Sunday, May 29, 2011

Things Fall Apart, Things Come Together

I've tried multiple times over the last week to write something resembling a blog, but it's a no-go. I've even tried to write this particular blog several times, and keep stopping mid-way through and thinking, "Oh, God... This sucks. Who cares?"

I'm in the weeds right now... I think every mom whose kids are out of school right now feels like her Wheaties have been peed in. With two boys at home, everything is a battle. No one wants to share. No one wants to agree. Everything requires negotiation and planning.  While I used to be able to squeeze in a blog here and there and do a little tinkering on my novel while Sam was in school, now my mornings are spent refereeing squabbles over who gets to play with the toy tow truck. The other day, both boys took a nap at the same time (in itself a miracle). I straightened up the kitchen, swept out the sun porch, sat down to work on my novel, managed to write exactly seven words, when, wouldn't you know it, John woke up. That is the story of my life. I want to scream to the heavens "Are we having fun yet?"

Sam isn't having any fun either. Summer is really rough on him. He's a great kid. But he leads everything with his feelings, and his feelings are big. It's like he inherited all the emotions that Tom and I weren't using. And then took over all the emotions John wasn't using. And now four people's worth of emotion lives in one very small, 41 lb body. As Sam navigates the change in routine and a summer spent negotiating with John over the toy tow truck, he's spending a lot of time hysterically wailing.  I'm having the strongest sense of de ja vous... Didn't we do this last summer? I don't believe he has a mood disorder or a psychiatric condition. He simply lacks the ability to engage himself in inner dialogue; the ability to say, "Hey, maybe screaming at mom is not the answer. If I calmly explain my situation, she'll understand why I'm frustrated."

My project for the summer is teaching him to engage this voice. It's not going to make for the most pleasant summer of my life. But isn't this what mothers are for? Helping their kids navigate the world, especially the hard parts? But it's not without frustration for me, because it's definitely not what I want to be doing.

This is the summer (it seems) where my writing and mothering lives have finally come together. I've been published in Beyond the Diaper Bag, and like a good little self-promoting author, I used my contacts to arrange a local book signing. It's tentatively scheduled for July 30th, and I'm really excited about it. I don't think people realize that writers are all a very insecure bunch. Even when people tell us they like our writing, even when we win contests, or have things published here and there, it's not enough to feel legitimate. Writing feels like a hobby that you're good at. You keep writing, and keep submitting, if only to prove to yourself that that last time someone liked your stuff it wasn't a fluke--that they didn't just publish you because they barely got enough submissions, or no one entered the contest.

Honestly, I feel embarrassed to tell people that I'm a "writer". It sounds dishonest. When I think "writer" I think Hemingway, Faulkner, Dorothy Parker, Stephen King. Not me. But there's something about a book signing that makes it feel a little closer to being true.

I just wish I could work (and I mean really work) on my novel. Seven words a day (when I'm lucky) is going to turn me into a crazy woman.

I'm trying to keep it all in perspective. My inner voice keeps telling me, "Just get through this summer. Have fun with the boys. You'll have so much more time in September." But like Sam, I'm fighting the urge to throw myself on the ground and wail, "Waaaaaaaaaahhhhhhhhhhhh! But I want to write now!"

And, even though I know it's completely nuts, "Waaaaaaaaah! I don't want to wait a few years to get a new dog! I want a new dog now!"

Tom tells me that the writer in me has come up with this nice little story I tell myself. And he might be right. But I truly believe that Sam could really benefit from a nice, even-tempered dog, that loves to play, and won't mind being snuggled with. Tuendi is a phenomenal dog. She is exactly the type of dog I'd always wanted. Perfect for me in every way. Unfortunately, she is not the dog the boys need. She's skittish and frightened of too much noise. You throw a ball and she looks at you like, "You gonna go get that thing?" She'll sit next to the boys, and will even hop onto the foot of their beds for story time at night, but will move away if they touch her and jump down if I leave the room. She is my dog, and Tom's dog, but not theirs. She's hanging out with us because I'm there, or Tom's there, but she's not there for them. From her, and Sammy, the boys have learned that dogs exist in the house but aren't friends. And I hate that for them, because when a dog is there for you, and when a dog is your friend, it can really have a profound effect on the way you feel about yourself and your situation.

I have to say, "Sam, use your words. Sam, is this an appropriate reaction? No, you can't just take John's tow truck. You have to ask. No, you can't scream and throw things when you're mad. This is unacceptable behavior. Go to your room until you're ready to calm down again."  But he needs to be able to wrap his arms around a big furry neck, bury his face in warm fur, and have his tears licked away. I can't do that for him. As much as I want to, I can't just love him and let him be. But we all need balance in our lives. The ones who speak the truth and hurt your feelings and help you grow, and the ones you go to, who pick you up, dust you off, dress your wounds, and love you anyway. Sam needs steady, unconditional love--the kind a good dog gives best.

But it would have to be an amazingly good dog. And it's a a dog I haven't found yet. I'm keeping my eyes out and figure it will find our family when the time is right. Maybe in July or August, when Sam has learned to control his emotions, and will really need a friend as he starts Kindergarten...

We'll just have to wait and see...


  1. Hey, if you write you ARE a writer. No exceptions. The same goes for any art.

    My kids are well past the ages of yours
    and yet I can remember having days like you
    described, so clearly. It gets better and then
    it goes away and you'll move onto the next item
    having gained something, from the last.

    Here's to a sudden extra writing time dimension!

  2. my favorite line: I think every mom whose kids are out of school right now feels like her Wheaties have been peed in.

    i had a sheltie like you described when i was a kid. she was the perfect dog listener. then i had two generations of more perfect dog listeners from her. the last was the best dog in the whole world. part golden retriever. goldens are really a perfect dog for an emotional boy, they will run and play, and comfort like no other dog can. they just want their human buddy to be happy and love them. that is my suggestion. a golden would probably make tuendi feel more comfortable, too.

  3. Anonymous12:58 PM

    I hear you. I have been thinking of the summer and three months of fun though and just throw everything up in the air and let it fall. We get so few days of nice weather here that we are going to enjoy it and be all crazy in the sunshine till it stops. I also hope to save money on groceries so we have more fun "do stuff" money too. The idea that they would play together and leave you alone for a bit is nice but it doesn't happen usually. At least not for me. Hope you find a few pockets of time here and there soon.


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