Friday, April 30, 2010

I feel disrespected when you slap me in the face with a large stick.

Yes, the boys are back. And what a difference NOT being deathly ill makes! I so easily forget how deeply I rely on my physical health. Going to work, getting the groceries, doing the laundry, taking the boys to the park, returning books to the library....without a car, all of these little chores require inordinate amounts of walking, cycling, toting, pulling, lifting. When I am too sick to travel about, life --for all of us--comes crashing to a halt.

For this reason, difficult as it was to do, I signed up last night for Driver's Ed.

The decision not to drive was a very informed, conscientious choice when I made it. I had seen what cars and their emissions could do, and I wasn't impressed. I did not really need a car to get around. It seemed to me that the choice to drive was based on laziness. And so I used my own energy, rather than that of decomposed dinosaurs, to propel me around.

Lately, however, the decision not to drive has felt less like a decision and more like a corner I've backed myself into. It is one thing to use one's own energy to propel oneself around. it is quite another to use it to propel oneself, a sturdy and obstinate five year old, a squirming toddler, 20 pounds of groceries, and approximately a metric ton of wet laundry. The energy--even mine---runs out, eventually.

So, sea change follows hard on the heels of sea change. I am growing accustomed to spinning new identities as fast as I can shuck the old ones. I tell myself this is healthy behavior for the boys to see modeled---not getting caught in ideas about who I am, but staying vital and flexible, willing to change to suit my environment. Or maybe I am breeding a little nest of schizophrenics. Hard to tell, at this stage.

I can already feel the tingle of anticipation, though. What doors driving will open for me! What broad new vistas! Piling the boys in the truck (it was always going to be a truck) and setting off into the mountains for a long weekend of getting lost in the woods. Packing off at a moments notice to check out a fiddle festival in Oregon. Scouting out the country in Montana, and Idaho, and Colorado, determining where to land and plant my orchards. Heck, I could even, finally, be a park ranger!

But I am getting a little ahead of myself. Prior to all of these blissful projections lies the stark, cold reality of thirty-one-year-old me in a dim little room with fifty-some wise-ass teenagers. For week after week. And then panicky me in a close little car with a controlling, perspiring gentleman next to me shouting "not THAT one you moron! THAT one! O NO WE'RE ALL GOING TO DIIIIIIIE" or maybe that was just a John Cusack movie I saw. Nevertheless. It is not going to be pleasant.

Meanwhile, however, there is more good news. Sweet, almost unbelievably good news. Laura, in addition to a renowned sense of style and generous amounts of gypsylike beauty, has a mother-in-law famous for her parenting techniques. When my daily lunchtime whinge-fests grew too shrill for her to bear, she popped a few of her mother-in-law's parenting CDs into my bag and begged me for the love of god to just listen to them.

I did. They WORK. The main point is to listen to your children, use I-messages ("I feel embarrassed when you run shrieking through Trader Joe's and just laugh like a hyena when I tell you to stop") rather than you-messages ("Stop running and shrieking right now or you are going to the Gulag on the first boat"), and let the process unfold as it does, messily or not, instead of trying to rush through to some sanitized result.

I knew all of this already. But I had forgotten. And, to be honest, I sometimes find the I-messages a little lame. ("I feel sad when you vomit on the carpet, break my dishes, flood the house and pour milk on my clothing"?! I mean, come on, grow a backbone!) But after last weekend I would have tried ANYTHING just to make it STOP. So this afternoon was all about taking it slow, enjoying the process, talking about feelings, and listening. And we had a wonderful time. I mean, here it is, 9:00, and I am TYPING ON THE COMPUTER CALMLY WHILE BOTH BOYS SLEEP. This is unheard of. Of course the sheer floorspace demanded by all of these simultaneous activities strains my little house to the max, but with Xir's head snugged comfortably under the kitchen table, we make it work.

God bless you, Mary Hartzell. And Laura, for making the radical suggestion that I try listening to my son instead of just laying down the law. And to sweet little Xir, who was so ready to swing back around the moment Mama got a clue.

Least favorite thing about my house tonight: having to step over two sleeping sons, twice, just to get a cup of tea.

Favorite thing about my house tonight: having two sleeping sons to step over to get a cup of tea.

Good night, everybody.


  1. I love your life for giving me the best stories to read.

  2. I love your writing! You are as funny as you are insightful. Keep sharing!
    xo t

  3. I feel proud when you praise my writing. (Especially since you are both so good at it yourselves...)