Off Kilter

This is our cat Teasel, and she loves to sleep on the speed hump on hot days.  We call this her “Roadkill Impression.”  Ethan always jokes that we should put up a sign saying, “Dear Earthskillers, please do not take our cat.  She is not dead yet.”  The rumor was that they were going to feed everyone roadkill at the last gathering.  I think it actually ended up being pork, from our farm and someone else’s.

Ahhh….started the day today with a nice farm breakfast – our pork sausage, the bread and butter pickles with the cucumbers we grew (turned out really good), and some homemade honey-dill mustard – we grew the dill at least!  Oh, and an agua fresca of mint sprigs soaked in cool water.

We had a rough week last week – Rose is in a short summer camp at Morning Meadow, and for some reason the staff thought it would be a good idea to feed the children chocolate cake one day.  Maybe other people’s kids can handle that sort of thing, but all week Rose was the “yapper-type sister” as Mirin calls her. 

My mother was also guilty of feeding Mirin popsicles instead of meals this week.  They are the “healthy” popsicles, with just fruit but they are still very sweet.  And it didn’t help that I spent a couple of hours ignoring the children and writing on Monday.  I have a vague ambition to be a writer someday, and I’ve written three books for older children now.  It was the fourth I was working on. They are all silly fantasy stories.  My family loves them, but I’m not sure who else might!  I was inspired on Monday, and you have to take advantage of that sort of thing.

So we got off on the wrong foot for this past week. On Thursday Mirin spent a lot of time at my mother’s house and was fed popsicles for breakfast and lunch.  I didn’t realize this until it was too late and the damage was done.  It’s amazing how sugar can affect kids’ behavior (I suspect grown-ups, too).  By late afternoon he was on the verge of a meltdown. My mom had taken all three children shopping (for more popsicles!!!), and they misbehaved so much that an old lady shopper actually scolded them.  I was very surprised because usually they behave decently when they are in public.

That evening after the chores were done and dinner was about to be served, I asked Mirin to put away the gazillion books he had callously taken off the shelf and left on the floor for the baby to shred.  Many of the books are from my childhood, or even from when my father was a boy.  They are old and special.  He was angry and started cramming them back onto the shelf randomly.  He tried cramming Curious George back, and the binding looked like it was breaking because he was being so rough with it.

And, I’ll admit, I did raise my voice.  I said, “Don’t, you’re breaking it!  Stop!”  That was it, he snapped and spent the next half hour stomping around the house, slamming doors and yelling.  We ignored him and ate dinner.  Everyone else was getting ready for bed when he brought me a little comic he had drawn.  It was a series of pictures of me yelling, “Shut up, stupid!” at him and slapping him.  I immediately started trying to defend myself, of course I hadn’t said that at all, much less slapped him!  But then I realized, here he was trying to give me a little hint at his perspective.  In his sensitive popsicle-induced state, just me raising my voice a little so he wouldn’t break the book was like me slapping him and yelling mean things at him!

It was too late once I realized this.  He even tried to give the suggestion that I could have requested him not to break the book in a nicer way!  I was already into explaining that I never said those words, and he stormed off.  I apologized for having hurt his feelings through the door, but he just yelled that he wanted to be alone.  A few minutes later he came out with a fantastic costume.  It included a black hoodie and his bowie knife.  He said, “You’ve left me no choice but to join the assassin’s guild!”

He was in much better humor at this point.  We marveled at his costume.  The toddler even managed to get her little hands on the knife (it was taken away before any damage was done).  I managed to conjure up some creativity and create a bedtime story that I knew he would want to hear, so in the end we got him in bed in a much better mood.  He was so much better the next morning.

Reflecting, I think it is so good not to get caught up in the drama – and also to be able to listen to those little hints at someone else’s perspective, even if it seems silly to us.  Isn’t that what relationships are about?  And family is all about relationships.  Getting along isn’t about never having fights or disagreements, it’s about being able to work through those disagreements and find some way to reconnect with each other.  This could have ended with all of us yelling and fighting for another hour or more, but instead it brought us closer together.

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