Thursday, October 10, 2013

Waiting it out

My mom is in town, I think I mentioned that was upcoming, and it has been enlightening watching her influence on my children. My mom hasn’t visited since the little girl was a couple of months old, so not only is she meeting the baby for the first time it’s really as if she’s meeting all of them (and they, her). The little girl has blossomed from infant to tiny little near-person, and the little guy of course is vastly different as a five-year-old and proud kindergartener than he was at three.

So mom landed on Tuesday afternoon and my wife picked her up at the airport on the way home from work, and when I got home everyone was together in the living room and it was just about time to start dinner. Of course that’s the traditional starting point for the entire gauntlet of ritualized activities that culminate with the two older children in bed for the night, but nothing really went according to schedule, plan, or anything else remotely resembling a modicum of control. The kids fussed about eating the dinner I had made, then the little girl didn’t want to take her bath, then she wanted Nana to give it to her (which my wife and I ruled out because of a combination of logistics, explaining wheer everything is and how it works, beingmore trouble than it’s worth, plus my mom’s declining health not necessarily making her a strong candidate for leaning over the tub and washing an energetic and strong-willed child). Ultimately we appeased the little girl by letting Nana read her a bedtime story, but of course my dear sweet sainted mother failed to realize that our daughter will always ask for the moon to see what she can get away with, and while my wife and I nix that kind of thing pretty quickly, my mom was delighted to read her granddaughter multiple books and then sing her multiple songs and generally push off bedtime for I-lost-track-how-long. Meanwhile the little guy was dragging his feet getting ready for bed after his sister, waiting for Nana, because he wanted to show Nana the videos he watches at bedtime and we couldn’t start without her. So I was torn between knocking on the little girl’s door to suggest that I finish putting her to bed (quickly) while my mom hung out with the little guy (to get him back on the bedtime track) and just waiting it out, because if I interrupted the little girl’s Nana time there might be a cataclysmic meltdown, although by waiting it out who know how frantic the little guy might get.

I’ll break the suspense and say I waited it out, all of about five more minutes, and everything worked out fine in the end. But for those few evening hours the kids were just cuckoo, showing off and demanding extra attention in every possible way. Which, needless to say, did not bode well for Nana’s weeklong visit.

Sweet, but destructive.

And then of course, everything was basically back to normal last night. Wednesdays are the night my wife works late, so I got home from work and made dinner and this time it was something the kids approved of, and they ate peacefully and then the little girl asked nana to read her one story, and the little guy was just playing with toys by himself, and when the story was finished I scooped the little girl up and told her it was bath time and she was the most compliant little angel you could ever envision. By the time she was almost ready to lie down, her big brother had come upstairs of his own volition, so I got him started on his bath as the little girl was brushing her teeth and soon enough she was in bed and I was back in the bathroom with the little guy. All the while my mom was keeping an eye on the baby downstairs, which made my life immeasurably easier. And the little guy was perfectly happy to watch videos by himself, and he got in bed after that without complaint. By the time my wife got home things were pretty quiet and nobody had any throbbing pains at the clenchpoint of their jawbones or anything.

It’s yet another microcosm of a simple fact: the kids have good days and bad days. Sometimes external forces conspire to cause them all to have an off day simultaneously, and that can be pretty rough. But it passes. They come around to being lovely. And then they go off the deep end again, singly or in multiples. Back and forth. Up and down. It’s hard to remember sometimes, when it feels like the entire world is crashing down because one or more of my children are inconsolably distraught over some slight (real or imagined) but I really should try to fasten it in my mind. There’s absolutely no point in entertaining thoughts like “How are we supposed to deal with this?” in regards to outbreaks of crazy amongst the younger generation in my household, as if it’s actually a newly emerging longterm status quo to be reckoned with and strategized against. Everything is momentary, and you deal by making it to the next moment.

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