Sunday, January 31, 2010

Chrystal Soup, or Staying in the Fog

I am writing through a wall of dullness in and around the head region...ugh. It is nothing more than a head cold, though, for which I am so thankful, and I have come to decide that it has actually had a positive effect on my parenting...I'll see if I can explain. Yesterday was trying. Eliza has been sick with her cold for a week, and we have not been our usual out-and-about selves, so begin with that. We did get out yesterday, making our market route in the 20-degree weather (7 vendors braving the weather outside, the other 30 or so have moved into the mall until March), the girls stopping for bread samples and bbq samples and to chat with the regulars. On to the mall. I have such mixed feelings about the market in the mall - I mean, Mall does not say Farmer's Market to me - but it is true that it is far more comfortable for the vendors to be inside than out these cold months, so I brave not the weather so much as the muzak to do our weekly shopping. This week we stocked up on beeswax candles, in hopes that we are up to decorating them on Imbolc. But now I'm rambling.

The day started well enough, but it just went downhill. I did not have even my usual quota of patience, lost what I had left when Ani demanded (loudly. in fact, screaming. repeatedly.) that I accompany her to the bathroom, interrupting my head-splitting headache session on the couch, and I was not connecting at all with Eliza, who seemed just hell-bent on having it out with her sister or me, one way or another. It is all the while creeping towards dinner time. While some other mother, much saner than I, would have popped in a movie and let the afternoon take care of itself, it has been my experience that this pushes Eliza further into isolation, with disastrous results. If we, as a team, are having a rough day, a movie rarely if ever makes it go better. Once it is over, the squabbles not only pick up where left off, they have gathered strength. Believe me, I had dreamt of such an afternoon, but I decided to ask Eliza to help me make dinner instead. Well...she had some choice words about my plans for dinner and decided to make something else herself. For her. I said, um, we don't make two dinners in this house, so...I guess you're making dinner for everyone, right? We talked about how a person might start a soup (she came up with onions! garlic! right on...) and went from there. She came up with what she called "Chrystal Soup" because "it tastes like chrystals." All right! Some oregano, basil, rosemary and six potatoes later, we had soup. During the making I took her lead, making suggestions here and there, but trying to stay out of it. The dense fog I was in slowed my reaction time, which was good because though I had this quick little daydream in my head of calling it Peace Soup because - look at how we took anger and discord and turned it into a tasty soup! - the frustrations had not ended for her. Somehow though I was able to not get short with her, not show my own frustration, not give up. Now, as I realized how feeling sick was actually working to my advantage, giving me a buffer of sorts from my usually quick anger and too many words, I also noticed that it was not having the effect I might have thought on my daughter. Instead of calming down and letting go of her stress, things seemed to amplify before they got better. My interpretation was that she felt me giving her room and she filled it. She had a lot of crap from the day, the week, to let go of and she did.

I wanted to remember this hour of soup-making for the reminder it gave me of how it feels to not feel so personally involved in the rage happening in the other person. I knew I was giving everything I could in the moment to Eliza and she was feeling the way she needed to feel, and I was able to stay in my fog and not yell, lecture, or even comment. I don't think I'll go out and write a book called "Better Parenting: Stay in the Fog" or anything, but it is really difficult for me to remain steady and calm for my kids, and it is one of the strengths I want to develop, so I want to remember how this feels: slowed reaction time, conserved energy , listening or letting it all wash over me instead of grabbing every offending look or steel-sharp word and flinging it back...simple presence...all this, without the excess of mucous.

1 comment:

Kerry said...

Be well, dear ones. And thank god for the fog.