”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.