Monday, August 27, 2012

Stupidly defensive.

I feel strangely guilty for liking Disneyland as much as I do. I really do. I'm not alone. This is a grand passion that many people share. But I feel vaguely ashamed of being part of the cult. I'm even part of the time share. Cue jokes about lame people.

When I go down for the marathon I am getting an annual pass with Shanna. This is the last year Calli is free. Shanna and I will go four times if I get my way. I think I will. With an annual pass and a time share the only unusual expense is gas. And I have a fund for that. It's less than $100 round trip in the blue car. I put about $40 extra every month into a fund for Disneyland travel. I don't feel too guilty.

Disneyland is pretty much the only place I feel like I can trust people to be really nice to me. I spend my life on edge waiting for people to snap at me. That's part of why Disneyland Paris is so awful. You go there expecting, you know... Disneyland and instead you get France. Fuck yourself very much.

I haven't had an annual pass since before my parents divorced. I had one when I was three. That's not true! I have the vague memory of buying one on the Christmas Day I spent there with friends after Tom and I broke up. I didn't actually make it back to Disneyland that year--unsurprising I was busy figuring out being a teacher--but I bought one as a self-comfort thing. This time I have three sets of reservations so far. The fourth will be easy.

I am going to be there for the anniversary of my father's suicide. I'll be there on my father's birthday (missing my mom's birthday by three days). I will be there for Shanna's birthday and I think I will go again for the fourth trip for my birthday. I have given other people trips to Disneyland for their birthday but I haven't been for my birthday... ever. I really should stop giving other people things I want. People always leave me. Then I get to remember that I will go through great effort for other people and it's not reciprocated. Fuck them. I should save my energy for me.

All told that will be nineteen days of travel. Noah will be there for the marathon and I suspect he will come down for my birthday. The other two trips I will be alone with my little girls. I can't wait. I like traveling with them. I pare down my needs until we can move at the same pace. It's a lot of fun. Watching Shanna and Calli navigate new situations and people are some of my greatest joys in life. Seeing them exist makes me feel very good about the world. See, I did make it a better place.

I like watching their joy and eagerness. I like watching Shanna run until she is so tired she can't walk any more and she must be carried. I like watching Calli be brave and fearless... as long as she is standing behind me. Otherwise she is cautious around new people. I like watching my solemn, intense little girl light up like a roman candle when I walk into sight. I like being loved. I like watching how my children believe that love is absolutely limitless. Shanna goes back and forth between which kid she is going to grow up and marry. So far she is not picky between boys and girls. Sometimes she talks frankly about how she is going to have a wedding with one person and a hand fasting with someone else. (Thanks to Grandpa J, his wife C and his hand-fasted partner D.)

Shanna likes people of all races and physical abilities. If you will sit still and talk to her she likes you. Sometimes she seems to disconcert the large black men on BART. I beam benignly from behind her. The conversations are great. "Does your mother know you are talking to me?" "Yes." "She doesn't mind?" "Why would she? Are you a bad person I shouldn't be talking to?" Then they blink in kind of confused/bemused horror. Then they just talk to her. It's great.

I used to think Shanna was extremely physical. It turns out I was a first time mom who had never been around a baby. Who knew? From birth Shanna was obviously trying to pattern off of me. She wants to be like me. Calli wants to be like Shanna. Only she's hitting milestones a lot faster than Shanna. If it weren't for the difference in leg length I don't think Shanna could catch Calli. Calli is starting to get mad if I don't let her practice running with the group. "Me hurry!" Of course with emphatic scowl and pointing to the ground. Yes ma'am.

That's one of the things that I think makes the biggest difference in how my kids speak on a regular basis. I say "Yes ma'am" to things. I use a lot of weird speech patterns, basically on purpose. I like playing with accents. It makes me happy. I use funny accents because then I consciously think about what I am saying and how I am saying it. Then I don't snap. I'm not nasty. I use a lot of polite words in theatrical, emphatic ways.

I've never understood why other people think I am as rude as they seem to. I try. I really do.

I think people who are on the fence shouldn't have kids. It's a huge commitment. It's a lot of work. If I didn't feel like I was alive for this very purpose I don't think I could do this. I would hate them and hate my life. But this is the life I want. So I'm trying to figure out how it goes.

I'm struggling with finding the last granules of patience I have left in me for a baby. Calli is still a baby. She gets a while longer. I told her that milk will be all gone on Tuesday on her birthday. Even though she is potty trained, even though I can't handle nursing her any more... she really does still feel like a baby. It's funny, when Shanna was that age I marveled at how kid-like she felt. Now that I have a kid I look at two and think, "Baby!"

I'm basing this intense belief on different developmental stuff I've read about. Kids' brains work one way before three. It's a large developmental stage. Then three to six is another big period. I'm not going to get into it. If you are interested there is a lot of research.

I'm thinking about pacing of the day and learning activities, that may not be obvious. I have a hard time with baby-pace. I don't like it much. But I follow it. It's not like I run my home like a daycare or anything like that but I consciously think about what kinds of interactions and reactions are appropriate. I can say things to Shanna I just can't say to Calli yet. I feel like it requires intense concentration in my mind to censor things to an appropriate baby-place.

I am a volatile person. It has been very difficult for me to be mostly level and calm and happy for more than four years running with my babies. I freak out on the internet because this is the only place I have to put those feelings, those words, that part of my existence. People who watch me interact with my children who do not read my writing have no idea that I am depressed and suicidal unless I tell them. When I have told people (seriously, I think part of the way I am handling my mental illness is building up the responsibility to my community to not die) they are shocked and surprised. They never would have guessed! I think people aren't very observant.

Everyone is motivated by different things. Part of what I like about staying at the Disney time share is the way it will push the kids into a foreign environment and they will get to find out which parts of their lives and routine is place dependent and which things are all-the-time-required. Like brushing your teeth. You do that no matter where you sleep. You have to eat no matter what. But things like clean clothes? Well... it varies. How you wash. If you wash. How dirty you get. There is a lot of variation possible in life. How do you roll with differences? How do you learn how to observe local customs and adapt to be like the natives? Even things like how do you learn how to use different versions of what you have--like a dishwasher.

When we are alone and going at their pace my kids can do at least half and sometimes all of the work to feed themselves. They can deal with a lot of minor cooking stuff (ok, Calli isn't there yet--Shanna makes enough for two) and it's easy to get them to do other cleaning stuff if everything is kept simple and slow. Calli sets the table while Shanna makes food. I think about how I learned to do things. I think about what it is they need to learn.

I think my kids will know how to cook more at five than I knew how to cook at eighteen. That is really kind of weird to me. I knew how to make ramen. I could open cans and microwave things. I could follow the directions on the back of a tv dinner. You can hand Shanna a (small) pile of vegetables and she'll fucking make you soup. It feels weird to me that these things are so important to me. My kids will know how to handle food. My kids will know how to make a meal plan and go to the grocery store and come back with ingredients instead of boxes and make food. I learned it slowly over time as an adult. It's been hard. It's been embarrassing.

I have weird issues around food. If that's not obvious by now. I feel very differently about what I/we eat when Noah is home than I do when he isn't home. Taking his preferences into account messes me up. I have to think a lot harder about food and process because I'm trying to take a lot of different things into account.

When I'm alone with the kids I let Shanna do the best she can for as long as she can. She generally finishes enough for her and Calli. Sometimes I finish Calli's share. Then I do mine. I don't have to think about mine. It's automatic and easy. I get territorial about feeding Noah. And if I have to take the time to do two adult portions it is a lot faster and easier for me to do basically three adult portions and call it a day rather than let Shanna slowly and ponderously do everything she wants to do. (cutting, cleaning veggies, breaking things up, assembling plates, whatever food task) Calli helps as she can. Mostly she sets the table and yells "Me do!" without being able to figure out which side of the plastic knife is sharp. It's a process.

I'm looking forward to being alone with the girls for a few days. I'm looking forward to sleeping with them in the big hotel bed. I'm looking forward to simple foods Shanna and Calli can get on their own. I won't bother too cook meat while we are gone. I may not cook much at all. We like fruit and raw vegetables with dip and bread and cheese and lunch meat and cereal. That sounds like a vacation to me. A glorious vacation. If I put a bowl of fruit on the table my kids would eat it. No matter how big the bowl was.

Abrupt topic switch: Noah timing stuff and my complaints about losing a year. I was told that bit was unclear. A while ago Noah and I sat down and fleshed out what he would like to do career wise over the next few years. Where would he like to end up. What is our plan for retirement (says she who doesn't work)? If you are going to be my provider forever then we need a god damn plan because things don't always work out just for hoping. If you want to get somewhere it's probably a good idea to make sure you take steps in that direction.

For all that I am so rebellious and anti-authoritarian... I do have a high school diploma (this was complicated to get and I am the only one of my siblings with one--I am the youngest of four), BA, and teaching credential. I failed the MA, but I can jump through hoops. I usually don't want to.

What path are we on? Where is this hand basket going and who is driving? So we made a plan. Then Noah had someone bring up an interesting idea. But it takes a year away from me. And leaves me standing with a year left in the baby stage and only a couple of drips of patience left and my husband about to make me a work widow. Apparently my response to this is, "Fuck you then I'm running away to Disneyland." It's ok. I'll come back. I think it will be fun.

I think I will slowly replace my memories of my mother in Disneyland with memories of my daughters. It will be good. I will get to share my good memories. Shanna asks me a lot if I used to do ___________ with my mom when we are doing stuff. I try to answer simply and honestly without a lot of detail when it is bad. "No, doing this with my mom wasn't a lot of fun. She didn't have patience left by the time she got to me so it was hard to learn. I got in trouble every time I did anything even slightly wrong. I hope you feel like this is going better." Said after Shanna had dropped about 1/2 a cup of flour on the counter, step stool, and floor. My mother raged. My mother screamed at me and told me I was a disgusting brat.

When Shanna has mastered a skill I feel a relief of fear. I no longer feel tensed up waiting for a blow. I feel like I am waiting for her to grow up without being abused before I can really trust that it can happen at all. I'm waiting for the abuser to show up. I'm waiting to get in trouble for her mistakes. I'm waiting to be told that obviously my daughter is a loser like me. Only it isn't coming. I got us away. We can hide away and do things at her pace and move slowly and feel safe. It's really nice. We can learn things at the pace we learn them instead of trying to hurry up or slow down on someone else's agenda.

I think this last year of babyhood will be the last year that Calli is less capable than Shanna physically. I think that when her proportions lengthen out she will be a force to be reckoned with. I'm looking forward to it. I want them to run with me. I want them to challenge me to work harder. I want to learn how to run from joy instead of fear. I have spent my whole life running away. I don't want to run away any more. I want to stay here. Except for trips to Disneyland. That's just going home for a few days (as they like to say--it's awesome).

My kids have to learn how to stand in line politely. They have to learn how to look at a barrage of options and make a choice. We live in the world we live in. Disneyland is not the world. But it's a very safe testing ground of a lot of basic skills for very young children. I can relax and not worry about the assholes who feel inconvenienced by me having young children out in public.  Shanna's friendliness bothers people sometimes. They chew her (and me) out for it. I think she needs to learn how to deal with those assholes, yes, but man it will be nice to be in Disneyland. It really will be magical for my kids. I can. Why not? Why do I feel defensive? Because I don't approve of all of the everything associated with the Cult of Disney™? I'm not even sure. I know it is wasteful of resources. It's clearly a first world evasion of stress.

I don't live in poverty any more. Why do I feel so ashamed of that? Why do I feel bad about being secure and having things? I feel absolutely required to believe that my preferences are wrong and bad. What other people want is more important. More relevant. More... just more. I don't know. I am less. I should shut up. I should stay home and not spend money. Between the annual passes and gas Disneyland is going to be ~ $1,000 for the year of going. (Uhm, on top of paying the time share. Musn't Forget That. It will probably not be fully paid off this year. It almost certainly will be paid off next year.) I get $100/month to spend on anything I want. We also have a $100/month "entertainment" fund. And Shanna's spending money comes from her allowance. She has been saving up. She's really proud of herself. I can afford this. It is within my means as a hobby. Why does it feel so much more extravagant than other things? I don't know but it's silly. I have small children. It's a fucking great hobby.

Whatever. I should go start breakfast.

1 comment:

  1. I feel in D'land the way I feel in most crowded places - I need to be extra-vigilant and keep my kids close. I worry that people are judging my kids (and by proxy, me and my parenting) on well-behaved-ness.

    You have an interesting perspective. I'll try to keep that in mind in future visits there.