Thursday, January 8, 2009

Cabin Fever

I laugh sometimes, sitting at my computer. This only happens at five in the morning, before the kids get up, or at seven at night, after they are in bed. The kitchen is clean, the floor swept. They are quietly asleep, breathing deeply, rosy-cheeked and sweet lipped. The house hums with the sound of the furnace and the fridge and the washer, the darkness outside is swallowed up by the warmth and peace of the house. And yes, the children are still asleep. I can reflect upon my day, upon my good fortune, without distraction. Optimism returns with its fullest, most rosy face on. Here we find the often complete absence of a hint of a thought that I, too, am often overwhelmed by the frantic, high-drama, yet tedious ins and outs of motherhood.

The truth is, about my family life, that I really do just have regular kids, and I am a normal mom in most every way when it comes to the down and dirty of everyday life. I'd love to think that all the wisdom I've accrued, and all the thinking I do about gratitude and humility and community would make me, with each and every action, more thoughtful and wise. Surely it has helped me some, but I mostly feel like an average joe when i'm home with the kids, especially in the mid-winter.

Cabin fever is a very real thing, I think. My kids have caught it, and I have been making more of an effort to suit up and get out, despite the cold, damp temperatures. But in between, while we are loping around the house in search of something wonderful to entertain us, my two children have had their share of bickering and squabbling this winter like they never have had before. I do realize, just to state it, that at ages two and four this is just the very beginning. But I have never done this before, and so I had not previously had plans of action for what to do with tongues being constantly poked out at one another, with random bops and whacks, with sneaky, well-thought-through provocations, all of which result in some end of screaming, wailing, and perhaps somebody on the floor (or whacking back again). Yes, my children are normal, and I'm not sure quite what do to with it. Liam actually was so placid up until this year, Aoife too, that we have never really had a "discipline" plan in our house, we've never really had to do much more than say, Honey! in that mommy tone of voice to get the child to turn, wide eyed, and beg forgiveness. But this sweet stage has closed, probably forever.

This afternoon, during a particularly harsh row that took place across the little children's table that sits in the middle of my kitchen, the children hurled insults and shoved the table back and forth into each other's tummies as they shoveled in canteloupe with tiny forks. Helpless, I darted from one side of the table to the next, uselessly pulling back the table-shoving offender only to have the table shoved right back again. Whatever useless words were flying out of my mouth I cannot recall, but I do remember this, and I remember it clearly.

My son narrowed his eyes, looked at his sister, and said with conviction (and a poisonous tone of voice), "I wish I didn't have a two year old sister like you. I wish I had a five year old sister, like Charlotte."

"Yeah", Aoife shot back, "I wish I had Charlotte instead, too."

Charlotte had entered the play, entered our household argument, she was being held up against the other children as the idyllic dead sister, she who can do no wrong. I did not know what to say.

"I wish Charlotte could be here too," I said, "But you two need each other as well."

I felt slightly stunned.

My mind began to wander to where this might go in the future, mainly to the inevitable insulting insinuation that "you never would have been born if Charlotte had lived." I don't want to have to go there, I don't. I have to catch that one before it comes, on many quiet nights laying under the duvet together, so that the idea is so ingrained in his mind that it cannot be shattered, you are here because we wanted you, because we were desperate for you, because you saved us. You are my superhero, my only sweet son, my most desired and precious child. You made up for nothing. You are what you are.

But that is a project for another day.

So now, I take a deep breath, and I will try to lay out what things can be accomplished before the little, well loved, deeply appreciated monsters awaken again in the morning. I love them so. But they are just regular children, after all.


kris said...

"You are my superhero, my only sweet son, my most desired and precious child."

Something tells me those words will only reinforce what he sees in your eyes and hears in your voice every day.

I can't imagine how you felt hearing those words--just reading them felt like someone kicked me in the gut. But at the same time, how wonderful that she is so real to them, so accessible, so normal.

Keep those pictures of them playing nicely together around the different rooms of the house to remind you.

Happy New Year, Carol.

Meg said...

All siblings fight and bicker. If you don't react like they are saying something horrible (which I think you handled this very well) then they won't pull it out as the gut shot. It will pass over. Hopefully. Just keep doing what you're doing. Handle them with are a great momma.

Cara said...

Ah -the great bickering virus of Winter 2008-09. It attacked our house too. Although, neither of my kids were astute enough to bring Emma in on their side.

You are raising very normal kids indeed - bright too!

Aimee said...

Today at school, Megan (3) did the 100s board...of course she didn't do it exactly right. As they sat with the class counting to 100, her sister (5) was about to point out that Megan had done it wrong. The teacher watched Erin think about it and then Erin said, "Megan, you did that very well." When I went to pick them up, Erin was pulling Megan on a sled in the playground and Megan was laughing gratefully. The teacher commented, as she often does, at what great siblings they are and how wonderful it is to have them in the same class and all that. When we got home, they went into their room together and within seconds, Erin came running out, "MEGAN TOOK MY DOLL AND SHE WON'T GIVE IT BACK!" Megan came out, "BUT SHE TOOK MY LEGO BED!" "DID NOT!" "DID TOO!"


Carol, I LOVE that you are raising normal kids! Aren't they great!

Meg said...

I know you may not want to do this, but I find that a little bit of tv actually does break up the day and offer some enjoyment. A little tv or a movie in moderation will not harm them and may make life a little easier in the long run. Sometimes they just need to occupy their mind on something other than each other. Just an idea. I know you don't like tv.