Wednesday, September 5, 2012

How It Goes

getting the morning started

The day starts like this, in the big bed. It's out of necessity, really. With Elvie still waking every one to two hours to eat, I am just not ready to exit the bed immediately. I make coffee and come back to bed with it, waiting to wake up a bit more with my feet under the covers. I check email on my phone, hand the baby more toys, remind Zinashi to be gentle. It's a good start to the day.

But then I tell Zinashi it is time to use the bathroom and get dressed, a request that is not uncommon, and she looks me in the eye and says, "No, I'm not doing that." The bathroom part is non-negotiable, and I want to make a habit of having her get dressed right away, too, if we need to go somewhere later. I know from experience that it's better to instruct her to get dressed when we've got plenty of time than when we will be late if she doesn't comply. I tell her that if she does not do as I ask, there will be a consequence. "You are mean," she says, "I will not a have a consequence."

I launch into a spiel about how there are consequences for what we do, and when she gets to be a grown-up, the consequences are more serious and harder to bear. "We give you consequences," I say, "to help you learn what it's like to make a good choice or a bad choice, so that when you are a grown-up, you'll already know that it is better to make a good choice. I love you, and I want you to have a good life. If you make good choices, you will have a good life." I repeat the last part over and over again, "I love you, and I want you to have a good life. If you make good choices, you will have a good life." She protests that grown-ups don't get consequences. We discuss getting fired, car impoundment, and prison*. I repeat my lines again, and again, and again. Love, good choices, good life. All those things I want for her. It takes twenty minutes before she decides to make a good choice and go get dressed, but she does it on her own accord, with no consequences necessary.

During breakfast, she uses manners and is sweet and considerate. She is excited to start school today. Elvie goes to sleep in my arms as we are finishing breakfast, and I lay her in her crib so we can do schoolwork. We make quick work of all the lessons: math, reading, French, narration. Zinashi feels capable and intelligent. We start in on chores. We empty the trash together and she begins to unload the dishwasher while I am cleaning the cat litter box. I take out the trash and move on to my next chore, cleaning up the master bedroom. She comes in and out, showing how many utensils she can hold above her head at once? Isn't she strong? Yes, she is strong. The baby wakes up, eats, watches me happily from her perch on the bed as I hang up clothes.

I move on to computer chores. Email, mostly. Zinashi abandons the dishwasher and asks for a cookie. I tell her she can have one when she is finished with her chore. She tells me she is too tired. She asks for a cookie. I repeat the condition. Finish her chore, then the cookie. She protests that she is hungry. I offer a banana. She declines. She drapes herself over my chair, across my lap, poking me with her fingers. She asks to do my hair. I tell her that when she is done with her chores, she can have a cookie and do my hair. She says chores are boring. I say that she'd be done by now if she had just kept going, and maybe it would be super quick if she got back to it right away. She asks for a cookie. This goes on for an hour while I try to reply to three emails. I never finish, but Zinashi finally returns to the dishwasher while I feed the baby, and then claims her cookie as her reward.

The rest of the day blows by in a blur of children needing something, everyone wanting to be on my lap at once, a pediatrician's appointment for which we must walk four short blocks to catch the bus,  and Zinashi is intent on dawdling. There's a pigeon, a strange piece of trash, and oh! Is that the bus we're taking? No, that's the bus we would have been taking if we had not stopped to stare at the pigeon who was allegedly following us. We go to the appointment, come home, and everyone needs me again.

Elvie eats and gets settled in her bouncy seat, happy to rattle her deflated mylar balloon around after being in the carrier on the bus for an extended period of time. I sit down at the desk, hoping to get back to those emails, but Zinashi climbs me like a jungle gym. There is something up with her today, and I know I can't just tell her I need space. So instead I say,"If you want to sit on my lap, tell me that. You need to use words to ask for what you want." At least we can work on that. She looks at me, serious, and says nothing, climbing onto my lap, but not sitting. I set her down. "If you want to sit on my lap, tell me that." It takes thirty minutes of her climbing and me repeating my line for her to finally say it. I tell her good job and settle her properly on my lap. She asks me to read a book, using words and manners, and I say yes. I read two, and Jarod walks in the door, just in time for the baby to express her preference for being held.

I pick Elvie up, whisk her away to change her diaper, and put her in the bouncy seat in the kitchen while I run downstairs to put diapers in the dryer. I come back up and Jarod is holding her while she cries. I left the room, and she got worried. It happens all the time now. I hold her, feed her, don't put her down for an hour and a half while we wait for it to get close enough to bedtime to pajama and bottle and rock.

I lay Elvie in her crib just in time to do prayers with Zinashi. I get done, have a serious talk with Jarod, shower, fill out a form I meant to fill out two days ago. I look up options for readoption and obtaining a birth certificate for Elvie online after finding out that the home study agency charges $450 for their report to the court for readoption. Elvie is a US citizen, and it's stupid that we have to do anything additional, let alone pay $450 for it. I search in vain for other options. It's nearly 1am. I'm waiting for the dishwasher to be done so I'll have clean bottles for overnight, so it doesn't matter that all that time was wasted. The dishwasher is not done yet anyway.

Today was a tough one. It used up all of my patience, and then some. But still I head into nighttime, knowing I'll wake every one to two hours to feed the baby. The dishwasher is almost done. I can do this. I can.

I can.

I think.

*I realize this sounds horrible, but Zinashi deals in the concrete. When I tried to explain traffic tickets and poor job performance reviews, she didn't get it. So I told her that if she doesn't do what her boss asks, she won't have a job anymore, if she doesn't obey the traffic rules, her car can be taken, and if she doesn't obey the policeman, they can put her in jail, just like Curious George. She then went on to explain to me that she knows all about handpuffs, and I intend to bring up prison more often just to hear her say handpuffs again.


  1. Doesn't sound horrible to me. We had a similar discussion recently when one child asked if when he was an adult could he eat whatever he wanted? (meaning candy).

    I completely understand your day. Completely. It'll be easier to work with when you're getting more sleep, but it'll still be constant. Sorry. You can do it well and you are doing it well.

  2. Handpuffs- too cute! It's nice when they throw you some random bit of adorableness in the middle of a hard day. Yosi recently got an explanation of jail during a conversation about what police do and what happens if adults do very naughty things (like hit other people), and he now describes as a place where 'you have to sit on a chair all day and not play with any toys or any friends'. You can do it! You are doing an amazing job.

  3. HA HA! Hand puffs make prison sound so fun!

  4. not going to lie, the word verification on your blog takes three times sometimes to go through. I hate it. sometimes i give up and don't comment. just know I love you and that is why I don't always end up saying anything. That pic, is SO CUTE!

    1. I'll file a bug report; it should go through the first time without issue.

  5. Oh! Had so many of these days over the past year. The fabric of parenting during the baby years! And having an almost 7 yr old I can say that the tedium does pass :-) Also, LOVE Zinashi's skeleton shirt (where did you get it?) and LOVE handpuffs. Tau used to refer to the sky as the "skeer." We still call it that ;-)

  6. I don't know if this would fit your parenting style or Zinashi's needs but the book 1-2-3 Magic was recommended to me by another blogger and oh my has it been a life saver in our house. The basic premise is to teach children responsibility for their behavior and choices even if it may not seem like it at first glance. Both of your children are absolutely stunning and I second the request for where you got that awesome pink skeleton shirt!

  7. This does sound really trying on your patience and really emotionally wearying. But in a way it also sounds like heaven to me--so much love, so much empathy, so much compassionate boundary-setting. I hope that you are able to make time regularly for yourself, so that you can take care of the person that takes care of your daughters. I know that must be so difficult to do, but it seems so important.

  8. Every time I read a post of yours, I feel like I gain tools, or ideas or just a greater sense of love and empathy.
    But anyway, what really stuck me in this post is the fact that your new baby girl is crying when you leave the room. This warmed my heart so. Separation anxiety is a great sign and an indicator that all the hard work you're putting in is paying off.


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