Watch and Learn

I doze in bed, glad that I don’t have to get up just yet, but wondering whether I should get up now and make the most of this ‘extra bonus’ time, or try and drift off to sleep. We all know that successful people are always up before the dawn ‘getting on with life’.   The second option chooses me and I am woken again at 6 by my husband bringing me a cup of tea. He says his heavy and tired, too-much-on-his-shoulders goodbye, and my body automatically sucks up the responsibility for easing his pain. No thoughts, no plans, no words, just mother energy circulating inside me wishing for his relief and sticking expectation pins into my vulnerable psyche.

I sit up in the dark, enjoying the possibilities of the early morning quiet, but it doesn’t last long. Pad pad pad, my youngest son comes in rubbing his eyes and believing that he cannot possibly get back to sleep. He’s tried so many times in the minute since Dad woke him up going down the creaky stairs.

6.30 is the earliest getting up time for the kids in our house, but I shy away from insisting that he go back into his bed. Strike number one for integrity and boundary keeping. I decide that it’s ok, he can lie in Chris’ side of the bed and relax til 6.30. Bollocks does he! Of course he doesn’t; he fidgets and chats and checks the clock every minute. Soon I begin to sound like a boring, mean old witch repeating my ‘no’ phrases. ‘No I’m not playing a game, this is my time to wake up on my own.’ I do need my space in the mornings. ‘If I don’t write my diary in the mornings I’ll be a grumpy mum’ ‘No I can’t play the drawing on the back game now, the rule is 6.30. Just relax.’ I am soft and kind, I am gentle and playful, I am firm and calm, I am irritated and frustrated. I am mean mum apparently. Every time I go against his wishes he calls me mean. He is angry and rude. Despite staying calm I start to feel battered and bruised and the day has hardly started.  My energy is being sucked dry by Zach’s never-ending demands.

At 6.30, I’ve managed two pages of my diary and I relent to playing one round of ‘drawing pictures on our backs’ game.

He doesn’t ask me to play, or say please, or say it as a suggestion. It’s a demand, an expectation. I feel stupid for feeling so bullied by an 8 year old.  I ask him to rephrase it: ‘please could we play the touching back game.’

Zach: One round means two gos each.

Me: One round means one go each.

I draw a world map on his back and he struggles to guess it. I know – it was difficult and I don’t have much artistic talent, but he asked for a hard one. ‘It’s something you love‘, I say. ‘Chocolate, rugby, ice-cream, football?‘ he replies.

My turn: he draws a flag of india – and I guess it because he’s been studying Hinduism at school, and he loves flags.

He demands another round each. I can’t actually remember his exact words. Whatever I write down here doesn’t convey his absolute conviction that his needs are paramount and somehow I begin to feel that I am indeed being mean by not agreeing.

We play one more go each, then he disappears downstairs to watch TV after making absolutely sure I’m not going to change my mind and play some more.

I sit and meditate, but my mind is all over the place. I focus on Box breathing (in, pause, out, pause) and it’s easier. I manage 8 minutes. It’s better than the big fat zero I’m been achieving most of this year, so I tick it off in my new diary.

Its 6.56. I normally wake the other two at 7 and go downstairs to prepare breakfast, packed lunch etc. I could go down now and be ahead of myself. Especially because I should have eaten something before now as I recently learnt that it’s best to eat within 30-40 minutes of getting up. Or is that waking up? I don’t know – might need to check that. Don’t feel like eating yet though.  Chatter, chatter goes my mind, trying to do the right thing. Thinking that there is actually a right choice to make. Warning: Battery levels getting lower.

Instead of getting up, I pick up my ipad because I have a bugging suspicion which has been on my mind for a couple of days that I mentioned a few people in a Facebook post and missed someone out. That I’ve upset someone is unsettling me, so I go in and check. But of course I get distracted by friend requests and posts, and commenting on posts. Then I check, and it’s all ok. This person isn’t part of the closed group that I posted in. Phew. But it’s now 7.07 and I’m late.  I meet my daughter in the hallway and we have a morning hug. She seems quiet but fine. I disappear downstairs and focus on getting some food into me. I prepeared some veg last night to have in my scrabbled egg, and I smile smugly as I cook my breakfast. How lovely it feels to be in control and living with my integrity. Maybe I can rescue the day after all. I make my son’s breakfast and we sit down together to eat. Jasmine comes down, and it all goes wrong.

She has a habit of dumping her school bag on the table and so in my new spirit of setting boundaries for behaviour that drains me, I ask her lightly to put it on the floor instead. Not the right choice.  Oh no! How could I have been so inconsiderate, always preferring her brothers to her? She storms off in a cloud of pain and indignation.

There are more arguments and shouting when I go upstairs.  I don’t know how to hold the space for her, so instead I go cold and shut her out. I may be setting boundaries of behaviour but I’m doing so in a cold and unemotional way because I’m at my emotional limit for the day and it’s not even 8am. If I didn’t shut down I would get angry and emotional. When I have no headspace I can’t seem to find the middle ground.

Harvey gets up and informs me that his Volcano homework project is due in today and he hasn’t finished it. Deep breath.  I help him find some coloured card and glue and leave him to it.

By the time we are in the car, my temper is frayed to say the least. Inside I’m saying: keep calm, keep calm. Be calm, speak kindly. On the drive Jasmine hits Zach for singing, and I shout. ‘It’s ok to be angry Jasmine, but it’s not ok to hurt people’.

Jasmine: Can you stop the car, I want to walk to the bus stop.

Me: No, I’m not going to stop the car.

Can you stop the car, I want to walk to the bus stop.

Can you stop the car, I want to walk to the bus stop.

Can you stop the car, I want to walk to the bus stop.

Inside I’m thinking, I would love to stop and let her walk to the bus stop but it’s me who has to pick up the pieces and I don’t want to. She’ll miss her bus and it’ll be me having to drive her into school. Part of me wants to leave her there and make her walk home and miss a day of school, but luckily I don’t listen to it.

Can you stop the car, I want to walk to the bus stop.

Can you stop the car, I want to walk to the bus stop.

Can you stop the car, I want to walk to the bus stop.

I fight every urge in my body to shout at her, and keep my emotions in. Instead I praise Harvey for finishing his homework.

Harvey: Thanks, I’ve thought about what I could do better next time.

I nod, say great and wait for him to elaborate but he doesn’t.

Me: Maybe you could treat projects like they do in Mythbusters and do a prototype next time?’

Harvey: I can’t really because it was small enough to start with. A prototype is usually smaller. (As usual my suggestion is batted back to me.)

Me: And you don’t have a workshop full of stuff either. But it’s a suggestion, a way of looking at things.

I am forcing my voice to be light-hearted.

We get to the bus stop, and Jasmine gets out determinedly, silently. I say bye to them both

Zach immediately moves into the front of the car.

Zach: Let’s forget about it all – let’s put it behind us.

Me: But the only way we can do that is if we learn from it.

Zach: Just today, let’s just forget about it.

Me: Well (humpf) you’ll have to wait for me to calm down.

Inside my head I’m writing a post for Facebook in a closed forum I”m a member of. I want to tell them all that I just can’t do this dealing with negative energy stuff. I either ignore it, or fight it. I can’t seem to dance with it and change it into something positive.

Zach and I usually have a morning game while we are waiting for the older ones’ school bus to come. We have a 3 CD pack ‘Now that’s what I call Rock Classics’ and we guess which CD and number a particular track is.

I say I’m still calming down, but I’m not. I’m ruminating, and going over stuff in my head. A voice comes up – it’s Lynne, my coach. ‘Change your state, Thea. Remember: don’t do this stuff any more. Change your state.’ I think back to my coaching notes. Dance, music, think differently. Just STOP. But I don’t want to. Part of me wants to be in this hateful, angry, suffering place. There is a pay off somewhere, but I’m not sure what it is.

I suddenly notice that Zach has put on a differenct track. U2 – With or without you.   He knows I like it. I immediately turn to him and stroke his cheek.

Me: Did you put that on because it would make me feel better?

He nods.

Me: Thank you.  You have such a sweet heart don’t you?

He nods shyly.

Me: See, you could use your loving heart when you want people to do things for you because it works so much better than fighting with your angry heart.

He nods again, taking it in.

Then I realise.  Duh!

Me: I could do that too couldn’t I? Come from my loving heart instead of my angry heart when I’m feeling battered and attacked.

He nods – but his capacity for meaningful conversations has been reached.  It’s time to lighten it up.

Me:  Thanks, Hon,  you taught me something. Well done.

We drive to his school doing our music quiz. He’s about to go in and asks where his lunch box is. I’ve forgotten it. He had asked me where it was when we left and I said I’d bring it, but in all the craziness I forgot to pick it up. As we drove home to get it we laugh at how he had been wiser than me twice that morning.  Once about remembering his lunch box, and then about letting things go and talking with your loving heart.  We are still laughing about it when we get back to school.

Me: Any other suggestions or wise words you can offer me, Zach?

Zach: Just watch and learn, Mum. Watch and learn.

 

Written: at home, at the table in my bedroom, overlooking the garden.

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