Miranda: Choose your own creative ending
The following was inspired by Kelly’s recent post, which reminded me that I often struggle with the same issues over and over again. I figure out what works, then somehow “forget” what I figured out and find myself reinventing the wheel a few days/weeks/months later. So here’s a little lecture to myself. I thought I’d share, just in case there’s anything useful in here for you too.
The scenario (based on actual events):
A simple ambition: a trip to the park. It takes about 38 minutes to get out the door, but finally the 3-year-old and the 2-month-old are strapped into their carseats. The baby starts fussing before we’re even out of the driveway despite the fact that I just tanked him up before departure. During the 10-minute drive, I nearly break my arm off trying to reach behind my seat to rock the baby, who is increasingly frantic. When we finally get to the park, I squeal into a spot, leap out of the car, and extract the wailing baby from his carseat. I release the older child too, so that he can climb around in the car while I nurse his brother.
When the baby is sated and calm, I strap him into the front pack. I put hats on both boys, only to discover that my 3-year-old has pooped in his Pull-Up. I lie him down in the back of the minivan to change him. The baby, still in the frontpack, complains about being dangled horizontally during the process. Unfortunately I don’t have any more Pull-Ups in my diaper bag; just things for the baby and a couple of outgrown toddler diapers. I put a diaper on my son and he complains that it’s too small, and itchy on the sides. I notice that he walks a little funny. He’s not happy, but we make it to the sandbox.
The baby is still fussy; I’ve tucked a burp cloth under his chin but he manages to spit up all over both of us. In less than 6 minutes, the 3-year-old says he’s hot and wants to go home. We go back to the car and get a drink from yesterday’s water bottle. Before I can successfully convince my older child to stick it out for a few more minutes, the baby starts making pterodactyl noises and has a full-on diaper blow out, staining his clothes as well as my shirt. Second stint in the back of the car; I clean the baby and change his clothes. The preschooler still wants to go home. I feed the baby again. Then I strap both boys back into their seats and start the car.
Reaction option #1:
As I drive home, I can’t help but cry. My life is a continual struggle against a tidal wave of minutiae. My attempts to be a “good” mother are foiled at every turn. I have so little emotional margin that I snap at the kids for the littlest issues. I have no time to write. I have no time to exercise. I can’t fit in my non-maternity pants yet. I’m stress-eating bags of cookies when no one above the age of 2 is looking. My husband and I are adrift in the sea of separation that often arrives with a newborn. I’m exhausted. I’m overwhelmed and can’t deal with the fact that I really need to stop at the store and buy milk on the way home. And now my face is all red and puffy from crying.
Reaction option #2:
As I drive home, I can’t help but laugh. The morning was an exercise in futility, to the point of humor. But at least we got out of the house and enjoyed a few minutes of sunshine. The situation was a little stressful, but I kept my cool and didn’t yell at anyone or tear my hair out. Now we can stop at the store for milk, which I needed to get anyway. I call my husband to share the ridiculous story and a few giggles of commiseration.
How to increase the chances that your reaction will be #2:
As I noted in an earlier blog post, being creative on a regular basis is a natural stress reliever and perspective restorer. We know this. We know many things about how to live our lives with purpose and serenity. But, speaking for myself, it’s so easy to forget all those things that we worked so hard to learn. I CAN do a good job and feel capable and satisfied, but sometimes I forget that I’ve already figured it out.
The solution? Write it all down on one page. Create a mission statement. Make a list of the important things you’re doing, and why you’re doing them. Jot down your favorite mantras. Then, every morning, before you do anything else—or maybe while you’re brushing your teeth (tape the page to the inside of your medicine cabinet?)—read the page. The whole page. Read every word, take a few deep breaths, and remember who you are and what you’re doing. If at any time throughout the day you feel at loose ends, go back and read your page. Read it at night, too, if it helps. This is your centering point. Moi, I need centering.
Stay centered and be creative, wherever and however you can. You’ll be the mother you want to be, without even trying. (OK, there will be a little trying, but it won’t be as hard.) And maybe, just maybe, I won’t have to keep re-learning the things I know all too well.
So, today, I am going to take some time and create my centering sheet. If anyone is interested, I’ll be happy to share it.