Tuesday, June 11, 2013
My best picture
This is my new favourite photo of me. Joodles took it - he's totally into taking pictures these days, and usually they're a blur with a thumb across the top, but every now and then, they work out. He is three years old, after all. Every time - whether it's with a play camera or the real one - he says, "That's a lovely picture!" afterward. It's awesome. Please note the scraped-but-not-yet-plastered-or-painted wall, the cooler that's been sitting there since Christmas because there's no room in the basement, the container of wilted, compost-bound spinach, and the empty peanut-butter jar. It's the little things, you know.
I like this photo because I look like a Nice Mom in it, not the Ill-Tempered Cranky Mom I often am. It's been ten years since I've had a full-night's sleep, and six years since I had a job outside the house. I've been either pregnant or breastfeeding or both since roughly New Year's Day, 2008. I live on coffee and discarded sandwich crusts.
I've been talking about motherhood a lot lately, with the moms at playgroup, with the parents of Miss B's peers, with anyone who'll listen because being a mother is pretty much all I do these days. I've been inspired by Melanie's recent posts on the topic. Not that any of us are coming up with anything revolutionary, more just that we're becoming able to admit that being an at-home parent, while tremendously rewarding, is also mind-numbingly tedious.
I think it takes a while in the trenches to be okay with talking about the incredible tedium of parenting. In the early days, with a new baby, there's the shock of responsibility, the daily heartbreak of immeasurable love, the physical and mental exhaustion, the pride, the confusion, all that. It's okay to talk about it being hard, but it takes a while - and, for some of us, a few more kids - to admit that it can be so, so boring.
Not all the time, obviously. We have fun, we snuggle and read books and watch movies and bake muffins. My kids are hilarious and sweet. But they - especially the boys, being of preschool age - ask questions relentlessly, often at the same time, and generally unrelated to each other (Cha: "Why are dinosaur bones under the dirt? How did the animals in the museum get dead? Is it a Grandma day? Do we have anything sweet to eat? What about maybe some chocolate? Why don't we have any chocolate? Can I have a vitamin?" Joodles: "Can I play with the cookie cutters? Remember when Twilight and Trixie were wearing those amulets? Do you have a hammer? Do you have a screwdriver? Do you have a miter saw? Does Daddy have a miter saw? Does Uncle Don have a miter saw? Is that Nanny's car?" AT THE SAME TIME.) Miss B has deep emotional needs, being a swoony, melancholy, head-in-the-clouds nine-year-old, and Pickle needs all the things babies need.
Then there's the tedium of the things that I hear come out of my mouth over and over every day. Did you brush your teeth? You have to brush your teeth. Where did you put your sneakers? Stop hitting your brother. Stop kicking your brother. Give the truck back to your brother, please. Watch out for the baby. Remember that the baby is sleeping! Please don't climb on that. Put that back, please. Snacktime is soon. Lunchtime is soon. Suppertime is soon. No, you don't have to eat it. No, if you don't like it you don't have to eat it. Pick that up, please. Blah blah blaaaaaaah.
I remember, from when I was a kid, my mother's exasperated refrain of, "My God, I sound like a broken record!" Since it was the 1980s, I understood this as "I'm repeating the same line,ad infinitum, like a scratched vinyl LP." My kids, being of the electronic generation, think I mean that I've actually broken my personal record for ceaseless nagging. I think they're proud of their role in this small but significant triumph.
I have tried my best to stop nagging, and believe me, I've reeled it back. I don't yell as much as I used to, either (I'm not going to lie, I'm a yeller). But I'm certainly not a delight all the time. Not that I feel that I need to be, just that it's important to admit, as parents, that we can be just as unpleasant as our children.
My best tool has been getting out of the house with the kids. I'm much better behaved when we're out, and so are they. I used to think that this was because I feared the judgment of strangers and so kept myself in line, but I've realized it's just that I'm an extrovert, and I'm more comfortable and happy when I'm surrounded by other people (other adult people, not the kidlets). When I'm happy, they're happy. Even if we're just at the park, in proximity to random strangers walking dogs, or to a gym class from the private school getting some fresh air, I feel better. I don't even need to talk to them, I just need to know they're there, and I feel more human.
All this to say, I suppose, that it's encouraging to see a photo of me being Nice Mom, because it proves that the kids see me that way, at least now and then. I'm probably not as much of an ogre as I sometimes think I am (especially on those wonderful headbutting days, when I manage to sink to the level of a four-year-old). Not just a good mom - which I know I am, and I don't mind admitting it - but a nice, pleasant, fun, relaxed mom.
Look! Not grumpy at all!