Catching Up, Part 7

November 3, 2017

Another event while I was away was Burrito’s emergency hospitalization for several days. It was a bizarre thing, out of nowhere, and it’s totally fine now, but it was really scary at the time (even for me, and you know me, notoriously hard to fluster). As in, when I took him to the pediatrician she said go to the emergency room immediately, you can stop at the house to get a couple of things but only for 5 minutes. As in, life potentially in danger (it wasn’t actually, but they didn’t figure that out for a few hours).

One thing Burrito’s sudden illness brought up is the difficulty of living in a city with no family within a thousand miles. We very purposefully chose, long ago, not to live near anyone from our families. It was on purpose. Even so, when one child is in the midst of a literal emergency and would never let you out of his sight, and the other child is about to be let out from school but the other parent is away on business, it brings home the difficulty of being isolated.

Which, in part, was why we got the au pair.

Which, as I mentioned, really didn’t work out.

So once again we remain isolated. Certain relatives or friends can be called upon to swoop in for a true emergency, but I’ve also been working on building our local network, slowly, slowly. A babysitter picked up Tamale from school when I was stuck at the hospital and kept her until my husband could fly back. There are a couple of friends that I can ask in a pinch; they may or may not be able to say yes, but I’m able to ask. But honestly, for someone like me who is wired to be profoundly self-sufficient (sometimes a strength, sometimes to my detriment), it’s a real effort to even think of asking. Even when I know people want to help, I don’t like to ask. I don’t like to burn social capital (though if I can’t use some capital when a child is in genuine danger, I don’t know when I’m supposed to use all of the capital I build). I also don’t like to depend on anyone else.

If you don’t ask, you won’t get any help. But, if you don’t ask, you can’t get turned down.

I still haven’t figured that one out, but I’m getting there.

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Catching Up, Part 5

October 31, 2017

Another occurrence during my hiatus is that our family had an au pair, for half a year. It was supposed to be a full year but it, uh, did not go well. Nope.

Major, unforeseen personality failings on her part were the problem, plus those failings were a dead-on conflict with Burrito’s personality quirks. It did not. go. well.

I’ve known people who are thrilled with having an au pair. When it’s good, it’s wonderful. But when it’s bad, it’s a nightmare. Even when you fire her, often for days, or weeks she’s still stuck in your house. While you and your children hide in your bedroom all day, too paralyzed by the possibility of seeing her that you can’t go to your own kitchen so you just wait a few hours to eat until she leaves the house. See? Nightmare.

All of that caused me to step back from work and double down on parenting. You wouldn’t have found me volunteering in the classroom before the au pair, because I had work to do. After she left, I was in the classroom every week all semester, twice a week actually, because, you know, twins.

I also became a fierce mama bear… at one point, I thought she had physically injured Burrito. She in fact hadn’t physically abused anyone (only verbal abuse), but when I thought she had, I snapped into a mode I’ve never shown before. Fierce. I didn’t like that any of us had to go through that, but I like what I became.

It also reminded me that, as longtime readers will recall, I have remarkably bad judgment when it comes to hiring nannies (at least this time I didn’t have to call the police). Thankfully, especially after this experience, we’re now past the stage where we need nannies. In fact, we’re not far from being past babysitters.

It also reminded me that 18 to 23 year olds often don’t have the best judgment themselves. Au pairs are by definition young, but even when we sought nannies years ago, I’ve never wanted an older person. Older people do things the way they already know how; younger people can be molded to my (admittedly opinionated) way of doing things.

You know who’s older/mature and does things exactly the way I like? Me.

So despite my philosophical feminist beliefs that women with young children should be able to work as much as they want and should be facilitated in pursuing their career ambitions, I scaled back so that I can leave the office by 3 every day. I put my career in holding pattern mode rather than advancement mode. And unless I have an imminent deadline, I don’t work on the weekends or after school while they’re awake.

If I only had a kid like Tamale, it might be fine to still have nannies or au pairs or after school programs, because she likes everyone and everything. But Burrito doesn’t mesh well with, frankly, most other people.

When they were in preschool, the children made little holiday ornaments with their wishes. Instead of wishing for a baby sister or a light saber or a puppy like other kids, the wish that Burrito had his teacher write on his little ornament was, “I wish to spend more time with my mom.” It took me a few years, but now he gets his wish.

👩‍👧‍👦

 

Thoughtful Thursday: Fright

October 31, 2013

Thoughtful ThursdayI’m glad to see Halloween end. I adore little children in costumes, and I’m often amused by big kids and adults in costumes. I’m fine with pumpkins and candy. But I do not like all of the scary stuff. I don’t like the scary movies on TV and in theaters all month, I don’t like the death-themed decorations, I really don’t like the horrifying costumes. Last year, two different trick-or-treaters who came to our door were so scary that they made Burrito cry (out of more than a hundred, so the odds were small, but still). I abhor haunted houses. Few things in life sound less appealing than someone jumping out at me or, worse, grabbing me in a dark room.

Burrito and Tamale are consistently confused by all of the scary Halloween stuff. Why would someone make their lawn into a graveyard? Why do so many big kids choose to dress in scary costumes? Why does our neighbor’s door have a ghost that makes scary noises when you walk by? Why would people want to be scared?

Beyond Halloween, they both don’t understand the drive for being scared. One of their favorite activities is adjacent to an amusement park, and they can hear the people on the roller coasters screaming. They are so perplexed by people voluntarily putting themselves in a situation where they would be so afraid. Burrito in particular has no plans to ever, ever go on a roller coaster. Tamale at this point wouldn’t particularly seek it out, but she’s game for pretty much anything, so I predict that in a few years I’ll be sitting next to her on roller coasters while Burrito and his dad watch from the ground. I’m fine with roller coasters, not because I like to be scared but because they don’t particularly scare me. I’m not seeking thrills because I don’t experience a thrill. Sometimes they’re whatever, and sometimes I enjoy the weightless feeling of coasting and flying, but it’s not exciting for me. Based on the number of people lining up for roller coasters and haunted houses, I am clearly in the minority.

Do you enjoy being frightened?

Thoughtful Thursday

Welcome to the September Intelligentsia.

#45: Elana from Elana’s Musings
#37: Strongblonde from Strong Blonde
#27: St. Elsewhere
#25: Lori from Write Mind Open Heart
#20: Sara from Aryanhwy

Thoughtful ThursdayFollowing up from the last post, I caved. Burrito made a reasoned argument and I couldn’t refuse. “Abel is my friend and he is nice and he is gentle and he is funny and he is good at sweeping.”

So, I added Abel and Tamale’s 2nd best friend (Lilith?) but not Cain or Seth or anyone else. Additional personalized trains are currently en route to my house. 4 guests, plus their parents — in line with the rule that Sara mentioned her mother using of the number of guests equaling the age of the child.

Anyway, on to TT.

In the past two days, Burrito and Tamale have independently discovered the little box in the back of the silverware drawer. I had the same conversation with both of them, almost verbatim.

“What’s in this box?!?”
Chopsticks. They are my chopsticks.
“May I please use them?”
No, they are my chopsticks.
“I want to try them.”
I bought them in Japan. They are only for me.

There aren’t many things in this house that are just for me — quite the opposite. Burrito and Tamale literally eat the food off my plate, on a daily basis. My office serves mainly as the room that has the swivel chair in which they spin each other around. My hairbrush has taken up permanent residence in the playroom. They clomp around the house wearing my shoes.

But, there are a few items that are off limits. B&T are allowed to use almost every dish, bowl, or cup that I have made myself, except for a couple — and there’s one plate that even DH isn’t allowed to use.

I have a few pens that I wouldn’t let the children use; my husband can use them if he’d like, but the pens can’t leave the house, and I wouldn’t recommend that he mess with the fountain pens.

Sometimes I like to buy myself fancy soaps. Even though DH shares my shower, he’s not allowed to use my soap, because what lasts two months for me will last a week if he goes near it. The children don’t use the shower and they don’t use bar soap, so they’re not a threat to my fancy soaps, yet.

And, there are my chopsticks. Though after he kept asking, I told Burrito that if he keeps practicing with the kid chopsticks (they are attached at the top to make them easier to use) that I might let him use them. If he breaks them, I guess we’ll have to go buy replacements… in Japan.

Is there anything in your house that’s just for you?

Thoughtful ThursdayClosing out the series of questions that I ask Burrito and Tamale about their preschool classmates…

So far, we’ve asked:
“Is she energetic or calm?”
“Is he loud or quiet?”
“Is she friendly or unfriendly?”

Finally, I like to ask, “Is he happy or sad?”

This question is even more relevant for preschoolers than it is for the rest of us.

There’s a girl in their class who, I’m not exaggerating, almost every time I’ve seen her — that is, daily for almost a year — has been crying. It’s not just that I see her at dropoff times, either: she’s cried whenever I’ve seen her randomly at other times of day, and she’s crying in almost all of the photos of the class activities. Best case scenario, she occasionally looks sad without crying. I have no idea what’s up with her.

There’s also a kid that we knew when Burrito and Tamale were babies to toddlers. She is the daughter of DH’s friend and is a few months older than B&T. I never saw her cry, but I also never saw her smile until she was 1 1/2. As an infant, she was what you’d charitably call “serious.” Her parents and brother are all extremely expressive people, so it was striking that this little girl expressed no positive emotion. She wasn’t actively sad, more just sort of perpetually disgruntled. About a month after Tamale started smiling, we spent time with the girl’s family. I genuinely felt bad when the mother remarked on Tamale’s constant, dazzling smile. It was as if things were okay as long as all babies were perpetually disgruntled, but when Tamale burst that illusion, the mother looked heartbroken.

Most kids, of course, are not as miserable as those two girls. Tamale is shockingly, startlingly happy. Huge, huge smile. Pure sunshine. Until she was 2 1/2, non-stop joy. Then, joy interspersed with age-appropriate dissatisfaction with her wishes being thwarted and, occasionally, tantrums. Even so, every kid in her preschool class would easily identify her as a very happy kid.

Happiness and sadness aren’t the only emotions, of course, as illustrated by Burrito. When he is happy, he is very very happy. When he is not happy, you might see anxiety or sadness or rage. He feels big feelings, in all directions.

I have a clear preference for happy children, but back in my days as a mopey teen, I expressed a preference for brooding, pseudo-depressive, black-wearing, poetry-writing, deep-thinker types. I got over that by 17, because seriously, it gets tiresome. Pollyannas get tiresome too. My real preference is for people who know the score but, despite the crappiness of the world, make a choice to be happy anyway.

Do you prefer to be around people who are happy or sad (or something else)?

Thoughtful ThursdayWe’ve just discussed how we’d summarize our mothers and fathers. During Lori’s Listen to Your Mother show, I thought about not only how I would describe my mother, but how my children might someday describe me.

Right now their descriptions are limited to features like, “Mommy has brown hair like me,” or “Mommy wears sunscreen,” or “Mommy never wears flip-flops.” Someday, though, they’ll presumably have more to say. The version of me that they see at age 3 will not be the same version they see at 13 or 23; I can’t even imagine that far into the future, so all I can speak to is the present. Though they may not be able to recall enough to articulate it later, I’d like to imagine that Burrito and Tamale would describe the 2013 version of me as something like:

Our mommy puts a lot of thought into her parenting. She works really hard at giving us special presents and experiences. She is very patient, most of the time, except when she was on Prednisone. She sings to us every day. She makes the cakes we eat and the dishes we eat them on. We’re not allowed to do a lot of things that most kids do, like watch TV or eat candy, but she always gives us reasons why. She doesn’t approve of toys that make noise or light up, so we don’t have any. She always tells us the truth, even when it conflicts with what most people tell kids. She takes a lot of pictures of us on her phone with the cracked screen that’s held together by electrical tape; we like it because the tape is bright red.

How do you imagine your children might describe the 2013 version of you?

Thoughtful Thursday: Scared

December 6, 2012

Thoughtful Thursday

Welcome to the December Intelligentsia.

#38: Elana from Elana’s Musings
#31: Lost in Translation from We Say IVF, They Say FIV
#30: Strongblonde from Strong Blonde
#20: St. Elsewhere
#18: Lori from Write Mind Open Heart
#16: Photogrl from Not the Path I Chose
#15: Cat
#13: Sara from Aryanhwy
#2: Mina from Kmina’s Blog

Thoughtful ThursdayThe Prompt-ly listserv has been discussing a recent article about Munchausen by Internet and people who make up drama such as severe health problems to receive support online.

I missed out on the discussion because I have been dealing with my own severe health problems. Which I didn’t tell anyone online about (except for one Intelligentsia member whom I saw in person last week). Everyone else in my online life, not even a peep. Whatever those people have that makes them want to make up medical crises, I seem to have the exact opposite.

I won’t get into details now as we’re still not sure exactly what’s going on — for the third time in my life, I am once again a medical mystery — but I am out of the woods and somewhat on the mend.

My life wasn’t actually in danger, but there were a couple of days when the doctors, and therefore I, thought it might be. And, as calm as I always am and as hard as I am to rile up, fucking fuck was I scared. The fear was compounded by the hours spent alone with nothing to do, as the medical issues rendered me unable to sleep, unable to get up, unable to use my hands for the most basic tasks like reading or going online, unable to do anything except sit in a chair all night and worry.

I have felt plenty of other strong emotions in life, but I’m not wired for anxiety. Some people, like DH’s mother, live their lives being worried and scared every day. Not me.

The last time I was truly scared was the almost-worst day of my life.

Aside from those two incidents, I can’t remember a time in my life when I was really, truly frightened. Deep to my core petrified.

I hope I never have cause to feel that afraid again. It fucking sucks.

When was the last time that you were really, truly scared? How often has that happened?