The Unraveling of Me

I asked the child to do a simple thing. That right there was my first mistake.

“Mgazi, please get your shoes on. We don’t want to be late for school.”

Mgazi spends the next two minutes dawdling outside her bedroom door playing what she thinks is music on a hot pink harmonica.

“Honey, go get your shoes. Put them on.”

Another two minutes go by. I find Mgazi hunched over the cat bowl, sorting the food into pyramid shaped piles on the floor.

“Mgazi! Put on your shoes!”

Two freakin’ minutes… during which she decides to change from a perfectly sensible dress to a bikini top and pink tutu skirt with a cowboy hat garnish.

“Child, you better put those shoes on! Wait, what the heck are you wearing?”

I start muttering under my breath, realizing that if I don’t leave the house in exactly three minutes I’ll have missed the traffic window. You know the one. If you leave during a 10 minute window of time, you’ll get to your destination right on time, no hassle, no traffic. If, however, you leave a mere 30 seconds after that window of time,  you’ll arrive at your destination 45 minutes late and the entire ride will have sucked because you spent it sitting in traffic, giving stinkeye through the rearview mirror to your kid who is still, miraculously, not wearing any shoes.

“MGAZI!! SHOES!!! SHOES!!! SHOES!!!”

She blinks at me. Unclear as to what it is exactly that I’m asking her to do.

“SHOOOOOOOES!!!!!!!”

“Fine!” She stomps off in her socks, “All you had to do was say so!”

 

Want to be a better mom? Leave the kids at home!

I’m a selfish parent, which makes me kind of a crappy parent. I have a solid distaste for parenting logistics. I can’t stand making school lunches. I hate filling out permission slips. Counting out the exact change for a field trip, sealing it in an envelope, and tucking it into my daughter’s backpack for safe delivery drives me insane. Why? A rock-hard nugget of knowing nestled deep inside my belly tells me I’ll be counting out that same damn change the very next day because said child managed to lose said envelope.

It’s not that I don’t recognize or experience the joyful parts of parenting as well. I love the cuddles, the kisses, the pride of witnessing a flash of insight — “Mommy, I get it! A bus actually stops at the bus stop! Whoever named it that must have been really smart.”

It’s just that the day-in-day-out drudgery sometimes outweighs the wonder. I’m a woman with dreams and aspirations and no time to pursue them because I’m too busy shuttling, cleaning, cooking, and all-round bedazzling. I am, in point of fact, more than a mother. I think. In my lowest moments, I resent having ever gotten involved with this parenting business in the first place.

Of course, the minute I lay eyes on one of my daughters I’m immediately ashamed. Unless the child is whining. Or sticky.

In 2010, the situation had become such that I had nearly checked out of our family altogether. I became a zombified version of myself. Granted, other factors besides my aversion to mommy logistics were involved. But it did seem that my main purpose in life was to fill the roles everyone else needed me to fill —as a wife, mother, and adoption advocate. I was never just Kristine, and I was terribly unhappy. I began modeling for my daughters the exact type of woman I hoped they would never become.

So I did something I considered quite drastic. I went to Paris for ten days. Alone. With no kids, no husband, and no particular plan. I was completely free to make decisions affecting no one but myself. Red or white wine with my moules-frites? How about both? I can get drunk if I want to. There’s no homework to review. No laundry to wash. I was accountable to no one but myself.

It was freeing. And restorative. I got a full night’s sleep for ten delicious nights — in a row. For the first time in years, I had true quiet time. This gave me the chance to examine my life from an unrushed distance. What was working? What wasn’t? Why was I so unhappy when all my problems were First World ones?

No, I didn’t find all the answers. But I did get to know myself again. And I discovered that I actually liked her quite a bit. I uncovered a compassion for her that had previously been absent.

And I realized this: Parenting may be primarily what I do, but it is not fully who I am.

Am I still a selfish parent? Hell yes. Am I still a crappy parent? Pretty much. I wish I could say that I left that part of myself in France, but I didn’t. Thanks to some time alone, however, I now know that I can be a better mother to my children if I parent them as a whole person — with a little bit of Post-Paris Kristine mixed in.

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This post was originally published at Families in the Loop under the title, More Than a Mom: Why I Traveled to Paris Alone. I’m very grateful for their support.

 

 

Maya’s Mom is Going to get Sex

In the car:

Mgazi: Maya’s mom is going to get sex.

Me: Um what?

Mgazi: Maya’s mom. She told me she’s going to get sex.

Me: Honey, I don’t think that can be what she said.

Mgazi: Mommy! Listen to what I’m saying! She’s going to get bert! It’s going to be a boy.

Me: Oh! She’s going to give birth. Maya’s mom had sex and now she’s going to give birth to a baby boy!

Mgazi: That’s what I’ve been saying! Her tummy is this big!

Me: I can’t see you, honey, I’m driving the car.

Mgazi: THIS BIG! LOOK! THIS BIG!

Me: Mgazi! I’m driving the car! I can’t look at you right now.

Zaffy: Mom, Mgazi is saying that Maya’s mommy’s tummy is like three inches bigger than usual.

Mgazi: Yeah, she got a lot of sex.

Outwitted by Kiddie Logic No More

I routinely find myself on the losing end when a conversation includes my children. I’ll be trying to impart some teeny bit of parental wisdom and they’ll turn it on its head by applying their own warped child-logic. It’s maddening.   Like when Mgazi asked me, “If you know the answer, why are you asking the question?” Or there was that time where I couldn’t talk her out of holding a kids-only wedding. And of course, that dreaded conversation in the car about why (oh why) did I slam her fingers in the car door?

If my children decide that they don’t agree with me, I simply will not win the argument. Because they sneak in this kiddie-verision of logic that I simply can’t outsmart. It’s become a real problem, constantly being outwitted by my children.

I described my challenge to my friend, Keely Flynn Schoeny who writes Lollygag Blog. She understood immediately.

It’s “brationale” she said.

She’s brilliant, that Keely.  I had identified the problem, but she named it. Suddenly, I felt like it wasn’t so unbeatable after all. It only took a day or two before I got my chance to see.

I was picking the kids up from school. A classmate of Mgazi’s had celebrated her birthday and passed out goodie bags.

Mgazi: Mommy, Mommy! Look! I got a giant pencil!

She pulled it out of the bag and shoved it in my face. It was indeed giant.

Zaffy: That sure looks like a nice pencil.

Mgazi: Here, Zaffy. (She ruffled through the bag.) You can have the Strawberry Shortcake coloring book.

Zaffy: Strawberry Shortcake is for babies. (She shoved the coloring book back at her sister.) It’s not fair.

Me: What’s not fair?

Zaffy: Mgazi gets these presents and all she does is give me something that’s for babies. It’s not even what I want. It’s so not fair.

Oh my God!! It’s brationale! I can see it heading straight for me. I have to come out swinging.

Me: Zaffy, let me get this straight. Mgazi has been given a present. It’s hers. Not yours. And you think that you have a right to demand she turn over part of said present to you, her sister. Simply because you want it.

Zaffy: uhhh….

Me: Zaffron, is that what you are saying? Mgazi is supposed to give you her things just because you want them?

Zaffy: uhhh….

Me: Is that what you’re saying?

Zaffy: Well… no. Not anymore.

VICTORY!!!

 Zaffy: Mommy, what are you doing?

Me: Just a little dance, baby. Just a little dance.

 

 

Zaffron Levies a Bathroom Tax

In the kitchen:

Zaffy: Mom, you owe me 25 cents.

Me: What for?

Zaffy: You used the kids’ bathroom.

Me: You’re charging me for using your bathroom?

Zaffy: Yes! You said this was the kids’ bathroom when we moved here and you are not a kid. Plus, you owe me another quarter.

Me: What? For What?

Zaffy: You didn’t flush.

Me: Zaffron, first, I didn’t use your bathroom. Second, if I had I certainly would have flushed.

Zaffy: Mom, it had to be you. It wasn’t me and Mgazi pinky-promises it wasn’t her. You’re  all that’s left. But don’t feel bad, sometimes I have to pay myself a quarter too.

Later that day, in the car:

Zaffy: So, when am I getting my 50 cents?

Me: Zaffy, how about you owe me a quarter for being annoying?

Zaffy: Mom, the rules are the rules, even if you don’t like them.

Me: Well, I’m not going to pay.

Zaffy: Then I’ll just have to charge you another quarter.

Me: Are you kidding me?

Zaffy: No. If you don’t pay me my 50 cents in five weeks, I’m going to charge you another quarter.

Mgazi: Zaffy, you mean five days.

Zaffy: No, I mean five weeks.

Mgazi: Mommy, Zaffy doesn’t know what she’s talking about. She means she wants the money in five days, not five weeks.

Zaffy: I know exactly what I’m talking about. Mommy, just pay me and everything will be fine.

Bladder Betrayal

The kids were invited to a birthday party. I hate going to kid’s birthday parties. I hate my own kids’ birthday parties. But it was at a gym and I decided that I would squish my desire to grumble and try my best to have a good time right along with them.

We were running late, of course, but last minute I ran back into the house and grabbed a sports bra. These days I need one if I drive over a speed bump. I figured it would be a necessity if I decided to hop on a trampoline with the children.

Sure enough, when we arrived, laughing, giggling, screeching children were climbing up rope ladders, tumbling down foam slides and jumping on the trampoline. I told the girls to run ahead while I took off my shoes and socks.

As the children darted toward the trampoline, they passed some other kid’s mother. She was heading towards me. She was smiling and happy. She wiped the sweat off her brow and said, “Wow, that was fun!”

“The trampoline?” I asked.

“Yeah, I wish I could have jumped for longer.”

“Why didn’t you?” She looked fit and strong, definitely younger than me.

“It was that last bounce,” she said. “My feet hit the mesh and my body propelled upwards and I peed myself.”

I quietly put back on my socks.

Photo (which has nothing to do with the post) credit: ucumari / Foter.com / CC BY-NC-ND

Mgazi Requests Her Privacy… in Writing

My husband and I just bought a new house. Our number one reason? So we could have our own bathroom. We bought a WHOLE ENTIRE HOUSE so we could pee in private.

Turns out, I have my own bathroom  but I never seem to have it to myself. And I’ve been quite vocal about it to my girls, Mgazi and Zaffron. If I’ve told them once, I’ve told them a thousand times (<– Oh my God, how did my mother get here?)…

“Mommy uses her bathroom. You guys use yours.”

Last night, Mgazi was sitting on the pot (her own pot) and the bathroom door was wide open. I walked in and asked if she needed help. After all, she’s only five and any responsible parent conducts random inspections.

Me: Hey Gaz. You need any help wiping or anything?

Mgazi: Mommy! Get out! Can’t you read?

Me: Get out? What are you talking about?

Mgazi: I made a private sign. Daddy helped me write it.

Me: What’s a private sign?

Mgazi: It’s a sign that gives me privacy! I want to be in the bathroom all by myself.

I looked around the bathroom and behind the door that had been wide open!

Me: Honey, I don’t see a sign.

Mgazi [rolling her eyes and exhaling a sigh that indicates she'd just about run out of patience with her dimwitted mother]: It’s right there, Mom, on the kitchen table!

 

One Minute of Peace — That’s All I Ask

Mgazi was eating breakfast at the island in the kitchen. I could dangle a hundred dollar bill in front of her face. She wouldn’t bother to look up from her plate. Nothing gets between Mgazi and her food.

Zaffron was watching Saturday morning cartoons in the family room. Zaffron turns into a zombie in front of the TV. I can wave my hand between her face and the screen and she won’t flinch.  I know this because I videotaped myself doing it once. She didn’t even blink. I’m not positive she even knew I was there. Very little gets between my daughter and her television.

I went into my bedroom. I quietly shut the door and locked it. I walked over to my bed, sat down and pulled out my iPhone. Swiped until I found what I was looking for — a stopwatch app.

How long would it be until one of my children knocked on my door?

I pressed start on the stopwatch. And I waited…

53 seconds.

 

Don’t You Hate it When You Pee on Your Hand?

Don’t look at me like that!

You know what I’m talking about. All of us girls have done it. We’ve just gone to the bathroom, we’re wrapping things up, and something happens. Something startles us and suddenly we realize that we weren’t quite done with the job we set out to do. There’s no shame.

This exact thing happened to me a few days ago. I was in my bathroom, finishing my business when I heard Zaffron scream. The kind of scream that makes a mother freeze, just for a moment, because the quality of the scream has an edge that puts it past typical (the shriek of a child discovering that the cat pooped in her bed AGAIN) and more toward terrible (the wail of a child that’s been hurt).

This scream was smack dab in the middle of the two and my body clenched and I peed on my hand. Then she started yelling for me and I could hear her running toward the bathroom. I  did my best to tidy up and rushed out to meet her. She was sobbing and I scooped her into my arms and pushed her face into my neck.

“What’s wrong? Are you okay?”

“I… I… I fell and I hit my head on the closet door.” She was sobbing.

“Oh, sweetie, show me where it hurts.”

“It… it… it… hurts here,” she said, pointing to a spot on the side of her head. Her sniveling broke my heart and I hugged her close.

I felt her head. It was it’s regular shape. No bump, no swelling.

I tried to make her smile. “Oh baby, Mommy was in the bathroom when I heard you scream. I got so scared I peed on myself! I think you’re going to be okay. Should we get you some ice just in case?”

“Yes, please. I think that ice is a good… wait!” She pushed away from me and looked me straight in the eye. Her sniffles vanished. “Did you wash your hands?”

 

Something to Sink Your Teeth Into

It has been a rough Saturday morning — full of children bickering, children complaining, and children generally pissing me off.

Mgazi and Zaffron were downstairs, supposedly watching tv, when I heard a thud, what I swear was a battle cry, then a crash.

I hit my limit.

Me: GIRLS! <– yelling

the Girls:  Yes, Mommy? <– sweetly, in unison

Me: Get upstairs! Now!

I’d like to say that they came upstairs, hanging their heads, abashed and guilty in the knowledge that had once again driven their mother to the brink of a breakdown. But no, they came up reluctantly, and loudly protesting the interruption of their television time with stomping feet and exaggerated sighs.

They stood in front of me as I ticked off the reasons I had had enough.

Me: I have had enough. I’m done with all the name-calling. I’m done with all the whining. With the yelling and arguing. I’ve had enough of all the hitting and all the biting and –

Zaffron: But, Mom! I only bit Mgazi one time! You can’t have had enough with all the biting if I only bit her once!


Glass of white wineRecommended wine: Did you know that wine may rot your teeth? I guess whites do more damage than reds because of acidity. Riesling is the worst offender. Lucky for me, I think Rieslings suck. So, I’m going to recommend a red today. Something very un-Riesling. I love love love Cloudy Bay’s Pinot Noir. Yum.