Our son was mad at me tonight. So, so mad.

It’s hard, being six. Especially when you have a big sister who assumes the role of ‘mom’ in any and all circumstances, and when your dad is flying all over the world, and you feel like the only boy in the world.

I took the kids to the park today. Our son’s classmate and his best buddy C. was hosting a final play date–C. is moving this week. My husband is in Asia, it’s the last day of Spring Break, his best friend is moving… it was going to be a weird afternoon.

He (and his sister) had a great time. Watching our boy play with other boys, as boys do–roughhousing, shoving, falling, laughing, asserting themselves, yelling–it’s refreshing. (Watching our daughter manage the relative chaos: comforting.) But it was soon time to go.

We had to eat dinner. We then had to go home, clean up, settle in, and prepare for school the next day. I mentioned all this as we said our goodbyes to C.

We drove on to have dinner out–an end-of-break hurrah since Daddy’s away. We crossed a parking lot, and my son would not take my hand. He usually does. But he would not. We sat down where the server seated us. He could barely look at me. I asked him, “Are you angry with me?” I do this, you see. If I can tell they’re angry with me, I ask them to share why, so that we can address whatever I did, or whatever they perceived I did.

He nodded yes, he was in fact angry with me. My daughter and I (mostly my daughter) then peppered him with questions, trying to figure out what it was I did. (Is he mad because Mom won’t let him play Minecraft on a school night? Is it because she wouldn’t let him have a second cupcake?) “No” to all questions, nothing by way of an explanation. He was immovable. I asked my daughter to let it drop. Our food came, and suddenly he looked across the table and tried to speak.

“It’s just that…” and his voice broke. He didn’t want to cry in the restaurant.

“You don’t have to tell me, honey. It’s okay, just eat your dinner.” He did.

The food seemed to lift his spirits (obviously–two hours of running in a park with only a cupcake for sustenance is bound to make anybody cranky) but not quite enough. He was still pretty blue as we left.

We got in the car. Buckled up, closed the doors. And then:

“I don’t wanna go to school tomorrow and there’s nothing you can do about it… waaaaaah!” And there was a wail, a wail like you’ve never heard. This boy was in some serious despair.

“You’re mad at me because I can’t make it not a school day tomorrow?”

“Yeeeeeeeees! Waaaaaaaaah!”

I tried so hard not to laugh.

I turned into our neighborhood and offered little: “There’s so much we can’t do. I can’t make it not a school day. I can’t make Daddy be here, and not in Asia. I can’t make things stay the same. I just can’t. It’s okay to be mad at me. You should be. Usually I can make things better. But I just can’t this time. Sometimes things are just hard and yucky. But soon, they won’t be. Sometimes things get easier on their own.”

He cried and moaned… He sobbed in the shower. I tucked him in and he was still pretty mad at me but very politely and sweetly declined my offer of an extra blanket.

My daughter came by later and talked with me about what she’s learning in math, unit fractions and obtuse angles and measurements and whether she’ll make it into the fourth grade. She’s a thoughtful, conscientious girl who wonders about her own feelings.

I told her that I thought her brother was still mad when he went to bed.

“I think he’ll forget all about it when he sleeps, Mom. He was just really tired.”

Yeah.

We’re all just really tired. Tired of all those things that just have to get easier on their own. Things that we can’t make better.

 

the swing between

I don’t know what the heck I’m feeling right now. But everything is in flux, and it makes me… extremely uneasy.

I’m trying to train myself to manage a little unsettled mess, a little flux, bit by bit. I’ve heard about a cognitive behavior therapy technique wherein a person is given controlled exposure to something that makes them feel uncomfortable, or feel anxious. They might rate that level of discomfort on a scale from one to ten, and they need to allow themselves (with support from a trained professional) to get to “ten,” so that they can experience it, recognize that it will subside, and learn that they can handle it.

I think that’s how it works, anyway.

I had two dear friends over for dinner tonight. After dinner, all I did was clear the table. I did not do dishes immediately. I sat down in the living room with my friends. That’s totally normal behavior for most of the world out there. For me, no. Dirty dishes in the sink or on the counter? I get uncomfortable. Like to a “ten” on that discomfort scale. But I got over it quickly: My friends put me ease. The dishes were done at the right time: after my friends left.

One of my friends brought a lovely gift. I had opened its big box and it was sitting in the middle of the living room floor, wrapping paper and bubble wrap all over, the beautiful gift sitting on top. I let it sit there in the middle of the room as we talked for a while… But the discomfort got to maybe a “six” and I just had to move it. I put it next to a chair, so that the floor was clear. Discomfort down to about “two.” Then talked with my friends some more. Discomfort at “zero.”

I know, I’m a bit strange. I just need clean, clear spaces. I need “order” and “control.” As you can imagine, this poses a slight problem for a corporate wife in the habit of following her spouse wherever and whenever he has to go. Like I said, I’m trying to train myself to be okay, even temporarily, with disorder and a lack of control. It might be working.

We all get uncomfortable. We all have our “thing” that sets us off, that makes us unreasonable or defensive or territorial or protective, or even just mildly stubborn. But then, for the most part, we each figure out a way to find comfort again. Discomfort, or fear–they’re not sustainable conditions. Too much cortisol? Your body doesn’t want that.

It’s the swing between comfort and discomfort, or safety and fear, that makes the difference. Consider that journey past “ten:” Is your swing short, or is your swing long? Are you able to see your discomfort subsiding sooner (short swing) or is it hard to visualize its demise (long swing)?

About ten years ago, my father-in-law was teaching me to swing a golf club properly. New to the game, all I wanted to do was hit that ball hard, and get it far, far away, to where I wanted it to go. More often than not, I’d fail miserably. My swing was too long, for one thing.

“Your body, your core is what drives that ball, not your arms. You don’t need to try and kill the ball. Let’s see short swings, nice and easy.” He tapped my stomach. “Let your center of gravity do the work.”

Here’s to short swings. Nice and easy. The ball will get there.

Image

it hits me now, at odd moments

We’re moving (and it’s still a secret). I’ve scheduled a home inspection of our current house, I just received an email from a new school’s secretary reminding me about a preview tour in a couple of weeks, and I just left a message with our new realtor in our new state. I’ve already compiled a list of 10 houses that I want the realtor to preview for us.

At the same time, I’m gearing up to help host about 200 folks at our general PTA meeting tonight. We’ll serve dinner, and thank all these families for all they have done for the school, encourage them to stay involved, to do what they can. We enlisted five students to do a reading of “The Three Questions” for the crowd. To that end, I took pictures of every page and turned the story into a powerpoint presentation, and to make sure all goes off without a hitch I’ve created a color coded script for all the readers. I’ve rehearsed with them… I asked our daughter’s teacher to have a role. I’ve gone crazy with this.

And this morning, our daughter said it felt weird that she wasn’t doing anything with the book, since the book was hers and her brother’s. So I amended my introduction to note that these two nice kids I know lent us the book.

And I think about all this, simultaneously, and tears form in my eyes. It’s ridiculous. It’s not sadness, per se. It’s something else.

Everybody wants to have an impact, a positive one, on their community. I think I have, I think our kids have, when it comes to our school. We have made a difference. I’m seeing this impact, I guess, as an imprint.

Like when you put your feet in the sand at the ocean’s edge… You make foot prints, and the water laps over your ankles and your feet sink deeper and deeper till you feel stuck, but comfortable, because that sand is holding you steady against the crash of waves.

But then at some point you have to pick up your feet. And it takes some effort, if you do it before the next wave. You see the places that your feet stood. And then the water comes rushing back, and there’s no trace of your footprints. Your feet were there, but only for a moment.

Yeah, it’s all hitting me kind of hard.