Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Motherhood & More: Silence is golden, but I miss my babies*

My days are child-free. For six hours a day, every weekday, for the first time since I had children, I am at home alone, regularly.

It’s … odd. And quiet.

I’m able to work uninterrupted, forming complete thoughts without the incessant tone of whatever ridiculous television program the kids are watching. I actually can generate an entire sentence without stopping to play another game of Candyland or another game of “where did my daughter run off to, now?”

My house stays clean for longer than 15 minutes and I can keep up with dirty dishes.

I don’t find random half-eaten snacks under the couch or rotten cups of milk. I don’t spend all of my days explaining that sure, fighting is completely normal, but let’s try not to draw blood, OK?

I work. I have made some time to sew. I make jewelry to sell. I knit. I work some more. I perform household chores.  I wait for the kids to get off the bus. I drink my coffee. I clean the house. I work even more.

I’m incredibly, wonderfully lucky to have the opportunities I have. I can work and contribute and learn and grow and use my mad word skills.

But it’s quiet. I can form complete sentences without interruption. I’m not playing Candyland or refereeing or pitching the baseball endlessly to the two batters who never let me hit. I’m not riding bikes in the driveway or looking at fossils with a magnifying glass.

And I miss all of it.

I’m not working to the endless background noises of annoying kid shows. I’m not cleaning up food or one more drink spill in the living room, even though drinks aren’t actually allowed there.
It’s so, so quiet. Peaceful, yes. But also a bit too peaceful. I’m a bit too alone and goodness I do love to be alone.

I know I will need to become used to this, just like everything else. It’s a new situation, one I haven’t experienced before. I am a homebody, most definitely. And yet I also need to make sure I interact with people, adults, at least sporadically.

In a way I feel like being here, being alone, is somehow not natural. I am not supposed to have this much time to myself, because, for the past seven years I haven’t. Since I became Mama, almost every thought, every day, every hour has been spent on my kids.

OK, maybe that’s not entirely accurate and a bit of an exaggeration, but it’s still partly true. This is the first time in a long time I’ve been able to be at home alone for this amount of time. I need to learn how to be me, without them.

It’s pretty cool, yes. But, oh, do I miss my babies. My smart, wild, annoying, funny, time-consuming, not-really-babies-anymore babies.

*This column originally published in The News-Enterprise on August 26, 2015.

(This is my 500th post. I probably should have something a bit more special than this column, but this is what I got. Hopefully I'll be more motivated to come back to this space soon. I miss it, and I have so much stuff to show you - lots of sewing and knitting and whatnot - heavy on the whatnot.)

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Motherhood and More: Youngest child starting school brings conflicting thoughts*

My youngest child, my daughter, is starting kindergarten in a few weeks.

I … don’t know how I feel about that.

I am relieved in so many ways. Being at home has been a daily struggle between responsibilities that have to be done and the fun that everyone wants to have. It feels like I have failed on all fronts.

So I am not sad that school is starting, that the kids will be intellectually and socially stimulated for many hours with no effort needed from me.

Except I am. I am sad. She’s not quite 5 yet, as she’s just squeaking by the age cutoff to start school this year. This is probably our last real summer together and I don’t think I’ve taken full advantage of it. But I feel that way every August when I see all the other children who have attended camps and vacations and whatnot.

We hung out at home. The kids watched too much television. We went swimming as many days as possible, we learned that coloring and Legos can occupy them for hours, we ate Popsicles and ice cream sandwiches and played video games.

But we didn’t seem to do anything especially memorable. And for that I feel guilty. It is my daughter’s last summer before starting the decade-plus journey of school. This is when she’ll start growing into her own person, figuring out what it means to be Adele.

She’s already one of the coolest people I know, strong in her convictions and opinions. She’s tough with a forceful personality and would just as soon punch you in the leg as give you the best hug of your life. She’s able to disarm just about everyone she meets while at the same time convincing them she is right, always, no matter what.

I don’t want her to lose that. As difficult as it’s been to parent such a wild child, that wildness is what makes her amazing.

School is hard on people, but especially girls. Maybe that’s because I am one, but I think we have so much more pressure to be a certain way or act a certain way. I don’t want my daughter to be influenced and pushed to be someone she isn’t, just because she feels like she has to in order to fit into a specific mold.

She isn’t a big Barbie person, but loves animals and bugs. She’s fearless in the water, swimming better than any 4-year-old has a right to, diving off diving boards and doing underwater flips. She loves dresses, but doesn’t know or care anything about makeup.

She keeps asking me to cut her long, thick, gorgeous hair as short as her brother’s, mainly, I think, because I force her to let me brush it at least every other day.

So I want her to be a leader. I want her to be who she is, to accept everyone else for who they are, to not be influenced by petty, mean-girl antics.

But that’s part of it, isn’t it? Almost all girls have experienced that part of navigating through friendships and relationships.

I can only hope that when she comes out the other side, when she becomes a full-fledged woman, that she retains that fearless, full-throttle attitude we all love in her.

Because she’s going to do incredible things.



*This column originally published in The News-Enterprise on July 22, 2015.

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Things my daughter has destroyed today

1. My picture I colored my very own self

2. Her handmade dress that was an absolute bitch to sew. She chopped it up with scissors.

3. A dangling bead thing her friend made for her

4. Her dresser drawer. (I'm still not sure how that one happened)

5. Her brother's pack of blueberries that she dumped out into sand because he sat on the porch swing

6. Everything she colored on with the markers that are only supposed to be used on paper, including her face

7. The roll of toilet paper she threw all over the bathroom

8. My sanity

9. All that other stuff that I'm too tired to remember right now.




Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Motherhood and More: Overcoming sibling obstacles*


So I’ve gotten over my fear of taking my children out in public by myself.

Our summer hasn’t been that bad, actually. After a few very, very rough days full of bickering and yelling and bugging each other just for the fun of it, the kids settled down into a sort of truce.

They started playing together, actually, and seeking out each other’s company.

This is big. Super big.

I don’t know if it’s just a big brother thing or the fact that my daughter demanded much more attention from me, which cut into the attention he received, but my oldest always has just ignored his little sister. And he’s fantastic with younger children — always treating them just like kids his own age.

But with his little sister, he usually wants nothing to do with her. And I get it, I do. She has been known to rip things up that belong to him, that are important to him, just because she likes to watch him lose his mind.

Which, in turn, has caused him to lose his mind anytime she comes within two feet of one of his toys. That just makes her want to destroy it even more, of course.

With this dynamic, I’ve been worried they would never be able to be friends. And I’m not sure I’d call them that now. But I do catch him asking her to play with him, which, honestly, almost brings tears to my eyes every time I hear it.

I want them to like each other. I want them to be there for each other. Heck — I wouldn’t even be mad if they ganged up on their father and I just because it would mean they were collaborating.

This summer, they’re both a little older and my daughter doesn’t always want to spend her time actively annoying her brother, so I can see a bit of their relationship growing in a positive way.

That’s not to say they don’t have their moments, obviously. They’re just less frequent.

And I think they’ve had a really good summer, so far. They’ve had endless amounts of swimming and time with friends. We’ve been to the zoo and they attended Bible school and work picnics. They’ve watched a ridiculous amount of television shows and played an embarrassing number of video games. But my son has read a couple of big books, so I don’t feel so bad about the other stuff. Much.

I’m working from home, which means I struggle with finishing all those commitments while also being a fun mom. And a good mom. But I think we’ve done well.

We’ve kept busy. I’ve even taken them to stores without losing one or more of them. My daughter, the queen of wandering, was convinced of the importance of staying close to Mama, finally. And by “convinced” I, of course, mean “bribed.”

So we’re good. I have a couple of fantastic kids, full of energy and creativity. We’re almost halfway through the summer and it’s already been full compared to summers past.

It can only get better from here, right?

Jaime Thomas is a mother of two who lives in Elizabethtown. She blogs at jaimalaya.blogspot.com and can be reached at jaime.thomas@hotmail.com.

*This column originally published in The News-Enterprise on June 24, 2015.