You wake up feeling tired, feel your period coming on, and the pressure of another sinus infection (your third in six weeks).
You help Orlando change out of his pajamas, and watch helplessly as Mica, a few feet away from you, falls over backward like a tree, landing on the back of his tiny head. You hold him, give him arnica montana, nurse him.
Orlando asks for paint, and you get a little bowl and squirt some in. He gets out paper and starts painting. He gathers all his red crayons and pencils, since he wants to see what will happen if he tries them on the paint.
Wander over to the bookshelf and pick up Nonviolent Communication, thinking you want to read it again.
Orlando asks for more paint, “Cuz I am painting my table! See!”
Decline to offer more paint, but let him know he can finish off the table with the paint you’ve already poured. See, look at you, relaxed Mama, meeting everyone’s needs (his for creative play and yours for some semblence of neatness).
Get breakfast ready: a banana muffin with a slice of cheese inside (hey! cheese is protein!) for Boo. Yogurt with walnuts and honey for you. Before you eat, you try to wash some of the dishes — the bowls and muffin tins from when you made the muffins, two days ago.
Listen to Orlando at the table as he talks about the seeds he wants to plant. The seeds are on the table, from yesterday, when you managed to squeeze in some guerilla gardening. Wash a bowl, wash another bowl, listen to Orlando, when all of the sudden, you turn around. What, did you think he was reading the seed packets or something? The muffin has been abandoned, your son is on the table, the seeds are liberated of their packets.
Oh no! You go over to clean them up, and spill them all over the floor. Great, now you’ve got to hold Mica and sweep them up before he sprouts some corn in his tummy. After separating out the nasturtium seeds, you put the rest, two types of corn, two types of beets, into one envelope and mark it “Seeds dumped out by Orlando, 2007.”
Watch as Orlando starts shaking the clothes drying rack, banging it up and down, trying to knock the clothes off. Ask him to stop. He giggles the gremlin giggle and keeps shaking.
“Please stop, Orlando.”
He keeps laughing and you start telling him how do you think it makes you feel to clean up one thing while everything else is getting messed up? Hear yourself lecturing a three year old and feel the desperation expand.
You feel so angry. You pick up the phone and walk outside. You call Rom. He doesn’t answer. You breathe in and out for a long time. You actually feel better, no longer angry, and go inside to pick up the clothes.
Orlando heads outside. You sit down to eat breakfast. You’re feeling better. Orlando comes in and says, “Come outside, Mama! It’s wonderful out here.”
You’re feeling good. You went with the paint thing (it is washable after all). You didn’t lose it over the seeds. You didn’t lose it over the clothes. It is wonderful outside. He tells you to come see his “club house.” You’re thinking, how did he find out about club houses? when you look to where he is pointing and see two almost completely smashed plants.
“Oh, Orlando! That’s not okay. No hurting the plants.”
“But it’s my club house!”
Your mind starts spinning. “Come in the house with me,” you pick him and carry him inside. You set him down, not too hard. You’re thinking, how can he hurt the plants so? Why doesn’t he respect life? Can I no longer trust him in the garden? But I can’t be outside every instance he is. What am I going to do?
Start crying. You call your friend Kiersten. She doesn’t answer.
Stop crying. Mica is ready for his nap. You put him in the carrier. He sleeps, and you and Boo read books and play spaceships.
Orlando is playing on the couch. Mica is standing up by the toy chest. You go downstairs to get the laundry, and take it outside to hang them on the line.
You hear Mica crying and run in the house. He has fallen down again. You feel like a horrible, neglectful mother.
Orlando has knocked over the chair to his desk and starts to climb in between the chair legs. He tells you it’s his computer. Mica starts to crawl over to it, and Orlando starts to panic, “No, no, no, Mica can’t have it!”
You tell him, “Mica just wants to check it out. He probably will put his mouth on it and then move on.”
Orlando doesn’t look too sure, but moves over a bit.
“Mica pushed a button!” The tone is excited rather than stressed. “Mica pushed a button and ice cream comed out!”
“Well, that sounds like the most awesome computer ever.”
Orlando wants to bury himself under the cushions of the new couch. You tell him that this couch is not for playing, but that he can play on the other couch. He doesn’t want to. You ask him does he want to feel cozy, is that why he moving the cushions? He says yes, he wants to feel cozy. So you offer to cover him with a blanket. He buys it.
He plays monster… roar! Then he says there is ghost, too, who is “not nice.”
“Oh,” you say, “is the monster having a hard day? Did someone push him down? Did he feel so badly about that?” and you’re off and running with some play therapy.
You pushed your son yesterday. You did. You admit it. Over play-doh. You wanted to put the play-doh away and he wanted to smash it in between the rungs of the ladder on his fire engine, and he wouldn’t put it away and you kept asking and he kept saying no and he tried to grab it, and you pushed him, right on his tiny chest, and he, shocked and shamed, said, “Don’t push me, Mama. Don’t do that.”
Shock and shame. This is why you started out the day telling your son that you would be nice to him. All day. That this was the day we would start again.
He wants to play monster-ghost over and over again. It goes like this:
He lays on the couch. You bury him with a blanket. He roars and you wonder what’s happening. He tells you that ghost is here, and that he is not nice, and you talk to ghost to find out why he might feel so badly. Orlando tells you that the ghost fell down and hurt himself. He was walking to the park and fell down. He was playing on the wood chips and fell down. You talk about how ghost might feel when he falls, maybe he feels mad because he’s disappointed or embarassed or hurt or… And then, just like Ghost feels better.
You don’t know the time. All you know is that you have to eat.
Some guy from the bank calls and wants to offer you a line of credit loan on your mortgage. He hears the kids, since Orlando always screams that much louder when you’re on the phone, and mentions that he has a one-year-old daughter, oh aren’t kids cute, ha ha.
You suppress the desire to scream, “Whatever you do, don’t have another one!”
Hang up the phone. You still have to eat, and manage to make some lunch.
Boo eats an orange and half a half cheese sandwich.
You eat a giant salad and the rest of the cheese sandwich.
Mica eats (wears) a quarter of an avocado.
Ghost is with us too, but he’s not eating. He is fixing the plants. I tell Orlando that ghost would need magic to fix the plants, since now they’re dead.
“But!” Orlando exclaims with glee, “Ghost is magic!”
Mica is overtired, you’re covered in avocado, and you’re trying to get clothes for three different people on three different bodies.
Orlando wants up, up, up, up. He is hanging on your back with his arms around your neck. Mica is in your lap as you try to put on his pants. Orlando swings around the front of you, on the ground now, “Up Up UP!”
“I can’t!!!” There she is — stressed-mommy. “I can’t lift you up right now!” And instead of taking a ride on anger’s broom (as you’ve been doing these last few weeks), you stay on the ground and go softer, “I can’t pick you up until we’re all dressed.”
Okay! Time for a walk. Boo in the stroller, Mica in the carrier. It’s hot but good to be out. Mica falls asleep, Boo talks about how nice it is, and you’re breathing in clarity.
Spend the next half hour at the post office trying to wrap the books you need to send for Paperback Swap. Give up and buy envelopes for the fricking things and send them off.
On the way home, stumble upon a city lot that has been transformed into Nora’s Woods, and watch as Orlando runs through the shady trails. Sit down to nurse Mica. Orlando comes up to you, hugs Mica, and says, “I love you, Mica,” then he runs off to play. You then hear Orlando say, “I need to poop.” Pack it up and head home, which is just a few blocks away. (A bit more about Nora’s Woods.)
Arrive home. Orlando doesn’t have to poop anymore, but Mica really needs to nurse. Nurse him and think about how much you want to drink some water and eat. Orlando asks you to play. You tell him, “Yes, after I nurse Mica, drink some water, and eat a snack.”
He heads upstairs to check on the spaceships while he waits and comes back down to tell you that Holly (a racing car) has bumped the spaceship and needs a ticket.
“Oh!” you say, thinking about how much kids like you to write things down, it’s even something you’ve read once in a parenting book, “if you bring me that notebook, I can write her the ticket.”
BINGO! His eyes fill with delight and he willingly brings you notebook and pen.
“To Holly: Don’t bonk into us again — ever. Don’t bonk into us ever again, please. Thank you.” He wants me to draw a car with wings on it, and then he decides we should put it in the mailbox.
Great, we head out to the front porch and I put in the mailbox and hold Mica over the rail, since he hasn’t peed since we left on our walk. He promptly poops out a big pudding poop on the porch as Boo is yelling, “No, not that way, it needs to go on the outside! It needs to go on the outside!” He wants me to put the ticket in the outgoing mail. I do so as I hold Mica, trying to get him inside to the toilet. But Mica’s hand brushes the paper and Orlando bursts into tears, “No! I want a DIFFERENT one! I don’t want that one that Mica touched!” He rips it off the mailbox and throws it over the edge. It misses the poop.
Sit down to draw a different ticket and end up drawing a car, a spaceship, ice cream on a cone, and ice cream in a bowl.
Orlando is reading, Mica is tooling around, and you’re fixing yourself that snack you wanted an hour ago. Mica crawls toward Orlando, and Orlando says, “No, no, no.” As you head toward them, you say, “Boo, just offer him another book.” You’re too late. Orlando turns and pushes Mica over. He lands on his tiny but weighty head.
You offer sympathy to Mica, and then you start talking as if you were Mica, saying, “I just wanted to see the book, and then I was pushed… I’d be happy to look at any of the books, I’m just interested in everything, especially what brother is doing,” etc.
You sense Orlando sensing what’s happening, then he picks out a book for Mica. Then he climbs over you, and asks you to sing the songs with him. You sing and you hold Mica.
Upstairs playing — spaceships and oceans and blocks.
Kiersten calls back and you tell her, “I’m better now.” She, mom to two girls, eleven and nine years old, laughs, and tells you, “I knew you’d be better by now.”
And you think about how you’re not really better, you just are, and that you’ve gone from sublime parenting to poop, from spontaneous, overwhelming love to startling and humbling rage, from perfect poignancy to distressing chaos, in a matter of seconds, not just once or even twice, but many times, today.
You think about all the times you have been “not nice” these last weeks, and how you can see and feel the consequences in your relationship to your son. You think about all the pain that exists in almost all everyone’s day to day interactions and how we go through life almost always not acknowledging it.
You think about how today is the longest day of the year, and when you woke up this morning and promised your son that you would be nice today, that you didn’t know it was the solstice.
You think about how this longest day has been, and you feel proud that you didn’t yell at your child, push him, or feel that welling of anger subsume you completely (just partially), and you want to say, “Well, if I can do it today, on the longest day, I can do it any day!” You want to say this, but you can’t.
Because although tomorrow is a shorter day, is also just another day, and with each day, you begin again.
Publish this post, and then go downstairs to your husband and sons, and go on a Solstice picnic. Keep your eyes on the sun until it goes out.