Friday, March 24, 2017

On the Record

Yesterday was a LONG one.

Nothing too unusual in the parenting of an almost one year old. Emptying of drawers and cupboards. Refusal to nap. Foreign objects in the mouth. Long waits for a glimpse of the garbage and mail trucks. A stuffy nose that led to a cough, that started sounding croup-y by about 3 pm.

We had our cute moments, too. Like when Andrew leaned his face over the dog bowl and started lapping up the water with his tongue. Oh my gosh. After that, I started filming some of his antics on my phone: wiggling his hands in the water, dipping his foot in, then dumping the bowl on himself. Then heading over to a drawer in the laundry room and throwing the cleaning rags onto the floor, one by one, like it was his job.

I guess, in a sense, it is.

Exploration is what keeps this little guy active and learning, and I'm along for the ride to try to observe, protect, and sometimes redirect.

I showed Margaret the video when she got home. She noticed another video, with a blank screen.

Turns out, I'd left the camera recording by accident.

"It's like a nanny cam!" she exclaimed with excitement. "Now we can see if you are an abusive mother!" I kind of think she would have clued in on any abusive behaviors in my 15 years of mothering her. Still, I wondered what the audio recording "caught" of my interactions with Andrew. After all, it was hour 9 of a very long day, and the baby has been keeping us up at night for the past several weeks. My body ached from the lifting and wrangling, and I hadn't even managed to get dressed until 2:30 pm.

The audio is of my kissing away Andrew's tears as I change his 6th poopy diaper of the day. In a sing-song voice, I encourage him that I'm almost finished. I sound loving, even though my enthusiasm for yet another poop may come across as a bit forced.

I'm not sharing this to proclaim myself as world's most patient mother. Hardly. The audio could just as easily have captured the exasperation I felt about any number of things: the state of the house, his refusal to nap even though he was exhausted, the fact that I wanted to write so badly but it seemed impossible.

This incident made me wonder what different aspects of my life would sound like if they were recorded.


What about the curt one or two word exchanges between my husband and me when we've made it through the trenches of raising little ones, weathered the death of our son, but now find ourselves, again, sleep-deprived and stretched thin? Would the brittleness and lack of generosity come through in our voices? Probably.

What about the way I shore myself up to warmly (yet NOT TOO enthusiastically) greet my teenager, only to be met (again) with either silence or disapproval? Would the audio pick up my sigh or the immature "Ugh!" I let out as I turn out of her doorway, trying to remind myself, "It's not about me. It's not about me"?

Then there's the audio loop in my head. "You're almost 50 years old. Why didn't you maintain a career? Why don't you exercise? Are you ever going to write another book?"

Exasperation is okay. I'm human. You're human. So are Tim and Margaret. Even little Andrew had a heap of frustrations to deal with yesterday. Sometimes the recordings (on our phones or in our heads) will be more positive than others.

He and I ended hour 12.5 of the day (but who was counting?) with a warm bath, long-john pajamas, and my ruffling his hair, which is looking a little bit like a mullet. He smelled so good. I didn't know when I put him down whether he'd be waking us up at 12, 3, or 5 in the morning, but I was glad we'd made it through another day. Not because I'm trying to wish his childhood away, the way I think I did with the older two, but because that's what life is, a collection of days.

Some are beautiful, some are exasperating, and most are a combination of both.


Kathy Taylor said...

I have often thought how interesting it would be to have a recording of my family's dinner conversation: the sniping at each other (kids), the reminders about table manners, the constant interruptions of each other.
I believe it would make me cringe! I try to correct my kids in a non-nagging way but I don't really think I succeed. My husband gets so irritated at the interruptions while he's talking and I have a tendency to just roll with them and return to the conservation. Am I really as rude as he makes me out to be? Maybe I am but I do not like to think so.
More importantly, I truly believe to listen to how we talk to each other and the tone of our voices would make such an impact without anyone saying a word.
I haven't had the nerve to try it yet. One day . . .

green said...

Thank you for this Anna. You are a bright light of hope and laughter in my long days and nights of hope and fear.❤

Suburban Correspondent said...

Yes, your ending said what I was thinking as I read! It's not our actions on any one day that define us; life is an accumulation of days, with all their variety of moods, and actions, and words. Hopefully, the net effect will be good, no matter our shortcomings.

NanaDiana said...

You have it just right, Anna. A collection of days....some longer than others. God bless you and that precious baby and even that teenager. lol Sometimes they need more love than anyone else in the family. I had 4 kids and three of them were teenagers at the same time. I lived through it and even enjoyed moments of it (almost as many moments as the ones I hated). Happy weekend- xo Diana

Anonymous said...

Long time reader
Thanks so much for this
Much needed reflection

Anonymous said...

i really loved this post. it was so subtle and understated but there's so much there. i love the way it seems to meander but it actually under control. that's all.

Anonymous said...

Amazing piece, Anna. The minds and hearts of those around us are recording us, even if the cameras might not be. I need to remember that.

Also, I spotted a missing word. Foreign objects phrase is missing "in", methinks.


Anonymous said...

Love the way you write. You made my day. Thank you.

Margaret E said...

Hi Anna,

I love that thought: A Collection of Days. Life certainly is that. I think of you often these days, as strange as that may seem for someone who has never met you. But, I have an 18 year old son. He is my youngest son. And as I watch him wind his way through his senior year, waiting for college acceptance and rejection letters, planning for his future, I think of your Jack and what that might have been like for him and for you. I have learned a lot from your writing these last few years, about slowing down and appreciating the day I am in. My days are richer because you chose to share Jack's story and your continuing story. I wish you peace and many days full of loving memories of Jack and new memories of Margaret and Andrew. A Collection of Days. Perhaps that could be the title of your next book.

Be well.


KimL said...

This was so cute! I have a 17 and 14 year old and I am a few years older than you. Yesterday, I was just thinking about my kids when they were little and all the really funny things that they did. I thought "where was youtube and viral video when my kids were little? They would be on Ellen all the time and I would be RICH!" So jealous that you have this second chance :)