Last week was a bad week. Very bad. I can’t think of time when I’ve felt less equal to the task of parenting (actually I can...the first two years of the twins’ lives and M’s 5th and 6th years).
I don’t know the right way to respond to a child who filches pocket knives out of drawers, one who spits in my face, one who kicks and hits me, one who sprays the hose directly into the house. I know lots of wrong ways.
Mainers use the word “ugly” to describe a type of personality or behavior--angry, mean, grouchy, ill-behaved. We all four were ugly last week.
It was the first week of school. The first week of Kindergarten at a new school for the twins. It was probably a hard transition from summertime’s easy living to learning new rules, meeting new people, holding it all in and behaving for six hours. Every day I failed. It was also 90 degrees and 85 percent humidity every day, with high ozone and particulate matter in the air. Too much for even heat-loving me. Weather that can make anyone ugly.
I tried to be understanding. Every day I vowed to be more calm, patient, loving. Every day I failed.
I tried to build extra moments of connection into our days--reading books in the afternoon, letting them squeeze lemons beside me as I made dinner, coming home early with ice cream sandwiches and filling the pool, lying in bed with them after lights out.
And still they were ugly at dinnertime and bedtime and wake-up time and pick-up time. And I was even uglier because I resented that I had made those extra efforts and there appeared to be no benefit. I did not want to be around them. I wanted to run away to a villa in Tuscany. I could hear my own voice in their angry interactions with each other and it made me sick to my stomach.
Friday was the worst--they had the day off of school and I had it off work. We were going to go up to our friends’ camp on the lake, but decided to put it off one day because of Hurricane Earl’s expected arrival, which was a huge mistake. It was still hot, a perfect day to be at the lake. Having other people around to pay them attention and being outside on the water would have calmed everyone’s ugliness I’m sure.
Finally, I shut myself in my room just to avoid any more confrontations. I did some sewing, some lying on the bed blankly, some cleaning. I could hear them downstairs making messes. I could hear them outside, with M as the director of activities. When C came home, he took them all out to dinner and left me home alone.
I reread the short story, “Boys” by Rick Moody. It reminded me that boys are dirty, smelly, ill-mannered creatures, not the angelically behaved cherubs that appear to exist all over blog-land. The reality is much less pleasant, I reminded myself, but a lot more interesting. I would prefer interesting children to pleasant ones, right?
I had just written a short piece about nature journaling as a form of meditation, so I took myself outside to contemplate the sunflowers and the stunted giant pumpkins, colored pencils in hand. I lay on the couch mindlessly. I ate cold onion rings and half a pint of Ben & Jerry’s after C got home (emotional eating always helps). I told myself I just needed some restorative time to myself, but really, I just did not want to be around my own children.
I hope our weekend at the lake helped and we’ll all feel restored this week (though what I truly needed was a weekend in a sensory deprivation chamber!) and better able to cope with whatever comes along.