Saying no, saying yes, and other stories
There’s not been much sleep in these parts lately. Have I mentioned that? You know, that I’m tired? No? Well, not for at least ten minutes anyway. Yes. Tired.
I have learnt that my ability to perceive myself as a good mother is directly proportionate to the amount of sleep I’m getting. Probably because my ability to BE a good mother is directly proportionate to the amount of sleep I’m getting. So, on both counts, I’ve been pretty crap this week.
Three or four hours of sleep a night and long days breeds a particularly snappy, shouty, emotionally fragile kind of mummy that neither me nor Kai are particularly keen on, and there has been a lot of snapping and shouting this week. Added to this, both of us have had to adjust to a new way of being around each other in the last few months. It’s just us now, you see, there’s no one else to help ease the tension. I am having to find ways of staying sane when your main source of company, and for long, solitary days and nights at a time, is two and half, and Kai is having to learn that I can’t provide the same focused attention available to him at the weekends, when he has an army playmates in the form of his Dad and family to help keep him occupied.
All of this is making for some particularly fraught weeks at the moment: lots of fallings-out, and the need for making-back-up-again. Good job we love each other, hey?
Motherhood has never come particularly naturally to me. I’m not that well suited to it, needing quiet and having a particularly fundamental need for my own space and to devote time and energy to my own projects and ideas. I have a tolerance level of about three seconds when it comes to the kind of involved, repetitive play that toddlers so enjoy, and Kai has especially intense needs in that department, being a child that never sits still, needing focused concentration to communicate with him and craving stimulation as desperately as I crave the peace to sit and snooze or read. I find I end up saying ‘no’ a lot: “no Kai, that’s enough now”, “no Kai, you’ll have to wait”, “no Kai, mummy’s busy”. We both end up frustrated and fraught, and I end up feeling guilty. It seems like he has the most fun when he’s away from me at the moment. I feel like dull mum, paling in comparison to the excitement and energy he gets from everyone else in his life. I’m not always sure what I’m really giving him most days, aside from fulfilling his basic needs.
We’re getting there, on the good days at least, we really are. I’m learning to give a bit more, and Kai’s learning to take a bit less and somewhere in the middle we’re starting to find a better balance. I’m a great believer that it’s important for children to learn to play on their own, and NOT need an adult to direct them or play with them the whole time – it gives their imaginations a chance to be really unleashed without adult constraints. When I’ve had enough sleep to think about it properly, I realise that my ‘no’s don’t always have to be a source of guilt – I can view them as something really positive. And I’m learning to include him more – we’re becoming a little team, me and Kai. We clean together and cook together and wash up together and sort laundry together. When I have errands to run, we make it an adventure. Kai helps remember what we have to buy, where we’re going, and we don’t rush home, spending time dawdling along the pavement seeing what we can see.
What I’m learning is that saying no is okay, as long as they’re are plenty of ‘yes’s too. After a morning of ‘no’s after a long night of little sleep, I’m really trying to set aside some time to say “what do you want to do Kai?” and answering “YES!”. I’m finding that even if I’ve said no a hundred other times that day, it’s the yes’s that define what kind of day we have, even if it’s just the one. It’s giving us, in between the frustration and the fallings out, some real gems of time together.
Every day this week when I’ve asked him what he wants to do he’s signed the same sign: PAINTING! And so that’s what we’ve done. Lots and lots of it. I know I tend to harp on a bit about Kai and his art work, so forgive me my indulgence again. I guess when you have a child where so much is focused around what he’s NOT doing, it becomes extra-important to celebrate the things he DOES do. And this is something that makes Kai special in my eyes just now, not because of any particular extraordinary skill, (although I think for two and half he’s got quite an eye on him), but because it’s something that he enjoys so much, and which gives me so much joy to watch.
This week we’ve been using objects around the house to copy in our paintings, toys mostly, and he’s loved it. We talk about what colours things are, what shape, we mix our paints, I watch Kai daub and splat and dot, and for half an hour I get to feel like maybe I’m doing something right for once.
So here’s Kai’s painting of his toy Noah’s Ark, done all by himself while I did my knitting and we talked about what he was doing. I’m not a believer in the religious meaning, but we like stories, me and Kai, especially ones with animals in, and when you get to a paint a rainbow, and conjour up all the hope and light that that brings with it, well, I think it was just about perfect for us yesterday.
(P.S. The pants were clean, promise – had fallen out the laundry basket. Failed to spot them till after I’d saved the photo. Oh well, cheap thrill for you there. You’re welcome.)