I spend a fair bit of time trying to figure out how to appropriately talk about mental illness with children. I also feel compelled to figure out how to explain stuff to friend's kids some day. I will get questions. Recently I was relaying the story of shooting my mom in the face with the kitchen faucet (one of those neat ones with a tube so you can rinse off the whole sink) because she was being nasty and a kid asked me what she said to me. I told him I would tell him when he is older. He didn't like that.
My kids need to understand why I medicate. They need to understand why I keep them away from it. Bodies are different. People have different needs. I assume that diabetics explain to their children why they must never play with insulin.
Right now the explanation that in my head feels "age appropriate" is "I had a lot of very unusual life experiences. I felt scared a lot. My body forgot how to feel not-scared. The medication I take lets my body understand oh yeah--nothing bad is happening because my body gets confused. It's very annoying and inconvenient. This is why we ensure that you don't spend much time feeling scared. I don't want you to need medications to correct problems in your body so we are going to try to avoid creating them. Medicines are extracted or created in a wide variety of ways. This plant releases its medicine best by burning. But any kind of smoke at all is very bad for your body--it's an irritant. It is hurting me. Right now the balance of my life is such that I need the help in my brain enough to deal with the fact that I am hurting my body. It's not forever. Your body is perfect still. Let's keep it that way as long as possible. All medications should be prescribed by a doctor."
That feels kid-appropriate to me.
Yesterday was nice. I had several moments of reflection throughout the day where I managed to shut off the hand-wringing-oh-no-I-can't-do-this voice that lives in the back of my head. The voice that occasionally rises to a panicked frenzy and it is all I can do to not find a dark closet and hide in it and beat my head till I drown it out. I used to do that, before I had kids. Now I don't really have time for that.
Now mostly I mutter "shut up" every so often and try to ignore it. But it is a loud voice. It counts as background noise in my hearing and makes it harder to follow conversations.
Shanna climbed in bed with us in the middle of the night. The thing I am looking forward to the most about our trip to Disneyland next week is sleeping with the girls in a large and comfortable bed. I really like sleeping with them. They make me feel good about myself because they love me so much. And they do not fear me.
Looking into Shanna's face in the middle of the night is one of the only times the I can't do it voice is silent. When I look at my sleeping daughter I think I'm doing it. She is so wonderful she takes my breath away. I do not understand how I was blessed this much. We have such a pleasant relationship. We are really nice to each other.
My kids want to be near me because being near me is a pleasant experience. That feels so good. My children do not flinch. We are all yellers--they don't take it as threatening. We just happen to express ourselves with force.
I like to let Shanna run and run and run and run in a field until I can barely see her and then I scream, "Come back now" and she does. She turns on a dime. It is miraculous to me the way she knows how and when to push the boundaries with me. She only rarely is impulsive in inappropriate places. Mostly, because I over-explain everything, she knows what I want from her behavior in different environments.
"In Disneyland you don't have to hold my hand the whole time--I know that irritates you--but you do need to be able to reach out your hand and touch me the whole time. That's how you know how far away to be. It's a big crowd and you could get pushed away from me easily."
I'm starting to feel excited about the trip. We plan to spend most of the days in the pool at the water slide. Ha.
I like being forced to look at them. I probably won't really carry my phone around. Unschooling is a way of life. I try really hard to not distract myself during the day. My job for the next fifteen years is to be available to them for help with learning.
I feel the most joy I have ever felt. I confess that I partially feel a bit cocky that I'm not trying to actively teach Shanna anything "academic" at this point but she's learning it anyway. Oh wow! It works! She has mostly taught herself to read. I will give 2-5 minutes of feedback at her request once in a while and I think that's only happened three or so times.
I want to find out who she will be. I'm really interested.
It's really kind of funny how "gendered" behavior is working in my house. They both have "intensely male" interests and attitudes right along side their uberfemme girly stuff. I really like that the princesses are exploring outer space. With a sword. That pretty much exactly seems right to me. We aren't so big on the guns. Hand to hand combat is much more fun.
Today I'm packing. And cleaning. I have to get the whole house picked up and prepared because Noah is going to steam clean the carpets while we are gone. I feel very weird that my instant impulsive follow to that statement is, "I'm a lucky bitch" What in the hell has happened to me? Ok. Yeah. I'm kind of a freak now.
If you aren't a parent--strongly consider whether you want to be deeply grateful for carpet cleaning. If that seems icki--don't have kids. Heh.
Calli is past potty training. We haven't had an accident on the floor in months. Oh man.
I'm going to have a more difficult relationship with Calli because she resents the fuck out of sharing me with Shanna. She doesn't ever seem to feel like she gets enough of me. I do give her one on one time every day but I can't get rid of my older child. There has been a rough bump around language acquisition. She gets so frustrated with having Shanna nearby and when she is trying to talk and Shanna talks over her... woo boy. I remember being the baby.
The dynamics here are interesting. We have specific dogma around behaviors in order to smooth things out. I hear lots of screaming recitals of "Moms rules" when I'm not in the room. Uhm, well it's a process.
Shanna's favorite is, "We are a sharing family." She has a hard time with the fact that this doesn't mean she gets to eat her share and my share and Noah's share and Calli's share. We should share with her after she finishes eating the fastest--right?
The flip side is she will hand her bowl over to someone if they ask before she has bolted the food down. She isn't attached. She's just ravenous. It is really interesting to watch them share. They share food with joy. I like it.
Toys... well they will have a long life of working out conflicts. We are working on doing so without hitting, biting, kicking, screaming, pinching, spitting, pushing, or intimidating someone. You have to be persuasive. Make your case. Oh, and no whining. Or pestering. Asking more than three times is pestering and then you get an automatic no for the day.
I'm firm but not mean. I think. I am really controlling. I feel very weird about that. But I'm very controlling about how they treat me. I have to believe this is healthy. You can't hit me. You can't kick me. You can't spit on me. You can't scream in my ear because it causes blinding headaches that last for days. etc and so on.
I believe with every part of me that if I want my kids to be nice to me I have to show them what it is like. I have to let them know that I feel frustrated with them sometimes and that's ok and they will frustrated with me sometimes and that's ok too. Even when we feel frustrated that is no cause to go being mean to someone you like as much as we like each other.
I've had several what I think of as Zen moments lately. All the bad tapes stopped playing for a few minutes. I felt really good about what I was doing. The kids and I were working on something together and I felt actively instructive in the good ways and they were thrilled I was paying attention to them and teaching them and I felt so fucking lucky that I get to have this life. I get to find out what a happy childhood looks like. That is not lost to me. I don't get to have it--that is past. But I can see it. I was told that people like me couldn't create one.
I'm doing it.