Last summer I read a book about my ego and how it is self-serving and really out to screw me over. In my quest to blame something or someone for all my bad decisions, the ego seemed liked a great scapegoat so I embraced that idea unequivocally. Stupid ego. Then I read the Power of Now, how to live in the moment, which I've determined is nearly impossible to do as a result of all the fuckery swirling around in my life due to work, kids, mean, dumb people, and my own penchant for self-destruction.
Having disregarded trying to live in the now, I moved on to a few books about meditation and mindfulness. I like the idea of being present and reflective. Basically, being mindful is being aware of your emotions while still having emotions but not letting those emotions turn into histrionics and then guilt for having overreacted. The basic concept touted is to respond, not react to the powerful emotions I have that sometimes makes me feel like grabbing someone’s throat in a vice grip.
This week particularly has challenged my restraint, mostly having to do with my own children. Respond not react. Respond not react. That's what I repeat to myself as events unfold that make veins pop in my forehead.
1.) I take my girls out each night to the gym, library or park so they don't fight and wander around the house claiming I'm ruining their lives by keeping them home. Tuesday was gym day. They get to color and play or watch TV in the gym Kid’s Klub where they've been going since both of them were born. Tuesday night we got home around 7:30 p.m. because we stayed a few minutes afterwards to hang out with my friend and talk. I told the girls, "When we get home, let's get ready for bed and then you can play for a few minutes before bed time." Neither spoke nor said okay which suggests that they were either totally on board with this or thinking to themselves, "I'm not doing that and in fact, I'm planning on freaking out instead." Unbeknownst to me, the latter is what was going to occur. I get home and bring in the gym bag and the Rainbow Loom and the markers, backpacks, drinks and stuffed animals that accompany us wherever we go. I say, calmly and nicely, "Hey child #1, go change into your night clothes (Child #1 refuses to wear pajamas sets, I don’t know why) and then you can play." This is what I think she heard based on the way she reacted, "Go change your clothes and then I'm going to dip your head in hot lava.” When I finished my calm request she started moaning, crying and stomping like I'd just suggested something so preposterous that her psyche couldn't process it. Before I knew what was happening she was running down the hall screaming about how night clothes THEN playing just ruin her life and she can't play the way she wants with night clothes on. As she was flipping out my head was spinning with reactions. Then she locked me out of her room after slamming the door. This reactive situation presents a dilemma for me.
My options? Respond or React.
This is how I responded: I knocked on the door instead of banging on it (progress). But then I said in my serial killer voice, "Open up the door before I kick it in, please." When she opened the door I said in the same creepy quiet controlled voice, "I would like to take a moment to remind you that every day, every single day, you must change your clothes to get ready for bed. This simple human every day task does not warrant this type of behavior and if you decide to freak the hell out every time you must change an article of clothing you will not only ruin the quality of your life, you will make mom an angry freak as well. So, let's not have this happen again.” I tried not to yell or spit on myself as I usually do when this type of unacceptable behavior occurs.
I find being mindful of absurdity and irrational behaviors is extraordinarily difficult. By Wednesday, Child #2 upped the absurdity ante exponentially. This is how Taco Bell ruined my daughter's life.
2.) When I pick up my girls at 3:15 they have saved up enough pettiness for 7 hours to bicker all the way home. So when they climb in the car sometimes I make a disclaimer before I drive away from the chaos that is pick up time in front of an elementary school: Do not argue about math, lollipops, the cost of lunch, or the way words are pronounced or mispronounced. They look like they know what I'm talking, but clearly, they do not. On Wednesday, Child #2 asks if I brought them food which is not part of the aforementioned disclaimer but should be. She asks this every day because twice I brought them a snack to be nice after leaving work a little early. This act of motherly kindness has turned my child into a person whose expectations are never met and as a result, I forever let her down. Upon hearing that I had no snack since I was at work all day instead of running around looking for food for her, she started moaning like a seal. Note to self: Add, Don't ask me about snacks to my disclaimer statement. Second note to self: I should have them sign said disclosure and keep a copy in the glove compartment.
Somehow sensing that this child is hungry I offered up a Taco Bell taco solution to which she moaned a shallow, yes. As I pulled in the drive- thru, she suddenly wanted a chicken strip KFC meal instead which was not a part of the original taco offer and to which I said, no, and to which she continued to sing the song of the moaning seal. After I ordered her tacos, she started complaining that she liked Taco Bell better when it has two drive-thru windows instead of just the one window now......bahhhh, why did Taco Bell get rid of the other window mom? WHY? Why would they do that? More seal sounds from the back seat. I have no response but to try and hate Taco Bell with her and commiserate that Taco Bell is probably actively trying to ruin people's lives with their diabolical drive-thru window switch up.
Subsequently and rightly she fell asleep on the Taco Bell bag to which Child #1 who has no ill will towards Taco Bell exclaims, "She is asleep on the Taco Bell bag." Child #1 has a special gift for pointing out the obvious which leaves me wondering how to respond without sarcasm to her mundane observations. That car is red, she is asleep, the dog in white, dad isn't home, the dog is barking, the mail is on the counter etc.
When we finally get home, I lay out the tacos on the kitchen counter thing we eat at and as I unwrap it, Child #2 notices the tacos are soft and not crunchy. This, apparently, is the last straw for her. She begins having an existential meltdown, flings herself on the couch and instead of seal moaning begins tears of pure sadness and sorrow. Her arms are next to her side, head back, and she is crying for something that cannot be replaced, tacos. My husband comes home and walks into the kitchen and I explain, "She's having an emotional breakdown because her tacos are soft and not crunchy." He nods. This is our norm.
Our options: Respond or react. This is what we do:
I give up and go sit on the couch with my IPad to play Words with Friends and tune out the child screaming for soft tacos on the couch.
My husband offers her raspberries which perks her up so much it's as if the soft taco fiasco never happened and I quietly consider how I can always have raspberries on hand if it will keep her from going into a total life crisis meltdown.
I’m still trying to figure out how to mindfully live and it seems as if my kids are actively working against me, plotting each day to find asinine topics to flip out about.
Here are other things my children have had to overcome this week:
1.) Child #1 has holes in her pants for reasons we do not understand but there they are. She has no explanation for them and we will not allow her to wear clothes with holes in them to school. She finds this totally unreasonable and it causes her to cry uncontrollably and exclaim that this is in fact, the worst day ever, even worse than that one day last week that was originally the worst day ever.
2.) Child #1 has been trying to pretend she is brushing her teeth. I caught her once standing in front of the sink with the water running spinning the toothbrush around her fingers like a baton. She jumped when I walked in then grunted and sulked when I made her actually brush her teeth.
3.) The same child also started brushing her teeth without toothpaste in another attempt to trick me into thinking she was brushing her teeth. My efforts at explaining what rotten teeth look like have not deterred her into trying to fool me. She finally caught on that I will sprint like a Kenyan to the bathroom when I hear her running the water to make sure she is brushing her teeth. With toothpaste. She proclaimed one day, “You see everything” to which my response was, “Never forget that. I’m everywhere.”
4.) Child #2 taunts the cat. She holds the cat like a baby but this baby isn’t cooing, this cat is growling the way cats do when they don’t want to be held like a baby. Child #2 asked me the other day between growls, “I wonder what Sugar is worried about.” I know Sugar is worried about dying but I just shrug. I caught a glimpse of her carrying the cat by the collar because, "she might bite me." Then Child #2 became excessively mad that she’d been told not to try and kill the cat.
5.) They both found this situation totally unacceptable: Going to the movies at 9:15 a.m. on Saturday then having no other plans for the rest of the day. This was particularly difficult for Child #2 who walked around grunting about how she can't believe we are staying home. The horror.
6.) When the fake baby in the toy carrier can't sit with us at dinner. This leads Child #1 to the conclusion that Chinese food is stupid.
That was just this week. There are many years of ridiculousness that have brought me to the conclusion that I need to read self-help books to reign in the absurdity and learn how to respond without anger or spitting all over myself yelling that I don't care if 3 x 5 is 15 or 16 or 18 or 2 and that I will not hear any more of this argument over math.
I’m still working on being mindful and not reacting and if I ever think I can do that, I might be a superhero.
More from living