Monday, April 24, 2006

I heard a rustling in the next room around 2:30 AM. Harrison was getting out of the top bunk to use the bathroom. I got up to help him get back in bed because the ladder isn’t there and I worry about him climbing up the back of the bed in the dark. He’s fine, but complaining that it’s too dark – the lights were too dim for him.

About an hour later he is rustling again. Then at 4:00 AM he’s wandering outside our door. He’s awake and ready to start the day. We ask him to crawl in bed with us and try to sleep. The kicking and squirming go on for about 50 minutes until we can’t handle it anymore. He’s awake and now we’re all grumpy and irritable.

He can’t verbalize why he is awake and somewhat agitated. This has always been an issue for him. He’s upset about something, but can’t seem to tell us. When he was little we called it “colic”, now we call it “a pain in the ass” with an edge of “game playing”.

I worried all day about his poor sleep affecting his behavior at school. A friend of mine, who volunteered in his room and had him over for lunch, was kind enough to call his behavior “out of sorts”. When I picked him up from his preschool, the teachers said that he had been a little “aggressive” today and for the last two weeks or so. “Ella? Oh she’s such a doll.”

I truly love my children equally. They each have their assets – Harrison is intelligent, a great artist and funny. Ella is flexible, smart and very social. They each have their faults. Harry has a negative outlook on life at times. He’s not very adventurous – likes routine - and has a short temper. Ella demands a lot of attention, is a hypochondriac and is probably one of the whiniest individuals I’ve ever met. That said – Harrison is more difficult. I have never thought of this as a gender issue. It’s just a difference. As their preschool teacher said to me tonight, “They are little tiny people with fully-formed, large personalities.”

After thinking about Harry’s horrible behavior the last two weeks, or so, I think that it all comes down to simple love and attention. When Harrison feels secure and has strict routine, he behaves better. There is nothing routine about our household, and I’m sure he can feel less than secure, at times, when his two full-time working parents are both working lots of hours (as we have been lately). Throw in a visit from Grandma and Bumpa (last weekend) and I’m sure it’s enough to throw his little brain, heart and body into a tizzy.

What is it about the bond between parents and kids that can literally turn your insides upside down? I worried all day about his social interactions, his teachers and their impressions of him, his behavior (would he get in trouble – or worse, hurt someone?) and his heart. I ached for him and the anxiety that woke him and he couldn’t tell me about. I think if I had a magic wand, or could make some wishes, I would wish for Harry to be able to tell us his feelings more often. I don’t know if that is the answer, but I think if I understood how his mind worked better – I wouldn’t get so impatient with him.

Chris and I were both busy all day and only had a minute to talk. Harrison was the topic of our conversation. We need to devote more direct attention to him, and his sister. Our weekend was filled with togetherness as a family, but most of it was yard work, performed by Mom and Dad, with little ones in the wings. There were trips to REI and Shopko, but no trips to the park. We went to two soccer games, but those are really more about rushing around, to get to the game on time, with a lot of coaxing and bribing for them to play the whole game. I truly think we need to consistently plan for more child-focused activities each week.

I know my kids, for the most part, are well-adjusted and happy. They love their schools and have accepted that their mom works outside of the home, while most of their friends’ moms do not. They enjoy the variety of activities and people that they experience weekly. And so do we. But life is unpredictable. It throws curve balls. Our job is to not only notice the curve balls, but to act on them. This morning was a curve ball.

When my mom died it was more than a curve ball – it was the wake-up call of my lifetime. I have spent the last four months thinking of life with her, and without her, daily. I remember her as my best friend and mom, but lately I have been analyzing her as a parent. She wasn’t perfect, but her love for me was something I never questioned.

We will spend this week and weekend focusing more on our kids. Planning kid-centered activities that force us to ignore the lawn mower and pay more attention to Harry’s second loose tooth and Ella’s ow-ies with more sympathy. I’m not really worried about how my kids will remember me – I have no doubt that they’ll know they were loved. What I worry about is me. I want to look back knowing that I did the best job at this parenting-thing that I could.

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