Friday, September 19, 2008

Tall Oak Trees

Now that Abby is in Kindergarten, she is tired. As a result, we are all adjusting to her widened, slightly more volatile range of emotion. She now attends school five days a week, from 7:50 am to 2:45 pm. She is exhausted. And hungry.

She vacillates between:

“I’m a big Kindergartener! Mommy, I learned all these things today!”


“Mooooooommmmmmmmmmmmmmyyyyyyyyyyyyyyy,” pout, pout, “what did you bring for a snack?”

As life’s rhythm usually dictates, my emotional swing that started before she started school has returned to center and now she’s swinging left, back, right and diagonally. I count my lucky stars that we’re not swinging wildly at the same time.

At any given moment, Abby's normally calm temperament will be usurped by a cascade of raw anger and tears. The bottom lip visits. The crocodile tears travel. The high pitched cry drowns. I have some dear, candid friends and they’ve confirmed the same types of behavior from their Kindergarteners (whew).

Even with this reassurance, tonight, I lost my calm footing and raised my voice (really, really raised my voice) while bathing the children, after ensuing an entire afternoon of attempting to stay calm during Kate’s post-school exhaustion. A brief recap:

“Mommy”, chokes out Abby through tears and whine, “why did Henry get to get into the tub first tonight and why did I have to wait?”

I answered calmly.

“Mommy, why does Henry get to sit in front of the running water?” sob, sob sobs Abby.

I deliver another measured answer.

“Mommy”, she cries as she’s now sitting in front of the running bath water because I moved her brother, and tears are still traveling down her face, “why was Henry's turn longer in front of the running water?”

“NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!” (from Henry who is revolting against his demoted position in the back of the bath tub).

“Henry, sit down.” I say.

At this point, after two hours of visits from Whine and Pout, I’m vigorously washing the children, just hoping to get them clean, out of the tub and into the peaceful nod of bedtime stories.

“Henry, sit down.” I say again.

“Moooooooommmmmmmmmyyyyyyyyyyyy!!!” cries Abby….

STOP IT!” I yell, “YOU, be quiet. YOU, be quiet. I’ve had enough from both of you!” (From my repertoire of brilliant, positive parenting methods I’ve picked up.) Now, both children are (rightfully) crying and mayhem ensues. Bedtime proceeds. After the squalls settle, Abby and I chat about the evening and how to make tomorrow a better day. We read, hug and love and she goes to sleep.

After this bath time debacle, I was still keyed and raw. I sat outside, rethinking my stellar parenting skills and figuring out how I could do it better tomorrow. It was a cool, dry fall evening (hooray!!). I gazed at the tall, pin oak trees that enshroud our backyard. Tall, elegant, graceful. Backlit by an aubergine sky. Strong. Reaching so high with their branches and so deep with their roots. Peaceful. Wise. Nurturing. Even after being thrown around by hurricane Ike. Just watching them calms me. In future emotional storms, I will remember the tall pin oaks and try to emulate their graceful strength. Strong roots, peaceful reserves. I will remember that I am setting a constant example for my children and try not to loose patience. But if (or when) I do, I will also remember that a big enough storm can knock down even the strongest, most resilient tree. I’ve learned from the oak trees and hopefully they can learn from me, too. We all get knocked down but then we pick ourselves up, brush off the pine straw and stand tall, simultaneously stretching back up to the sky and lovingly down to our children. No matter how strong the hurricane winds may blow.

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