If you give a family an apartment…

We recently moved into an apartment as we are “between homes”…a funny little way of saying that our old house sold and our new house couldn’t be vacated for a few months.  In this housing market if someone says “SOLD!” you say “how fast can we get the heck out of here for you, the dear, magnificent, yet elusive home buyer??”  So into an apartment we moved with only about 20% of our belongings accompanying us and 80% shipped off to storage.  The older girls have their own rooms and the baby’s crib is squeezed into a nook in our bedroom.  My kitchen is minuscule, our dining room is also our living room and you have to do this little odd shuffle to get around the bed in our bedroom.  There are piles in corners and the closet is cramped.  The litter box is on the landing of the stairs and the dogs food and water bowl are blocking the entrance to the balcony…which is exactly large enough to hold a single potted plant…and one human at a time…standing.

Most parents have read the books…”If you give a mouse a cookie…” or “If you give a Pig a pancake…” They follow a story where giving one little thing leads to a million other happenings and you end up right back at the beginning giving them another cookie/pancake.  My girls love the books and love reading them to the baby now.  I’ll say the expected “she LOVES reading” but she usually just tries to eat the book.

So…in the spirit of these books…

If you give a family an apartment…they will enter on day one smiling.  Looking around at their new surroundings they will decide to have a movie night.  If they have movie night they must have popcorn and if they have popcorn it will be burnt in the microwave to such an extent that the smell will permeate their small space and cause multiple candles to be lit to overcome said smell.  During the lighting of the candles the baby will be unattended and she will crawl past her many, many baby toys that litter the only living space there is and will be chewing happily on the dog’s bone.  As you grab the dog’s bone from her in total disgust she’ll reach over and grab the remote control.  Even though you have to sit perfectly in front of the remote sensor and hold the remote VERY VERY still and press the buttons VERY VERY hard to change the channel yourself, your 8 month old has it in her chubby little baby hands for 3.2 seconds and all of a sudden everyone on TV is speaking Mandarin.  When you finally reprogram the television to English you will decide to start a load of dishes before the movie starts.  The dishwasher in your new home will sound something like a Jet Engine as it is taking off.  Scratch moving night as the dishwasher sits about 5 feet from the family living space.  As everyone retreats to their rooms for the safety of their hearing, you decide to have a glass of ice water.  The ice will taste like salt for some reason.  The salt will remind you of the burnt popcorn in the trash can and you will remove the trash bag to take downstairs to the garage.  As you walk by your room on the way out you realize that the baby is awake from her 5 minute nap and you will set the bag of trash down in the corner to go in and get her up.  As you emerge from the room with her in your arms you will look down to see that your dog has chewed a hole in the bottom of the trash bag as she is thrilled that you so considerately left out a buffet for her…she just had to open it.  Open it she did…and strung it down the hallway and is anxiously devouring a chicken bone…which gets caught in her throat and she starts gagging.  While you try to figure out what the doggie Heimlich maneuver would look like she figures it out all by herself.  You turn and walk the 3 steps to get the carpet cleaner out and by the time you turn back around to clean her mess you realize it’s gone…because she ate it.  Rather than be disgusted you feel gratitude to the dog for cleaning up her own mess.  You realize that you’re starting to lose it.  You decide that EVERYONE NEEDS TO GO ON A FAMILY WALK!  We need to explore our new surroundings!  As soon as everyone has on their shoes and the baby’s diaper is changed and you’re getting ready to walk down the stairs to leave you hear the first crack of thunder.  As you silently kick off your own shoes, your family follows.  You walk into the living room/dining room and sit in the corner in the rocking chair and pick up a magazine.  Your husband puts the baby on the floor where she starts playing with her toys.  The diswasher stops running.  The TV is off.  Your husband picks up the newspaper and sits on the couch to read it.  Your 10 year grabs a book and curls up in the chair.  Your 8 year old sits at the table to draw.  The thunder continues and the rain comes down.  You keep rocking in your chair and realize that your family may do more than survive this apartment living.  You may learn to love it.  You may learn to laugh at yourselves and at the situation.  You may look up and see your entire family, reading, drawing, playing and being happy just because everyone is together.  This may all happen with the relaxing sound of rain falling outside.  You may snap a mental picture to save for always and realize that… If You Give a Family an Apartment…they might look around and smile and actually THRIVE.

P.S…we still don’t know why the ice tastes like salt.

Seven(ty) year itch…

My mother recently turned 70.  Since there is 30 years difference between she and I we both enter a new decade during the same year.  When I asked her how it felt to be 70 she replied, “It’s strange.  I just don’t FEEL 70.”  And I get that…because I can honestly say that when I think about the fact that I’m turning 40 this year, the same thought goes through my head.  “I just don’t FEEL 40.”  Similarly, my 8-year-old daughter, Laney, was recently looking at the baby and said…”It makes me feel weird to think I was that little once.”

Her comment made me laugh at the time but I think it’s the same emotion my mother was describing.   It’s weird that the souls that inhabit my children’s bodies are constant, for lack of a better word.  Life’s experiences will shape them and their personalities, but a day will come, more quickly than any of us can fathom, that they will sit in a room surrounded by their children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren and say…”it’s strange…I just don’t FEEL 70.”

Personally, I think this fact takes some of the proverbial heat off of this parenting ride.  I mean, if they “are who they are,” isn’t it just our job to present them with as much positive life experience as we can, shield them from harm and then just observe how that person takes on a new role with their growing bodies?  Wouldn’t our stress be so much less if we could just release the idea that we somehow “control” the human outcome?

Of course I’m not talking about the effect of abuse or neglect and what that can do to the human spirit…that’s the extreme.  I’m more referencing the fact that even though Avery, my nine year old, loves horses and wants to take horseback riding lessons, waiting a year isn’t going to drastically alter the course of her life.  Even though her blue eyes can fill with tears to the PERFECT amount so that the fluid fills to very edge of the lower eyelids.  Even though that when I tell her that driving 30 minutes with a newborn to take her to horseback riding lessons isn’t happening this year, those same eyes have the ability to allow a single, perfectly shaped tear to spill over and ever so dramatically trickle down her cheek in academy award winning style.   If her inner person is behind those eyes just watching this whole thing play out, I don’t have to add a check mark to the “reasons my kids will need therapy” list that I keep in my head as she turns and walks away, shoulders slumped, murmuring about how hard it is to be the oldest child.

At times like that, I just need to reassure myself that I’m doing the best I can…and hope that someday she looks back and knows that.  Or…I need to smile and know that someday, she’ll look into the eyes of her child and have to say something disappointing to them and hope she remembers that she can’t control it all but that they will be just fine.

Life happens, the years pass and birthdays continue to surprise us with the numbers that accompany them despite their predictability.  I imagine that’s why 70 doesn’t have a “feel”…it’s too similar to all the decades that have passed before it.

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