I wanted to be one of those serene mamas. The calm, smiling ones who take everything in stride. The ones who stay peaceful as their kid throws fits in public, stabs lamps with a steak knife in a restaurant booth, crawls under the church pews, trashes the house, screams when they’re told to clean up their mess, laughs at discipline, and most of all, doesn’t nap.
Wait, maybe that’s their secret– their kids actually do nap. Or go to boarding school.
I like the sound of that last one.
Despite the lack of boarding school, naps, and naps at boarding school, I decided to defy the Maiden and become one of those sweet-tempered mothers. I would take deep breaths when the Maiden acted vilely. I would calmly, without ever raising my voice, explain to her why she needed to clean up her mess/go to bed/get dressed/for the 37th time, stop asking for X because she isn’t getting it, ever.
I truly did go in with good intentions.
My resolve was put to the test the other day, when she interrupted me during my yoga DVD. Now, I agree, it was pretty stupid to attempt yoga with an overtired kid running around. However, in my defense, I’d started the DVD when said child was supposed to be napping, and she unfortunately and unexpectedly (well, not really unexpectedly because this is the Maiden we’re talking about) popped out and promised to be good and quiet.
I was feeling all calm and happy and peaceful, so I let her come out after I’d elicited the promise to be good and quiet and in a different room.
Sometimes, my naivety shocks me. Less shocking was the fact that she broke all three promises in the next thirty seconds.
So I tried to speak gently and rationally to her, asking her respectfully to give Mommy a little bit of quiet space so I could focus. I’m always laboring under the delusion that she’ll actually listen to me. Hope springs eternal, but where the Maiden’s acquiescence is concerned, it should have dried up the minute she turned one.
Of course, she ignored me. In fact, she not only surrounded me with noise and mess, she decided to use my extended arm and leg as a clothesline on which to hang rubber stretching bands and dress-up clothes, while wrapping herself around my supporting limbs.
I tried to stay calm. After all, I was in the middle of a yoga session. But besides the fact that she’s three and as far as she’s concerned, her mother’s admonishments are the wahmp wahmp wahmp of the adults on Charlie Brown, her ears are plugged up with allergies and she can’t always hear properly. (I know these are real and not feigned hearing issues, because she passed the ice cream test– you know, the one you use when your dear husband insists that he couldn’t possibly have heard you ask him to take out the trash because his back was to you, and you decide to prove a point by whispering “Let’s have ice cream” sotto voce and he hears you from the furthest corner of the garage, with the door closed and the washing machine running).
Back to the yoga mat. Because the Maiden couldn’t/wouldn’t couldn’t hear me, I had to raise my voice. But gently. Have you ever tried bellowing in a nice voice? Good luck. Niceness makes you want to talk in moderate tones. Frustration makes you shout. However, it works backwards, too. Talking loudly, no matter how wonderful your intentions, only succeeds in raising your ire (and your blood pressure). The more loudly I talked, the more irritated and unserene I became, which amplified my frustration and my volume, and, for some reason, the Maiden’s desire to create huge messes just to see how long it would take this human clothesline to blow her stack.
We ended the yoga session with the institution of martial law and a forced march to clean up the living room, bedroom, and playroom.
And I began investigating boarding schools.