Suburban Snapshots

Everybody's Got Their Something

Friday, January 30, 2015

When Anna was two I put her down on the sand of a lake and watched her spiral into uncontrollable hysterics trying to collect all the toys at the water's edge and bring them farther into shore. We stayed only a few minutes and I carried her sticky, trembling body back to the car. When she was three and we put her pop-up tent in our yard on a breezy day, we couldn't reassure her that it wouldn't fly away, and the tent found its new home in our living room. At four, she had a fire drill in school and for weeks insisted her bedroom door be closed at night because the fear of her toys going up in flames overtook her fear of the dark. At five, a friend told her that licking a pencil could be fatal, and Anna spent the next several weeks confirming that the crayons, Play Doh and paints she touched each day were safe. At six, I've seen most of these fears fade but there are new ones. There always seem to be new ones: that our dog will get loose and be run over, that I'll leave her alone. If I'm working quietly in another room I'll inevitably hear a timid little, "Mama?" from wherever she is. Just checking.

Anna has her dad's build, his odd, flat toenails and beautiful olive skin. She has my chestnut hair and the profile I love on her but always hated on myself. These are the obvious traits, the ones that strangers notice when we're out together, when grocery store clerks comment on how alike we are, or how she'll be tall like Steve and me. She's outgoing, social, she has two best friends and is always, always begging for playdates. She puts on dances and when we have company, she sets out snacks and "cocktails" and wears her fanciest dress-up. She lives to make people laugh.



And sometimes she's anxious. Steve and I both have tendencies, though he's more practical in his worry, constantly thinking about and creating new home improvement projects, mentally tallying our bills and estimating what's in the checking account. The way Anna worries is all mine—it's irrational and sometimes it's relentless. I've got twenty years of experience dealing with it, taming it, working on it, and she's still so new. I have more patience with it than Steve does, but even still I find myself wanting to beg her, Why can't you just believe me when I tell you it's going to be okay? Why can't you just stop and let ME worry about this? 

Most days are fine; she's happy, fresh, she bounces around singing and asking for snacks she won't eat, and Facetiming her best friends about boys. But sometimes when we're doing something new, going somewhere unusual, she worries about too-dark clouds, smokestacks that look like fires, she doesn't like me to be away from her. This last one started over the summer and it took me far too long to realize the impact of losing Sarah—the mother of one of her best friends, a woman she saw right across the street, every day—had on her. It was an afternoon I felt crappy and she came to my spot on the couch and asked, "Mama, are you sick like Sarah?" She smiled, but I could see that little bit of worry in her.

Her anxiety is helping me understand the ways I have not been kind to myself about my own. I'd never tell her to Stop being so stupid and crazy and pull it together, which is my standard self-coaching speech when my thoughts race into catastrophe. I also understand that there's usually no reassurance that her little brain can't unravel.

Her pediatrician recommended a couple of books for her to read and techniques for us to practice with her. She has worry dolls, and most nights before bed she gets "worry time" though I suspect now this is a stall tactic. We're balancing things, letting her know she's just a regular kid with parents who love her and friends who adore her, trying to play down the role anxiety has in what she's made of, but understanding that it sometimes needs attention from us all.

This is my daughter. None of them are simple creatures, and of course I wish this wasn't her burden. Of course I sometimes feel the burning guilt of owning the bullshit genetics I passed onto her. Of course I hope that she'll grow out of at least parts of it. Of course I'll love her through every day, even the ones when the sky is falling. Of course I'll teach her that she can catch it.

Could You Be Suffering From a Mom Cold?

Monday, January 12, 2015

I called in sick today. It's always tricky business when you work full-time from home, but sometimes I just don't have it in me to respond coherently to emails and sit upright during conference calls. It was a weekend of near constant battles with the first-grader; of being ignored when I asked her to do something and ignored when I asked her not to do something, of not being thanked for brunch with friends or the six-hour playdate that followed. I was exhausted and hoping to fend off whatever my husband's been hacking up like creating specimen bacteria is his job.

So naturally, I cleaned the whole house. I couldn't relax in the mess but things escalated and before I knew it I was folded over on myself behind the toilet. This is a Mom Cold. Scroll to find out if your symptoms could mean you've also suffered from a Mom Cold.

Thanks to Abigail Thompson for use of her perfect photo.


Anna at My Life and Kids

Suzanne at Toulouse & Tonic


Robyn at Hollow Tree Ventures


Andrea at The Underachiever's Guide to Being a Domestic Goddess


Ashley at It's Fitting


Paige at There's More Where That Came From


Kerry at House Talk'n


Jessica at Four Plus an Angel


Ellen at Sisterhood of the Sensible Moms (This mom was the only doctor on call at the time, no infants were harmed in the making of this graphic.)

 

 

Love in the Outside World

Tuesday, January 06, 2015

God, love is a mess. Right? You spend your teens wishing you were old enough to really understand it, (or if you're me, hoping to have a shot at it at all, truly unable to imagine a day will come when the person you like actually likes you back. I remember how implausible that seemed and how miraculous when it finally happened. I'm what John Hughes movies are made of.) your twenties having to sort through options that may or may not be or have the potential to become love, your thirties feeling like you finally have it pretty well worked out, and eternity, I think, questioning all of your assumptions.

Two weeks ago I found Anna's diary. Of course I read it, she's six, she lives in my  house, I bought it for her. Dibs. There were several pages filled with detailed drawings of her name, bubble hearts, and the name of a boy she "loves" who I'll call Kai. Amazingly enough, there's not actually a Kai in her grade so one day when she finds this entry she can't accuse me of blowing up her spot. Or maybe one day I'll read this at Anna and "Kai's" wedding, and everyone will laugh, I'll cry into my champagne and then insist she dance with me to a sentimental but upbeat tearjerker. But I'm getting ahead of myself.

Prior to finding this diary I had no inkling my daughter even knew about the possibility of boys as anything other than circle-time interrupters and dodge ball villains. She only ever mentioned James because he has to take lots of "breaks" during class, and Ethan, who farts. Suddenly her whole wide heart was there in glitter ink, complete with illustrations of the most innocent and adorable variety and a note about who Kai's crush is. Anna is not Kai's crush, but she's thrilled that it's one of her best friends. You don't consider this a problem when you're six.



Anna spent an hour yesterday on Facetime with another of her best friends, but they don't actually look at each other during their conversations, instead they talk while texting the secrets they know I'll overhear. I'd share a thread with you but first of all, the sweetness might launch candy rainbow unicorns into being and secondly, it would give up this boy's real name. Let's pretend one of those reasons was "I respect my daughter's privacy" because that makes me sound like a better person.

She doesn't talk to me about Kai, and becomes visibly embarrassed when I mention him. Let me restate that she is not yet seven, and also that I am probably way under-qualified to guide her through the next many years of love stories. I'm full of joy and dread at the potential of all of this; last week we spent the morning with my friend and her 3rd grade son, and I found myself hoping as he and Anna played together in her room that she wouldn't decide to have a crush on him and weird everything up between them.

Do I have to try and talk to her about boys? I don't know how to ask without getting a too-sophisticated skeptical glance in return. Is there a pause button on this? It's just, oh there is so much time to be screwed up about love and boys, I guess I just wish she'd give herself a few more years of oblivious ease.

The love she's known until now has been simple and uncomplicated. It's been freely given and received with no entanglements, no consequences, no stipulations. The love she's beginning to enter into is loaded with all of those things plus some, and there are so many years of complicated before the spectacular. Even then, it's still a little complicated, isn't it?