Monday, June 27, 2011

Confidence: I Haz It

This first week of official summer vacation has been a mix of lively activity and much needed down time. It always takes a while to find my summer rhythm after the hectic and draining climax of the school year. But it will come. It always does.

Usually we have the luxury of being a two parent household during the summer months, but Brent has been landscaping like a maniac and his job at the farm is in full swing and so he has been getting up sometimes even before puppy and kids to sneak out to work each day. This leaves me lots of time to settle back into life at home with the little people.

I've been beating myself up over the past few weeks about Jack's temper tantrums and bad attitude. I told you about "Punch the fuck out of my head!" but I haven't talked much about the other stuff, mostly because someday he will read this and it's just like what I said earlier about embarrassing family stories. Sometimes parents should just keep these things to themselves. But I will tell you that this "phase" which I am choosing to call it because that evokes a sense of non-permanence, has stretched my patience to previously unseen limits.

(I will, however, exact a small bit of revenge by publishing the following photo...)

What amazes/horrifies me is how much of myself I see in Jack. I know I have mentioned this before but seriously, during those moments when his frustration boils over and the hot tears spill down his face, I remember what it's like to be four and to feel that the whole world has conspired against you. Jack goes from zero to meltdown in a matter of seconds and it's often over something so incredibly trivial that I won't embarrass him by giving an example. But I know what he feels. I remember it. I suppose we are just overly emotional and melodramatic, he and I, but we are who we are. Now the question is: how do you cope with this? I outgrew it over time, but not before I put my parents through some pretty epic tantrums. I'd like to spare us all that same fate if possible.

And so I turn to my instincts. I know that many people would observe Jack's temper tantrums, cluck their tongues, and admonish me for not sending him on a time out. But I know my kid and I know that removing him from the situation is a temporary fix. Jack need to process the emotions he is feeling. He needs to be reminded to take a deep breath and use his words. Most of the time he just needs to be heard. And then usually he can move on. Don't get me wrong, we do plenty of time outs around here, but if we timed Jack out for every infraction he'd never see the light of day.

I try hard not to doubt myself so much. I need to trust those instincts and proceed with confidence. I want to look back on this time and know that I did what I thought was right. What I believed would work for my kid. What felt natural and healthy and productive. I want to remember that I disregarded unsolicited advice and resisted the urge to compare my kid with his peers and focused my energy on just Jack. Just Jack.

He will outgrow this. He will become the sweet, compassionate, loving, and strong minded boy we have been raising him to be. But probably there will be more tears before we get there. I need to be okay with that.

I have been thinking about what I said last time about winging it in the kitchen. Maybe I need to give myself more credit. Maybe instead of winging it I should look at my culinary endeavors as practice. I guess I am a self-guided student of the culinary arts. I am learning and with each try I become more experienced and more confident. I need to trust my developing instincts in the kitchen because for every questionable entree, there is a lesson, a tip, or at least a no-no that I can keep for later use.

Earlier this week I surprised myself by tossing together a pesto and zucchini pasta dish in just a few minutes. I am becoming one of those cooks who keeps her recipes upstairs. Pesto is now embedded in my long term memory. This is a cool thing, I think.

Something that works well with Jack, and most four-year-olds probably, is letting him participate in whatever I am doing. This week we hulled and sliced a flat of strawberries for our first batch of freezer jam. I did some internet research about the whole strawberry jam/pectin/sugar thing. In case you don't already know this, strawberry jam is LOADED with sugar and it's kind of like homemade ranch dressing- once you watch it being made it will never taste the same. I could not stomach the idea of dumping that much sugar into those juicy red strawberries and also, pectin? Is that really necessary? The internet gave me conflicting advice, as the internet is wont to do, and so I returned to those instincts and decided that half the sugar and half the pectin would still make for some deliciously spreadable strawberry jam. And guess what? I was right.

Have I told you that the kids are now sleeping until 8? I have no idea what happened, but let's chalk it up to a pervasive sense of relaxation in our house right now.

Relaxation for me means setting up a comfy deck chair, grabbing some iced coffee or a cold beer depending on which spirit is moving me, and reading a good book in the sun. Jack has caught the bug. We've been sitting on the deck and reading Charlotte's Web each afternoon. I wasn't sure if we were ready for read-alouds yet, but Jack never ceases to impress me when it comes to reading. He would sit and listen for hours if I had the patience to keep going, but I've limited us to two chapters each day. Any suggestions for what to read next?

I have been sewing a bit. My talented aunt Bobbi inspired me to make a dress for my cousin's wedding in August. You will perhaps recall that I rarely sew for myself, but when she gave me this pattern how could I say no? She also advised me on how to alter a pair of jeans that have been rotting away in the recesses of my dresser for.. wait for it... seven or so years now. Seven years?! I have had some, let's call them sizing issues in the past seven or so years. I sort of ballooned up while living in France, became a real runner and shed those croissant pounds, then had two pregnancies, became a milk cow and shrunk back down to my current twelve-year-old boy-like frame. So I have lots of clothes that don't fit me. And some of these clothes are clothes that I have an emotional attachment to because I bought them, say, in London and they symbolize FREEDOM! And YOUTH! And WANDERLUST! For example.

Back to my jeans. I loved those jeans. I lived in those jeans. Emily? You remember those jeans?

Infused with confidence after my visit with Bobbi, I tackled those jeans armed with sharp scissors, a denim needle, a whole lot of pins, and optimistic naivete. I immediately broke my first needle. No worries, I thought. I'll just switch to another. I smiled as I inserted the new needle without the added burden of consulting my machine's manual. I've got this. I know what I'm doing. But the new needle wouldn't descend all the way- it kept getting stuck on the presser foot. I thought this was strange but figured maybe the bigger needle needed a different presser foot. That's an easy swap. No problem. But the needle still wouldn't go all the way down. Hmmm, I thought. Is it too late to call Bobbi? I dug around for the little screwdriver and removed the plate from the machine's base. I poked around looking for whatever might be causing the obstruction. I felt certain I would be able to fix this, after all, I am an experienced and confident seamstress. I know my way around my machine. Nothing seemed amiss and so I reattached the plate and began to do a bit of audible muttering that was peppered with some choice swear words. Brent came along, beer in hand, and watched the spectacle. I started to explain my dilemma and then caught myself. "It's too complicated. You wouldn't understand," I told him.

"Hmmm," he glanced ever so briefly over my shoulder as I attempted to coax the machine into submission. "Maybe that needle is bent."

Sure enough. Bent needle. Either he is a genius or I am an idiot. Take your pick.

And yes I did finish those jeans, and no I did not take a picture of the jeans before, during, or after the process because I have ISSUES with jeans. You would too if you had no butt. Ahem.

A few notable quotations from the week...

As I served our first strawberry shortcakes of the season, Jack: "Mom, how do you always know how to make such cool stuff?"

Sawyer: "Mom, I love Mama."

I love you, too, buddy.

(And your little dog.)

(And your grouchy big brother. Tantrums and all.)

1 comment:

  1. haz it! I am an actual witness to those jeans, and they looked great on you. I am also a witness to your amazing culinary talents, the rhubarb pie and the pizza were superb. (Mary, your salad was indeed awesome.)
    Our family outing to the fabric store inspired me as well because your excitement over our fun finds was infectious...who knew fabric for boys was so cute?! I'm sure your new sewing projects will be quite successful, but I want you to know it is never to late to call Aunt Bobbi.