We Are Safe

She’s not bleeding; she’s not starving; she has not broken a bone, fallen down the stairs, or gotten caught under something heavy.  She is not in pain, nor is she suffering uncontrollably.  There is no risk of immediate terror or peril; she is safe.’  This is the mantra going through my head as I listen to my daughter repeatedly scream out my name at the top of her lungs from my bedroom downstairs, as I basically hide out in the office upstairs.  After about five minutes, I close the door so the sound is more muffled and I can’t hear her as well.  Then I close my eyes, put my head in my hands and try to breathe…

It’s been a particularly difficult day.  Well, this is a bit of an understatement.  It’s been one hell of a freakin’ day; how about that.  Today is one of those days where you run into your mothering wall.  You have used every bit of patience and sensibility and bargaining and “don’t you dare”s that you can remember coming out of your mouth, and you’re truly just spent.

I’m sure we’ve all been there.  We love our children; and for the most part, they are lovely and wonderful and brilliant and amazing.  But they can also be the Achilles heel of our parenting prowess.  My daughter is closely approaching her seventh birthday; she is in transition.  As a result, we are all in transition.  Every parent laments about the “terrible two’s”, but no one warns you about the other ages.  They make it sound as if once you get past two, it’s almost a breeze; what they fail to mention is that the transitions continue at almost every age, and many of them are just as difficult.

My daughter is certainly not entirely to blame.  She is a small little being trying to figure out how to exist in a world of larger ones; trying to find her way to herself, even though she really doesn’t even know who that is yet.  I have some memory of how challenging that can be, at seven years old; the immense pressures of trying to shift from that “little girl” world where everything was safe and protected and many things done for you, into the “big girl” world where it’s expected (and really, self-desired) to be more independent, more self-reliant, more mature, a more separate being.  But what do you do with all those feelings of still wanting to be safe and secure and babied and coddled?  How do you shed those all of a sudden, just because you’re supposed to?  Even when you want to, you don’t want to…it’s hard to give up that secure little bubble and branch out of it, as curious as you may be.  That ever-present internal dichotomy makes for a perfect little emotional storm that is really a beast to navigate.  Can you blame her for having bad days?

I certainly don’t.  I’m forty and I have bad days; I have a much better handle on how to deal with them and I still struggle.  So I can’t possibly hold it against my lovely girl for simply being human and fallible.  But as difficult as it is for her to navigate her seven-year-old self, it’s equally as tough for the momma to discern how to help her steer a course through these rough waters.  Today’s challenges included everything from clothing crises to attention issues; from inabilities to listen to frustration over toys; from unhappiness over food choices to a power struggle over bedtime.  The current meltdown I was hiding out from, I would later find out, was a result over the fact that she was finally comfy and warm and had finished the apple she insisted on for a bedtime snack, and didn’t want to get out of the bed to throw it away, so she hollered for me to do it for her, and when I didn’t immediately answer (after the fourth or fifth try), she became distressed because she then didn’t know where I had gone.  I had initially not answered because I was on another floor; then when I heard her, I sent my husband in because I was busy, which apparently sent her into more hysterics because “you’re not momma!” and it really just snowballed from there.  The aforementioned hiding only seemed justifiable because I had personally recently put her to bed, knowing she was safe and sound, and also sent the husband in to check, assuring me that if there was a safety crisis he was with her.  Hence the mantra.  I know myself well enough to know when my daughter is better served by not having me there (such as when I simply have run out of everything I have to give, and all that may be left is frustration and impatience).

We did finally get to the end of this day.  I somehow got my 1200th wind, calmed her down, got her to sleep, and then proceeded to lay exhausted on the couch for a few good hours.  (Venting to the nameless blogosphere helped a little, as well, I must admit.)  Not all days are like this; I know the good ones outnumber the bad.  That’s why we do it, right?  It’s because the love is so huge and consuming.  That’s what carries us through.  At the end of days like these it’s the love for that amazingly beautiful creature that softly covers me like the warm embrace I so longed for when I was a little girl; it wraps me up in that safe little bubble and makes it all better again.  That love transcends it all.  And in one funny little moment, I am somehow the parent and child simultaneously, the keeper and the kept.  Only now, I am wise and strong enough to make myself safe, along with my little one; and that is a brilliant realization to behold. WE are safe.

Split Second Karma

I have a confession to make; I greatly dislike eggs with runny yolks. We all have them – those idiosyncrasies about us that exist without explanation. One of mine just happens to be runny eggs; it’s not so much dislike as despise, really. For me, they rank right up there in the “irrational things that freak people out category”. So much so that, this morning, I lied to my husband – who had so kindly made breakfast for the family – in order not to hurt his feelings. You see, my daughter loves her eggs that way, which is why he chose that method. She dips her toast in them; she even has a nickname for them, calling them “the poach” (which, clearly, is an incorrect reference to the manner in which they’re cooked, but she continues the misnomer even after numerous corrections). And this morning upon seeing his culinary creation and hearing my daughter’s delight (“Daddy made my favorite poach, Momma!”) I didn’t have the heart to criticize his efforts, nor did I have the stomach to pretend to consume them. So I feigned lack of hunger, said my goodbyes, and headed off to work.

Confession number two: I am a sucker for Starbucks breakfast sandwiches (though I have never been a coffee drinker, so how I got sucked into their franchise in the first place still baffles me). So when my empty stomach began protesting about 15 minutes into my drive-time, I began anticipating the exit quickly approaching where I knew there was an easily accessible Starbucks drive-thru. The freeway traffic at this point was fairly clear, as I’d left the house early. I pulled off, procured my prize, and was back en route within about 10 minutes time.

But the freeway I returned to in no way resembled the one I’d just left. Upon entering the on-ramp, I could see that I was heading toward a massive wall of grid-locked cars that were barely moving. Glancing farther up the lanes (there are three at this juncture) I could see that all of them were stacked; it was as if I’d left a deserted country lane and returned to a downtown New York street in rush hour.

Clearly something had literally just happened. My suspicion was confirmed when I suddenly heard sirens, and all of us in the three lanes quickly had to converge into two in order to let first an ambulance, then a fire engine pass. By this point we were crawling along, and I was able to make out additional emergency lights not too far ahead. I spent the next 20-40 minutes inch-worming with the rest of the traffic as we all now merged into one lane and, eventually, followed a serpentine pattern through where there had obviously been a fairly large collision (verified by the radio traffic team to have included four vehicles).

The congestion combined with the delay was initially very frustrating. Especially since my whole point of leaving the house early this morning was to get to work early and get some tasks out of the way before all the hustle and bustle began in the office. But when I got to the point of the accident itself, I noticed two officers clearing a motorcycle – now void of its rider – out of the way. It made me pause; first in the hope that that rider, and the other drivers involved were hopefully not seriously injured. But then, I thought of the timing of the whole scene. How it really seemed to come out of nowhere in the short time it took me to exit and then re-enter the freeway. 10 little minutes to purchase a breakfast sandwich; had something that banal really changed the outcome of my day? And, if so, in which direction?

I am a firm believer in Karma. I truly feel that for whatever energy you choose to put out into the universe – good, bad, positive, negative – you will somehow receive the same. And on this morning, when I realized how this little 10 minute shift may have affected me, it made me wonder for just a moment, “hmmm…good Karma, or bad?” I initially assumed that perhaps I had bad Karma for lying to my husband about breakfast and was now stuck in traffic being late for work. But when I thought about it further, I wondered if it was possible I was receiving good Karma for some other past action, and had narrowly missed being in the accident myself. For if I had stayed on the freeway and not exited, if I had not given up those 10 minutes of travel, I surmise that I would have been in that exact spot at almost that exact time; the same spot where they removed the broken, riderless motorcycle from.

I chose to believe the latter, and instead carried myself with a little extra caution for the rest of the day. Feeling like I narrowly missed disaster already, I guess I didn’t want to chance it. Though I’m sure the egg incident will come back at me in some form, or another; it’s really only a matter of Karmic timing.