The Birthday Girl

Note: It’s been over a year since I introduced the Cast of Characters inhabiting this blog. I’m an at-home mom who works part-time as a writer, so my world is small: me; my son, Agent 006 (age 6); my daughter, the Birthday Girl (age 3); and my Husband. Here is my daughter.

Notice the defiant legs-wide-apart stance and the partial fist of the left hand...

Notice the defiant legs-wide-apart stance and the partial fist of the left hand…

My daughter turned three a few weeks ago, and she definitely got the memo.  Since my son was actually three for two years (skipped four and went straight to five), from an emotional perspective this is my third round of three. I have the battle scars to prove it. Continue reading

Unraveled

Photo by Orin Zebest

Photo by Orin Zebest

What does it feel like to hit bottom?

Sometimes, after many years and many failed landings, it can be like simply coming to rest, two feet connecting irrevocably to earth with a muffled thump and a tiny puff of dust. Sometimes there’s no crash, no thud, no debris, no collateral. Just the magnetic snick of your feet sliding home, where they’re meant to be. The bond moves upward from the heels, as all the poles of your body realign themselves to the lodestone. Grounded. Once joined, the slow seeping warmth of the earth travels from toes to fingertips, stirring your blood and the tiny hairs on your skin to a pattern you can feel and hear and smell. You know with certainty that this is the bottom of the mess, nothing is obscured, nothing lurks: it doesn’t get any more complicated than this. All your confusions and questions shake themselves out like a dog emerging from the lake. It is all suddenly very simple.

What does it feel like to hit bottom? For me, it was learning that all the unhappiness in my life, and especially in my marriage, grew from just two sources: feeling unsafe, and feeling powerless. Unsafe and powerless: legacy of childhood, a lesson those charged with my nurture collaborated all unknowing to inculcate. They did not mean to do this. With words telling me: You can do anything, be anything. With actions attacking the integrity of my spirit relentlessly in ways I hardly knew to recognize from those I loved. I did not know that I needed to defend myself. I did not see that I was laying aside my own power to keep myself safe. Continue reading

Code Red: Parenting

Version 2 QR code example

Version 2 QR code example (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I’ll say it now, our kids have us whipped. At Two and Five, these guys already know exactly how to work the parental system. Five tiptoes into the living room after I’ve lovingly and firmly tucked him into bed, gravely lays his night fears out like ominous Tarot cards for his father, then smirks at me over dad’s shoulder when he snuggles in on the couch for some extra iPhone time. Two nods earnestly at her father’s cleanup warnings, then cons me into an elaborate tea party while dad’s busy helping Five with homework.

My husband and I are both very involved in parenting our kids, so lines of responsibility aren’t always clear. Taking turns with child rearing tasks like bedtime or homework means that we each bring different expectations, skills, strengths (weaknesses), and preferences to each event. And our kids know it. It’s hard to find the time, and even harder to find the energy, for effective conversations about how we’re going to do things around here, especially when parenting shoves us up against differences in background or values.

What we need is a code. Single words or phrases we parents can use when we don’t want to say it all in front of the kids. Spelling it out doesn’t work when the message is: This kid is getting away with murder here! or You don’t know the whole story yet! Plus, spelling went out the window three years ago when I hinted to my husband, “I think it’s time for N-A-P,” and our oldest interrupted his two-tantrum to insist, “Not tired!” A fellow mom shared in a recent post that she and her husband use “The eagle has landed,” to remind each other to be on best behavior when their son is near.

Those of you who have been at this longer than us have perhaps worked it all out to the point of seamless alliance. What codes do you use to communicate with your partner when you’re out-teamed? Words? Phrases? Non-verbal signals? What do you wish your partner would understand, and how would you reduce it to a word that could invoke humor and solidarity between the two of you, and confusion to the enemy? We’d love to know. We seem to have lost our codebook.

Your stories and advice would be most welcome—share your best code words by leaving a comment below.