Friday, June 29, 2012

Supermarket Sweep

We never get halfway down the produce aisle before my daughter starts to squirm. The quiet child eating a freshly peeled banana passes us in her mother's shopping cart as mine claws her way out. Another parent pushes by with her kids in the car attachment. They pretend to beep and drive, taking occasional sips from a recently opened Capri Sun. Entertained for the complete duration of the shopping experience. My mother was notorious for opening bags of food as we shopped in the grocery store. "Mom we are stealing!!!" I'd say. A small child, learning right from wrong, I'd quickly look around waiting to get scolded. She would assure me we would pay for it, though I felt like a fugitive eating a slice of bologna. Sometimes I would refuse to particpate in this crime altogether. Spending the rest of the trip salivating and fidgeting as she'd push me along and snack.

After a few family shopping trips that ended in sweat dripping down my back and only five things off my list, I realized my mother was right. I now consider the supermarket a warehouse of endless food distractions to keep my kid in her place.

Upon entering we immediately hit the snack aisle and bust open a bag of veggie sticks. I'll admit I feel a little bad ass, dipping my hand into the bag. Wishing the final price were determined by weight. When that doesn't work I reach for the 100 calorie bags of anything. My daughter is eating and excited for the first part of the trip as I curse the cart manufacturer who didn't install a sippy cup holder. Despite her small buffet, by the time we hit the frozen food section she wants out. Fortunately I've gotten fifty percent of what is on my list and can continue shopping while my husband chases her around.

As we approach the check out we have open bags of pretzels, half eaten apples, bruised tomatoes, and a few things in the cart she decided we need like carrots with the long greens and a travel size hair oil. Its a game of quick reflexes as one of us puts back the box of herbel tea, while my daughter replaces it with Tupperware. We unravel cheesesticks and tell her to look at the letters on the tabloids as we remove more items. Bailing out the unneccessary financial weight.

She insists the bags of groceries are garbage and desperately wants to carry the gallon of milk as we pack the car. I open a box of Cheerios, sprinkle a few into her cup holder and wrestle her into her seat. Then, like a jerk, I leave the empty cart in the parking spot next to me. On the way home I consider what we still need for the next few weeks and am thankful for the glorious gift that is Fresh Direct.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

The Power of Three

My daughter was standing up in the bathtub ignoring my demands for her to "sit down like a big girl!"  It was a game of up and down as I held onto her slippery hands, readjusting my body weight to prevent her from  falling face first into the side of the tub.  She kept laughing as my eyes widened in anger.  By the tenth time I grew desperate and did what I felt was the "mom thing" to do.  I started counting to three.  She looked at me with curious eyes, knowing this progression of numbers wasn't the usual "lets count together" game.  After "one" I told her to sit down.  She looked at me. My voice quivered as I got to two.  This was the part where she should recognize I mean business.  She remained standing.  The both of us wondering what would happen after three.  This thoughtful pause must have worked because she sat back down and started playing with the bubbles.  As I stood there, shocked and relieved, I quickly realized the power of this empty threat.

Since the bathtub incident I've used the almighty counting strategy in various situations.  When she wants to lay down in the hallway, won't put back rocks in the garden, or refuses to sit down while standing on the chair.  Every time she complies by the time I get to three.  Some close calls have only resulted in me getting up off my chair or walking over to her, developing a plan in my head while I move.  Each time I'm amazed that my lack of action always results in her having some kind of reaction.

On Father's Day she was talking on the phone with my grandmother.  After a few minutes of babbling I asked her hand the phone to my husband.
"Give the phone back to Daddy please,"  I said in an even tone.
"No," she said in her "I'm testing you" voice, inching away from me.
"On the count of three you need to give Daddy the phone back,"  My tone still even.
"No!"  The counting begins.
"NO!!"  Slight crying ensues.  I remain seated on the couch.
"AHHHHHH!!"  A loud scream as she jumps in place.  The whole room stops to see what will happen next.
"NO!!!"  She screams, falls to the floor, throws the phone and cries in the fetal position. I go over and pick up the phone.

My kid is pretty smart. She knows her numbers, the entire alphabet, and forms fragmented sentences.  But this.  This is the one thing she hasn't figured out.  That she has developed fear from me insinuating a punishment.  A punishment she has never experienced.  Does she trust me so completely that she is certain I'll follow through?  In demonstrating behavior for the past 22 months of action and result, why is this the only situation she doesn't fully grasp?

Growing up my mother would use her "mom voice" when I was in trouble and by asking me a second time I was always falling into step.  It was like a switch went off in my head with the thought of "you'd better do what she is asking."  But now I know the secret.  That she likely never had a clue of what would happen at the end of three.  And like me, was thankful the anticipation worked just as well at getting her way.

Friday, June 15, 2012

She Loves Me...She Loves Me Not

When I was pregnant I was certain my daughter was a boy. I knew nothing of little boys having no siblings or young family members growing up. But for some reason I thought it was the safer gender. The sonogram tech happily pronounced I was to have a girl and my husband's hurt swelled. I laid there covered in clear jelly, panicking at the thought of me dropping her off a block away from the mall while she pleaded through gritted teeth not to embarrass her further with a kiss goodbye. The image dissipated as she slammed the car door in my face.

Girls are mean and hurtful. Its somehow in our nature. I knew upon her birth that at some point I would be crushed by this little princess. Some off hand comment, a result of raging hormones or an irrational reaction to me asking her to do the laundry would cripple me. However, I figured by the onset of her adolescence I'd have a thicker skin, the ability to put her in her place with a quick retort and maintain my reign as mother hen.

But here we are, 22 months in and I have been rendered sad and stunned, fighting back tears as I get on the train after being slapped in the face and kicked at the request for a goodbye kiss. A lump swells in my throat as I watch the car pull away. The same lump that works its way up during the night when my daughter only wants Daddy and pushes me away in the dark. In these moments I stay still, absorbing the hate. Scanning her face for any familiar sign of the cute, loving child that I know. All I see is a goldfish flinging monster who clearly doesn't want to have anything to do with her mother.

My husband tries to console me, reminding me that she is not even two and likely just going through a phase.  My friend who has survived this phase tells me its indeed just a phase. I know she is just a toddler who now wants her way and this behavior is temporary. However, when I'm offering hugs and instead have to dodge an angry flying camel figure while driving, my heart can't help but deflate.

Am I a victim of bad Karma? Is she mad I'm out of the house working all day? Is this because Daddy gave her pizza for breakfast? I'm at a loss and keep feeling that with everyday she grows, another part of what keeps me one up on the score card gets subtracted due to her lack of interest.

Last night she continued her streak of rejecting nighttime routine. The one time of day I know I have her all to myself when we read stories, learn letters, and end with mother daughter snuggles. It has been replaced with screaming, kicking, variations of "No!" and demands to sit on the couch with her father, leaving me and Mickey on the glider wondering where we went wrong. After two hours of this my husband escapes to bed and I wrestle her defiant body next to me in the chair.

I shut off the TV and she whines, "No!  No snuggles!"
My eyes are closed and my voice a whisper. "Just stop saying no,"  I plead, hoping she can see how tiring it is to fight.

She finally closes her eyes as if she doesn't have anything better to do.  She looks like my baby, still and angelic as she falls asleep.   "I love you," I say, and realize the power I really have as I kiss her nose.  That no matter how mad she can ever get at me I will always shower her with my overbearing love.  Because I'm her mother and its well known that the weight of parental guilt can easily bring someone to her knees.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

What's Left Behind

My husband and I look around his parents' house while my sister-in-law gathers the final papers.  Its weeks until the closing date which also marks about eight years since his parents both passed away from cancer.  The house is starting to look empty and hollow.  It reminds me of when I was a kid and we moved from an apartment to a house. Across time the feeling hasn't changed.  A chapter of life is ending. 

My sister-in-law looks through the china closet and divides family treasures while she and my husband reminisce.  I scan the shelves.  Aside from some really cool Tiki themed mugs I can't find anything of significance.  I get an overwhelming sense of urgency to find something among the cups and figurines.  Something that can help me retell a story about my daughter's grandparents.  People she will never know whose lives will only be painted by photos and objects. 

My husband says not to worry.  That between him and his siblings we will have plenty of ways to create an image of who they were.  But as I walk around the rooms, I feel something I hadn't felt during their sickness and death.  Loss. 

Maybe its because back then I was trying to be the support system for my husband as we were newly dating when his parents were diagnosed.  Over the next few years the process of watching them get sicker, the emotional ups and downs and in the end, making funeral arrangements, prevented me from feeling connected to them.  A connection I'm now looking to have with something that represents them as the bare walls remind me that time is running out.  Something to have in our home that will wash away the memories I have of them being sick.  But the reality is I only knew them at the end of their lives.  And its my lack of happy, fun memories of these two people that make me saddest of all.  That as a parent, whose responsibility it is to teach a child,  I don't have anything to pass along.

I ask my husband  if there is anything we can take for our daughter.  Anything that was important to his mother or father that is still left.  He looks through his parents' bedroom and comes back with his mother's Cabbage Patch Kid still in the dusty, weathered box.  He remembers the doll from his childhood.  Although I have never seen it before I decide it will do.

On the ride home I think of my daughter and feel like I've failed her.  That I didn't take the time to really think about what to hold on to while the family was disassembling the house.  That no matter how many times I looked around waiting for some kind of spiritual enlightenment , I didn't to find anything tangible to preserve memories of people I didn't really know.  I get a sinking feeling in my chest, realizing their blood runs through the veins of my child, connecting us in ways I could have never imagined when they passed.  Before I knew my husband was the man I was going to spend the rest of my life with and that this would be my family.

Days later my daughter picks up a crayon with her left hand. She begins to draw with ease. Wide open arcs and small tight circles.  She favors this hand at meals as well, quickly scooping up peas and noodles.  My mother-in-law was a lefty, the only one in the family.  Her penmanship so neat as it noted every birthday of every person she knew on the calendar in the kitchen.  I look at my daughter's drawing and consider that maybe more important things have indeed been left behind.

This week's post is in memory of two very special people whom my family and I remember every year as we raise funds for The American Cancer Society Relay for Life, hosted this month on June 23rd.  Please visit my fundraising page and donate in memory of someone you lost or in honor of someone who is still fighting.  Together we can find a cure and be sure our children can make their own memories of the ones they love.