This afternoon was pretty only with respect to the weather. The rest of it had lots of ugly moments, and buckets of tears from my five-year-old. No, I didn’t do yoga with my kids today, and we didn’t meditate together before bed or anything like that. But I did hold on to the imagined beauty I I thought was probably happening a few miles away 1:45-2:45 during the gratitude-based family yoga class I didn’t take my kids to, just enough to get me through and – fingers crossed no one comes downstairs in the next 15 minutes – come to a better place.
If I’m not mistaken, I’ve managed to take my kids to family yoga just twice in the past 12 months. Once was this summer at the library, during which my son-with-a-broken-leg sat reading, and last November, just after Thanksgiving for last year’s gratitude-themed class. Both were with the same teacher, the lovely Cathy Burke of Evolve Yoga Beyond the Mat.
It’s not like we never do yoga at home, and my kids see me do it most weekend mornings, and weekdays if they get up early. But, as I intimated in yesterday’s post about meditation, it’s not at though we’re totally living our practice all the time.
We are, I repeat, works in progress. Especially me. The kids, they’re still growing and changing in fascinating and aggravating ways that befit their development stages. Me, I’m doing my best to grow up.
The morning was chill, in mood and in temperature. Their dad was out at Ultimate and was supposed to be returning after we’d have already left for yoga so that he could have his hour to shower, eat and pack for his short business trip, and we could get our zen on, enough to last us all while I solo parented until he returned. The kids read while I talked to my sister. They occupied themselves while I put away laundry (not theirs) and vacuumed the entire upstairs and main level. Then they finally got dressed and went outside to join the neighbors at play.
This neighbor thing can be lovely, in that they all run around outside and entertain one another without needing much from me, but it’s also not ideal for someone who never enjoyed babysitting and gets anxious with more than 3.5 children in her house, and sometimes even outside of her house, especially if I am the only adult around. I got the feeling I killed their buzz when I came out to sweep leaves off the deck and barked some repeated-from-last-time orders about no-nos when using the zip line.
Shortly after I went to rake in the front, I noticed it got a little quiet out back. The kids had all come in — all five boys plus my son, which makes six, and my daughter and another girl — and were playing in the basement.
I called down that we would be having lunch in a short while and I kept eyeballing the clock, trying to figure out how long to let them play so that we all wouldn’t have super-full bellies before yoga but also not send the neighbors home too soon and then listen to my kids fight with each other or beg to watch something before lunch.
The basement crew weren’t exactly quiet, or speaking in super respectful tones, and I chastised my son for telling his sister he “didn’t care” what she wanted, warning her she would talk that way later to him. (I was wrong; she talked that way later to me.) I didn’t know which other kid had chimed in with the dissing of my daughter, but I sort of made it a global tsk, yelled down the stairs like only the classy broads do.
If it’s not already apparent, I’m not the super-cool fun mom who every kid wishes were theirs. I don’t feed children who come over – well, maybe an apple. And I offer them water on hot days. I do try to engage them in conversation when I can, but none of them seem as interested in talking with adults as my son is, so that kind of falls flat. Not their love language, I guess.
I do let kids play in our yard and our basement, and I don’t interfere a ton, but I have kind of a short wick for kids doing stuff I’ve said no to or talking in a way that seems disrespectful. To anyone. I’m not ready for crass talk and put-downs, even if that ought to be expected now, or soon.
Anyway, I gave several – probably too many – warnings that lunch was coming. I ignored the fact that the kids were running through both halves of the basement and didn’t trouble myself with all the dead crickets they probably saw or any dirty laundry that was on the floor. Serves them right! But I did expect them to come when I said it was time to go.
They did, not instantaneously, but I didn’t have to yank them, thank goodness. The boys departed while I was helping their sister out of a dress-up gown. After the neighbors’ departure, it took a bit to transition my kids to hand-washing and eating but once engaged, my son ate well, as usual. My daughter, though, said her body just wanted to play, not eat.
I tried empathy, followed by countering that this was the time for eating, and that it was important to eat to have energy to play later! Don’t you get the cause-effect cycle, silly girl?
Finally, about 20 minutes before I wanted to leave, I told my daughter I had really wanted to go to yoga but couldn’t take her if she hadn’t eaten. She perked right up and said, “Okay!” and started in on her lunch. Are you kidding me? I had already texted her dad and Facebook messaged a friend I was probably not going to make it. I told her she would need to focus on eating and that I would get her some better yoga clothes.
But first, Daddy – to whom the kids had already said goodbye – came home. It wasn’t the disaster I expected, but it didn’t further the goal of getting out the door, either. The kicker was when my daughter disappeared – lunch eaten but for two green beans, some rice, and a little kale – to join her brother in the basement, which he was supposed to be cleaning. I said we could just skip the yoga and then we could take Daddy to the airport, trying not to make a big deal about it because at this point we were going to be late for the class, and I still hadn’t registered online. I was disappointed in an I-knew-this-wasn’t-going-to-work-out sort of way, but I didn’t want to make it a battle — just a cause-effect.
She said, no, she wanted to go, and I managed to change her out of her fleecy-and-also ruffled shirt. However, after she took off her pants, which I hadn’t realized consisted not just of oversized velour pants but also jeans underneath, she complained that the stretchy pants I brought were too cold. I made it clear – or so I thought – that we would need to change if we were going to leave, and she refused to put on the pants and ran upstairs.
So I sent up my white flag. I said, “Okay then.” Upstairs, I told my son we’d not be going, and he gave the mildest and most genial “okay” from the couch where he had started watching football with his dad. He didn’t say an obnoxious or celebratory “Yes!” as I might have feared, nor did he express any exasperation about changing plans. He was rollin’ with it. So that was good.
I set my sights on making the next hour count. Forget any computer tasks, I thought; must keep moving!
I gathered all the dirty laundry to wash; folded the towels in the messy upstairs linen shelf; organized the towels in the main level linen closet where, on the floor, I also found several items of clothing that had gone missing; started the laundry, newly found items included; moved lots of things to their rightful places on different floors and in different rooms; cleaned out one of the many magazine files that has needed a thinning & tossing; and took out the trash and the recycling. Oh, and I remembered to take my GABA and my B12 sprays. And I ate a piece of chocolate.
So that, too, was good. But about 15 minutes into my hour of power, my daughter asked when we were going to the yoga. I explained we were not and reminded her why not. I tried to sound level saying we would stay here until it was time to take Daddy to the airport.
What ensued were such shouts, such protestations. Yes, we were going, she insisted. She would never go to yoga again, she declared.
Going to yoga was the only thing she wanted to do. I tried to keep it cool, to say that I told her she needed to put on her pants and that we didn’t have much time without going all I-told-you-so bitchy.
I’m pretty sure she got the message the first time but was uncomfortable with the fact that she kind of drove the show. She’s been playing so much lately with control – shouting “No!” and barking orders. Refusing to do things and demanding that others do her bidding. I didn’t mean to wig her out by letting her pants protest shift our afternoon, but I didn’t have it in my to plow through. It wasn’t really fair to put our afternoon plans on her, but obviously I was not fully-hearted in the yoga endeavor.
One of my least favorite things is taking my kids to something that I think will be good for them and for me and, yes also fun, and then having one of them complain or lose their cool during it or one of them – usually my son – complain about it after the fact.
It sounds like he probably would have been fine to go today, seeing as how he was all easy-going when I said we were staying put. But between the gorgeous weather and football and the allure of possibly more time with the neighbors, and an extra 60 minutes with his dad around before the business trip, I figured he would prefer to stay home, and I just didn’t want to take an opinionated, foot-stomping five-year-old to a class about gratitude.
Especially not when I was not feeling very grateful myself. Of course, the class would have helped with this, but my heart was not fully open.
I was annoyed that the neighbors got to go away on a couples weekend and to have their parents watch their kids, something that will never happen for me and my husband, if we ever even took the time to consider planning something for the two of us.
I was jealous when I read in Salon.com about the parents of someone I met at a blogging conference; they went from aging ungracefully to selling off their stuff and their home, and finding a second youth in an independent living community, something that’s not on the horizon for my ailing mom and my dad.
Oh, and I was jealous that my husband was jetting off to Miami. He’d offered to have us come along, but there were commitments I’d have had to scrap, and I didn’t want to go to Florida for just 2.5 days of solo parenting while he was in a conference just because one flight and the hotel were free. I wanted to take a bonafide family vacation when we had time to enjoy it! Like after Christmas the year we have an entire two weeks off from school! We’ll see about that. I’m not optimistic.
I also slept instead of exercising early in the morning, so I wasn’t having the best start to the day. And if I’m not well grounded, I have a tough time feeling grateful when my kids act utterly ungrateful.
Along with her anger about not going to yoga, my daughter also lamented that she was so hungry, to which I said she could finish her lunch and if she was still hungry, we could talk about getting her more food. That triggered a torrent of nos! She wanted nuts and apples and grapes and apricots. Fine, if you’re still hungry after finishing your lunch and then bringing your plate to the counter. She did the latter, but didn’t eat more from it first. More tears ensued. I could see her dad counting in his head the minutes until he would be out of this nuthouse.
Eventually she amused herself with other activities. I don’t even remember what, but I did warn her we’d be leaving soon to take her dad to the airport, and the world didn’t come to an end. We left at 3:00 and got home at 3:38, by which time LJ had already texted me that he was at his gate. On the way home, we talked some, the kids fought some. I brought no food and blasted classical music.
At home, they scootered outside for a bit while I put some things away. Then I let them watch a King Julian and a Magic School Bus while I tackled more of those old papers that have been sitting in our guest room for months and months, waiting to be unstuffed and put back together in a new formation. I cleared out a whole shelf and the top besides! There is still a long ways to go, but progress is progress!
As soon as I got some potatoes and cauliflower in the oven, I announced we were going to scooter down the street before it got dark. My son scootered round and round the block. My daughter opted for racing me on foot. She ran her fastest, I took long strides, careful of my posture. We went to the yield sign, then twice to the neighbor’s house in the other direction. Then my son wanted to join in. Little sister lost it when he zoomed past her. I thought I might have lost my positive momentum. He was a good sport, though, and agreed to both jog and take a late start. On the way back, he walked, so we felt extra speedy. It was exhilarating and mind-clearing.
My daughter noticed I had made signs for the basket of hats, the basket of mittens & gloves, and the basket of scarves.
I recalled a friend’s recent Facebook post about keeping your kids busy (i.e. doing some of the work you don’t need to be doing). I thought about the line in Rene Hackney’s book that says your kids should feel like they don’t know how the home would run without them. And I thought about my daughter’s interest in writing and drawing.
I told her, “I was hoping you could make some fancier signs.” She was all over that and even insisted on carrying the full baskets from the front to the floor by the kitchen where I was working, I guess for full inspiration and immersion in her subject.
She got started creating.
But then she crumbled into tears at her poorly executed mitten drawing but rebounded when offered another paper, and she pulled it all through. Not exactly legibly, because yellow on peach is not really visible even if is in polka dot form alternating with purple. She commissioned me to do the mitten and waited patiently until I got the next thing in the oven and washed my hands. Whew.
Meanwhile, my son helped sort all the “travel” materials into piles: local, East Coast, out West (mostly stuff from the states exhibit at the National Book Festival) and stuff for our drive to Michigan, which is to say all the Ohio and Pennsylvania brochures, magazines and maps I pick up every time we travel thinking one of these days we will actually do something along the way.
They both finished about the time dinner was ready, just before 6:30. I explained I’d made her the last hot dog because it needed to get used up and because I didn’t think there would be enough burgers (which was true since I used only a pound and my son eats a ton and then wants leftovers for his lunch). She has occasionally eaten a burger but usually turns up her nose and has a vegetarian meal on burger night.
Tonight, she ate her dog, a whole burger on one of the grain-free “buns” I made (with lots of zucchini and yellow squash in them), half another small burger, most of the last breakfast waffle – with ketchup – all the potatoes, cauliflower and green beans I gave her, the two small broccoli florets I gave her, and all her kale. She was mad her brother got more, so I actually made another batch and she ate almost all of it. (I asked if I could have a little, to which she nodded while chewing. When I ate more than one chip, she told me not to eat too much, that she hadn’t said okay to a lot!) Oh, and she drank all the water I gave her before even asking for Kevita.
I kept hoping I wouldn’t say or do anything to throw off our delicate equilibrium. Both kids got bathed without getting too revved up. She didn’t go bonkers getting into her pajamas after I gave her an oil massage like her brother had had (I’m going to try to do abhyanga with both kids and with myself, most nights, but not usually after a bath). We read one story and she didn’t push too much for a second. There was a little weirdness around trying to get her to pee, so I imagine she will get up at some point in the night, but that’s rare and doesn’t usually result in restlessness, knock on wood. Oh, and she wanted to sleep with her brother, which we still allow, as long as they aren’t loud and keep each other up.
Compared to other nights, it was smoother than normal. I’m so glad I didn’t let her snack. I’m so glad she ate a good dinner. I’m so glad I made all the dinner I wanted to and that both kids were busy almost the whole time. Even if there was football on in the background, I think I probably got points for being okay with moderation. The kid has his nose in a book so often, I don’t so much mind the sports, if only we could skip the commercials.
I didn’t turn out the lights as early as I’d hoped, but it was before 8:15.
It’s now 9:44, an hour after my self-appointed lights-off time. I didn’t soak in magnesium as I’d intended, and I still haven’t snapped a shot of the winter clothing basket tags. Did I mention she wants to make a label for another basket for coats?
But at least I haven’t yet skipped a day of blogging!
Photos can wait. Editing this into a nice, succinct piece can come some other month or year. The point is that now I will remember it. And I can tell Cathy the real story behind my yoga no-show. She messaged me this evening that it was a nice crowd, and when I wrote with my regrets, she said yoga is supposed to be stress-relieving, not stress-inducing.
The yoga class served its purpose, even if I didn’t get to it. It helped me keep my eye on the prize: staying present and not losing my shit. Modeling for my kids that it’s possible to roll with the punches.
But it only worked because I have a stronger foundation now than I have in the recent past. If this had happened in the summer, I might have felt pretty sorry for myself thinking about people I knew being together to create a sacred space around the topic of gratitude. I could recall that feeling of despair, that I will never feel good enough to feel grateful, that I will never be a decent enough mom to teach my kids to be grateful and to move through life with grace.
Fortunately, that feeling is now behind a veil, so that I can see it through a shimmer but am not one with it. I was able to believe that maybe we could pull the day through and have it end without screams and tears. I was able to be glad for others finding their way to Cathy and to their mats and to have faith that their intention would extend far beyond that room and serve us all well.
I have no idea what tomorrow will bring, but at least I’m not scared of it.
Day 1: Writing To-Do List: Making it Public
Day 2: Why I Feel Better, Part 1: Diet & Supplementation
Day 3: What Life Sounds Like Now
Day 4: Big Kids Are Better Than Babies
Day 5: The Art and Joy of Saying No
Day 6: What Life Smells Like This Fall
Day 7: No expiration date on learning or growing
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