Thursday, March 03, 2011

Fixing it

Most days the 5am blast of music takes awhile to register. Like chipping away at a particularly stubborn block of ice, the initial cracks are imperceptible – the fluttering of an eyelid, a quiet sigh, the slightest twitching of limbs. But today I’ve done the unthinkable and risen before the alarm.

I tiptoe through the dark house, quietly stepping over sleeping dogs and the odd toy. In the bathroom I leave the light off, locating the contact solution by feel. I drip a bit in each eye, blinking with relief when the liquid allows me to open them completely.

I stop in Hannah’s doorway to check on her, to make sure her covers aren’t on the floor and that she isn’t hanging from the side of the bed like a trapeze artist. She thrashes in her sleep, just like me.

The revolving fish aquarium night light atop the cedar chest allows me to see her face, slack with sleep and miraculously, still on the pillow. I push the pullout trundle back underneath the bed so I can reach her and straighten the covers. The bed is so tall that we leave the trundle out at night, just in case she rolls off. As I pull and tug, working the sheets from underneath heavy limbs, I decide to tuck myself in with her. I’ve got time.

I gently push her over and lie down, covering us both. She smacks her lips and squirms as I smooth back the hair from her face. She’s soft and warm, clean from last night’s bath, her hair smelling faintly of watermelon kid shampoo. And even better than that – she’s quiet.

It’s been a week full of stressful nights – whining, crying and the usual drama. She’s developed a smart mouth to go along with her overly sensitive demeanor – a combination I find frustrating. She stamps her foot and shouts, ignores me and deliberately taunts me. Yet when it comes time for the inevitable punishment, she cries and shrieks like she’s being branded with a hot iron. In reality all I’ve done is say, “You’ve lost your TV privileges for tomorrow” or “give me the DS”.

Hannah is spoiled and I’ve my mother to thank for that. She grins when the screaming starts, often saying, “You’re just getting back what you deserve”. She pets her and overthrows my punishments and guidelines, turning even the simplest of things into a battle. I often wonder, while I’m getting what “I deserve”, why this form of revenge is passed down like tradition. There are times when I wouldn’t wish Hannah’s behavior on my worst enemy, much less Hannah herself, should she ever have her own child.

I close my eyes and wrap my arm around her, drawing her closer. It’s easier this way, while they’re all sleeping. I find it hard to be affectionate with her in front of my family, my mother in particular. She has this odd way of making me feel embarrassed when I show my softer side. She smirks and makes snide comments, just because I’ve never really been the cuddly type, as if I’m doing it just for show. Yet she doesn’t like the “stern” side of me either, often calling me cold-hearted. Damned if I do and damned if I don’t – which is, more often than not, the way everything is with mom.

Technically I’m a single parent, but due to current living arrangements, Hannah has a lot of people telling her yes, no, and everything in between. I know it’s sometimes unfair or confusing for her, but I also know she sometimes works the system to her advantage. And there are days, like yesterday, when it’s just the two of us and she’s unmanageable for reasons I can’t even begin to fathom.

*****

I picked her up from school and brought her home early, saved her from an afternoon of daycare. She was happy for 10 minutes of the ride home, then a switch flipped and suddenly she wasn’t. It got worse as the day wore on, the whining and the unnecessary tantrums, until I’d finally had enough.

“What is the matter with you today”, I said, standing in the middle of her room while she scowled at me and scuffed her sneaker on the hardwood floor.

“You won’t let me do what I want!”

“If you’d stop whining and misbehaving, maybe you’d get to do what you want.”

She crossed her arms over her chest and shouted, “I want to go back to Oklahoma with Grandpa and live there!”

I stared at her, surprised. Where the hell had that come from?

“Right. You want to leave all of your family...your friends, your school, everything...and go live with him? Are you ill?”

“Yes!”

“Yes you’re ill?”

“No! You’re mean and I don’t love you anymore. I hate you!”

I sighed. “If I was really mean, I’d let you go live with him. Then you’d see how good you have it here, kid.”

The rest of the night was a fiasco, with mom contributing to the already escalated situation with her usual remarks. I could feel my temper flaring up and, at one point, had to go outside, jump up and down and scream like a maniac.

When I finally put her to bed, I kissed her quickly on the forehead, pulled out the trundle, and hot-footed it out of there. I even sighed with relief.

*****

I lay here thinking about all of that – what she said and did, how I had to calm myself down and couldn’t wait to get away from her, how I want to kick mom in the shins. And it bothers me. I don’t want it to be this way. I know I’ve got to fix it, but I haven’t figured it out.

I kiss her forehead. “Boog”, I say, rubbing her arm and back. “Boog, it’s time to get up.”

She starts stretching, her body uncurling from mine, and her eyes squinting up at my face. A big sleepy grin immediately follows and I grin back.

“Hey mama”, she says, wrapping her arms around my neck.

“Hey sugar. Did you sleep well?”

“Uh huh.”

“You ready to get up?”

“Can we stay here like this for just a minute?”

“Yeah”, I say, settling back into the blankets, holding her tight.

We lay quietly for awhile; until I hear the others begin to move around. Then I push myself up and out of the bed. “What do you want for breakfast?”

“Fruit loops”, she shouts, vaulting up and holding out her arms. I let her jump into mine, causing me to stagger back and my muscles to pull a bit painfully. She’s getting way too big to carry.

She wraps her legs around my waist and buries her face in my neck. “I love you thissssssss much.” She squeezes me as hard as she can with her arms and legs, then pulls back to kiss me.

This!”, I suddenly think, kissing her back.

When there are days and nights like yesterday, when I can’t take it anymore, when she hurts my feelings and I have to hurt hers...this is what I’ll think about. That’s how I’ll fix it – by remembering moments like this... and maybe, by getting up early a little more often.

39 comments:

Sally-Sal said...

My papa used to say about kids "When they're little, they step on your toes, when they're bigger, sometimes they step on your heart."

I think you're a great mom. You love her, you worry, you doubt yourself, but you're doing it right, Aly.

thembroadcasts said...

First time your kid hugged you or earlier than usual morning euphoria? Lady, unless you lay off the blame cake, I suggest you keep this post on quick access to recycle. Its tough to keep em straight.. Don't make it tougher on yourself.
Also - some nice imagery in ur words.

Ed said...

Good Job, Mom.

thembroadcasts said...

Which explains the new found motivation - this being the first time your kid hugged you or earlier morning than usual euphoria? The glow will die by sun set unless you look deeper. Stay off the blame cake, or else keep this post reworded for recycle. Also - Some nice imagery there in your words.

Crystal said...

I have a three year old but she too has the world worst temper and sometimes it takes every ounce of strength to run the other way when she's got it in her mind to drive me insane! Then she smiles, tells me she loves me and reminds me why I don't leave her in the wild with the wolves!

caterpillar said...

Awww.......I agree with Sally, you're a great mom....and grandparents have a way of just overthrowing the authority...it's so wrong!

Nari said...

I've gone through similar trials with my own girls and at 18 & 19, I still do.

But those little moments when "mom" isn't a bad word or an insult makes the struggles worth it.

I did fix my gramma issue though by threatening to tell my girls about all the mistakes she made as a mom. She gave in right way, fear shining in her eyes.

It worked like a charm and the girls behaved better now that gramma deferred to me on parenting and they became a little more clear as to who was in charge.

Mamma said...

Ooooooh parenting! How I wish they would have taught that class somewhere.

Your post made me cry. My mom has been dead for three years, never met my second son and she use to say " love you thissssssss much" and when I was little I said it back. As I got older I thought it was silly and I stopped, she never did and right before she passed she told me that again. I ssaid it back to her and I miss that I will never hear her say that to me again.

My mom was my grandmother that adopted me. I never had my biological mom around and I always thought I would be a better parent than any other parent before me. I hate it when my 8 year old and I have words. His dad travels and I feel at times like a single mom.

I want you to know that you can trust in your own abilities no matter what. You're her mother first and her friend second. Its going to be hard, but always hug her and never stop telling her you love her. She will always remember that over the bad times.

Hang in there sister! You're doing great!

Pam Strickland said...

This post made me cry. You have a wonderful way of expressing yourself.

The Reckmonster said...

Thank GAWD for this post...I don't feel like I am the only mother in the world who WANTS to get away from their hooligan sometimes...but secretly loves on them while they're sleeping. Wonderful post - and you made it so easy to relate.

Robbie Grey said...

Being a single parent, I can remember my daughter sometimes saying she loved her mother more than I and how that hurt. This story, especially the end, I thought was sweet.

The Vegetable Assassin said...

Yeah you don't give yourself enough credit - you do great! I'm pretty sure there isn't a mom alive who doesn't feel the way you do. I doubt I'd have half the patience you do. This is why I prefer kittens and puppies. :)

Shopgirl said...

I was tempted to tell you "being a mother is one of the toughest job in the world". And that being a single mom is that toughness times ten. But I think you already know that, so I will just say, if your daughter says she loves you (at all), you must be one of the greatest moms out there. And that her saying "this much", means that greatness times hundreds.

But you already know that too.

I do try to have quiet time (with prayers) every morning, to set myself right for the day. It's tough though, the ebb and flow of moods and interruptions can come quicker some days than others. I hope there is more moments "like this" than not on days to come.

Sharon Longworth said...

You captured this so beautifully, I'm not at all surprised so many people have said you made them cry - me too.
I've fallen out with both my mother and my daughter this week, both times when I should have kept quiet, let my annoyance with them simply wash over me. Both times when instead of keeping quiet I snapped and shouted.
My daughter and I hugged and made up; my mum and I don't hug at all. I know which I feel better about this morning, so all I can say is keep hugging and hold on to that. Oh and keep writing - your wonderful skill keeps the rest of us feeling a little brighter too.

runawaybride said...

I have had a lot of fights and arguments with mymom and had said what-not toeach other. But at the ned, the mother's love is a true winner.

Anthony Hodgson said...

As a dad myself I know that feeling well. Sometimes I want to kill them othertimes like last night when the youngest creeps into my bed there is nothing better. You made me teary eyed with that blog as it struck a cord with me.
Your a good parent never forget that. She will thank you one day.
Being a parent is the hardest but sometimes the most fulfilling job in the world and I wouldn't change it ever.

Rusty Hoe said...

That's the crazy thing about motherhood. One minute you want to wring their necks and the next they give you one little "love you" or a hug, or that smile they reserve just for you and you are suckered back in. Those little moments make all the rest worth it. You're doing good babe. Just remember you're not alone. We're all winging it, some are just more honest about it than others.

David Henderson said...

Very nice writing today.

Also I liked Nori's Grandparent idea. (hopefully that will help)

There's no such thing as perfection (especially concerning parenting). There's only so much we can do, yet we must do it (or at least try), and keep doing so.

Kimmie said...

I loved this post. :) It made me a little teary eyed at work.

I'm not a parent, but I have nephews, and the oldest is the only man that I'll allow to have my whole heart. He's hateful and mean sometimes, but when he climbs up in my lap and puts his arms around me saying, "I love you Kim Kim."...That's what keeps me from duct taping him to the wall.

Danger Boy said...

Nobody has it easy, they're all different. They all will say they hate us at some point, because we must deny them what they want. We live for when they say "I love you", even if it's just in their smile.
But we play for the long game, knowing that later, much later, they'll either thank us or give us their therapy bills. :)

ProSanity said...

I raised my sister when I was still a kid myself. And then, when she was 5, I handed her back over to our parents (my mom had been sick till then) and went and lived my own life. Now I am trying to spend as much time as possible with her, but she is just so aggravating sometimes!
Everything I say, she has some smart-assed answer to. She doesn't do what I ask her to, no matter how nice I ask or how much I bribe her with awesome toys. She talks back to myself and our other 4 siblings, as well as our parents.
But, at night, when it's just her and I and it's time for bed, she begs me for a story. So I lie down next to her and whisper out a fairy tale, and she snuggles close and whispers that I'm her favorite...
She turns nine today.

It's moments like that when you realize it's all worth it.

csmith2884 said...

We have six kids from 7 to 18 and this post about sums up parenting. One day they will kick you just to see how much they can make it hurt, the next they do or know something astounding. In the end you make a little person that will go out on their own, as it should be. This is one of the tiny bits that make up who they are.
Good job, mom.

t.WeeZy said...

I remember going through all that and more with my two. The ones that you love the most are the ones who hurt you the most.

Keep on keeping on sista ;)

Penny Dreadful said...

I just love your writing Alyson, I'm always gripped to the end. It might be the two G&Ts I've just had, but I have to gush: boy are you TALENTED. x

BugginWord said...

So have you tried peanut butter snickers yet? You should. They're really really good. Not that I'm avoiding this subject or anything. Not that this kind of story makes my head split into a zillion different directions. I really, really like peanut butter.

Baglady said...

I love that you give us the rough with the smooth but it's the smooth that stays with us. I imagine that curling up next to that warm body that is your flesh and blood is something special indeed.

Crosby Kenyon said...

Another day, another opportunity for a little bit of mutual growth.

The mad woman behind the blog said...

And this post is why I love you THIIIISSSSS much! Ally, you wrote a beautiful piece, showing us rather than telling, bringing us into your world and your heart.
I don't know a mother who hasn't been in your place...needing the moments to go outside and scream and how quickly that hurt can be healed or lessened with a genuine moment of love.

(BTW, I won't tell snarky, funny you that you wrote this, it'll be our secret.)

dull boy said...

oh the frustration....i'm sure she'll grow out of this up & down, inconsisistent, hurtful behaviour.....just like all of us parents have...

scott said...

We can chalk it up as a phase, or a bad day, or self-blame, or vow to fix it. But those moments of disconnect between us and our kids are so hard. I have had many, myself. And then, the purity of a loving moment like you had that morning- that moment of connection can almost erase it all.

Meowlissa said...

fabulous parent you are :) and you always tell us the best stories in the most fantastic way.

Justlittlecajunme said...

Ahh! That "I HATE YOU" from your own kids just breaks your heart. Parenting is tough enough. Having other people living and with you and having their input...can't even imagine! I think you're doing such a great job being a single mother. Keep up the good work. I promise when she gets older you and her will have a bond you can't even imagine right now.

Eric said...

Yeah, that's way too sweet.

resacarose said...

This is a great blog but why don't you have a button to share?

resacarose said...

Nevermind. I shouldn't be on the computer so late. Sorry about that.

Maryx said...

What a fantastic post! My mother would know exactly how you feel. I doubt I was as much trouble, but the living arrangements were a lot like yours. My mom had me young and I grew up in the house with my grandma, grandpa, aunt and uncle (who later went to the army etc).

She's fine. Don't fret too much.

I'm really glad you cherish small moments like those. She does too. Believe me.

=)

jerrod said...

you did this one on purpose didn't you? i know you did.

new number one.

Sunshine said...

This was beautiful. Really.

I always have feelings that I'm going to be a terrible mother, if in fact I ever have a kid, but then there are those moments that I see that love that a child has for it's mother, and I'm sucked in again, and you totally captured it there at the end.

Amazing.

Beth said...

I just posted your blog link on my Facebook page... with the caption: "If you want to read an honest, hilarious, and relatable Blog-- read this one :)"

I don't follow your blog daily, which makes it funner. After a few months, I come back, and I get to read for hours, like a novel. You have a gift. You write so vividly! And you are a fabulous mom. I'm sorry your childhood was not ideal, but you sure have a lot of admirers rooting for you because of it.