Why is it that the 4thof July seems like more a holiday to me than, say, Valentine’s day? Is it the food: steaks, potato salad, popcicles? Is it the dirty children playing in the sand, in the bubbles, with the sparklers at dusk? Or maybe it’s the memory of holidays past. Fireworks over the ocean in Maine. Random tupperware bowls of summer food scattered across the island in my aunt’s kitchen; Uncle Bob and his never ending boxes of ice cream sandwiches. Stephen and I in the bed of my pickup truck watching for falling stars and avoiding the crowds. My grandpa in his black socks and sandals, watching us in the pool. My brother on the floor of his room, counting his money so he can ride his bike to the closing day of fireworks sales. The scar on my inner thigh where I burned myself with a smouldering punk that was stabbed into the lawn for safekeeping. Being hugely pregnant with Ella and Stephen checking us into a hotel so that I could float in a giant bathtub.
It might be my second favorite holiday. Thanksgiving is the all time favorite. I like the days that are all about food and gatherings of people who know each other really well. No pressure of gifts. Everybody contributes to the meal. It’s also less commercial than other holidays. But you can still decorate and work with a theme.
The days of summer are clicking along. Ella will have her fifth birthday next week. Amelia will be three next month (on moving day…she will get hosed, again). I started packing the first of the totes this afternoon following an epic battle with Ella to clean her room. Fail. I lost. After three hours, plenty of yelling and some tears, I lost. I couldn’t take it anymore and I sent her down stairs and cleaned her room for her. I packed half of it but she won’t really figure that out until later.
I think I’m an okay parent. Not a good parent. I don’t have it all together. I’m not all that consistent. I indulge them a bit even though I feel like I’m saying “No” more than “Yes” all day. I feel like I did really well through the infant, toddler and preschool years but what do I do with this kid who is growing up around me?
She is smart. She hears and understands everything said to her or around her. She internalizes all that she reads, hears and sees. She can play with anything and turn it into an intricate fantasy world. But what is it about “I need you to help me (blank).” that turns her into a child that is mouthy, belligerent, unkind and bratty? It’s not just the picking up. It’s also helping with kitchen chores, going to her room to rest or anything else that isn’t her idea. She knows she is bringing out the worst in me. I am incapable of a temper tantrum (see: Lexapro). I can raise my voice but there isn’t any fire behind it anymore.
Packing and putting away two totes of toys from their room is a start. I have a plan…when she doesn’t help…one more tote gets packed and labeled. It could be worse. I could just fill garbage bags and take them to the trash can. But that’s really not nice and I’d probably regret it later.
Part of me thinks that this is just her and not necessarily my parenting. Amelia is a good helper and always has been. Ella? Almost never. I encourage them both. I reward them with praise or outings or whatever for a job well done. I will not resort to bribery because that’s a slippery slope. But I need something that will work for her.
This? Right here? Is one of the reasons that two parents are better than one. This is really freaking hard.