I have this really awful tendency to overwhelm myself. When James asks me time and time again to go out, I get angry as though I know I should be leaving and taking a break and doing anything that makes me feel happier, but I absolutely do not need to be told to do so. Except I do need to be told. Because rarely do I actually get out. Leave Lennon behind and forget for even just a couple of hours that my whole life revolves around a two year old.
Today I had a little breakdown. OK, lately, I have been having many pregnant, lonely, what am I doing in California moments. Everything seems so exaggerated by the every day grind of caring for a little, developing, opinionated person. And while I love being home with Lennon, it has its downsides. The biggest being that I’m so engrossed in her for so many hours of the day that I just left myself slip by. I need to reform myself. To teach Len that she can be an independent person of me because I can be an independent person of her.
I walked over to the adorable park behind our house and sat, uncomfortably, under this gorgeous tree. i didn’t care that the roots were jabbing my ribs or that little red ants were investigating my books, I was just feeling energized in minutes by being outside, being an alone individual without a child defining their every existence. The sun was shinning, as it does every day here, and I was just Erin. I opened this book of short stories I bought in Portland on our journey down here and read the first short short story. The book is called “Nine Simple Patterns for Complicated Women” by Mary Rechner and let me say, for every mama out there, this book of well crafted short stories hits the nail of motherhood on the head time and time again. The story I read this afternoon allowed me to have the shift in perspective I seemed to need most of all today. I live so firmly rooted in my own existence, my own ideas, my own sense of loss, of belonging, of caregiving, that I had forgotten that some of the turmoil I feel is directly attached to another little person, with their own unique perspective on how our lives are.
This story is called “Four” and I hope you enjoy it and think on it as much as I have.
Jelly smears across your cheek. The couch is a good place to wipe your nose. You won’t wear anything but sweatpants. You’re a big boy. Everyone says this about you every day, every time they see you, even if it’s more than twice. He’s so big! They whisper it to your mom so you can hear it. He’s a beautiful boy, says your mom. Very smart and a joker too. Calls himself Storm.
Your brother hits you. You notice he does not like you. It seems to you he likes you less now than he used to when you were little. You tell your mom. Your mom says it isn’t true. She said it’s always been hard for your brother to have a borther and that it’s actually better now that you are big. You say you aren’t big. She asks if you’re still little and you say medium. You hit your brother when you can. After breakfast you hit him on the head with your fist until your mom sees and says stop hurting him and puts you and your brother in separate rooms. Your brother always hits you first. Your mom says there’s no hitting in your family.
You get the TV room for time out. You howl for awhile until you see your Transformer magazine. You bring it to your mom. Your mom is cleaning out the bird cage. Yuck, she says. They poop a lot. The two parent birds laid eggs. The eggs hatched. Now the babies are trying to fly. They get stuck behind the water dish and look like the only have one leg. You got to name the first two babies: Spike and Hiss. You hold up your magazine and say I want you to read me this. Your mom says no, you are in time out. Go back until you hear the timer.
(The timer is on the microwave and one time when your mom took a rest in your bottom bunk for a few minutes before it was time to pick up your borther from school she really fell asleep. You went into the kitchen, pulled a chair over to the microwave and hit the timer button. You turned it off. When your mom woke up she said I think I fell asleep. You giggled. She went into the kitchen to check the timer and yelled Oh shit! You were late. You had to drive and you were happy because your mom had to put your shoes and socks on and you got to take the car instead of walk. Also your brother was crying when you picked him up because he thought you weren’t coming.)
You need to poop. Your mom makes you wipe now, all by yourself. No help. She says its enough already. Now you have to wash your hands. Sometimes it’s hard to reach the toilet paper. It rolls away. Or you use too much. Your mom has to use a plunger or pull toilet paper out with her hand and she gets mad. Flush a few times, she says. Poop butt stinky fart is your favorite song. It’s only for home, not for preschool. Your mom says it isn’t funny. You say you and your brother think it’s funny. Your friends think it’s funny, too. Sometimes your mom laughs and sometimes she says enough and sometimes she yells quit it! Your mom has a special word called LIMIT and that means really stop.
Sneakers and socks are a big problem. Your sneakers do not light up. There are no Transformers on your sneakers. The socks hurt. They hurt. They don’t go on right. Your mom won’t help you anymore. You lie on the floor and howl about the socks. You throw them all, find a car to push, and stop howling. Your mom puts on lipstick in the bathroom. It takes a long time. You don’t like your mom in the bathroom with the door shut. You say it’s too scary, You yell for your mom but she doesn’t answer and you don’t bang on the door anymore because that is how big brother got his finger caught and your mom kicked the wall and made a hole and cried. When you mom comes out of the bathroom she says she doesn’t want to help you with your socks and shoes but now it’s late, so she helps you with your socks and makes you do the rest.
You drop big brother at his school first and then your mom leaves you at preschool. She plays a game and then says goodbye. You cry. Your mom hugs you. You tell your mom you don’t want her to leave. Your mom says look, your friends are here. Cole is playing blocks. He’s not my friend, you say. You say you don’t like school. You used to like it, says your mom. You say you never did. Your mom hugs you one more time and says see you right after lunch, remember you have a Gogurt for lunch? Oh yeah you say and stop crying for a minute. Your mom leaves.
After preschool you go to a new store with your mom. A woman helps you, but your mom does not. You got new sneakers and socks. You get to pick them out but not totally. The sneakers light up but there are no Transformers. Your mom said no Transformers because those weren’t good for your feet and no Bionicles because they were too much money. The woman shows you a mirror so you can see the light-ups. You wear them home. You race up and down the block with your mom and you always win.
When it’s time to pick up your brother from first grade the new sneaker’s hurt. The new socks hurt too. You throw your sneakers across the living room. One of them hits your mom. Your mom says she really feels like spanking you! You start crying. You say that really hurts your feelings. You put on sandals even though it’s cold out.
You play on the playground. Your big brother plays with his friends. Today they let you play and you only get pushed over two times and it doesn’t even hurt. Your mother sits in a sunny spot and hands out pretzels to kids that say please. Some days she talks to other parents. Today she sits against a wall all by herself and watches you play.
In the dark TV room (your mom puts the light on but your brother always turns it off when she closes the door) you fall asleep during “ZOOM”. To wake you up your moms gives you a lollypop. She says if you sleep now forget tonight. The lollypop is gone. You must have eaten it but you don’t remember. You are cold. Your mom gets you another shirt. Your dad is at a meeting. That means he’s not eating dinner with you. At the table you get mashed sweet potatoes. You yell you hate sweet potatoes. You want mashed white! Yum yum, says your brother. He licks his lips. Thanks mom, these are very good. You push the bowl of mashed sweet potatoes almost off the table. You are still chilly and your mom gets you your bathrobe and puts it on too tight. Too tight! Your mom says take a deep breath. Is she talking to you? You cry and yell until the ravioli is ready and then you eat the ravioli. It’s good. You like ravioli.
As soon as your father gets home your mother says she’s going for a walk to get some milk. You want to know why your mother is crying. Why would she cry about milk?