We are in the local supermarket and I have a large grocery list. Hours ago, in a burst of inspiration, I took out our kids cookbooks and chose about 10 recipes to tackle together this week. We need projects. Big time. Hannah is sitting in the back of the cart. I have filled the little shopping cart seat area with fruits and vegetables and I've got eight more aisles to go. My time is running out. There is limited space in the cart and Hannah's expiration time is uncertain.
"Hey, Mom, let's get Mango Tango!" Rachel says, staring over at the Odwalla juice display.
"No. It's too expensive." (We sometimes buy it at Costco, where it is about half the price.)
She thinks for about four seconds and then asks enthusiastically, "But, what if it was on sale?"
I feel myself getting irritated. Here we go again. Rachel's mind-numbing reasoning. Her ace negotiation skills.
"We're sticking to the list," I say firmly, not even glancing at the Odwalla stand. The girl had a valid point. I could have checked if it was on sale, but damnit, I just wanted her to take no for an answer. Just once.
This time the conversation ended there. No more questions. We moved on. On other days, it's an exhausting game of mental gymnastics. The girl is smarter than me. I'm more powerful and ultimately win, but if our sport had a panel of judges, I doubt I'd be so lucky.
It always baffles me a little when a parent describes a child as easy. Maybe I just haven't had an easy child yet, but my girls are challenging.....easy in some ways, hard in others. Very different from each other, but not opposites. And in no way easy. Rachel was never one to throw public tantrums, but could throw a good one at home. She slept through the night eventually, but not early on, and not when she was sick or teething. She was work, and each age has had different challenges. And rewards.
I'm always asking her to stop complaining-sometimes her whining seems endless--but at the same time, the girl is an incredibly positive spirit. She was so excited last week when I unscrewed the top of an old IKEA baby dresser and turned it into a small bookshelf for Hannah. She placed the books beautifully on the shelves and was so excited she said, with no sarcasm, "This is the most exciting time I've ever had with you two!" (Stop laughing. We DO get out.)
There are other frustrating paradoxes. The girl is a fantastic older sister. I mean, it's a beautiful thing. But at the same time, the buttons she can push. Oy. She is constantly telling Hannah she is wrong about something and I am constantly telling her to not correct Hannah--to just let her say what she wants to say. Perhaps it is the younger sister in me. I don't know. But I do know how many conversations end in a battle between older and younger sister of "yes", "no," "yes," "NO!" "Waaaaaaaaaaaaaaah." Too many.
My point is, this girl is good. She is fantastic, really. But I am constantly on her case. Sometimes I need to be. And sometimes I need to back off. It's hard to get it exactly right.
The other day we couldn't find her swimsuit. I had looked for over a half hour and was irritated at her for not helping me look. Okay, she gave a feeble attempt for five feet or so and then collapsed on the floor in a heap. So I went on strike. I told her if she could find her swimsuit we would go and if not we wouldn't. Then I went downstairs and left her in her room to think it over. I wasn't convinced that this was fair of me. I listened to her cry, but I was too tired to get up and keep looking. She stopped crying. She shouted down to me a suggestion about wearing one of Hannah's swimsuits. I hollered back up without listening very carefully that, no, it wasn't appropriate. She couldn't wear a swimsuit that was too small. She protested. I got irritated. She cried. And when she came downstairs and we talked a bit more I understood what she was suggesting. She wanted to wear a bikini top under Hannah's one-piece swimsuit. Hannah's suit was only slightly too small. It was brilliant suggestion, really. The top didn't match the one-piece, but together they looked fine really. We went swimming.
One afternoon last week--perhaps it was the same day we went swimming, I'm not sure--Rachel was having trouble listening as I was putting Hannah down to nap. We butted heads. And then after a while I went into her room and suggested she come lie down in my bed with me, because I was tired and so was she. She whined a little, because she was over-tired, but then she joined me.
She lay in my arms as I drifted in and out of sleep. I had flashbacks to when she was two and I had to lay down on the edge of the bed with her to keep her from climbing out of bed. I remembered how I used to have to turn my back to her so she wouldn't get distracted and try to get me to talk or laugh. While my back was turned, I would hear her talking to herself in a two-year old babbling sort of way until she finally fell asleep. Now here she was, such a grown-up, really. And on this afternoon last week, after we had shut our eyes long enough to feel rejuvenated, we looked into each other's eyes and kissed and swooned at each other like lovers. We whispered into each other's ears how nice it was to have this time alone to cuddle.
And when we got out of bed it was like we were refreshed and reconnected again. Rachel later told me how much she enjoyed that time together. I could see it in her eyes. It was like her spirit was revived.
Do you ever pay attention to how much time you spend each day making eye contact with people? I'm asking because I forget to, and when I do it makes such a difference. I read somewhere that all a dog needs is five minutes a day of intense attention with an owner. That if you lay down on the floor with them and give them five minutes of complete attention, they'll get the connection they need. I know there are a lot of studies out there talking about how important this kind of intimancy--this connecting-- is in a romantic relationship. And with yoga, I am learning the importance of and joy in re-connecting with my body.*
Some things really are easy in the end.
I said, SOME things.
(I'll actually be back on Tuessday for the Perfect Post Awards and other honorable mentions.)
*Psst....I can do the full wheel now. Hee-hee.