September 3, 2009

Unexpected Lessons of Motherhood

This is why Sneak doesn't model for me.

I've had the uncomfortable experience of realizing I need the lesson I'm teaching my daughter as much as she does this week. Like most toddlers, Boo Bear is having trouble expressing disappointment in an appropriate manner. When told she cannot watch "Sid the Science Kid" right now or no, she can't have a cookie because she didn't eat her dinner, she flies into a tantrum complete with flailing, sobbing, screaming, and exclamations of, "I'm mad!"

After discussing what disappointment is, we talked about how to react. As I explained that unlike when you're sad, crying doesn't make you feel better when you're disappointed, I realized I was talking to myself as much as I was to her. How can I encourage her to just move on to something else she enjoys instead of whining and crying over what she wanted and didn't get when I've been doing the same thing?

Somewhere along the way, I forgot this lesson. I don't know why, perhaps it's as simple as the fact adult disappointments tend to stem from bigger things than material possessions. Maybe I bought too strongly into the childhood myth that adults can and do control every aspect of their lives.

Life is full of disappointments, and they're easy enough to handle, unless you let them pile up on you like I did. I had to give up on a career in biochemical research because of periodic uncontrollable shaking. No big deal, I had a backup career in journalism planned, so I just swapped my major to English. The freelancing career I tried when I left to be at home with Boo never became a steady thing. At least I did manage the occasional gig. It takes time to build up clientele. I still haven't sold the novel I started in high school. It needed some more polishing, and I'm almost done with it. Then about mid-spring, I realized I'd be in my mid-forties and without a face-time job for twenty years by the time my youngest is finished with high school.

I'd known this for some time, but the reality of it never really sunk in until I began preparing a homeschooling preschool curriculum for Boo. If we home school both girls all the way through high school, I'll have to remain at home for the next seventeen years. My response was first a panic attack, and that was followed with a deep depression. I love my girls, and between taking care of my girls and keeping up the house, I'm busy all the time. However, between gigs, I become extremely bored. Busy, but bored.

It seems I couldn't handle the idea of seventeen years and likely more of this longing for intellectual stimulation, especially on top of these other disappointments or failures as I interpreted them at the time. Then we had a health scare this past weekend. It turned out to be nothing, but before we received the test results, Hubby and I were discussing how we would deal with a positive. We came to the conclusion that the girl's rule, "You get what you get, and don't pitch a fit," applied to us too. There was no point in lamenting the results; they wouldn't be changed.

I'm rather ashamed of my behavior. The longer it went on, the more self-loathing I felt. The more it seemed impossible to pull away from the course upon which I felt trapped. Here I was, nearly 30 and behaving like my 3-year-old daughter. So, I decided to turn my disappointment lecture back on myself. Although I don't yet know exactly what I'm going to do, having a course of action is a surprisingly good mood booster.

I'm thankful for many things about motherhood. Funny, I never thought I'd be thankful for a refresher course on handling emotions.

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