Saturday, July 19, 2014

Loneliest not-alone time

A friend posted this on her FB wall and tagged me on it.
My favorite is the one by Linda:
Being home with kids all day
is just the loneliest never-alone thing. 
Like living in a cave 
filled with malfunctioning Teddy Ruxpins.

This sums up my summer break.

Whatever stage of parenting one is in, one thinks that is the hardest stage....until one gets to the next stage (or maybe two or three down the line) and realizes how much easier that earlier stage was.  

Sometimes the kids watch our home movies which they can stream on the television.  When I see N as a 5-year-old, G as a two-year-old and M as a newborn, I remember how hard it was, but I also remember the easy parts.  Like how easy it was to entertain a 5-year-old and 2-year-old.  Bubbles, sand box and swingset.  Boom!  The baby had all the entertainment he needed by watching his older siblings.  

There weren't endless argumentative conversations about video games or Cartoon Network shows.  They were so young they didn't have such intense, formulated opinions that they were willing to discuss endlessly in the car.  As mindless as Dora the Explorer songs were, I could turn those on, and the kids were happy as we drove hither and yon.

When N was at school, G and M were on the same nap schedule, so I often had 2 hours a day of quiet, something I sorely miss now that naps are a thing of the past.  The kids went to bed earlier than they do now.  I could distract them by just changing out a toy bin or two.

This summer I have really noticed how much of that easy distractibility N has lost.  One afternoon in June, I made squirtable chalk that the kids could use outside.  N did it once and was over it.  She then got out a lawn chair and read her American Girl magazine in the front yard while her brothers had me reload their squirt bottles until the sidewalk was completely covered.  She has about as much enthusiasm for squirtable chalk as I do.  She is definitely leaving childhood behind.

What I'm finding hard about parenting at this stage is that I am just on stand-by.  The kids are too young for me to leave them alone so I am restricted to the confines of the house (which I've never liked in all my years as a stay-at-home mom).  The kids aren't needy enough to have me hovering, but they are needy enough to interrupt me often whenever I try to get involved in something I want to do.  So I feel like I mostly wander the house a lot.  I piddle.  

One of the pidddling things I've been doing is pulling toys out to consign in the fall.  I've got some big items that will be going and are further evidence of my kids moving out of that easy-to-entertain stage.  The sand/water table is going away.  The Cozy Coupe will find a new home.  These are the last of the giganto toys of early childhood.  

And while I'm not sad to see the items go because I am excited at the prospect of having my house feel less cluttered, it does give me pause.  

My time mothering very young children is almost over.  My bonus baby will turn 5 in the fall.  This will be his last year of pre-school.  I am a year closer to being able to work more, perhaps paint a bedroom in an entire day while the kids are at school instead of it taking a week of stops and starts.  A year closer to being able to go to lunch with friends, to spend more time with my mom. 

I learned my lesson last year when M started preschool.  I was excited!  I couldn't wait for my 6 hours a week of free time!  And the night before preschool I completely and unexpectedly lost my shit.   

Although I am not comfortable being outwardly sentimental, I am nursing a tender space in my heart right now, very much aware of this precious time.  

As much as I am aware of this, I know that the next few weeks of summer break I will struggle with the kids' arguments and whining and requests for snacks and other things that drive me bonkers about being with them from sun-up until sundown.  I will, as usual, be strung between the cherishing of the precious moments of now and the daily, mind-numbing, soul-crushing grind of now.

It made me feel immensely better last night reading the final chapters of Anna Karenina about Levin's soul-searching and spiritual development.  Levin had been musing on his beliefs, his place in the world, and he resolved to carry this fire of spiritual knowledge with him always.  Of course, that same daily grind with which I struggle got the better of him.

"Now, as always, interference made him angry, and he felt sorrowfully at once how mistaken had been his supposition that his spiritual condition could immediately change him in contact with reality."  

But later, as within my own head/heart and on this blog:

"He was glad of a chance to be alone to recover from the influence of ordinary actual life, ewhich had already depressed his happy mood."  

and still more...

"Real life had only for a time overcast the spiritual peace he had found, but it was still untouched within him."  

I sometimes forget that just because I am cranky and unhappy in the moment, that doesn't mean I am unhappy in the grand scheme of things, with the overall trajectory of my life.

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