Bright, inquisitive, and sometimes hard to understand…

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Yesterday Potamus was a part of an early intervention screening process at school daycare. It’s a part of a grant in the county, and I was happy to take part.

Today, I tried not to panic, when I got a phone call from the screener asking for a callback to discuss his results. She had told me originally that the results were going to be in the mail. Wuht?!

Turns out my kid is bright. Inquisitive. Does well with others. Answers questions with good sentence structure when asked.

And during times of ‘spontaneous language,’ when just observed by her, he has difficulty being understood. This observation is not something out of the blue for us. We’ve noticed. His teachers have noticed. Yes, our kid sometime speaks in a language that sounds like elvish, or Pentecostal tongues.

He’s also the youngest in his class. And when he does speak, he’s expressing complex ideas that, to my untrained child specialist brain, seem far advanced from a 3-almost-4 year old. Like a discussion the other day about how his friends M & J “don’t like things that are different,” when explaining why they “get really angry with me,” because he brings a My Little Pony to school. So while we are exploring the suggestion of, in a few months, having him screened again to see if it’s changed, and I’ve reached out to a speech language pathologist that I know and trust, we also are in the same boat where we feel like our little guy’s brain and mouth are in two developmental spots.

It seems to go in waves. There will be weeks where he’s clear as a bell, and then it seems like he goes through some sort of developmental leap (physical or emotional or even in language learning) where he speaks gibberish and is hard to understand (and is now able to express frustration at us, mostly through deep sighs and body language resembling a teenager), and then one day snaps out of it with an enhanced vocabulary that’s clear as a bell.

Googling hasn’t been helpful, or I’m not using the right search terms.

At any rate, it was nice that there were no big surprises in this screening. Nothing signalling that our parenting gut isn’t right on. And now we get to decide…how much intervention to explore, and how much to wait and see its natural course.

To be honest, I’d rather he see someone to break his picky eating habits…but that’s another entry…

The Problem of Comparison

There is some small part of me, my innermost heart maybe, that is excited about being pregnant. Not excited about being pregnant, but excited that I will get to see another life unfold in my house, under my care. Maybe this isn’t a small part of myself, maybe it’s my Highest self, that takes these moments to step back and look and witness and feel a whole world of feelings in an instant about the meaning of life, love, and parenting.

That is what I’m excited about. The ability to watch a small life unfold into the person that they’ve always been. The unlimited potential about who and what they can be or do, and all the funny things they’ll say.

That is what I look forward to.

But I am struggling.

I’m not sure yet if it’s prenatal depression, or simply adjusting to the idea of a new life inside of me to change the whole dynamic in our family. But I’m struggling.

This pregnancy is not like the last. And I’m worried that this will only begin the list of comparisons. It wasn’t like this with your brother, why can’t you be more like your sibling, it’s so different.

I had hoped to engage with my pregnancy and my new baby in a neutral way, free from the comparisons of four years ago.

But it’s hard not to.

I’m already in a lot of pain. The nights are spent tossing and turning with incredibly deep pelvic pain that’s not alleviated by pillows between the knees or yoga stretches. I’m assured it’s simply ligaments moving, but at six weeks in, I think “really, another 7.5 months of this shit left to deal with?” I’m off this summer, but this fall I’ll be teaching 24.5 college credits AND working 16 hours a week AND being a mom to a 3 year old. If I’m already not sleeping well, in lots of nighttime pain, then how am I going to cope?

I feel like a whiny bitch.

I have nausea all day.

I feel ugly (yes, this is a real feeling, not just looking for pity). Like I finally believe that body dysmorphic disorder exists, because I look at pictures and think “who is that person?” My husband says I look fine. And my brother-in-law said I was looking ‘flacando’ (aka skinny), so I’m not the fat cow with jabba the hut chins that I feel.

Have I mentioned the mood swings?

Right after Potamus was born, I cried a lot. It was like the Grinch’s heart had cracked open and I felt all these amazing tender and anxiety provoking emotions that I rarely let myself feel. And so I cried. For joy. For sadness. For holy-fuck-overhwlem. This time I’m crying at commercials, the movie Inside Out, at the thought that sometime ‘soon’ I won’t have the special 1-1 moments with Potamus that I’ve grown to love so much. I’m sure they’ll be moments, I’ll just have to look harder for them.

I want to hurl. About 3/4 of the day is spent navigating this landmine of nausea that hasn’t resulted in actual vomiting, but definitely leaves me averse to many foods/smells that trigger the upchuck reflex.

Last time I got lucky, I guess.

What I don’t want is to start resenting this little bean. Because I was on the fence about having another baby, that I hope that I can be excited, rather than, “holy shit have I made the worst mistake of my life?”

Tiny Human or Mini Adult

Today I shared this Offbeat Home article,“On being raised as a ‘small person’ instead of being ‘treated like a child,’” on my Facebook page. I resonated with the ultimate message, about the inherent dignity of children, but after having two texting conversations with moms of young kids, I started to really evaluate and re-evaluate my position on the whole matter.

My Facebook status said, “this is my parenting philosophy. Potamus is a tiny person.” But then I began to reflect, on how some adults treat children like mini adults. That they forget the cognitive and emotional place of being 2 or 3 or 4, and how children do not have the same life experience and/or reasoning of consequence and pre-frontal cortex control and development that adults do. If the teens in my class can’t emotionally regulate, or think about consequences in the future, getting caught up in the moment, then how could I possibly expect a wee toddler to do that? I think there are parents who treat children the same way they would adults, and maybe they think this is giving respect to the children, but expecting a 2 year old to have the same cognitive reasoning or emotional control, is actually detrimental, in my opinion (and I’m sure there could be research out there, but I’m just a wee blogger and not looking for a persuasive argumentative paper).

An example, that I could think of from my own life, was the difficult ‘adult’ decision that was asked of the kids in our family when we were faced with an impending move. I was 12, my brother was 10, and my sister 7. We had been living without my dad for a year. He was home on weekends, but spent the rest of the week three hours away working for a radio station in Eastern Washington. My mom worked an early morning school district job, then came home, got us out the door for school, and then went back to work at another school district job. She was exhausted by 5pm, and I picked up a lot of the slack. While not a little child, I was still a kid, and when posed with the rock and hard place choice of “move to where your dad works,” or “live like this for six more years until you graduate from high school.” At the time the choice seemed ‘easy,’ but the emotional fallout of moving to an entirely new culture and making friends and leaving everything I loved behind. Because we had voted, it felt like there was no room to dislike the choice. I felt stuck, and like if I had voted to stay I would have been making my mom miserable, who was stuck parenting solo. I think if my parent’s had just said, ‘this is what we are going to do,’ I would have been angry with them. I would have lashed out and blamed them and been upset. Instead I swallowed my anger and it sidled into depression.

Then, there are the families that I’ve worked with as a crisis counselor, where the tiny people are treated like friends. Where five year old are privy to impending parental divorce before their other parent is. The teenagers who are crying out for boundaries, but met with the wishy washy bubblegum popping mom who sneaks out to clubs in her daughter’s Silver jeans. The adult thinks they’re respecting the kid by being friend-like, but it puts youth in the position of trying to figure out adulthood without an adult role model.

A few weeks ago I read some commentary about body autonomy, and how when they “have children, we’re not going to force them to do things that their body doesn’t want to do,” and I liked that idea, because doesn’t it feel shitty to have someone bigger than you telling you what to do? Like a boss, or the government, or your parents at Thanksgiving who can’t seem to realize you don’t want more turkey. You know? But here’s the thing, when you’re 3, and you have an ear infection, and you don’t want to take the bubblegum liquid, your parents might have to hold you down, and stick their fingers in your mouth, risk being bitten themselves. You might be sobbing, and saying “no mama, no mama,” but you don’t know about burst eardrums or hearing loss. You don’t understand ‘it’s for your own good,’ because you’re three years old and it just feels like you’re being forced into something you don’t want. And that’s a true story, from the Potamus ear infection files over the last week. Because, my job as a mom is to get him to take his medicine, and wear a coat. I might give a lot of body autonomy and freedom of choice over dinner options (yogurt? peanut butter crackers? blueberries?), but we will absolutely not go outside in sub freezing weather in basketball shorts and a Spiderman tank top.

So after I posted, and texted, I immediately thought “oh shit, I don’t believe that article at all,” and yet…yes I do. Because Potamus is short, he’s still a person, and I treat him like the tiny human he is. But I don’t want him to be a mini-adult, and he’s not my friend, (though sidekick, I’ll allow). He’s aboslutely equal on the soul level, worthy of every human dignity, and yet it’s my role to shephard him toward his own brand of adulthood, and that means letting him be a child, not forcing him to grow up too fast.

How Boyhood the movie is changing my life

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By now, I’m sure you’ve heard of the incredible feat of a movie in Boyhood, which was filmed with the same actors over a period of 12 years. Having simply seen the previews, and hear a review on the radio, I decided to take myself out to see this 2 hour and 45 minute film that is being touted as an award winning movie with very little action. It, by all accounts, has broken many cinematic rules. There’s no plot, besides simply watching a boy grow up, and the actors (Patricia Arquette, Ethan Hawke) committed over 12 years to make this film. The main character, Mason, played by Ellar Coltrane, was only 6 when he started the project. 

So there I was, sitting in a dark movie theater for a matinee showing with five other people. A young couple, who I judged to have no children yet, and older couple who seemed like grandparents, and a guy about my age. The five of were there to see the magic. 

But it wasn’t magic. Not at first. It was cute seeing the six year old boy’s antics, and how he related to his older sister, and his mom, and the scenes from life that unfolded before my eyes. Halfway through I felt bored. There was no action. Tiny episodes of drama, but mostly interpersonal relating. Scenes from year to year were marked by Mason’s haircuts. I was sitting in this theater thinking “what? what? this is it? this is what I paid good money for? Really? This is all there is? The cinematography isn’t even that spectacular. And the soundtrack? Is there even a soundtrack?”

These thoughts were much like the thoughts I have when meditating, or halfway through yoga. Monkey mind. I sat back for the rest of the film, followed the loose plot, and then BAM. (uh, spoiler alert for those who haven’t seen the film…do not read on…)

BAM

Mason graduates from high school. His mom, played by Patricia Arquette, is sitting in her new apartment with her now-grown son, in that awkward teenage-almost-college-student-scruffy way is packing up his belongings. And she starts to cry. She says, “I just thought there’d be more.” At least that’s how I remembered it. She might have said “I just thought there’d be more time,” but nonetheless, I started to cry. Little tears rolled down my cheeks, not a full on sobbing mess, I can keep it together of course. 

The final scene is Mason hanging out with some of his new college buddies, and he has this conversation about the idea of ‘seizing the moment,’ rephrasing it by saying, “I think the moments seize you,” and suddenly the movie was spectacular. I think that was the magic in it. That I couldn’t tell how beautiful it was until it was over and I looked back, remembered earlier scenes and saw how the tied in to the ending. That life was unfolding and no matter how mindful in the here and now, there is something powerful in that moment of reflection, introspection, nostalgia. It was pure magic. 

And would it be crazy to say that a movie could influence me to want another child? No, that’d be totally daft, right? But I found myself, as I was watching the scenes unfolding, and the nostalgia I felt at the end when she said ‘I thought there’d be more time,’ that the reason I have only wanted 1 kid is not because I am afraid another will distract me from BIG life goals like curing cancer (or travelling to India) or doing a career I love…but that it will distract me from doing things like Buzzfeed quizzes. Now that might sound silly, but it’s true. When I get angry with Potamus for ‘interfering’ with my time, or not going to bed because I ‘just want a fucking minute to myself,’ It’s not because I want a minute to myself to do art or yoga or spend time with friends. Because I manage to find time to structure into my life to do those things. It’s that I want him to ‘go the fuck to sleep’ so I can scroll, scroll, scroll through Pinterest on my phone. 

I was asked once if I would get to be that 80 year old woman if I would regret not trying to have another kid. And I know the answer would be ‘no,’ if it meant I could be the best parent to 1 kid while pursuing my amazing life goals. I will regret not trying for another kid if it’s because I wanted to pin recipes to pinterest that I know I’ll never use. You know? 

Parenting is my mindful meditation. I get to drop into something deeper beyond buzzfeed quizzes and the monkey chatter of my thoughts. This isn’t a pregnancy announcement, or even an announcement that we will be trying any time in the near future (soonest will be next summer), but something settled in my body and heart when I watched this film. I realized that it is hard, and amnesia sets in at some point and I will say to myself, “I just thought there’d be more time.” 

Touching Other People’s Kids

My normal daycare dropoff and pickup routine is pretty standard. I crouch down, and give a goodbye hug and kiss (or a hello hug, and kiss as the case may be), do some soft 1-1 conversation with Potamus at his eye level, and then I either head on out to work, or we head on out together. After six months of him being in his toddler classroom, the students are beginning to recognize me, and seem to know our little routine (which differs drastically from the routine I see other parents engage in).

For the most part the children enter into my zone of proximity without it causing my discomfort. There’s ones little blonde boy, clearly the oldest of the group, who always says “potamus’ mommy, potamus mommy'” while trying to both acknowledge me and get potamus’ attention so that he can go home with me. Sometimes the kids crowd close as I give Potamus his hello hug at daycare pickup, but none of them actually…touch me.

In the past two months, though, I have had a few interactions with this one little girl that have left me feeling uncomfortable and unsure of how to react. She touches me. And I don’t mean like the blonde boy, who patted me once and said “Potamus’ mommy,’ but I mean she hugs me. These kids are between 2-3, so it’s at that huggable age, I guess, but I’m left with this gut feeling that something seems…off?

Today I came in and this little girl ran over to me. Potamus saw me and was making his way over, and when I crouched down with my arms open to give him a hug, she pressed herself into me. Flung is more like it. While she didn’t quite give me a full hug because I was turned to the side to hug Potamus, I could feel her little belly up against me. And then she lifted her shirt. And then she said “owls, owls,” pointing to the owls on her shirt.

Maybe it’s my overly sensitive to touch teacher training, or my experience as a crisis social worker, but I viscerally react to this little girl throwing herself at me. Part of me is sad that she’s seeking out attention from me, and part of me feels worried because she’s the only one. All the other kids seem to have the same level of wariness that Potamus has to strangers, and while they certainly seem to resonate with my ability to get down on their level, they don’t interact to such an extreme cling way that this little girl does.

I feel so torn. I don’t want to reject this little girl’s hugs, because children should not be shamed for wanting affection. But I also don’t want to encourage it, because with the exception of Mari’s children (who I don’t hug, either, but would if they initiated), I have zero interest in touching other people’s children.

 

Thoughts? Am I overreacting to this little girl?

Homebody, Recluse, or “I just hate going ‘home’ for the holidays,”?

 

who would want to leave this glorious rocky beach?   :)

who would want to leave this glorious rocky beach? 🙂

In therapy this week, I talked about the visceral reaction I feel when ever I cross over the mountains and start heading down into my ‘hometown.’ And by hometown I mean the place my parents live, where my sister lives, where I spent 8-12 grade and tried like hell to get out of. There was college, and then 1 year post-India where I lived there, and hated it just as much. And so I rarely go, even though my parents beg me to visit. I grit my teeth and maybe manage a summer trip, for two days, and then there’s “the holidays,” of which this year Thanksgiving AND Christmas fall on the visiting rotation…so this’ll be three trips in a year. I’m not looking forward to it.

Eastern Washington feels like hell to me. But my therapist said a few things that stood out, like when she asked if I was  “homebody,” and then mentioned that it sounded like I was replaying an old story in my visits ‘home’ for the holidays (or any other time of year, for that matter). And it got me thinking…am I a homebody? I sure drag my feet when it comes to visiting my in-law’s cabin 6 hours away for Christmas, because it’s snowy and trapped feeling with 8 people in a house all sleeping on hide-a-beds and playing Trivial Pursuit into the wee hours of the morning. Sure I like routine, but who doesn’t?

And yet, I’m jumping at the chance to visit one of my college buds in Albuquerque in January. And maybe flying to New York solo in May for a conference. I know my anxiety tends to fill me pre-event, but I find that I’m actually pretty chill when I visit friends and do other adventurous type things. Sure I used to joke about becoming a Montana recluse, but for the most part I’m a pretty social introvert who likes doing things, but I also like routine. What I hate is “going home.” Why? Because my home is right here, dammit!

So I realized, with the help of my therapist, that I have, indeed, been playing out an old story. The time when I was 13 and my family “took a vote,” to move across the mountains to a new place called Eastern Washington. The vote that wasn’t fair, because it put me in the position of choosing to stay, in Seattle, with a depressed mom and a dad we never saw (because he had worked in Eastern Washington for a year already, commuting home on the weekends), and a role of surrogate mom, taking care of my younger siblings OR move to a place I didn’t know in hopes that our family could be together again. Of course I chose the latter, because the weight of raising my siblings and dealing with my mother’s sadness was too heavy for my young perfectionist shoulders. And yet, the move, to a new place, with new rules and an equally depressed mother (since she, too, was leaving her home, where she was raised) did nothing for me.

I entered 8th grade and adolescence with a dark cloud hanging above me. My anxiety and depression flared up, but instead of recognizing it for what it was, I was labelled angry and withdrawn. Who wouldn’t be? They had left their home, their friends, the comfort of the evergreen trees and the known smells of wet bark after it rains. And now, as an adult, I am back, in the place I’ve known to be home, in my heart, since I was born. Why would I ever want to leave? Why would I choose, willingly, to make that drive again, across the mountains and into the valley of despair? But, like my therapist said, the adult Self can say, “this is for 2 days. this is not home, and isn’t home, you can return home in 2 days. you are choosing to visit, not to stay.” But that trapped, clawing claustrophobia of a teenage sense of dread, like being sent to juvey or exile, is still living in me whenever I even think of visiting. I do it, out of obligation, but the question, “why don’t you and Boof move back home?” puts me in defense mode. I always angrily say, “we are home. Seattle IS HOME.” But it falls on deaf ears.

Maybe I am a homebody. Maybe I am tied to Seattle in a way I can’t explain and I’m working to heal the trauma of having had to leave in those formational years. I’ve been back for 7, and adding up all the time I lived here as a child/pre-teen plus my adult years, it far outweighs those blip-on-the-radar moments of highschool. And yet I feel scarred and changed by the whole ordeal, and never want to go back. But I will go back. Because Thanksgiving happens in two weeks. Are you ready?

“My city, my city, childhood, that’s right:” how Macklemore’s lyrics are making me feel the love

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I’ve been listening to a lot of Macklemore & Ryan Lewis lately. There’s just something about the lyrics of a hometown boy who’s gone platinum without the backing of any major record label. It feels so…Seattle. So Seattle. I know that everyone feels some sort of nostalgia for their hometown, but there’s something magical about this city…the rugged individualism of a pioneer spirit that still exists in this Emerald City. It’s really that Emerald City…elusive, magical, buildings that fade into trees and trees that fade into buildings.

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Maybe it’s because we’re relatively the same age, but when Macklemore sings about the Mariners, in My Oh My, I get choked up. While not an overwhelming baseball fan, I remember that year. I remember later years when I sat with my grandma and chewed Double Bubble and watched the M’s play.

My oh My another victory yes, my city my city.
Childhood my life watchin’ Griffey right under those lights

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In the sunshine months the city comes alive, with natives and transplants and visitors. The past few days I’ve been listening to Macklemore and driving around the city with Potamus looking for watering holes to splash in. The lyrics “My city, my city, childhood that’s right,” go through my head on repeat.

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Beneath the Space Needle, in the shadow of Mt. Rainier, and a stone’s throw from the Puget Sound. I have summer memories of the Pacific Science Center and eating lunch by the fountain. Today we splashed in the fountain ourselves and I felt a part of something bigger. A connection to MY PEOPLE here. The quirky PacNwer’s who make their home in the city or carry it in their hearts when they’re far away. There’s something about this place that changes us.

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Every time somebody steps out on the road
They bring a little Northwest soul with them, amen

My city.
My childhood.
Potamus’s city.
His childhood.

It’s Good Medicine that Chief Sealth would of been proud of
This is our city, town pride, heart, blood, sweat, tears, I-5, North, South side, vibe, live, ride down these city blocks
And never will be stopped

The House that Built Me: A Musical Review

I’ve taken the literal trip down memory lane before, always alone, usually in my car. But after having some lovely jamba juice with an out-of-town friend, up north, I decided to swing through my old neighborhood, break out the stroller and visit my childhood home.

I strolled. I mused. I reminisced. Potamus slept. He also rubbed his eyes and sweated a bit, since Seattle is still reveling in 70 degree days and the long-sleeve shirt I dressed him in was much too warm. I found the quietness of the neighborhood comforting. There was something familiar about the way the sunshine streamed through the tree-branched of the fir I used to climb as a child, though much else had changed. Neighbors we had have moved on, and I’ve kept in touch via Facebook. The swing-set in the backyard is replaced with a garden and fountains and old-lady type decorations. The color is all wrong, blue instead of beige, but the address, the first numbers I memorized are still the same.

The physical act of standing where I once stood as a child was powerful. My body remembered things my mind hadn’t: the lemonade stand on the corner, the bus-stop mornings with rain dripping off the tree branches, the greenbelt we used to sled on the 1 day we’d be off from school for snow, the way the blackberry bushes overgrew the trails with signs that said “private property, no trespassing.” As I strolled past a house I was suddenly struck with the memory of a woman who hosted Christmas caroling parties, who died of a brain aneurysm, and the tedious hours spent babysitting a Power Ranger fanatic 4 year old.

I snapped pictures and realized just how innocuous a mom-with-stroller was in such a suburban cul-de-sac. Nobody batted an eye or flinched when I peeked over the fence into my old backyard, or questioned me when I snapped a few photos of myself with my house in the background. I looked like I belonged.

And I did belong.

I drove Potamus up the road a little ways to “the train park” as we called it, and pushed him on the swings. He smiled and laughed and so did I.

And all the while I kept thinking of Miranda Lambert’s The House that Built Me

I know they say you can’t go home again
I just had to come back one last time
Ma’am, I know you don’t know me from Adam
But these hand prints on the front steps are mine
Up those stairs in that little back bedroom
Is where I did my homework and I learned to play guitar And I bet you didn’t know under that live oak
My favorite dog is buried in the yard

I thought if I could touch this place or feel it
This brokenness inside me might start healing
Out here it’s like I’m someone else
I thought that maybe I could find myself
If I could just come in, I swear I’ll leave
Won’t take nothing but a memory
From the house that built me

Home

Where is Yours?

Tonight I went to writing group, and the topic was Home. We wrote about our childhood home, and the smells we associated with it. I was surprised to remember that there was a kitchen drawer that smelled like broken crayons and Flinstone’s vitamins. How random of a memory!

We then moved on to the concept of home, which brought up this deep sadness I had no idea existed within me. This idea of home feels like a time in my life, and like the garden of Eden, I can remember its loveliness but I am destined to wander about a desert yearning for the comfort of paradise. I can never truly go home, as home is innocence and pure love and a safe naivete.

Driving home I kept thinking about Potamus, and that this house will be his childhood home, but more importantly how his innocence will one day be gone. I can love and shelter, but the real world will show its realness and all the good and bad that comes with it. Today I am his home, but he is growing so fast already that I am mourning that beautiful sweetness.