9:30 at the end of a parenting weekend. I have two kinds of weekends, one of utter freedom and slight loneliness, and one of love and anguish. Guess which is which…
I don’t want to write about how hard motherhood has been for me. I feel it makes me an “unnatural woman.” But I promised to tell the truth and do a little every day, and so I am.
Today I tried something new. When I got the second-day exhaustion that almost always happens on Sunday shortly after noon, I told Forest that I needed a timeout. Twenty minutes to not be interrupted and recalibrate. I did not say “recalibrate.” Isn’t that a gun metaphor?
Five minutes into that he came in the kitchen where I was in my timeout while making his lunch to ask me to take apart two stuck legos. He did this with urgency, and panic. It’s scary for him when I say I’m unavailable, but I feel like I will lose my fucking mind if I don’t get a break sometimes. I remember Charlotte locking herself in the pantry and crying while her daughter pounded on the door in Sex and the City.
Today I only locked myself in the pantry verbally. Forest was begging, “Just these ones, just these one legos!!” He was working himself into a frenzy. But I’ve seen him do this in the classroom too. His dad and I are meeting with his teacher tomorrow to talk about it. He needs the attention right now or he panics. Only child? My parents think it is because he hasn’t had enough discipline, like the parents of every mom-friend I have. This might be true! Their generation had Dr. Spock discipline and in reaction, ours had none. Maybe. That’s the thing about parenthood. From the outside, it looks like you can tell.
I sat Forest down and said, “I am feeling anxious, and I bet you are too.”
“Yeah,” he said.
“You know how sometimes we get to this point, and the next thing is I get cranky and—“
“And then you give me timeouts for no reason?!”
“I’m talking now.” I look at him.
“Okay,” he says.
“The thing is, sometimes I just need a break, and it’s not because you are doing anything wrong,” I say. “It’s because I’m an introvert,” I say.
“What’s that?” he says.
“It means I get calm by having some quiet uninterrupted time,” I say.
“Well, I get calm by having you fix my legos,” he says with finality.
“Let’s take some breaths together,” I say, and we do. And then I tell him that I need a twenty minute timeout to get calm, and then he’ll have my attention again.
“After you pull apart these one legos,” he says, “I’ll build my dragon to get calm.” Then he gets a faraway look on his face, like he sometimes does he says.
“And also, sometimes I get calm by playing music in my room, with the door to the outside open, so that the music can go out into the open air, and the open air can come in.”
“Wonderful,” I say. “Can you do that while I make your lunch?”
“Yep,” he says. And he does.