Wednesday, August 19, 2009
Good Advice for Those in the Trenches of Parenthood
"Mommy, BUT I'm hungry!" yelps big brother.
"My tummy is getting sooo angry," complains the princess.
"AAAAAH. Get baba momma!" shouts baby Bigfoot, thrusting the components of a sippy cup in my face.
"No," I say, with practiced calmness. "Mommy eats first, then I will make you all lunch."
They gasp in succession of height.
"That's right. Now go in the den and play until I call you." I continue.
Out they march to strategize.
Big brother, the diplomat, re-enters first, alone.
"Mommy. I am very much in need of a peanut butter sandwich. Here. Sign this contract that you will begin making our sandwiches immediately." A white sheet of paper slides across the table. There is a long line with an X crudely drawn at the bottom of the page. Big brother happens to also have a pen handy.
"No deals. No lunch until I'm done eating." I persist, handing him back the paper and pen.
Big Brother sighs, smacking his head with one hand in what appears to be over-exaggerated frustration. Then he storms out of the kitchen to get reinforcements.
For a minute things are silent. The six year old diplomat is reporting back to the other ducklings that negotiations with mommy have broken down. Then I hear it: the stomping of feet.
Big Brother returns with his army of two siblings. They stop in front of me, three sets of hands on hips.
"We're hungry!" Shouts the princess.
"AHHH!" mimicks baby Bigfoot.
"I don't care. You have to wait five more minutes please." I say, heartlessly, not looking up from my book.
So right there, in the middle of a battle, I finish eating my pulled pork sandwich and drinking my lemonade as bodies fly onto the floor and flail at my feet. Lunch breaks were never so interesting.
In her book Life is a Verb, Patti Digh suggests that sometimes in taking care of others we ignore our own needs. Digh writes:
"We don't put ourselves first for fear of being called selfish. Not to our face, of course, but in those quiet moments when people make infallible pronouncements about others, the kind that allow for no ambiguity: He's selfish, she's self-centered, interpretive words to measure someone else's outside from our own inside, tinged perhaps with our own longing, our own set of insecurities or inadequacies, knowledge of our own faults and fears." (119)
The author mentions a sentence that she heard spoken on an air plane by a flight attendant. "In case of emergency or a loss of cabin pressure, put your own oxygen mask on first, then help others around you."
This idea becomes the title of her essay, Put Your Own Mask on First, in which Digh talks about how taking care of yourself is not selfish.
I don't feel bad about feeding myself first at meals. It prevents me from picking at food while I make other people's meals. It keeps my mood even when chaos is breaking out around me. With my own mask on first I can function. The last time I was on a plane and heard that safety speech from the flight attendant, it caused me to smile. Who would have guessed that the instructions: Put your own mask on first would also help me survive life on the ground?
Dear Internet Traveler,
Welcome to my writer's blog, started about six years ago for fun. Over time, the writing I have posted has ranged from personal reflection, to Long Island history research, to tall tales for my own amusement, to feature articles for local newspapers. As you can see from topics listed here, I travel in many mental directions in regard to interests. Click on the tabs and labels to explore my strange mind which senses that you may be having a criss-cross day. If so, perhaps this blog will distract you. However, please note that if you tell me my blog is beautiful just to get me to advertise rhinoplasty surgery and cheap drugs from Canada in your comment, I will ask the gods to give you a tail that cannot be concealed.