A Tale Of Two Days

A sunny, windy Friday morning. Cozy woke me up, I got her a fresh diaper, and we sat snuggling and nursing on the couch. Sylvan woke up and staggered over to snuggle with us. After a few minutes piled up there, blissfully shrugging off sleep, we decided we’d take the bus downtown to the children’s museum. We hadn’t been since they’d changed exhibits from golf ball ramps to dinosaurs, and I thought the dinosaur exhibit was due to end soon.

We ate breakfast as I looked up the website, thinking I’d bite the bullet and spring for another annual membership, ours having been expired for a couple months – but there I found a dinosaur costume contest! Make a homemade dinosaur costume, take a picture of yourself wearing it in the dinosaur exhibit, submit it, ask all your friends to “like” it, and win a year’s membership. There were only two entries so far… and the contest ended in less than a week! How lucky! We had just begun a new budget with the new year, so money was on my mind. This could save us a good chunk, and be fun besides.

Excited, we got into making dinosaur masks to take with us. Sylvan decided on a triceratops with paper plates and staples for me, a generic spiky-headed one for baby sister, and a fierce green-glittery paper bag T. Rex for himself. He proudly carried the bag full of masks the half-mile to the bus stop and into the children’s museum, which we had practically to ourselves. He explored and played for hours with me following along, the baby slept and nursed and slept some more in the Ergo. We had a lunch picnic in the lobby, found some magic growing dinosaurs for $2 in the gift shop, and got a great snapshot of him in his scary mask, staring down a model of a baby T. Rex. I submitted it via email that night as he slept. I felt like supermom. What a Perfect Happy Day.

Paper bag mask vs. museum's baby T Rex

totally the scariest

Later the next week, a similar morning scene unfolded… but on this morning, Cozy and I were still in the bathroom when Sylvan woke up. So instead of cuddling and cooing at his sister, he headed straight for the laptop in the living room and began a Busytown Mysteries marathon on Netflix. When I’d finished getting Cozy dressed, I made him a tray for breakfast and sat next to him on the couch with another laptop to check email. We each stopped now and then to bug the other one, or take a bathroom break, or feed/play with Cozy, and were drawn back to our separate screens.

Then he said, out of the blue, “Did we win the dinosaur contest?” My heart sank as I realized I had forgotten all about it over the busy weekend, hadn’t even checked the site, hadn’t asked our friends to like his photo… with a groan and a grimace, I clicked it, and we had missed it by one day. There was Sylvan’s photo, with two pity votes from strangers. A cardboard triceratops had come from behind and won, just like we’d planned to.

Just like I’d planned to. He was only in it for the fun. But that thought came too late. He’d already seen my reaction, and he burst into tears and ran out of the room.

With a fierce pang, I realized we’d spent all morning on parallel trajectories, disconnected. Topped off by me making him cry over my petty disappointment.

Argh! The agony of getting it all wrong! It stung so much more because it contrasted so exactly against that other day, the Perfect Happy Day. The day that I’d just managed to ruin retroactively by making it all about something other than the awesome fun time that it was. I went after him with hugs to apologize for being silly, to say that his costume was definitely the best, and didn’t we have so much fun exploring with the dinosaurs? and he seemed ok with it again, but it still felt awful. I texted Kaleb with a howl of Stupid Me, and he replied… that I should just love Sylvan and love myself.

With another pang, I realized it was noon and I hadn’t eaten anything.

It’s simple, almost ridiculously so – be present with love for myself and my family, and it all works so smoothly, so easily! It’s as if we were all made to do this! But if I let that simple beauty slip to the background, let something else come into focus for too many minutes, lose too many opportunities to connect – then my blissful hike in the woods is interrupted by a tree branch smacking me in the face. Mothering is a hard gig some days.

My takeaways:
– I just gotta eat breakfast. As a nursing mom, I should probably eat it twice.
– I was willing to pay outright for the museum membership from the beginning. Why and how did it become such a disappointment? and transferred momentarily to the 4-year-old, no less? My expectations and my lack of flexibility, combined with a good dose of forgetfulness (which is all over everything these days) created the problem.
– Inertia is important. Beginning each day with a plan – or even just the seed of an idea – can make a big difference.


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10 thoughts on “A Tale Of Two Days

  1. Beat yourself up much?

  2. Gretchen Ford on said:

    You are an AWESOME mom and a damn good writer! Keep ’em coming, it’s making a difference in my understanding, too.


  3. you are a human. don’t sweat it. sylvan chooses/feels his own reactions, too. We (people that love & care about the folks we love & care about) put so much pressure on ourselves to “do it right”, even stuff like loving our family “right” and feeling “right”, that it stabs a hole in our own hearts. I think you are doing a spectacular job, and it’s ok to be disappointed and show disappointment for not winning a costume contest. Both of you.

    • Hannah on said:

      Oh, no hole in my heart yet. I don’t think I felt “wrong,” just that my feelings helped point me toward a more helpful way of being, ya know? It helped to write it out for myself too, I get some good clues through the process.

      • I have holes in my heart bleeding all over the place. We all know I’m sensitive, so maybe I’m just inserting self in the above story. But by the same token, something that I think a lot (and reinforce a lot between the siblings) is that nobody MAKES me feel anything and I don’t MAKE anyone feel anything. Feelings are a reaction, with some amount of choice involved – so I pause and choose as best as possible before reacting (not always successfully). On the same token, I try and choose to say/do things that can instigate a positive reaction in those around me. I guess what I’m getting at is you didn’t MAKE Sylvan feel upset. You reacted with an emotion to news that was disappointing to you in that moment, and Sylvan reacted to your emotion. I try [well, on days that are those Perfect Happy Parenting Days] to convey to myself and the children as much as possible that we all have some choice in our feelings, and our feelings are nobody else’s fault. That whole non-violent communication business, feelings without blame, yadda yadda. So maybe it’s just petty semantics and off on a non-important tangent from what you’re writing about, but I think that distinction is important to bear in mind. At least for me. It saves me a few leaking heart holes most days.

        Also, I like reading your writing. I also like you.

        • Hannah on said:

          Oh, now I see what you’re getting at. That is good to keep in mind too. You’re right, I didn’t Make him feel bad, but he did feel bad about my reaction, rather than about the contest itself… I don’t think he would’ve cared much if I’d said, “Oh, that was fun, wasn’t it?” instead. In this case I was distracted and hungry/cranky, so my reaction was more emotional than it would’ve been otherwise.

          He’ll grow up with tools to deal with cranky people, and that’s good, right? Something to soothe myself with on the off days.

          Also, I like you too.

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