Sometimes when I’m driving around I’ll write parts of posts in my head. Or I’ll have conversations with various people, either as a rehearsal or as a “if only I’d said it THIS way” rewind kind of thing. Sometimes I have conversations with myself. Sometimes the conversations I think I’m having in my head with other people are, really, just more conversations with myself. Because, after all, the words coming from the “other” people in my head are really just me with a different voice.
Sometimes I wish they’d all – me included – shut up.
So there’s that.
This morning, after I dropped the kids off at school and was driving home, I was describing, to some anonymous listener (also me) my life. Or how I see my life. Or, rather, how I see me IN my life. Only I don’t exactly see me in it. Sometimes I worry that I’m not actually living my life…I’m more watching it take place. I’m hovering around it, trying to make it go the way I want it to.
And the image that came to mind following that thought-bite was that sometimes/a lot of times I feel like I’ve built this sand castle (my life) and I’m spending all my time scurrying around it, patting the walls back into shape as the ocean, the tide (death?) creeps closer and closer. And I realize, as I scoop up wet sand and reinforce crumbling walls, that if only I’d been smarter when I built the castle, I might have chosen a spot on firmer ground.
Away from the creeping, incoming tide and the curling, frothy waves.
So there’s that, too.
Earlier this morning – before the sandcastle images…
Bill had just left for work, and I came back into the house after moving the truck out of the driveway so he could back the car out…the kids were fighting. Bickering. Arguing. He said/she said. He did/she did. Yeah well I did that because…
You know. That kind of sibling stuff.
Nothing new. Nothing different. The same older sibling/younger sibling “we’re going to drive each other crazy and drive mom crazy too as a bonus!”
And I’d had it. I’d had enough.
Some days I can redirect them. Just cut through the squabbles and distract them with cereal choices for breakfast. Some days I am creative and calm and on top of my “mom” game.
Other days, I don’t even know how to play the mom game, let alone be on top of it.
Of course, it didn’t help that I’d let my antidepressant run out without refilling it.
I should know better. Family history, genetics, personal experience…I should know better.
And I do. But I kept forgetting to call it in. And forgetting. And forgetting.
And so…my forgetfulness caught up with me and dragged me down and knocked down my defenses and made me edgy and sad and raw and made my voices in my head all critical and mean.
I got the prescription refilled yesterday, and got right back on that wagon…but it takes time to get back to where the edge is softened…where the raw is smoothed over and doesn’t sting when you get lemon juice in it.
I’m still kind of rough and stinging at the moment.
I’d had enough. I’d HAD IT.
So, logically, I proceeded to LOSE IT.
And I hollered. I told my children to get in here and just STOP the fighting and the arguing and the bugging your older brother and saying mean things to your younger sister. I told her that if he doesn’t want to play with her, HE DOESN’T HAVE TO. And I told him that when she wants to play with him, it’s because SHE ADORES YOU.
And then I channeled my mother, sort of. What I said was something like "WE ARE A FAMILY! WE ARE ALL WE HAVE IN THIS LITTLE FAMILY! AND SOME DAY WHEN DADDY AND I ARE GONE, YOU TWO WILL JUST HAVE EACH OTHER AND I WANT YOU TO UNDERSTAND HOW IMPORTANT THAT IS!”
And as I was saying that (okay, shouting), my voice started breaking at the thought of it, and I started crying, and then Alex’s face crumpled, and Julia sort of patted me on the back and tried to hug me and I hoarsely said “don’t hug me, hug your brother!” as Alex went into the living room and I went into the dining room and I put my face in my hands and just cried out all the tears that seem to have been accumulating in the well for oh…months, I think. If I’d been thinking ahead, I’d have caught them in a bowl and watered the plants with them.
I heard whispering in the other room. Small, quiet, sweet little voices….and then my beautiful, sweet, everything-to-me children walked quietly, side by side, into the dining room.
And Alex said “Mom, we hugged.”
And I got up and hugged them, and laughed a bit and wiped Alex’s tears away and my own, and we were okay. The storm had passed. The winds were gentle.
We moved into the living room, and we talked.
I told them I know they’re not always going to get along, and that’s perfectly okay. It’s normal for siblings to not always get along.
What I didn’t want was the meanness that sometimes flares up. The hitting. (Daddy and I don’t hit each other, or the two of you, do we? No.) The saying mean things. (Daddy and I don’t say mean things to you, do we? No.)
And I told them about being the older sister and when my younger sister wanted to play with me, sometimes, when I was reading, I’d tell her “I just have to finish this chapter and I’ll be right out.” And she’d go do something to pass the time, and I’d lie there on my bed and finish the chapter and greedily dig into the next one. And it wasn’t nice of me. But now, my sister is my best friend.
I told them how precious that is, that bond between siblings. Or, at least, how precious it CAN be. I know now all siblings are close, or some are closer than others, or some people are only children, or there’s been a falling out…so many permutations.
But for me…my sister is my sanity. She understands. We shared a bedroom. We share a childhood. We share parents and memories. And we share those same parents and bits and pieces of our lives now. We can speak in shorthand…in code…even in silence. We have single words that can sweep us back to a time, an event, a relative.
We get each other.
And I reminded my kids that even thought sometimes they didn’t get along, a LOT of the time they DO get along. And even though they bother the heck out of each other, deep down, I know they love each other. A lot.
And then I fixed them breakfast and we moved on with the day.
I mentioned, several paragraphs ago, that I’d channeled my mother. That’s not entirely accurate…I think you can only officially channel dead people, and she’s not dead, she’s just half an hour away.
But you know how sometimes things will come out of your mouth when you’re saying (or yelling) something to your kid, and you realize it’s something your mother said to you years ago…and then you stop yelling because you’re totally horrified that IT’S REALLY HAPPENED! I’VE BECOME MY MOTHER!
Well, my mother’s version of restoring peace (or getting us to shut up) was a bit different. My mom is an only child, so she never grew up with the annoyance or frustration of a sibling. And she will sometimes sigh and lament that fact.
But really, it’s like wishing you lived during the time of Little House on the Prairie, because it just looks so idyllic…Ma and Pa are always happy and loving, and even though you only have two dresses (one for everyday and one for Sundays) and probably only two pair of underwear, and even though lots of townspeople (only they’re really total strangers, since they’ve only appeared that one time) have died from The Plague, and you have to SHARE that single outhouse with your whole family, and quilted toilet paper hadn’t been invented yet, you are pretty much always happy, because all your teeth are white and cavity-free and because That’s What Life Was Really Like Living On The Prairie Way Back Then.
Yes. You heard me.
Having a sibling is not all white teeth and fiddles. There are squabbles and fights and personality clashes…and looking back, my sister and I didn’t really fight all that much. But still…we were not always hugging, either. In fact, we don’t do a whole lot of hugging now. If I hugged her, she’d slap me and ask what my problem was. That’s how I know she loves me.
So……….since my mom didn’t have to share a bedroom with a sister or toys or shelf space or any of that, she was (in my humble opinion) ill-equipped to handle our occasional clashes.
And her way of getting us to get along was to yell (in frustration, I’m sure) “Don’t you dare grow up to be like your Grandfather and your Aunt Anna! If you do, I’ll come back and haunt you!”
Grandpa and Aunt Anna (on my father’s side) had some sort of argument at some point before my sister and I were born, and it resulted in them not speaking to each other for years and years. Eventually they both died – without ever speaking again.
So, in order to avoid that happening with us (not that it necessarily WOULD have, but you never know), my mother threatened us with her future ghostly self.
Eventually my sister and I just learned to shut up about our squabbles. If we were arguing about something, the door to our room would suddenly burst open, and a parent would demand to know what we were fighting about.
“Nothing,” we would chorus. We would rather bury the hatchet immediately than have to be Talked To or have to hear the Haunting Threat one more time.
And that would be the end of it.
I want them to get so tired of me saying the same annoying parent things that they just stop arguing and get along, JUST to get me to go away.
That’s what I want for my children.
And now I have to go to the grocery store.
People with full bellies argue less.
Okay, maybe not.
But that’s what I’m going with.
Thanks for listening.
I think I’m feeling better now.