Monday, December 30, 2013

This Clown Dancer is Your Mother!

I know that you are awake, over there in your room. You always hear the loud beep of your older brother's alarm clock. Your brother, he sleeps through his alarm on a daily basis, but not you. You don't need your own clock, not when your eyes pop open with the slightest sound from your brother's room. I wake up your brother and get him started on his morning path to his favorite cereal and TV- get dressed, put on socks and shoes, brush teeth...

I head into your room, my heart light. Today is going to be a good day!

As I round the corner of your huge bunk bed I see you are awake, squirming under the heavy gray blanket that you outright stole from your daddy. You are hiding, but I know you are there, I can hear you giggling. "Where is Alex?", I ask, in a sing song voice. "Come on out, baby!".

After five minutes of cajoling I finally get you to crawl out from under the covers and we start the slow dance of getting you dressed. I give you two shirts to choose from, knowing if I make the choice you may freak out. Today you want a third shirt in the mix so I pull another one out. You wander over to your window. I leave the shirts and pants on your bed and stand up. "Go ahead and get dressed, kiddo. I will be back in a minute." You scream. I turn around and sit back down. We play the "pick a shirt game" a few more times. Then we play the "pick a pair of pants game". My Super Six Year Old wanders in, asking what is taking so long. I point in your direction. "Oh, right."

I send you out in the hallway to go downstairs. You take three steps and stop, screaming at your loudest.  "Alex, the dog is not in your way! Just walk, please?".  I turn to my oldest son. "Please take the dog downstairs." The three of us proceed to tango through the hallway and down the steps, puppy underfoot and you screaming the entire way. Our feet hit the floor at the bottom and the four little feet head to the left, heading straight for the living room, toys, and the almighty TV. My feet turn right. I turn up the heat, walk through the kitchen, turning on the coffee maker, and head to the garage door, turning off the alarm. I walk to the back door, bracing myself against the cold as I shoo the puppy out to the backyard. "Shoes on!", I call out to you and your brother, both of you now in various stages of chaos in the living room. "Shoes on before TV!".

I stand in the kitchen drinking coffee that is too hot while both of you sit nicely, watching TV. Eventually the bliss is broken and I set my hot coffee on the counter with a sigh. I pull you off of your brother and sit you on the other sofa. After asking you repeatedly to get your shoes I gather them up myself and toss them in your direction. "Put your shoes on, kiddo!", I say, in a much happier tone than I am actually feeling. I make it a contest- which boy can put their shoes on the fastest? You lose. You scream. I sit you on the kitchen counter and put your shoes on. I give you a kiss and set you back down on the floor. I repeat the shoe game, only this time with your coat, hat, and backpack. I do my clown dance, my happy contests, my distraction techniques. Eventually both you and your brother are in coats and backpacks are on. I place my hand on the door, holding my breath. Can we make it out the door before any more demands come my way?

"I didn't have breakfast!" . "I want milk!". The demands continue. I weigh my options. Give in to your demands, make us late, or pick you up and carry you to the car, which will have long lasting repercussions. Be late, or spend the entire ride dodging shoes and listening to a screaming child. Sadly, I know I will not take the brunt of your  anger in the car- your older brother is the one trapped back there with you. Either option just sucks. Some days I choose to be late. Others I choose to take a stand and just push ahead. 99 percent of the time we are a screaming mess by the time we back out of the driveway.

I do my clown dance again to get you to get out of your car seat and back into your winter coat. More often than not you wind up laying on your back on the floor of the car, laughing hysterically. You think this move is hilarious. I do not. We make a game of getting in to daycare. We check the lunch menu and make a pit stop- we absolutely cannot mess with your routines! We find your classroom and I hand you off to the teacher. I peel you from my leg, turn you around, and deposit you into the arms of the waiting teacher. A quick kiss and then I walk, maybe a little too quickly, out the door. I can breath again.

I don't do my clown dance for anyone else during the day. Cashiers, phone operators, the UPS guy- these hardworking people do not get the best of me. Sometimes, not even my husband or oldest son get the best of me. And certainly, on most days, I do not get the best of me. I save it all for the clown dance. For the cajoling, the bartering, the distracting that it takes to keep you moving through your day. I'm not going to lie to you, little one. It is hard work. It is exhausting work. Worthwhile, but exhausting.

Nine hours pass. Maybe ten. Sometimes I pick you up early. Sometimes I could pick you up early but I don't. Sometimes I sit in the car, watching the dashboard clock click off the minutes. Sometimes. Always I feel guilty about this.

I turn into the parking spot in the daycare parking lot and remove the key from the ignition. I take a deep breath. My first stop is the big kid room to pick up my big kid. He takes his time putting his homework or toys away in his backpack. He asks me his every day question and I answer with my stock answer. "Yes, you have to wear your coat. It is cold outside." I help him push his backpack up onto his small shoulders and we walk down the hall to your classroom. "Alex!", I call out. You are sitting on the floor, reading a book. I marvel at this. You are sitting in a group of other children, who are also sitting. You are carefully turning the pages, taking in each picture. You are completing an independent activity! You are not ripping the pages of the books or throwing them around the room. Well, at least not yet. You look up, see me, and a huge smile spreads across your face. You stand up, throw the book at a classmate, and take off,  running around the room. I refuse to run after you. I want to. I want to run to you, grab you, stuff you under my arm and carry you out of there like a football. I want to ask you why you were sitting so still? Why were you reading a book? Why you run from me? But I know you will not answer. And I am all about not making a scene in front of the daycare teachers. (In front of my sister, yes. Teachers, no.)

Eventually you run past me and I grab you. I practically run to the door with you, calling over my shoulder to your brother to grab your belongings. We. Have. To. Get. Out. Of. This. Room.

I clown dance you into your coat. I clown dance you into the car. Past the front desk with the sticker box. Past the gum ball machine. Past the key pad on the door. I clown dance you out of your winter coat and into your car seat. I clown dance you into the buckle. I remove your shoes, sometimes, if I sense you will go over the edge during the drive.

I clown dance all  the way home. Distract. Deflect. Maybe, just maybe, I try to sneak in a real conversation with your brother. Usually you talk at your loudest the entire drive, making this conversation frustratingly pointless. Sometimes I try to sneak in a little teaching, or a little real conversation with you. You don't respond to my questions. You don't respond to my sentences with a sentence of your own that makes sense. You are frequently incapable of holding a conversation. But you love the clown dance.

I clown dance you into the house. Into the bathroom. Out of your shoes and coat. And then our evening begins. Homework, dinner, clean up, play time, TV time, bath, bedtime. I break up fights. I redirect. I dole out time outs. I give up on cleaning up. I give up on play time. I clown dance the medication down your throat. I clown dance your jammies on. I attempt to read you a book as you roll around your bed. You interrupt me a thousand times while I read. I offer you the page and attempt to ask questions about the book. I close the book. You scream. I clown dance a little more. My clown dance is slowing down. I am tired. I barter to get you to stay in your bed. I take away privileges when you follow me out of your room. Sometimes I yell. I don't mean to yell at you, my sweet little guy. A part of me understands that you can't help this. But, sometimes, I can't help my reactions either.

When my clown dance is finally over for the day I still have your brother's needs to meet. More snuggle time, homework, playtime, snacks, bedtime. More of me that is needed. More of me that I want to give. More of me that is not always available to give. But at least the clown dance has been put to bed for another night.

The next day dawns early and I head into your room, my heart light. Today is going to be a good day!

And if it isn't, if the clown dance doesn't work, if the clown dance is literally all you and I do today, that is OK too. We will have yet another chance the next day. And the day after that. And the day after that. And I am hoping that one day your mixed up mind will figure that out. That we will always have another day. Because maybe, just maybe, when your brain truly believes that, we can put this clown dance to bed and really get to know each other. I so desperately want to be more than your clown, dancing you through care giving and through your day. Being your clown is exhausting. Being your mother, truly being your mother, is also exhausting, I would imagine. I want to stop imagining. This clown is your mother, little one. Let me me your mother.

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