Saturday, September 26, 2009

I Barely Flinched (and then I had to giggle, because this is what my life has become)

Yesterday morning as I dropped her off at school:

Supergirl: Mama! I told just one person about how you and Daddy had a big fight and then Daddy hurt you, is that okay?
Me: Umm, it's okay. But who did you tell?
Supergirl: Jeff. Because he sits next to me. Are you mad?
Me: No,'s fine. (note to self to call Jeff's mom)
Supergirl: (as she is running away from the car to class) Oh Mom? I also told Kaleb. He sits on the other side.

Me: .... (note to self to call Kaleb's mom, and also the teacher to ask her to please leave her at that desk for a while.)

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Yesterday I had an epiphany.

I really did.
Of course, as with most epiphanies, there is companion guilt.

I have been riddled with fear and doubt. I have been the swiss cheese of confidence. I have been in anguish over my childrens' reactions to witnessing violence and living with the ensuing fallout. I have questioned everything I do, every way I help them. I have sought help for them and with them, because I believe it is beyond my coping spectrum, and I don't want to fuck it all up. I am so afraid for the damage already done, for what they witnessed and how they will process that it was done by someone they love to someone they love...I worry what they will consider normal or acceptable behavior.

I call the children's therapist to ask her how to respond to certain conversations I have with Bubbles, and the many questions that Supergirl poses. Bubbles wants Daddy to 'kiss Mommy's arm say sorry'. He also wants to 'get a hammer go bam bam to Daddy, be Mommy's rescue hero'.
I don't pretend to be able to know how to respond to that. If it was your child, or a preschool aged student of mine, I would probably know how to respond appropriately. But it's my child, and objectivity goes out the window when I hear those words. I feel like every response I have, every move I make must be extremely careful and correct. Perfect, even. We're dealing with PTSD here. I want to make sure I do it right. Because for so long I have done it wrong.
I call for help, I ask what to say, how to respond, when to ignore and when it's okay to show my own tears. How much to tell, how little, and always being careful in my response, to separate the truth from a judgment. He is their father, and his relationship with them is not mine. He won't hurt them, they are not me.
I want to believe this with all my heart.

I am surprised then, when their therapist suggests that I am handling it correctly and appropriately.
"What should I have said?" I beg, confused about responding to my three year old's suggestions of violence and rescue.
"It sounds like you handled it just right. You told him you know he likes everyone to be friends, acknowledged his anger, and told him he could not fight with a hammer. I think you managed to validate his feelings and this shows he is continuing to process, which is good!"

"I'm worried I am fucking it all up. I can't do it! I can't do everything right all the time," I sob to my own therapist in a rare moment of being allowed to cry without alarming small children.
"You are doing a great job with very little help. You are pulling this off alone! You realize that, right?" She says as she walks my sniffling self to the door.
I smile weakly, thinking that I've fooled her too. I am not doing a great job. Doesn't she realize that a great job does not include hours of sniffly wet sobbing? She disagrees, which is why I schedule another appointment with her.

Yesterday we had a rough moment. One of hundreds since April 11th, the day the man who claimed to love me, took me to the ground in a choke hold. And then did it again when I tried to run away. In front of our child. While he screamed and begged Daddy to stop. Yeah, that's what I think of when I say 'April 11th'.
So there was a moment. A moment in which Supergirl asked a tough question and Bubbles responded with words which may have shocked another adult. I responded as a mother. I looked at my children and all I could feel was love, not fear or dread that I had done it the wrong way. I was confident that I had answered correctly. I didn't need to call anyone to make sure.
And then, the epiphany. I suddenly knew a lost secret of my life:

I am a good mother.

For five months I have lived with the freedom of not being told I am fucking it all up, all the time. For five months, nobody has shushed me, berated me, turned a stereo up to drown me out, walked away from our conversation, ignored me, or told me that 'a nanny would do a better job' (oh yes he did).

I am a good mother, and I let him take that away too, until I didn't even know I had lost it.

I have shed a few covert tears over this revelation.
I mentioned the companion guilt. What kind of mother compromises so very much, that she loses that much of her confidence in her mere ability as a parent? What kind of modeling is that?
What have I done?

If I live in the present, I can say, I am a good mother.
I am becoming the parent I want to be.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

One Goof, Seeking His Ball...

While walking the 1/4 mile down the road to the fire team picnic (thanks for saving our mountain!), Bubbles heard the music and announced that his ears were singing, his mouth was singing, and his feet were singing. When I pulled out the camera, this is what he had to say about it.

And then, while we were at the picnic, I found Bubbles and a bunch of girls. Girls of all ages. But his favorite was my friend's little darling, Marz. I walked up with the video camera right after he had allegedly told Marz that she had a pretty dress, thus initiating the flirting. Which was returned.

Edited: I forgot the most endearing part of all! At the end of the picnic, both Bubbles and Marz had red balloons. Marz lost grip of hers and cried, "OH NO!" as they watched it gain altitude. Bubbles, being a quick thinker and still wanting to impress his new girlfriend, said "Hey LOOK!" and then he let his balloon go too. Marz watched in amazement and then they both dissolved into giggles again.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Teaching Responsibility in the Throes of Upheaval

Supergirl has had some problems with responsibility lately. I guess not so much 'problems' as it would be 'slow to learn', and I realized that I need to tighten up on that end, or she will be 'Responsibility Challenged', and I would like to know that I tried.

There are the small things, such as 'forgetting' to pick up something she was asked to take care of hours ago, leaving popsicle wrappers and sticks in the yard (this one makes me nutty and has prompted a popsicle boycott on my part), leaving nice shoes or a new jacket in the yard to be ruined or at a friend's house never to be recovered.
Then there are the big things, such as 'forgetting' to give the pets fresh food or water when asked repeatedly, and losing expensive gifts and then refusing to actually look for them.
"Daddy can get me another one." She says.
"This does not mean you will be allowed to use it until you earn it." I reply, more calmly than I want to.
Not one cent in child support, not one cent in restitution for the amount of debt with which he left me, but gifts are showered on them at each visit. I am very careful in my response, but one can imagine the amount of self-control it requires to take the high road at that fork.

We discussed a plan for looking for the missing items; namely, a Flip video camera which was a Christmas present, and an iPod clone video player which her father gave her for her birthday. I had already found the stylus for the video player, smashed out in the driveway, and the two-piece charger in a basket of her pajamas. "It was from a sleepover," she protested, "I just emptied my backpack into the jammie basket!"
I frowned.
We worked on organizing her clothes more. On reminding that her toys each have their own place...not a random place.
I offered to clean her room with her. She whined, and writhed on the floor while I sorted and got frustrated. Finally, I quit. I was tired of doing it for her. She knew the rules, and she certainly knew how, and she also knew what it would take to earn back the right to even play with my camera.
She quit.

"Fine," I said, "If you don't care about that stuff, I am certainly not going to!"

I lied.

She went to school, and I cleaned her room. And when I peered into yet another brown paper bag with twine handles, I saw a pile of scraps of paper and few tiny plastic bobbly head animal accessories. The kind of bag which every mother loves to just throw away because the kid will not notice anyway, and we're just going to have to clean it up again or pick it out of our vacuum. We know.
I shook the bag to see if there was anything solid rattling around in it. Lo!
The birthday gift video player.
HELLYEAH I WAS MAD! Two seconds away from the trash.
Lucky for her, she was at school, so my eventual reaction was mild and invisible to her. I simply hid it up high. Next to Elijah's ashes - nobody every looks there.
I told her that I found it in a bag of trash and trinkets and that she would need to earn it back. We have set up a new chores chart and there will be a clear and concrete system to earning back access.
She has not yet earned it back (it has been a week).
Today, she was packing for a sleepover. I recently re-appropriated an old storage closet into a kids fort, and thus some backpacks and duffels were retrieved. She had grabbed my backpack which I had not seen since she had used it in our 'safe-house' week long couch surfing back in April.
"My backpack! I haven't seen it!" I love that backpack. It's old and perfectly sized for a day trip!
"I packed my overnight stuff in it. It had a bunch of toys I dumped out."
Ahh yes...when we moved back in, she must have tossed it into the storage closet instead of unpacking it!
"Let me look in it before you go."

::::::::::drumroll, please:::::::::::::::::::

I rifled through some small plastic bobbly head animals, only to pull my hand out of the bottom with this prize:

,Oh yeah, Mama scored.
Supergirl first jumped up and down, then felt embarrassed, then begged for it back.

"No way," I told her.
I had not one smidge of remorse about that.

Clearly, if she had wanted to find these things, she could have put some more effort into the search.

We are both excited that these 'toys' are recovered, but for different reasons.
She gets the prospect of using expensive electronics again, and I get leverage in the responsibility education process.


Friday, September 11, 2009

File This Under: Things I Never Thought I'd Say

I was lucky enough to share a birthday dinner last night with Jennygrace and Grace.

I brought a cake:

Grace took this picture as we were too stuffed to move wrapping up dinner with some surprise birthday tweeting:

Dinner with @grace134 and @Gwendomama on Twitpic

My first impression and comment?

'Wow, have I gained weight? I look so much better this way.'

Tuesday, September 08, 2009

Spiderman Theme Song Debate

So Bubbles and his buddy, Orion, have a lot in common, beginning with their shared love of superheroes, especially The Best Superhero, Spiderman.

Much to Bubbles' excitement, Orion came to visit this weekend to 'pway wif toys and share the guys'!!

They then sat down to sing, and kept correcting each other on the lyrics of the Spidey theme song:

That was pretty funny, but then they got the giggles, and it devolved into some sort of knee-slapping hilarity:

I know. Just try not to laugh.

Friday, September 04, 2009

Apraxia Boy at New Preschool

Bubbles, after shaking his teacher's hand goodbye at the end of circle time (oh yes, I do love that manners are included in preschool!): MAMA!! I have a GREAT school! I have a great day at my school!

Me: Oh, that makes me so happy to hear! You like your new school?

Bubbles: I like my school! My school is great!

Language and concept development has tripled in the past few months. He was able to tell me his high opinion of his new school, describe a past action sentence, and sum up his thoughts into a emphatic comment about his school, using different combinations of synonymous words.

Go, Bubbles!!