I got home late last night after spending some time with some lady-friends. Gabriella greeted me in the kitchen with that evening’s report. “Your sister called. And I successfully unwound the balloon string from the ceiling fan in Levi’s room. Also, Asher couldn’t sleep and read books until about 10pm.” Shit, I thought. He’s going to be toast tomorrow.
Asher is one of those kids who is profoundly impacted by lack of sleep. He is anxious as it is, but adding lack of sleep often times results in a freak out at some point in the day that resembles a David Banner-to-Incredible Hulk
transformation that cannot be mitigated. He is inconsolable until his emotional spike has run its course and he’s left whimpering in a corner after much crying and yelling and nose running.
I muttered a silent prayer to no one in particular that the next day would go smoothly and that I wouldn’t hear from his teachers instructing me to please collect him from school due to his monumental melt-down. Then I proceeded to stay up, drink a cup of tea, make my lists for the next day, play on the computer for a spell and unwind…until too-late-o’clock.
This morning, Asher woke up without my help, which I considered miraculous when I usually have to resort to all sorts of loud and lovingly violent measures to get him out of bed. He seemed completely refreshed, but I spoke to him gently and carefully just in case I might trigger a mood swing.
I busied myself in the kitchen making breakfast, assembling lunches and packing the backpacks looking forward to the minute I could unload the boys and have a quiet moment to myself. I threw out another prayer that Asher would be ok today and then I thought I’d prepare him for the inevitable.
“Asher, I want to tell you something. Try to listen and think about it. You don’t have to respond or argue with me. Just listen ok?”
“You know you stayed up really late last night reading?”
“I’m really glad that you are enjoying all your books, but you probably don’t realize how tired you are today. You might not even feel tired until later.”
“I don’t feel tired.”
“I know. And you might not feel tired all day. Or, you might get a little sleepy later, and when we are tired, sometimes we get cranky and things bother us that don’t usually bother us when we’re not tired.”
“I’m not tired.”
“Ok, can you try not to argue with me for a second and just think about what I’m saying?”
“When you say ‘a second,’ you don’t really mean one second, do you?”
“No, Asher, I don’t. That’s just an expression meaning for a short bit of time. Can you listen now? I’m trying to tell you something that might help you today. If something upsets you today, I want you to try to take a deep breath and remember that you might be tired and that …”
“I am not tired.”
“CAN YOU JUST LISTEN TO ME WITHOUT INTERRUPTING OR ARGUING WITH ME?!? CAN YOU DO THAT JUST ONE TIME? I’M TRYING TO HELP YOU HERE!!”
And then I took a deep breath and reminded myself that I might be tired and that things would probably bother me today that don’t usually bother me.
“Sorry, Asher. I think I’m tired, too.”
“I’m not tired.”
I took him to the bus stop, drove Levi to preschool and sat down to consider my mood and my actions and how I had benefitted from my own advice. I realized at that moment that much of my advice is just as appropriate for me as it is for them. I could see now that my children were like little mirrors reflecting all of my many flaws. Or maybe they weren’t even there at all. Maybe my children are actually the Fight Club
version of myself, and I needed to pummel their/my shortcomings out of them/me until I could reconcile my fully realized self…
…then I took a deep breath and reminded myself that I might be tired. And after that, I thought of the nuggets of wisdom I’ve imparted onto my children that would in all fairness behoove me to take on board.
To my inner Asher:
- What you call managing expectations, other people call having a negative attitude. Don’t be such a Deborah Downer.
- The world will not implode if you are late for an appointment. Relax.
- While I recognize that you are a fidgety person who needs to be doing something with your hands all the time, picking your nose is impolite and unhygienic. Don’t do it. Or at least, try not to get caught doing it.
- You have a lot of amazing ideas for inventions. You need to write them down and get help with patents. (I have witnesses who will testify that I came up with the idea of the iced bra years before it was invented in Japan when my menopausal friends kept opening up our refrigerator and to cool down while complaining about hot flashes and sweaty boobs.)
To my inner Levi:
- Try not to confuse hunger and boredom. Get out of the kitchen, and go do something!
- While some people find you entertaining, you may forget where the line is and cross it occasionally. You need to be more aware of your audience and think before you speak.
- I realize that just about everything you find is special in its own way, but that doesn’t mean you have to hold on to every leaf, marble or piece of fuzz. There is joy in de-cluttering your surroundings. And if you can’t do that, at least make sure your pockets are empty before you put your jeans in the laundry.
- If you’re feeling sluggish and needy and require more hugs than usual, you probably need to poop. Go grab a book and take a minute for yourself.
I’m sure my list will expand now that I’m painfully aware of my transference tendencies, but this is a good starting point. I’m sure the boys will inspire more rules of Fight Club over time…if not later today.