It isn’t worth dealing with.

I deleted a post I put up yesterday. After much thought, I realized it didn’t matter. I had written about a specific incident involving my parents, and how they hurt me, and how they treat me very differently from my three brothers. But it doesn’t matter. They’ll never read what I wrote, and even if they did, they’d never change. Hell, they’d never even accept my version of events. They’d just roll their eyes and say “it’s another of Melinda’s stories” which is what they call everything I ever say, because to them, everything I ever say is just a story that I made up. They will never take responsibility for the relationship that we have, and they will never admit to any fault.

I wish I had a better relationship with my parents, but I don’t, and I can’t. Part of me wants to just say that the past is in the past and I can move on. But I can’t, because it isn’t the past, it continues. This isn’t about my brother Danny and the fallout that still continues from that situation. No, it’s more than that.

When I was a child, they made it clear that I was their least favorite, the one that didn’t matter. That’s fine, that’s their issue, but my issue is that they pull the same playing favorites crap with their grandchildren. They sure do love Wildling, they think she’s the greatest kid ever (or at least, fourth greatest, after Rick’s son and Jack’s two kids). They love my little Wildling. Mellow? I think they know her name. They even look at her a little bit, and will interact with her – as long as Wildling is not around. They make it a point to ignore Mellow in Wildling’s presence. And I just can’t deal with that.

Some of it is probably disappointment – my dad wanted Mellow to be a boy, and he kept saying that throughout my pregnancy, and ‘reassuring me’ that ultrasounds are wrong and she could still have been a boy. Some of it is that they have a finite amount of love to give, and there just isn’t enough leftover for the second-born child of their least favorite offspring. Some of it is just that they don’t see their actions as hurtful to anybody.

I need to stop trying to invest emotionally in a broken relationship. I need to stop letting my parents hurt me. And I need to keep them from hurting my youngest child.

Some reasons to cry

One of the interesting things about Wildling’s crying skills is that she can go from perfectly calm and happy to screaming hysteria and then back again in a very short time period with no lasting signs of it.  Seriously, she can be happily playing, something will set her off and she’ll be red faced and screaming with tears running down her cheeks and then fifteen seconds later her face is perfectly normal and there is no evidence anything was wrong at all.

I witnessed this several times this morning.  Here are the reasons why Wildling cried this morning between 7:30-8:30 am:

1. She didn’t want to wake up.

2. It was too cold.

3. I didn’t tie a blanket around her shoulders properly.

4. There was a pair of pants in her long-sleeve shirt drawer and she doesn’t like pants.

5. Mellow pointed at her and laughed AND IT’S JUST NOT FUNNY MELLOW!!!

6. The blender was too loud.

7. She spilled her breakfast shake and it splashed on her tights.

8. It took me too long to clean up the spilled shake.

9.  When she was brushing her teeth, she dripped toothpaste on her shirt.

10. I wouldn’t let her wear the shirt with toothpaste on it, even though she claims it was fine because she cleaned it by licking it off.

11.  None of her other long-sleeved shirts were ‘stretchy out’ material.

12.  I had to take her to school in the car rather than by bike because her screaming fits delayed us.

All those short screaming meltdowns, but I dropped off a cheerful, sunny little girl at 8:30 this morning.  I don’t know how she bounces back so quickly (and how she doesn’t give herself a massive headache!).

Awaiting the inevitable

Easter is coming.  That means the invasion of cheap plastic toys is coming too.  I imagine our personal household invasion has already been purchased, sitting in plastic bags (of course!) waiting to be packed in styrofoam peanuts (the non-recyclable kind, though we always are able to donate them back to a shipping store) and shipped across the country, using who knows how much fossil fuel, just so my kids can play with them briefly and then either break or forget about them, so that they can either be dumped in the landfill or dropped off at a thrift store for some other kid to briefly take an interest in and then discard.  There will be candy as well, made up almost entirely of high fructose corn syrup and artificial food dye.

Every year I beg my mom not to send this crap, and every year she does anyway.  Last year, I thought I had convinced her not to send those little plastic eggs that open up so you can stuff them full of additional junk.  She promised she understood my objection and would not send any of those plastic eggs.  I was too trusting, or perhaps I had forgotten that my mother, who insists that everyone always follow her rules, will bend and twist my rules into something recognizable only to her.  She’s great at complying with the letter but not the spirit, which is why last year, after I explained our objection to the plastic eggs, after I begged her not to be so wasteful, after I made another of my endless arguments about our minimalist and environmentalist ideals, she sent my kids GIANT F-ING PLASTIC EGGS STUFFED FULL OF PLASTIC TOYS, CUPS, AND CANDY.  They were the largest plastic eggs I have ever seen.  I almost think she special ordered them  “Hello, plastic egg company? How big can you make those eggs?  No, I need them bigger than that. Can you make them extra thick too? Are there any non-recyclable plastics? Great, use that.”

This is how I imagine my mother interprets our conversations:

I say: Mom, we are really trying to reduce the amount of toys and junk we have in the house.  Please don’t send the kids any toys for easter.  They don’t need them, and they don’t want them.  Wildling has been an active participant in the reduction of her toys, and she is much happier with fewer things.

She hears: Mom, we are trying to stop you from being a grandparent and fulfilling your grandparently duties.  We don’t love our kids, and we would like to teach them about deprivation and suffering.

 I say: We have been asking you for years to please listen to us. We don’t want a lot of cheap plastic toys that were made in China.  We believe that they are harmful for the environment.

She hears: I have a secret list of criteria for toys that I will allow in the house, and I will not tell you what is on it.  But it changes all the time, so what was ok before is different now.  I also don’t want you shopping in any of the stores that are convenient for you, which is why I pretend to be opposed to items that were made in China.  But I once bought Wildling a made in China toy, so I am a colossal hypocrite and you should ignore all of my requests.

I say:  No, mom, stop arguing with me.  Of course we tell Will’s parents the exact same thing.  But they don’t buy toys for the kids anyway, so I don’t know why you keep asking.

She hears: My strict, irrational, and hypocritical criteria only applies to you.  We let Will’s parents buy whatever they want, whenever they want.

I say:  Mom, we try not to give the kids foods with high fructose corn syrup or artificial food coloring.  We don’t think it’s good for them, and we don’t understand why those ingredients are in food anyway.  We don’t ever buy anything with HFCS or artificial food coloring, except that one time that I didn’t read the label on frozen fish (of all things! Yellow #5, really?).  We aren’t stopping you from buying candy for the kids, but we would ask that you be mindful of the ingredients.  If it’s something we don’t think the kids should have, Will just takes it to work and puts it in the community candy bowl.

She hears: We made up some ridiculous food criteria because we want to ruin childhood, and also we want to show off our superior label reading skills. Plus we’re hypocrites because of that one time with the frozen fish which we shouldn’t have been eating anyway, because we are vegan (NOTE: No, we aren’t, but my mom doesn’t understand that either).  If you buy candy that is too much fun for the kids, we take it away and Will eats it all, probably in front of them while they cry.

I say: You know, there is a Trader Joe’s near you, and they don’t have anything with HFCS or artificial coloring, so that would be a great place to buy candy. I’m trying to make this easy on you.

She hears: I want you to go to the store a half mile further away than your usual grocery store, because I am a hypocrite who pretends to be an environmentalist but I want you to drive farther to get what I want you to buy.  Also, I am insulting your intelligence since I am implying that you need to go someplace where you don’t need the literacy skills necessary to read a label, which is ridiculous because you never need to actually read the ingredients, you just need to look at the front of the packaging and see if there are any pictures of fruit on it, because that’s how you know if something is healthy.

So yeah, that’s it.  That’s how my conversations with my mother go.  I expect that in the next couple of weeks there will be a box arriving in the mail, and I will grit my teeth and let the kids open it and later I will sit down with Will and a glass of wine and say “Why? Why, why, why? Why can’t I get through to her?”

Wildling’s beauty

Sometimes I look at Wildling, and I cannot believe how amazingly terrifyingly beautiful she is.  I can’t believe that two people as average as Will and myself were able to create a child of such heart-stopping beauty.  Her perfect face, the shape, the angles of it, the perfect symmetry.  Her big blue eyes rimmed with such thick dark lashes.  Her skin, so smooth, so perfect. I cannot count how many times have strangers stopped me to comment on her perfect face, her porcelain skin, ‘like a little doll, a perfect porcelain doll’ they say. I both want and fear that she will keep this great beauty; I want her to stay beautiful because it will make her life easier, but I fear it because she is so much more than her looks and that is all people will see, all people will think of, and I want her to be more than just a pretty face.

I look at her, and I think about her scary near-perfection, and she will look at me, and smile lazily, and put a finger in her nose, pull out a booger, and eat it.

Yes, that’s my daughter.

Tights are Leverage

Wildling has a new fashion obsession: She only likes to wear tights.  She even screamed at me this morning, when I made the mistake of suggesting leggings “No! I only ever like to wear things with feet attached, and those are called tights!”  She was properly enraged, because I told her she could not wear just tights and a long shirt, and had to wear a skirt or shorts, when she thought the long shirt was sufficient.

I don’t like these morning battles, but I have to admit that I like how picky she is about her clothes and how insistent she is on wearing specific things.  It’s the first time in four and a half years that we’ve actually had leverage on her.  We can actually get her to do things now.  She even cleaned up the entire playroom to earn a pair of black tights that she clearly desperately wanted.

I remember trying (and failing) to discipline her when she was younger.  On one particularly horrendous day, I had threatened to take away her favorite toy if she didn’t do what she was supposed to do.  Not only did she refuse, but she started adding stuff to the pile of what I was taking away.  She started bringing over more and more toys, and finally I had to cart it all out to the shed and wonder where I had gone wrong (incidentally, that was the inspiration to our eventual massive toy reduction).  Taking away toys never worked.  She wasn’t attached enough to them.

It feels a little strange to gloat that we have leverage over a child.  But it’s so nice!! We don’t use the power abusively, but it helps when we’re trying to get Mellow to sleep and Wildling is jumping on the bed and shouting song lyrics about how Saturn’s party is Saturday and she won’t lay down and she won’t be quiet and she won’t listen to us, and we can just say “Wildling! Lay down and be quiet or you won’t get to wear tights tomorrow!” and magically she drops to the mattress, closes her eyes, and is asleep within minutes.

I hope tights stay in style for a long time.

De-fragmenting My Life

I have developed a new sense of optimism and contentment. I am at peace with the choices I have made in life, and I suddenly feel more free than I ever have before.

I’ve written before about my attempts to declutter.  I’m still working on that as an on-going project, but I don’t need to just declutter my possessions, I need to declutter my mind. I’ve been trying to simplify.

Right now, at this point in my life, the thing I need to simplify is my career.

Here’s the problem I’ve been having: when Wildling was a baby, I started working part-time.  However, in my field, nobody accepts that you are only in the office part-time.  Things are always dictated by other people’s schedules, and I was stressed out a lot trying to manage childcare while giving my clients the impression that I was completely competent and had it all together. For awhile, it worked, and I was optimistic.  But then I got pregnant with Mellow.  I thought I could still do it all.  I thought I could still work, have Wildling in school, and use some child care (thank you, in-laws!) for Mellow.

But everything is so fractured all the time.  I feel fractured all the time.  Everyone has conflicting needs, and my needs have always been secondary.  I felt like I was always being torn in a million pieces.  While home with Mellow, I worried that I wasn’t working enough, that my office bills weren’t going to get paid, that I’d miss an important call because I was changing a diaper.  While at work, I was often sitting at my desk too overwhelmed by all my commitments to be able to function well, and I would fall behind in everything I needed to do.  Meanwhile, my need for regular consistent childcare became a problem.  Every time things started going well, something would happen.  Great-grandma would get sick, so my mother-in-law had to go take care of her, leaving me with nobody to watch Mellow.  Wildling would get sick and have to miss school, so guess who had to take care of her?  The in-laws went on vacation for a couple of weeks, so Will had to scramble to take off from his work to cover Mellow so I could go to client appointments.  Things like that just kept happening, and I bore the stress of all of it, because I wanted to work.  I wanted to feel successful, event though I obviously wasn’t.  I wanted to feel like having children didn’t make me give up my options, give up my dreams, my plans, myself.  But it did.

I’ve come to accept it. With all the recent illnesses in my family, and all the frustration that my needs are always secondary to everyone else’s. I’ve realized that I can reduce my needs.  I can minimize my stress.  I can quit my job.

The lease on my office is up at the end of June. I will not renew it, even though the idea of giving it up makes me sad.  I love my office.  I love my office furniture.  I love my client chairs, that I recovered in blue flowered fabric.  I love my filing cabinets that are painted bright blue.  I love the paintings hung on the walls, and the row of framed diplomas that contribute to the illusion of my success.  I love sitting in my chair and looking around and thinking “I did this. This is mine.”

I’m planning to take a year off, until Mellow starts preschool.  Then I can go back to work.  I’ll do some volunteer work in that time, and I will maintain my professional relationships and continue to attend events (I kind of have to, since starting in May I’ll be board president of one of my professional organizations). I’ll maintain my professional blog, though I won’t stress over getting posts up all the time.  But that’s it.  I won’t be advertising, I won’t be bringing in clients, I won’t be worrying about having enough money to pay rent and insurance.

Since making that decision, I’ve felt like a burden has lifted.  I feel lighter, freer.  I know that I’m making the right choice for myself and my family.  I gave it a try, it didn’t work, and since we are in the fortunate position that I don’t have to have a second job (child-rearing and supervising Will being my primary job), then I won’t do it right now.

I feel an optimism now, one that I haven’t had in a long time. I feel like giving up my work, which a year ago would have signified failure, now signifies success: I will be able to successfully manage my life and pull the fractured pieces back together.  I will no longer have the burden of having the stress of managing my business hanging over me, and I will no longer feel so torn trying to get everything done.