A time to roar

The observation room is dark. I’m sitting on a little stool watching. Observing. I have headphones on and they pipe the voices of teachers and tiny students to my listening ears.

It’s circle time at preschool and I’m a few minutes early to pick Fiona up so that I can watch. It gives me questions to ask her and let’s me see how she’s doing with group interactions.

She’s phenomenal. She’s sitting “criss-cross applesauce” with her hands folded in her lap watching the teacher intently. Her little lips move silently as she parrots back the instructions that the teacher gives.

They’re playing a game. The teacher is waving her “magic” fingers and pointing to a kid and tossing them a bean bag. The magic fingers only point to children who are sitting quietly. Fiona is silent and sitting. Waiting. Almost vibrating with restrained patience.

The teacher begins to toss bags. She starts with children on the other side of the circle from Fiona. About halfway through the circle several little boys get up. Move around. Have to be encouraged to sit. Reminded that the magic hands only point to children who are sitting.

I feel my temper start to rise when they still get their bean bags before Fiona. Her face falls when, despite her patience, she’s the last to get a bean bag.

They play a dancing game with the bags. Put them on their shoulders. Put them on their heads. She smiles and laughs and dances. Then it’s time to sit and toss them back into the box. Once again they’re directed by the magic fingers.

Once again the teacher starts at the opposite side of the circle. Fiona is left waiting. She’s still. She sitting correctly. The teacher bounces around a little bit, pointing to a few kids out-of-order, but not Fiona.

When there are only five kids left, she stops waiting quietly. She starts saying insistently, “Me! Me! I’m sitting, Teacher!”

Finally, when other kids who had to be reminded not to hit their neighbors have had a turn she stands up. “Me, Teacher!”

“Sit down, Fiona.” She’s told, gently, but firmly.

My heart hurts for her and I find myself seeing myself at that age. Trying so hard. Waiting so patiently and feeling the injustice of being passed over and missed so often. It makes me want to cry. It makes me angry.

When it’s finally her turn another child jumps up to go first and she sits back down. The teacher doesn’t notice. Finally, last of all, she gets to toss her bean bag. The teacher tells her to put away her mat and she does.

She goes immediately to the door to look for me. I’d be ready to leave too. I go to collect her. All I want is to soothe the injustice of it.

It’s hard. As a parent it’s hard to see your child picked last. It’s hard to see great behavior go unrewarded. It’s hard to decide when to sit back and observe and when to be pure mama bear.

I’m trying to choose to observe, but I’m crying writing this. I’m trying to understand what might have been happening. Was she misbehaving before I got there? Does she have a hard time when she’s chosen first? What good, rational explanation could there be?

I want to trust that the teacher isn’t ignoring Fiona because she’s able to practice self-control. But this is my daughter and I don’t trust others with her easily. Or, really, at all.

I want to go in and yell at the teacher. I want to lecture her on the importance of giving girls the opportunity to go first and to be accustomed to having their voices heard in the classroom. I want to go in roaring like a mama bear.

I’m not sure though. This was one time. One circle. Maybe today will be different. Maybe tomorrow will be. So, I’m left with choices. Do I speak up?  We’ll see.

Is it time to roar?

Not yet. But you can bet your butt that I’ll be in that observation room again today. And tomorrow. And Monday. And, really, as long as it takes to assure me that there isn’t a problem. Or that there is.

It may not be time to go in roaring, but I sure am ready to.

House Rules

We are at the wonderful stage of development that involves becoming independent. This is a good thing. It also sucks monkey balls. See, independently going potty, grabbing a snack and playing are all fantastic. However, deciding that the only correct answer when Mom asks you a question is “No!” is not so cool. Neither is fighting every single thing that has to happen in a day.

I was talking to a friend of mine today on the phone and she suggested that we come up with a set of “House Rules”, write them up with glitter and whatnot, and then follow them.

We have a few rules that are always true and so tonight when Fiona started to act up I brought up the idea of house rules. We, all three of us, started suggesting things.

“No hitting,” I said, firmly, as that was the behavior that started the conversation.

“No pushing,” Jeff added.

“No biting,” Fiona suggested.

“No kicking,” I said.

“No eating people.” Jeff said.

“No eating people’s brains.” Fiona concluded.

Those are the house rules. They will be followed. Especially the last two.

Haven’t been here in a while.

I haven’t been here in a while. I haven’t posted. I haven’t looked at it. I’ve been too busy fighting. Fighting to use the time that I have when she’s at preschool. Fighting to do everything just right.  Fighting to redefine myself in the absence of the overwhelming constant need of a very young child. Fighting against a wave of depression and anxiety. Fighting against the very thing I named this blog for, unhappiness.

I’m trying. I’m trying to not over analyze. I’m trying to live in the moment. I can’t conquer my world in three hours. I’m trying not to give myself too much crap about money, about not using my degree, about being lousy at making money, about not being a good enough parent, about the words I use and the way that I talk to people.

Self-criticism is a bitch.

I put her in preschool and decided that in three hours a day I should be able to recharge, to make a forty hour a week salary and to clean my house and exercise. Not only that I should be ready to be one-hundred-percent engaged when I pick her up.

Expectations.

Perfectionism.

I know my way out of this. I know my way through this. The first step is admitting I’m not super woman. I’m not super-mom. I am not the person who can simultaneously bake cookies, plan a baby-shower, clean house, invent fifty-three improvements to the app based phone market, while quietly lifting weights. I’m sure that woman exists, but I’m not her.

I’d like to pretend. I’d like to imagine that I’m that cool. I’d like to imagine that I can talk to anyone and not criticize every word as I lay awake at night. I’d like to imagine that I felt confident enough in my parenting to not worry that I was screwing my daughter up. I’d like to be inventive, scientific, fit, and organized. I’d like to do all that and be the mother that my daughter needs.

Truth is, I don’t think I am. I want to be more. But I’m just me. I try to be okay with that.

I wonder sometimes if I listened to hard too all the stories. Everything from Joan of Arc to Buffy the Vampire Slayer to Nancy Drew. Women are heroes. They can do everything. And they can do it with perfect hair.  I listened too hard and instead of growing up to be a person, I wanted to grow up to be the hero of my own story.

I find myself wishing I were the hero. Or at least what my more critical self tells me is “marginally competent”.

I try. I try to live in the moment. I try to be a good mother. I try to give enough and take enough so that someday that inner critic will shut the fuck up. I don’t think it will though. See, the goal keeps moving. There’s not really any such thing as good enough.

I know this. I know that the trick is to use a calm inner voice and tell the inner critic that it’s okay. That I’m okay. To tell myself that I’m loved and lovable and that I don’t have to prove it or earn it. I’m loved as much because of my imperfection as in spite of it.

I haven’t been here in a while. It’s a hard thing to fight. I’ll try to keep you posted.

Fiona – On Marriage

I’m sure that, at some point in life, all children become aware of their parents relationship (For the record, we’re not using the word euphemistically at this time). In our house, that happened this weekend.  For those of you related to either of us, or those of you bothered by kissing, you may want to skip this one.

Jeff and I were being cuddly on the couch. Also, not euphemistic. Well, partially. We were kissing. Deeply. Possibly making out.

Fiona enters the scene. She had been in the other room.

She cocks her head to the side. “Mommy! Daddy! What are you doing?” She demands answers with the curiosity of a three-year-old and the accusatory tone of a child who has caught their parents kissing.

“Being married.” Jeff answers with the frustration of a man who is not going to get what he wants and knows it.

She pauses for a second. “Can I be married too?” She asks.

“Yep,” I answers. “Who do you want to marry?”

“Mommy!” She answers. Then sounds worried, “And Daddy! Can I marry both of you? We should all three be married.”

I start laughing and can’t stop. She climbs on top of us and starts trying to lick me.

I laugh harder. “Mommy! Hold still! I want to be marry to you!”

Struggling to not fall off the couch, to stop laughing and to avoid the waving tongue of my three-year-old, I try to explain. “Fiona, Baby, you can’t marry Mommy or Daddy. We’re already family. It’s like being married, but you don’t have to do anything. You were born part of us. We had to get married to be part of each other.”

She waves her tongue again and catches my shoulder.

“Ick!” I say. “Mommy and Daddy were kissing. Can you give me a kiss?”

I am the recipient of a kiss with a little too much tongue on the cheek. So is Jeff.  Fiona wraps her little arms around us both, “We are family!” She announces. Then slides back off of us to go back to playing, with the words, “When I am bigger and bigger, then I will marry you both!”

We Are All Star Dust

“What is it made out of?” Fiona asks me, pointing to the center of her tummy.

“Your body?” I ask.

“Yes.” She answers. “What is my body made out of?”

“Meat!” “Elements.” Jeff and I answer at the same time. I glare at him. I routinely tell her that fish and chicken are “meat”, so that I don’t have to debate vegetarianism with her. It’s not a battle I want right now, especially as I believe that vegetarians are on the side of angels on this one.

“Nope,” She grins, “I made out of outer space.”

I really have no real answer for that. She is right in one respect: the human body is turns out to be 99.99999999% empty space. In fact, all atoms are mostly empty space, if you don’t count the electromagnetic, gravitational, and atomic forces that occupy that space and only count things with mass. Outer space, empty space – how big of a difference is there?

We are all made of nothing. And meat. And elements.