Loose Ends

Loose Ends

the creative impulse gone awry

Sunday, September 30, 2012

My grumpy girl

While most of the time I post pictures of my dear Clara smiling and looking happy, this is not the face I see most of the time.  During vacation I started a series called "Clara looking cross"  Mostly as a way to stay calm and gain perspective while she was pitching a fit.

- at Jordan Pond in Acadia after she decided that throwing rocks in the lake was more fun than going on our planned on hike.  She sulked until we turned around.

Do you remember this cute little one from a few posts back?

Next frame:
- upset that her sister is removing 1 of the 13 golf balls she had placed on the ground... the rest are blurry because she was trying to wrestle said golf ball out of Zoë's hands.

For whatever reason, Clara is quick to anger.  She always has been, um, particular?  ...strong-willed? ...stubborn?  We joke that this is just default for the women in my family -- it rides along with my X chromosome.  I love that she will be a take-no-prisoners adult but as an almost 5 year old she often has me feeling, well, imprisoned.  I've had a lot of very long, and sometimes painful, conversations with folks who know these things (some even have relevant degrees!) and we're pretty sure she's just on the edgy side of normal.  Kind of introverted, kind of inflexible, but with a load of amazing qualities that make her a lot of fun to be around... usually. And with a vocabulary that makes it hard to remember she's only 4!

I'm pretty frank about my own issues with anxiety.  I have a bunch of hilarious and debilitating phobias, spiders (so common it's boring), moths (funny and appropriate for a yarn shop owner), flying (truly annoying).  I did a bunch of therapy in my 20s to get a handle on my crippling fears, among other things.  My therapist marveled that I could get so much done with the level of stress that I carried around all the time.  I had great success learning to manage my anxiety -- really changing the way I think.  I've never needed medication, thankfully, but it was always a happy back-up if things got really bad.  In short, I function pretty well, that is, under normal circumstances.

Parenting, while ostensibly a "normal" thing is (for me) like putting myself through some sort of anxiety obstacle course every day.  I start most days tired and I'm lucky if I find clean clothes and maintain some basic level of personal hygiene.  On top of that, we've got this new house, and my business, and so my to do list is crippling.  Pair that with my delightfully inflexible Clara and her insane monkey little sister and I'm a nervous wreck most of the time.

Lately, things with Clara have been especially challenging.  There have been many many tantrums.  Most of the time I can take this stuff in stride, but the frequency of these events, their severity, along with the only barely being civil parts in the middle have really been taking a toll.  I'm usually pretty happy with my parenting but recently I've been mostly Cartman Parenting (bad parenting level 1) and then, let's be honest, sometimes end up Toddler parenting -- where I act more like a toddler than the toddlers (bad parenting level 2)  I don't know what bad parenting level 3 looks like, thankfully, I'm happy to not know.

I've been brainstorming ideas on how to help get us past this bumpy section (all the while just cringing and shaking my head about how much fun she's going to be as a teenager) and the consensus seems that we need to be a bit more organized.  The organization will help me stay calm (honestly, dinner sneaks up on me every. day. and if I had a plan instead of a panic the rest of the world seems so much more manageable) and will give her (and let's face it me too) a sense of order that will help when we have to be flexible.

So I've been working on organizing our entire life. hah! Really, removing decisions from our day.  Making the boring things more systematic so the rest is easier.  My mom tells me this is all good preparation for next year when Clara goes to school.  It prepares her for the concept of a routine (previously unknown in our house) and gets us used to the hard work of having a school-aged kid.  I started off with a basic spreadsheet of our daily schedule.  I've found that our weekly schedule is getting pretty regular, while each day is a little different, the days of the week have a rhythm that we can follow.  I also decided to try to have a morning routine (breakfast, a bit of TV, getting dressed, snack, a bit of housework) and an evening routine (make & eat dinner, bathtime, stories, bed) I hoped that if we could get these things to happen at the same time each day, perhaps, by some miracle, this would help Clara and it would give me the strength to get through each day with grace and patience.

Does it make me a geek that I then made daily schedules for the girls that I can print out for them?  Complete with "bathtime" clip-art?  yes, it does.  I know, it's okay.  I also have my "parents version" with all of the times laid out so I can remember when things need to happen.  I'm so abhorrent to routine that I literally print out my schedule every day and take notes.  Of course I decided to start this whole process 2 days before vacation, but we resumed the plan when we came home.  I've been assured that it often gets worse before it gets better, so I'm just going to keep plugging and improving where I can and hoping that it eventually it feels like routine instead of work.

As we continue this project I'll try to share with you some of the things that have been working.  The daily schedules so far, for Clara, have been helpful.  She asks for them and wants to read through them each morning during breakfast.  She also has been taking "notes" when I mention things may not go as planned.  Some transitions have been easier, but that's not getting rid of all of the tantrums -- we still have a meddling little sister to push her buttons.

Planning out our meals has already made me less stressed out, which is helping with the bad parenting.  As with so many other things, our kids are mirrors of our own behaviors.  Clara definitely picks up on my anxiety and amplifies it.  Knowing what we're having for dinner TONIGHT and that it's thawed and ready to get together when the time comes (checks schedule, that's 5:00pm) makes it so much easier for me to stay calm when Clara's feeling stormy. 

I'm hoping to tear apart my wardrobe soon, plan a dozen or so outfits and store the rest.  I've never done this before but really, sometimes just finding something to wear (that isn't pajamas) is such a challenge for me.  If it were more formulaic, it would make my morning that much easier and that may also improve my sanity.

Also part of my plan is to include some housework for the girls and I to do each day.  Firstly, it will help me keep our house clean and organized and secondly, it will teach them how much work it takes to care for a house and hopefully get them invested in keeping the house clean and organized.  Clara didn't like the idea of house cleaning when I brought it up first, but when she learned she got to play with soap and push buttons (laundry) she perked right up.  Now we've done a shocking amount of laundry and it's folded and put away (even more shocking!)

Lastly, I've suddenly found it quite funny that I was totally prepared to turn my life upside down for my children.  I knew my life would change and I would learn many many new things.  How little was I prepared for how much I, myself, would have to change to rise to the challenge of parenting.  How so little of this upheaval has to do with diapers and sleep (though, to be sure, those are huge adjustments, temporarily) and how so much of it has been developing entirely new (to me) infrastructure -- physical, emotional, and now organizational, to continue supporting them as they grow.  Parenting, as usual, just when you think you have it figured out you realize you have to change everything all over again.  Who knows maybe one day finding clean pants will be a breeze.


redfox said...

"Really, removing decisions from our day." This seems really smart. And I, too, need to seriously streamline my closet. (If I just face the fact that I should not ever be wearing shirts with tiny holes in them, I will have so few garments that getting dressed in the morning will be a snap.)

Clara has a truly impressive glower. I look forward to the day when she turns it on some deserving miscreant and forces him/her to melt into a tiny puddle of grease.

Kim said...

I have the problem with tiny holes as well. Why I cling to these things, I don't know. I'm hoping to get a chance to go through the whole closet and puuuuuuuurge. to think that I packed all of these things up and moved them!

Clara, indeed, is a force to be reckoned with. I just hope she eventually challenges her power for good!

Ginger said...

xoxo my children have made me work a schedule too! not easy for me although i may seem "type A w/out a watch" as one of my co-workers termed me...it has been hard for me....i will send you my equally geeky copy of a dinner schedule on excel as you may appreciate it! and flylady kept my house clean in a fun way too...although i never do more than her daily to do and try to keep the sink clean! i so feel your pain those kiddos do love schedules, routines, and knowing what is going to happen next though! Finn seems fine without it, but the rest of them pah! AND you always look great btw! ALSO i just was listening to a program about how Obama has taken all the little decisions out of his life (I THINK YOU ARE SERIOUSLY on to something there!) and only has black and navy suits and doesn't make any menial decisions because they have found that the more decisions you make during the day the harder it is to make any decisions, so he saves his for the important stuff! keep passing on the great ideas! i think all us moms need as much help as we can! xoxo

Kim said...

I actually read an article that talked about Obama's suits and i thought, damn that makes sense! Really, I don't want to limit myself so much, but if I pick out some basic outfits where I feel cute and can parent effectively it is just one more thing I don't have to think about every day. I would love your dinner schedule on excel (with links to recipes!) I've got us on a 2 week schedule and we're just getting into our 2nd week. It helps me so much I find it shocking.