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Archive for October, 2015

”This was not a good morning.”

”No. Should we start over?”

We’ve actually been doing really well, considering. Considering I’m working 50% for the first time since we moved here. Considering Bjørn travels to Oslo for 2-3 nights a week. Considering the kids wake up every three hours during the nights I get home at 10 p.m. and need to leave again at 6:45 a.m. the next morning. AND considering we added a kitten to the household.

But man, the last couple weeks have been tough.

These weeks we’ve been relay parenting. Bjørn is in town so that I can work my 2-3 shifts a week, and when I’m done he heads to the airport. There are frequent examinations of the calendar. We signed the kids up for activites that I just can’t get them to. Shoot, I can hardly get them to eat breakfast in the morning.

It’s been totally doable, but we’ve toed the line of the tipping point last week.

The running tickerline in my head, the one that sometimes supports but more often judges, says things like, ”what have you done wrong? why don’t they respond when you speak? but how can i tell them to sit still and finish something when all they see is me jumping on and off of my chair? But should I just sit there and not clean up the spilled milk? Am I not modeling good behavior? Is sending him outside when he’s out of control going to make him see the outdoors as a punishment? Is it okay for the big one to watch the small one? At the sake of homework? What part of the equation am I missing? What am I doing wrong? Do we need help or is this normal?”

Everything and nothing is probably what we’re doing wrong.

A woman I work with, who is also not Norwegian, was explaining the other day why it feels harder for us to parent here. We who are not native speakers, who come from different cultures, whose networks are stilted and stunted if existent at all. We feel isolated. Isolated doing the earth’s most common and yet most exhausting job. Despite meeting parents all day long — at barnehage, at school, at practices, at the store — there’s never more than a few minutes to maybe say hello and comment on what a great job the child is doing putting on her shoes. It’s not exactly culturally appropriate to blurt out. ”They are making me crazy. I am going to lose my mind if he runs away from me one more time,” in the coatroom.

Part of it’s me. I’m too quick to speak and too slow to listen. Too quick to pounce on an anecdote and come up with a similar one. I’m working on it.

********

I wrote this, and then was interrupted by the phone. Turns out I’m not as isolated as I felt; my friend called to check in, probably wasn’t expecting the outpouring of tiredness and stress and emotion that she got. But she took it in, smoothed it down, and I was grateful. Next time I’ll do it for her. And we’ll keep on keeping on, reminding each other we’re doing the best we can, and we can’t do more than that.

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So these conversations happened today:

#1 (Me, three boys, and the kitten sitting in a ring on the rug around a bucket of LEGOs)

Me: So, Karel, I hear that you’re starting to sound like me lately. I mean, yelling at Emil to stop doing things. I’m going to try to stop shouting. Because here’s the thing: it never works.

(Thought but not verbalized: UNLESS you have the element of surprise on your side, in which case it DOES work.)

Karel: Yeah… EMIL STOP TAKING MY LEGOS!!!!!

#2: (In the car on the way home from little-kid-gymnastics, with all three kids, during which the middle child was a screaming hyper nightmare blatantly doing the opposite of all I asked, including but not limited too: running away from me while laughing like a hyena and exerting that maddening magnetic pull he has on his younger brother.)

Karel: Mama, I was wondering if you could do something.

Me: What, honey? (just lightly tinged with dread, hopefully unnoticeable)

Karel: Well, I was wondering if you could be a little more like me. Like maybe not being so angry at Emil and scaring him by saying you are going to leave him.

Me (sighing at the sweet injustice of being lectured on parenting by a 7-year-old) I know sweetie. I don’t like to get angry. I don’t want to scare Emil. I would never leave you behind. But you are seven and Emil is five, and you know what the right thing to do is… etc. etc….listen to your parents… keeping you safe… What AM I Supposed To Do?? when Emil runs away? I can’t leave Cai Ruben, because he’s only two. He could run off and I wouldn’t be able to find him…

Karel: Because he’s so small.

Me: Yes. (And because he is a lightning fast fearless maniac). So sometimes I just have to walk away to show you (ahem) the right way to go.

It’s so frustrating.

Karel: Oh Mama. I understand.

My boys are highly distractable, highly independent, incredibly difficult to motivate unless it’s something they themselves want (read: practically unbribeable), and are deaf to all sounds in parental-voice decibel range.

BUT it seems, friends, that if nothing else we at least have an empathetic listener on our hands . If only you could have heard the tone with that ”I understand, Mama. I really do.” Seven going on seventy.

Please excuse me while I finish my scotch.

p.s. The kitten is a real thing. Also a boy. I would write about it now except I need to eat some ice cream.

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