that statements like that were only wise if he was attempting to have a long and happy marriage with my mother.

Taut

stretched tight, skin aching,

heart beating, loud and frantic.

Afraid if the slightest rip appears, the band will snap!

The page will tear, the fragile hold we have on life will be no more.

So many of the people I know, or know of, seem to be desperately holding on to what they have, blindly putting one foot in front of the other, simply so they can continue to exist. Certain that this sort of blind continuing is what is required in order to survive.

I have discovered recently that the problem with this blind moving forward is that one doesn’t seems to be able to remember that sharing our burdens with each other lessens them, eases the weight they place on our shoulders. When the world seems to be crushing you with its unceasing ability to push your head underwater while you desperately try to breathe, calling a friend is often the best way to catch your breath. Even if that friend is going to spend as much time telling you about their personal suffering as you spend telling them about yours.

Actually no, I would say especially if that friend is going to spend as much time telling you about their personal suffering as you will spend telling them about yours.

I have been swimming underwater without air for so long now that my chest hurts with an almost constant longing for breath. Yet, regardless of how much I know my friends and family love and support me, I can see how tautly they are stretched too. I shudder at the thought of further burdening them with whispers of my troubles. So when asked how I am, I say “fine.” I soldier on. I choose not to burden them with my troubles, which means I also don’t make much time for theirs.

But the other night Hatchet and I took our girls out for an evening date. We set them loose on the park and she and I talked. Really talked. We talked about how much life sucks. She shared her life suckage and I shared mine. Suddenly, there were bubbles of air in my dark, oppressive pool of life. They tickled up around me, caressing my face, arms, legs, like a natural spring sauna, bringing with them life and laughter, smiles and breath.

Three hours of being sad together. Three hours of walking in our muck and shit together and I was lighter.

She and I aren’t stupid people, so we did it again last night, and today, I am lighter yet again.

My life is more possible based on three hours a week of shared suffering than I ever imagined it could be.

So I offer up a challenge I suppose,  make time for each other again. Break out of the routines you have locked yourself in, find that friend you have been convincing yourself you were saving from having to deal with your troubles. Call them up, share your burdens, and ask them to share theirs.

You will find yourself loosening up again, better able to breathe, simply by sharing in each other’s stories.

(Oh and Hatchet dear, this one is for you.)

Bye bye Mama milk…

Last week Otter and I said goodbye to nursing. He was two months past his second birthday.

The decision to wean was not made lightly. He had been growing more independent for quite some time, blossoming the way breastfed babies do. Then suddenly he began to regress, demanding more and more milk, becoming less willing to eat solid foods and becoming violent and angry when I wouldn’t let him nurse. I started feeling as though keeping him on the breast was doing him more harm than good, a feeling that started inside me, and grew. One day he and I had a huge fight about nursing, and we decided, together, that it was time to stop. I told him, in one week, we say bye bye to Mama milk.

That week we snuggled a lot more, we nursed for longer periods, even though we stayed on our three times a day schedule, mornings, naptimes, and bedtime. When weaning day came, we woke up and I invited him to have as long a nurse as he wanted, because it was our bye bye to Mama milk nurse. It was a wonderful nurse. We nursed for a long time. We smiled at each other, patted each other’s cheeks, played with our hair, smiled. He would sit up and talk from time to time, and then settle back in to nurse some more. We snuggled close, took our time, really said goodbye.

Then we got up, got dressed, and went out to Target to get Otter his very first “Big Boy” toy. He picked out a plasmaglider, this very cool self propelled glider. He was very proud of it, rode it through the store, the checkout line, and under my very paranoid eye, even out to the car. He has ridden it around the house constantly ever since. He is thrilled with it, because sister even likes it, a sure sign that it is, in fact, a Big Boy toy.

This week has been surprisingly easy for my boy. We have had a few times when he has asked for milk, and then gotten sad when I have reminded him that we said goodbye to it, but for the most part he has not missed it. He has been co-sleeping again to make up for the lost closeness, and has been less willing to be away from me during the day. He has been needier. However, it seems the milk was more a comfort thing for him, than it was a source of food, as he doesn’t miss the nutrient as much as he does the snuggles.

As for me, I have found it very hard. I have not only said goodbye to nursing Otter, I have said goodbye to nursing. I have said goodbye to babyhood. I am no longer the mother of infants. All those silent moments of communication, spent staring deeply into my baby’s eyes while they greedily drink away, every swallow bringing satisfaction, knowing I am personally responsible for making them healthy and strong. All the soft, fuzzy head snuggled against my arm moments. All the hushed nursery moments. All the first balloons, and baby chortles. At thirty three years of age, that magical part of my life is behind me. Otter was my last baby.

I am on to the hustle and bustle of noisier children, busy children with questions and activities, and the certainty the Mommy doesn’t hold the world in her hand and certainly doesn’t always know what she is doing. I am on to PTO meetings and playdates, boyfriends and girlfriends, allowances and driving permits. I am on to children who don’t have time to snuggle me, and won’t want to spend an hour on Saturday morning cuddled in bed with me, just talking and playing with my hair.

Otter took well to weaning. Me, not so much.