This fourth year of Twila’s life has proven the most challenging yet. She is throwing tantrums for the first time in her life. Having gotten through the two’s without a single knock down drag out, I was thinking we were in the clear. But here we are in the throes of absolute insanity and I am out of my league.
She screamed herself horse at the grocery store the other day because she wanted me to buy flowers. Flowers? That’s right, a potted plant. Not candy or gum or a toy, a floral arrangement. She screamed with such anger and desperation that the manager came to see if we were okay with a kindly smile and a look of sympathy in her eyes.
The woman at the checkout looked like she might cry as she observed my desperate three year old about to spontaneously combust in the car portion of the long cart, whose impossible-to-steer chassis did nothing for the nightmarish situation. She leaned into me and said that we could have a flower arrangement—free of charge.
I smiled courteously and shook my head. “I just can’t reward this kind of behavior,” I said.
As I often do when I can step back from these crazed moments of anti-ration, I thought about my own childhood. I wondered how my mom managed four of these small, but frightening creatures. I wondered what I would have wanted my mom to do: just give in, probably. I can remember the feeling of desperation when you are not being listened to. I remember thinking that if my parents only knew how important to me this one thing was, they would feel terrible for not just giving it to me, letting me do it, eat it, whatever.
Surely there must be equilibrium to be found.
It’s been a week of exhaustion and sleep deprivation. All of our bodies are battling various viruses and our temperaments battle each other. The battle between Twila and her parents lately has been about power, and choice. Twila wants to do everything for herself and when we allow that, she wants also to do everything for us. She keeps wanting until her wants are either physically impossible or unacceptable for some reason or other. She pushes and pushes until we resist and then she falls apart in despair.
The battle within my own head lately has been the same battle in many ways: to care for the family, insulating, protecting and mediating, or to sit down and begin writing. Once I just start writing, the portal is opened, there is a ledge created that I can climb back on later. It is the starting that is most difficult. Its saying: okay now is the right time to sit down and begin. And so I battle in my head constantly about what right now this moment, is the right time for: sleep, playing with the girls, cleaning, or writing? “If I had it my way I would write all the time.” That is what I tell myself so my lack of productivity can hide behind the vast blanket excuse of family chaos. My attention span seems to be shortening.
I have long thought that I should invest sixty-nine cents in a small notebook on which to write my brilliant ideas for novels, plays and blogs. Or maybe even six ninety-nine and get one of those fancy little moleskins I always pet at the books store. I have never actually executed this plan because…I don’t know why. But lately it seems to be a necessity. I keep having these brilliant flashes of ideas throughout the day. At least I remember them as brilliant. Later when the girls are in bed and I open up my computer, they are gone—simply, completely gone; irretrievable.
All my brain seems good for by evening time is reading (if I’m lucky) and (more likely) watching old episodes of Arrested Development or Party Down.
In the Volvo that we’re driving now, there is a DVD player in the back seat where my three year old can operate and watch it. It’s hard for me to state these facts out loud because I spent the better part of my young adult life swearing I would never own a vehicle with DVD players. But I guess motherhood is largely about eating your words so it is appropriate that I love the DVD player. Some days driving is the only time I experience quiet. Jada falls asleep (she’s not allowed to watch TV until she’s two) and Twila watches The Princess and the Frog: the best Disney movie ever made, in case you were wondering.
I have a love/hate relationship with the movie actually because as I sit listening to it over my speakers, getting tears in my eyes as Prince Naveen and Tiana fall in love, I realize that this cartoon is truly a well told story. Its creative, it has characters that are unique who you care about, it is the classic hero’s journey, perfectly woven together and I fully enter into it as a willing witness. What bothers me is that I am spending the hours in my day listening to this story (over and over) and not writing one of my own. And what bothers me even more is the nagging, terrible thought that what I write might never be as good as my daughter’s Disney movie.
Perhaps the classic writer’s fear: that your writing won’t amount to the drivel you see in main stream media. But I listen anyway and enjoy the movie because it is simple and fun and has a great message about life and love and strength of the human spirit which is all it takes to create a story that people care about. And I listen because for the brief moments that Twila and I watch the movie together, we laugh together and sing along, and there seems to be nothing at all to battle about.