When your job involves a lot of finding where things are broken and fixing them, it’s easy to get in the habit of only paying attention to broken things. To help me offset all the criticism I regularly pile on my own head (there’s a lot), a friend recommended a simple little app called 3 Good Things.
It’s so basic that it seems absurd to have an app for this, but the design is friendly and spare, which I like. You set a time to receive the prompt, “What went well today?” And then you can journal about the high points of the day. On some no-good, very bad days, I confess I just write things like “had a nice cup of tea” or “tv on the couch” or “my socks are warm.” On better days, there’s better stuff, like “great conversation at dinner” or “the kids’s joy at the trapeze lesson.”
It’s silly and minimal, but it helps me notice where hope, love, and sometimes even joy, are hiding in my life. You might like it too?
These days Baxter cries to show his displeasure with things; he’s *kind of* sad, but mostly just not-happy, if that makes sense? These whine-cries last a long time because he is still easily distracted once the first burst of “noooooo!” and falling-to-the-floor-in-despair is complete. Here’s an example; if you listen closely you can hear Amelia calling him from the basement toward the end. Responding to her shout is what ended this round of slow crying, which was originally caused by my informing him that he had to take a nap today. (He has to take a nap every day, ftr. (It’s a lazy Sunday so, yes, the kids are still in their pjs at 10am.))
From this article on Working Mothers Who Make It All Work in the Wall Street Journal, I learned that women who make 6 figures and have young kids are able to “have it all” (in which all = quality time with kids, spouse time, self-care time, work time) with a combination of live-in help, flexible hours, and breathless efficiency. I suppose it’s comforting to know that a) their kids aren’t suffering for Mommy’s career, and b) you can buy your way to a balanced life, if you have enough money.
In 2011, the sociologists Shira Offer and Barbara Schneider found that mothers spend, on average, 10 extra hours a week multitasking than do fathers “and that these additional hours are mainly related to time spent on housework and child care.”
When fathers spend time at home, on the other hand, it reduces their odds of multitasking by over 30%. Which may explain why, a few years ago, researchers from UCLA found that a father in a room by himself was the “person-space configuration observed most frequently” in their close study of 32 families at home. It may also explain why many fathers manage to finish the Sunday paper while their wives do not—they’re not constantly getting up to refill bowls of Cheerios.
Being compelled to divide and subdivide your time doesn’t just compromise your productivity and lead to garden-variety discombobulation. It also creates a feeling of urgency—a sense that no matter how tranquil the moment, no matter how unpressured the circumstances, there’s always a pot somewhere that’s about to boil over.
Hat-tip to Velda for sharing the second article on Facebook recently. 🙂
I came across this great article from the Offbeat Empire called Parental self-congratulation disguised as self-deprecation, and it made me think of the other side of the battle I’ve been waging with myself lately. For whatever reason — the lack of routine in the summertime, conference season for me and Tom, growth spurts, half-birthdays — the kids have been unusually needy lately, especially Amelia. It’s like we’re back in the baby/toddler phases when only Mommy’s good-night kiss/snuggle/band-aid/reading voice/opinion would do.
Just like when they were babies/toddlers — maybe more so — it’s exhausting. I am accustomed to having my own quiet time in the evening, and Amelia’s needs at night are eating away at that time. When I go out for an evening on my own, she walks me to my car and sobs in the drive away as I pull away. Even when it’s Tom’s turn to tuck them in, the kids beg for me to go in after him, and tuck them in again.
It’s exhausting, it gets claustrophobic, and I struggle with resentment. I have this sense that I ought to “carpe diem” the crap out of these days — they’re not getting any younger, and neither am I — but what with work, kids, marriage, and every dang thing else, it’s hard to find time that’s just for me! But even as I pull away, trying to make time and space for myself, the kids seem to cling harder. I doubt there’s a perfect solution, but I’m a bit gobsmacked by the fact that I’m still fighting for personal time/space with kids aged 3 and 6 — somehow I thought they’d be more independent by now. I keep telling myself to count my blessings, but candidly I’m much more inclined to start gnawing my own leg off.
Amelia had anxiety-insomnia between 11:30pm and 1:30am (at least) last night, with Bax waking up a few times in there just for good measure. We’re accustomed to the kids sleeping peacefully through the night these days, so I’m pretty wrecked this morning — which calls for strong measures. I made myself coffee instead of tea. Watch out world, we’re all grumpy today.
We’re learning about worms, with an eye to start vermicomposting. Portland has public composting, in which you can put all your food waste into the yard waste bin and have it taken away by the city every week. Since we mived to Milwaukie, we have been putting our food waste in the trash, and it just drives me crazy. The kids are so accustomed to composting at school and from our old house that they look at me like I’m crazy when I tell them to scrape their plates into the trash. I wanted to get back to composting, but frankly was not looking forward to buying a $300 rotating compost bin and knew from experience that we wouldn’t pitchfork a pile.
My friend got a worm composting system and didn’t keep up with it, and she offered it to me. So now we have a Worm Factory with two trays and I’m trying to learn about what it would take to start using it.
Of course Amelia wanted to know what I was doing and then spotted a video on the website, which led to another video, and now the kids have been watching worm videos on YouTube for 15 minutes. I’m counting on Amelia to “give me a lesson” (as they say in her Montessori school) on what she’s learned while I was making quesadillas. 🙂
Since allowing Amelia to watch Disney’s The Little Mermaid on Sunday night, I have had to think up lots and lots of good ways to get her out of her terrible bedtime-anxiety-thought-spirals. She gets herself really worked up: afraid of getting afraid while thinking of the scary parts of the movie. Even though I distinctly remember struggling with the exact same thing as a child, it’s still maddening to keep trying to calm her down and then have her dissolve into panicked tears for what seems like no good reason.
It’s possible that my strategies are all crap, and the ones I think worked are just the ones that bored her to sleep — but that’s a win in and of itself, I guess. We’ve tried doing math, talking about happy moments to think about instead, planning fun outings for the summer, talking about why the story doesn’t even makes sense, etc. I even busted out my feminist critique of the story and waxed philosophical about the repercussions that might arise from trying to start a loving relationship when you had given up your main method of self-expression.
Last night’s winner: practicing her cursive writing on the mattress with an imaginary pencil. Sensory, concrete, and probably super-boring after a while.
Got any other recommendations for ways to pull a kid out of an anxiety attack? Because I have the feeling I’ll need new ideas tonight.
B is home recovering from a random fever today, and we’ve had some fun talks in which I’ve gathered interesting information:
He thinks it is crazy that The Princess In Black has not yet been made into a movie. He thinks that George Lucas should produce it, since he did a good job on Star Wars. He suggests we just “go down to there” to go see Mr. Lucas and ask him, since he’s just “across from us” in California. It is shocking that I don’t already know Mr. Lucas, but we shan’t let that stop us.
Classic videos of Wonder Woman > Dinosaur Train > Thomas the Train > Sesame Street
He can carry very heavy pillows, and thereby help me make his bed.
When I say “eat three carrots,” that means he will eat three bites of carrot.
“It’s a good thing Wonder Woman can help!”
“Whoa, you can take this off. Look, I took this off.”
Amelia and I were eating some of the previously mentioned strawberries for lunch.
Suddenly she said, “Mom look: stamens!”
And we started talking about how the green flowery-looking stem of a strawberry is actually the cover of the bud of the strawberry flower, and that the flower was pollinated by bees probably, but other animals can also pollinate, and then she adroitly finished the discussion with:
“Well, I’m eating a swollen ovary right now — I know that!”