Each fall, we pick apples. It doesn’t always go well. To be honest, it goes more wrong than right. It’s usually too hot, too cold, too windy and we’re too tired, too hungry, too sick and our buckets tip over, our wagons careen down mountainsides, someone else grabs our bag of apples we picked, the apple-cider donut line too long, no one wants to walk, carry the bucket, pick the apples, step over the rotten mush on the ground, take a picture, stand in line. Yet. Still we go. And still I take pictures. And mostly, mostly we come home with apples and bake them in pies and cobblers and crisps and sauces. And think about going earlier in the season next year. Or maybe two times. Or maybe not at all.
“You angy Mommie? Angy at me Mommie?”
Her voice is small and impartial. Yet it rings out full of wonder like she asked me why the sky is blue. No preconceived notions or baggage with her observation- just that- an observation. We had been running late and I had raised my voice at the chaos around me while we tried to get where we were going in a somewhat timely fashion. My raised voice had been met by a wall of silence. An overreaction on my part? Probably. People are late. I should get over it. It’s hard to think and process in a calm and orderly fashion when the daily three-ring circus has its tent up over you.
And then, Sugarplum’s small voice innocently stepped in and I cringed. It broke through that angry red veil covering what I saw. That sheet of anger that once it is rolled out, bleeds into your interpretation of what’s going on around you. You stop just seeing the situation as something to just be in and you start judging and complaining.
“No Sugarplum. I’m not angry at you. Sorry I raised my voice. I was just frustrated that we hadn’t already left.”
“You angy Daddy?”
And then I get it. She’s asking me why I’m acting the way I am- why my voice was loud and my face contorted and why the steam came out of my ears- or maybe I the only one who saw that part. And she’s internalizing my answer. Out of our three children who I have felt love, anger, frustration, sadness and every emotion under the sun from and with she’s the first one to ask me how I feel and why in her little girl way. She’s learning how this world works around her and what we should do in a given situation. At such a young age she is already so reflective. She’s always been that way though. Since she could hoist herself up on her own two small feet, you could find her with her hands entwined behind her back watching from the fringe of the ruckus and actually deciding whether or not to jump in. She has a similar emotional intelligence to the Quail. I don’t want her to learn to be angry when things don’t go her way. I don’t want her to feel that the right thing to do when you are frustrated is to yell. I don’t want her to think that I can’t own my own feelings and blame them on her or her sisters. Or her Daddy. And suddenly the important thing in that moment is no longer the rush to get where we are going. The important thing in that moment is to say sorry because I got something wrong. Not wrong for feeling angry- but wrong in my choice of what to do with it.
People are kind. When you tell stories like this, people are quick to tell about how they hate to be late, and how it’s hard to be calm when you are tired from a long day. And how they don’t know how you do it. And while I appreciate those validators. I still need to control my reactions better. I don’t hit. I explain the whys, and whens and hows and whats. Sometimes calmly. Sometimes angrily. Sometimes after the third time-out and sometimes after getting sucked into a circular debate around it during the time-out.
“I said put that down now!” With anger in my voice, I reach over and pull the beeping timer that has been set off out of Sugarplum’s small hands. I was doing some exercise for 1.5 minutes of my morning before the sun came up. And as I planked breathing deeply with my eyes closed I heard the time I had set beeping too soon. When I opened them in frustration the first word out of my mouth is, “No. Put it back. No. Stop.” I didn’t reach over and take it right away. I felt angry that my personal minute was being wrenched out of my grasp. The minute my frustration morphed into anger it registered across Sugarplum’s small face as every small muscle contorted in disappointment and a crocodile tear splashed on to the carpet. She was just curious. Not naughty. Not obstinate. Not even mischievous. Just curious. And that isn’t something to be angry over. I closed my eyes, set down the timer and sat up. The minute my legs crossed, she pooled herself into them, her small piggy-tail poking me in the nose as I cradled her closer to me. I waited for her breathing to soften and told her that I was angry that time that she didn’t hand back the timer when I had asked her to. That mommy was using it and needed to finish before I could play with her. She sniffled and pressed her wet face into my neck and I said a silent prayer of gratitude that she can still fling herself into me after an upset. Because that doesn’t always happen so easily anymore as they grow up and away from me. The Quail, she stands her ground. Zuzu when she’s angry though, now moves physically away rather than towards me. It’s this developmental progression that I’m sad to witness. It’s one that I worry how I’m influencing. It’s a model for the girls that I’m not happy with and want to change.
I’ve talked about anger before on here. Others talk about anger and it makes me feel so very much better. To know that we aren’t in it alone. That wanting to be different is half the battle. It would be dishonest to pretend it doesn’t have a presence in our lives. The key is making sure it isn’t an overwhelming presence. And I don’t think that it is for us. Beyond the obvious cares we need to take with our health and wellness, I think the key is in talking about it and moving on. To not ruminate over it. To not be ashamed for being, and well; feeling human. To take that humanity and validate it in ourselves as well as others. To not let it consume my interpretation of how good of a mother I am or am even capable of being. To not let the mere fact of it arrest my own development in this journey. Because it is a journey. None of us are born mothers. I think talking about when we feel angry can lead to…happiness. Not happiness ever after- but an internal calm and ability to not make each molehill a mountain that we can’t bare to climb down from.
Each day happens.
And hopefully the next day does too. There are no perfect mothers, just perfect moments within motherhood. And if we can climb down off our mountain those days will be there waiting for us- and if we can’t get to dinner on time yet again, hopefully we’ll at least find our way off the mountain in time to begin again.
…at lightening speed. Between all the comings and goings, sippy cup washings, emptying of trash cans, reheating of frozen dinners, rewatchings of Frozen movies, chasing of little ones, sorting of orphan bags of socks (why do we repeatedly have more orphans than matches!?!?!?) and washing and rewashings of sandy, sweaty, markered and sauced, pink and purple sparkled leggings and shirts I lose my rhythm. And not because I’m wholly present in my day, but because I’m holding fast to the end corners of my day that are constantly flying out from under me leaving me in a pool of balls that were not only dropped but typically not picked up in the first place. And when that happens it is hard to know where to turn an ear to hear any sort of cadence to begin again with. Do I go back and edit and post the holidays and days that were special enough to capture in the first place, or do I just start from today in hopes of not getting farther behind. And in the time it takes to ponder that, someone falls down, someone gets their hair tugged, someone forgets how to share, an email comes in that needs to be answered, the smell that I can’t quite identify becomes abundantly clear and in need of removal, the bills spill out from the to-be-paid drawer, the alarm clock goes off and the day begins again. Thankfully. And thankfully the pictures continue to exist for editing and posting years after the moments they captured existed to bring me back to the blessedly sweeter scent of the blueberries that got mashed onto the white shirt that the Quail insisted on wearing, the sight of the freckled grin of a newly minted seven year old wobbling on roller skates as she rounds the wooden rink and the feel of the babies hands as she reaches to be picked up because she has noticed that she isn’t getting quite as many snuggles as she used to a few months back when she nursed more frequently.
So how are we now? We’re a pig-tailed pre-schooler who talks in tiny sentences narrating her day as she races after her sisters demanding to be included in their game and is only interested in neh-neh and other side before being settled into her crib at night. We’re a 5 year old who now attempts to tell others in 2-3 word phrases about her friends, her day, her favorite shows and what her sisters did or didn’t share with her. She’s blissfully ensconced in a regular education kindergarten classroom after a sincerely calm year in 4k and a decidedly uneventful spring IEP where everyone concurred that she did well the previous year and remained on par academically with minimal behavioral concerns. We’re a proud second grader who is always asking when Sophie can sleep over and come play and when Girl Scouts will start up again and can we please, please, please go swimming and when are we going to go camping again and when are we going to the beach, and can you please put my hair up in 4 ponytails and then braid them together in the shape of a heart and oh-no- that’s not what I said I wanted Momma now you have to start over and can’t we have pancakes again and I want to watch Youtube versions of My Little Pony meets Frozen mash-ups and my sister won’t share the Ipad and I don’t want to wear that dress it makes me look fat, I only want to wear athletic clothes and Clemson gear and can I have a Barbie doll house for my birthday and I can’t sleep Momma can I crawl in the bed with you and can you please have another baby or can I please crawl back in and come again so that I can be the baby and no you can’t tell me what to do I make my own decisions and why do I always have to clean my room and sweep the porch and I’m gonna be President one day Momma and you all can come live in the White House with me and here’s the schedule I’ve made for my birthday party seven months from now.
And my freetime you ask? What about early morning and late night writings and maybe during your lunchtime? Well those times have been dedicated to other activities. Running in the mornings. Walking or yoga at lunchtime. And clean-up and then Netflix surfing in tandem with Lovey once the littles have settled their noggins after a second, third and often fourth attempt to get to stay up for another cheesestick, drink of water, cooler jammies, warmer jammies, sister too close to me, sister not sleeping next to me, scary monster in the closet thoughts, bad dreams, one more thing I should have told you about what we’re doing tomorrow.
In other words…beautiful, complicated, sad and lovely, overbooked, stripped-down bare, well-medicated, a few minutes late, paperwork strewn over the kitchen countertops, too small of a bathroom for 5 people insisting they all need to be in there at once, doorknobs falling off, paint and plaster peeling, washload buzzing, refusing to eat the spaghetti that Momma made a mere week after insisting they have some when Lisa made the same thing the week before, sand, marker, and Cheerio covered, in need of a run, a shower, a haircut, a dye-job, a trip to the library, Trader Joe’s, Target, a glass of Malbec, the next size up of clothes for each family member, to empty out the crib in the girl’s room so the baby-no-more can start sleeping in their rather than the pack-and-play in our room, maybe I’ll just spread some of the salted-caramel-cocoa-hazelnut spread on a slice of bread for dessert, ok I’m going to sleep, why the hell did I give up caffeine last spring… life.
So- how are you?
…and maybe just a few others to boot! This time of year I can count on there being a stash of photos in my files of Lovey & the girls as we mark each Father’s Day.
Lovey is the quintessential modern day Dad- which is to say he’s more Mom than me most days. He doesn’t see his role as an aside to his life and neither do they. He cooks, he cleans, he changes diapers, feeds the babies, walks the crying babies at all hours, stays home with the sick ones, paints their sparkley nails, teaches them to change the oil in the car and bake a pie, shops for their purple twirly skirts, pulls their hair up in piggies, takes them to the birthday parties, practices the timed math tests, drives them to their therapies and activities and practices those outside of the weekly visits. He lovingly reads them stories and tucks them in at night as well as greeting them with hugs and kisses each morning. He is their Dad- a kind, loving, gentle and spirited soul who is as blessed to love them as they are to know him.
Corner view is a weekly Wednesday gathering, originally hosted by Jane, now by Francesca. A topic is given and you can see impressions; be it photographic or writerly in form, from around the world. Come see the world’s corner view via the links on the sidebar!