Boy, a lot happened this weekend that bears rehashing here. I meant to post before now, but Gage was home for a glorious 36 hours or so after he completed Orientation for his new employer, and I was busy soaking up his company. I will probably never post an update on weekends, thanks to our life pattern, so Monday-issued Weekend Recaps might just become A THING.
My first week of flying solo as a parent (jokingly referred to as, “My First Week as a Made Woman,’ or, “Trophy Wife 101”) went surprisingly well. It’s not fair to give the experience a real assessment after just one week, since most of it was improvisation and feeling out what worked and what wouldn’t, but in Monday afternoon’s reflective light, I can say we all survived. A few things I learned:
- I didn’t fully appreciate the degree to which my husband helped when he was here. For real. Our system before he started driving a truck pretty much dictated that he handle what we deem “man stuff”: taking out the trash, lawn care, general stuff-fixing, outside chores, etc., and I do the rest. It may seem unbalanced, but I’m just faster at tasks like washing dishes and cleaning house and doing laundry. (Plus, I’m certifiably nuts and would go behind even the most efficient and impeccable house cleaner, because I want things done My Way, and doing things My Way gives me crazy good satisfaction.) So, I knew I would be taking on those chores and doings because he’d be gone. I did not know how much I would miss the invisible help he provides besides handling his chores… the, “Hey, babe, hold him while I run downstairs and scrub out these diapers,” or “Honey, I’m already in my pajamas and forgot to feed the dogs… do you mind?” or the fact that Gage has voodoo magic when it comes to making Zane fall asleep, and would often cradle a zonked-out baby and let me sneak away to bed and sleep or read in relative peace for a half hour or so, all by myself. I often felt like I did everything, without realizing how much Gage was assisting me in the background. Those wonderful helps are sorely missed, and I’ve been surprised by how tired I am when I have had to do LITERALLY everything for a week.
- I truly do cope with difficulty in some weird ways. I’m 100% a doer, and will surely go crazy if I don’t have something to DO when I get stressed out. There is probably, in all seriousness, an element of OCD happening with me, because I cope in such predictable ways with anxiety. Our house has been company-clean all week long. I’ve taken solace in the constant swish-whir of the dishwasher, the hum of the dryer, the soothing pattern of vacuum-cleaner lines in the carpet, and the pleasant monotony of folding diapers and sorting toys in the boys’ room. As for missing Gage, the only thing that seems to give me a peaceful sense of rest is knowing I packed an absurd number of neatly folded underwear and socks, hand-sliced fruit and his favorite granola, and more toothbrushes than he could conceivably lose on a cross-country drive in his bag. He’s a low-maintenance guy about most everything, so this tendency of mine toward over-preparation probably drives him bananas, but he is so kind and understanding that this is just my love language. It’s my way of dealing with worry, and mostly, it works.
- I relied WAAAAY too much on the TV last week. We strive to be a minimal-TV family, as far as goes parking our little ones in front of a screen and letting it babysit for us, but Gage and I watched an episode or two of a favorite show every evening, during and after dinner. Now, I don’t have the audience support to watch 30 Rock or a sitcom re-run, but I still want the comforting sound of the TV, and it has been on a lot. I hate it, because it makes my kids act like wild hoodlums after a couple of hours of Paw Patrol for background noise, but I haven’t yet gotten OK with not having it on, especially at night. We’re shooting to do better this week.
- Everybody showers together, or nobody showers at all.
- I’m not as afraid of the dark as I thought I’d be. Out house sits well back off the country road we live on, and is surrounded by woods on every side except where the driveway approaches the front yard, so we have several large, uncurtained windows. Real talk: they can be scary at night or during a nasty thunderstorm. We have family within shouting distance on the property, and he acts as our sentinel 24 hours a day, so I’m less fearful of serial killers and being burgled than I am of the dark itself. I still turn off the lights in the kitchen and living room in a fast sequence and then sprint down the hall, where I sleep with the bedroom door closed (and locked!) for the first time in my life, ever, a few nights last week… but not every night. Oddly, having one or both of the boys with me seems to help. They make me brave, or at least laugh with me when I’m not brave.
- On that note, I have an amazingly empathetic little boy. Drennin is 2 and a half, and he is my best little friend. I’m a far cry from a perfect mama, and try as I might to avoid it, I yell sometimes. Like every day, really. But when I catch myself mid-yell, and sit down on the floor with my curly-haired big boy, he understands that I’m going through something too. I can tell him, “Mama’s sorry she yelled. I chose to, instead of being patient, and that was a bad choice. I should never yell at you, but sometimes I forget that you’re having a hard day too. I miss Daddy, and I’m tired today.” And he smiles, and pats me, and tells me it’s OK. Sometimes he even asks me if I’m feeling sad, and if I want to talk about it. That kid FEELS things, and I’m so glad. Gage will tell you that I don’t feel anything except anxiety, guilt, and frustration, and while I don’t think that’s really true (I am certainly capable of feeling tremendous joy, for example), I think there’s a case to be made there. I want to raise my babies to strongly feel the full spectrum of human emotion and express it, and be able to respond to others when they see someone else is feeling something strongly, and I think they will bless the world in a way that I can’t for having that ability.
That’s all for today, because I want to apply something else I’ve been stewing about for awhile now… The idea that I do not always have to have an opinion. There is a LOT in the news and in the world worth talking about, and when I feel like it, I’ll join in the discussion. I am privileged in that way–the luxury of unsubscribing–and I am exercising that privilege. Cheers to mental health!!