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Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Micro-Thankfulness

children mentioned...

I was writing what I thought to be a veeeeeeeeery witty post about how the food store moved all of the alcohol-related products to the convenience aisle at the front of the store and tying this in to what sort of heinous Thanksgiving experiences lurk in the deepest corners of America for infertile men and women. And then we had the tantrum.

The tantrum was a full-out, non-stop explosion that existed at its top volume for about 45 minutes and truly lasted for about three hours altogether. It reminded me a lot of a Thanksgiving four years ago--their first Thanksgiving--where the twins cried through the meal and had a complete meltdown because they were off-schedule and there was too much stimulation. We came home and finally got them to bed and I remember standing in the kitchen and sobbing because I had missed out on time with my siblings and now I was going to have to wait until G-d knows when to have a do-over with the dinner.

I spent the majority of my afternoon dealing with the meltdown and then collecting myself while I raced through thoughts, trying to shift the pieces of the puzzle together and figure out what kicked off such an epic cry-fest. Yes, I had said that we needed to take a rest, but that is usually met with some foot dragging and rudeness. This was the cry of someone who was so deeply wounded, who could not handle having one more thing not go their way.

They* woke up from the nap (who wouldn't nap after crying for 45 straight minutes) and began crying again, a wounded animal cry that shook their whole body. And it finally occurred to me: this was the cathartic release of someone who finally had a minor reason to cry and used it to let go of the huge emotions that had been rolling under the surface for weeks. I stoked their head and finally said, "it's hard to be you. It's hard to be little and have big feelings, isn't it. It's hard to have someone always tell you what to do. It's hard to not like to go somewhere and have your mother constantly tell you that you have to go. It's hard to feel alone. It's hard to feel overwhelmed every day. It is just so hard to be you."

And that was it--they just needed someone to hear them. Their tantrum ended and my anxiety began as my husband and I hashed out what we wanted to do. There was obviously a problem--a huge problem--and it was a problem that needed addressing because our child was carrying with them such a huge burden. Which kicked off the brainstorming, and then my own crying because none of the solutions felt right, and then more brainstorming and discussion and debate until we finally arrived at some semblance of a temporary solution with a Plan B if the solution proved to be only a tiny bandage on a huge bloody wound.

And this is what I took away from the whole thing and how it applies to Thanksgiving:

I focus too often on the big picture instead of the small moments and in doing so, lose the thankfulness. It is hard to be happy when there are major stressors in your life. It is hard to focus on the small things that are going right when there are huge things that are going wrong. I have to be frank--our child's problem occupies a large portion of my waking thoughts. It feels like a flume ride where I can't unclench my teeth and enjoy the slow moments because I know that I'm on a flume ride and there is always a big drop after the calm bits. I am not, as you have probably guessed, a fan of the roller coaster.

Because we are constantly worrying about this ongoing problem and it takes over a large portion of my energy and doesn't seem to have an end point in sight, I forget the things that are going right in the day. The new friend I'm making at their school, the party we had this week, Thanksgiving itself. Moving into the even smaller victories--the twins put on their shoes and coats without my prompting this morning after I mentioned that it was time to go so I emerged from the kitchen to see two children prepared to leave the house. The fact that we still have some leftover cookies in the freezer. That after I finish this post, I get to relax with a DVD.

And even smaller than that. I had a good hair day. I am breathing. I fell asleep without too much trouble last night.

And by turning to micro-thankfulness, I can somehow see the macro-thankfulness emerge as well. No, things are not going how we wish right now and our child's situation is painful for every person in this house. But I am married to this man I love with all of my heart. We have two healthy children that came after infertility and prematurity--a major feat unto itself. I am close with my siblings and parents and I love having all of us together for the holiday. We have a house. We have money. And when my instinct is to point out the problem even in the thing I'm feeling thankful about, I bring it back to the micro-thankfulness and begin again:

I am thankful that I thought ahead and bought ingredients for dinner so I didn't have to swing by the store again.

I am thankful that I cleaned the living room last night so I don't have to do it today.

I am thankful that there is a new episode of Brothers & Sisters this week, that I have new plates and silverware, that I've managed to keep the carpet stain-free for five years (please, please, please universe, do not let me mess this up today and ruin that streak just because I mentioned it).

And that's what I turn over to you if you are also finding it difficult to be macro-thankful this holiday.

And, in case micro-thankfulness isn't enough and you still need something to keep in your head when you're fighting back tears over the green bean casserole, I give you this Thanksgiving drawing from Uterine Wars which urologists should be starting a bidding war over for their office art collection.

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone.

*You may notice that I never use a gender in this post; use instead that absolutely incorrect pronoun to speak about our child. And that is purposeful--not sloppy English. I never want them finding old posts on the Internet and saying, "holy shit, you told the whole world about that!"

28 comments:

Lori said...

"this was the cathartic release of someone who finally had a minor reason to cry and used it to let go of the huge emotions that had been rolling under the surface for weeks."

I MUST remember this the next time my own They has a tantrum. Or even my own Me.

I am thankful to Peggy Orenstein and google for leading me to you and this beautiful community.

And I also send you and Them calming, soothing thoughts of easiness of being.

Clio said...

I am all for micro thankfulness. It always helps to put things in perspective as well.
It was a beautiful post. The way you sympathized with your child's pain was really a lesson to me. And you are right, even when we are small, we already have big feelings.
Happy Thanksgiving!

Kymberli said...

I'm micro-thankful for tomorrow's Thanksgiving feast, featuring a table full of food that I had no part in cooking.

Though I don't particularly like them, I'm thankful for the stains in my carpet, because I know who put them there (but if I could have the kids AND clean carpets I'd be micro-thankful x 2).

For friends IRL and online friends alike.

For moving forward.

For this Blue Hawaiian wine cooler.

For a cookie-baking husband.

Jen said...

I'm sending good thoughts that you get the child's problem worked out soon. I know that must be hard on all of you.

Brenda said...

I teared up when you spoke to them and told them that "it must be hard to be so small and have such big feelings." All of a sudden I felt like I was 4 again. BOTH of them are lucky to have you as a Mom :) Happy Thanksgiving.

Jess said...

Happy Thanksgiving!!

Cassandra said...

I am micro-thankful for you, Mel. So many people will read this post and witness outstanding parenting in action. It's decidedly hard to be 4 years old, but it is so much less hard when their mother pays such careful attention to and voices such respect for their emotions and inner struggles.

Hope that the tantrums are out of the way and that your family can enjoy Thanksgiving joyfully, with tiny clothespin versions of them watching them, supine, hiding halfway under the dinner plates.

Happy Thanksgiving!

luna said...

I almost felt like I was 4 and you were stroking my hair in that rocker, soothing me with your calm voice and huge open heart. you're such a good listener -- I am so grateful for that.

hope the little one's burden is eased.

LJ said...

It's so true about the microthankfulness - it's a true reminder to live in the now, the good and the bad.

Give both little ones a hug from 'auntie' Lindsay - even if only one had a meltdown, everyone needs a good hug now and again. That includes their mom.

calliope said...

awesome post.
With so much going on in my family this year I keep trying to be thankful the MOMENT something great happens. Even if it is just thanking the Universe for getting a laugh out of Grandmother.
xo

IdleMindOfBeth said...

Happy Thanksgiving Ms. VonSnatch!

Wanted to let you know that I gave you an award. Check details here: http://theidlemindofbeth.blogspot.com/2008/11/fabulousness.html

MrsSpock said...

I was always a sensitive kid. I remember vividly several such tantrums I threw that were not about the little things that set them off, but about a Big Emotion instead. I cried for nearly four hours when I was 6 and fell off my bike and scraped my knee. That same year I wept for nearly 3 days when I saw starving Ethiopian kids on TV, and was overwhelmed by the suffering. Sensitive kids can grow into kind, creative adults.

WiseGuy said...

Well, Happy Thanksgiving!

C said...

You are a great mom, and a great person for sharing your voice with our community.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Kristin said...

I am thankful for this amazing community who love, support, and understand each other.

I am thankful my children are healthy and here despite the uber-crankiness of the younger two.

I am thankful that, although my hubby still works in emergency services, he is now a boss so he doesn't have to work today.

HAPPY THANKSGIVING Y'ALL!

Vintage Mommy said...

My daughter was not prone to tantrums, but she has her own "stuff". I'm thankful that this year I see some maturity emerging (she's seven).

And of course, I'm thankful that she's mine!

Very Very Happy Thanksgiving to you and your family!

surpriseofunfolding said...

What a wonderful, empathetic response to your little one. 4 yo can live in tumultuous worlds - there are moments of pure joy but moments of total overwhelming-ness. I hope things can become easier for all of you soon.

the macro & the micrco thankfulness ... oh boy do I hear you there. DH has been out of work about 10 months now and with the market being down, it's not looking great. I am job searching now too, and while I love my job & look forward to it in one sense, in another I will miss this time with the little ones. I have some big anxieties about DS's allergies when I am unable to go on field trips etc with him (since my kind of work won't allow switching days etc). I am trying to deal with the fact that we may be closing the door on trying for more kids because of these financial circumstances ... although realistically, who knows if we could have another with just good old-fashioned BD anyway. When I sit and think of all these things, the world seems pretty dark.

And yet there are many, many things to be grateful for. I try to live in those micro moments, or I think the world would implode for me right now. And there are many, many good moments to focus on ... if I'm not focusing entirely on finances!

JamieD said...

Thanks for this post, so well written as always.

You are an incredible mom!

areyoukiddingme said...

Your kids are lucky to have you. Your insight into their minds will help them grown into wonderful adults. It always makes me feel so inadequate when it takes me so long to figure out why my 2 year old is freaking out.

The micro-thankfulness advice is such a good way to look at things. I spent the day enjoying my daughter, but not getting any relaxation and it didn't seem like a fair deal. So, I will remember that my daughter had a lot of fun today with no major meltdowns until we were on the ride home. That was a huge challenge: my husband's family is large and my daughter is slow to warm up, her schedule was totally off, and she was playing with her 4 cousins who are all siblings. I will remember that there was not much food to bring home, so everyone must have liked what I made. And now, Planet of the Apes is on...

Jendeis said...

Thank you for this post. Thank you for you. Thank you for all the wonderful people I've met this year due to IF.

FattyPants said...

What a wonderful thing for you to say to your child. Sometimes we just need to be able to feel our feelings. You are a great mom.

Today I'm thankful for everything. I am truly blesed. I wish the same for everyone too.

Amanda said...

I love this post and so want to committ to memory what you said to soothe your child. I want to remember it so I can say it to me, to my own child, to my husband, to my friends, when life just seems like so much after the little things build up to be so big.

I'm thankful for having found your blog and the ALI community.

Julia said...

I am sorry you are all dealing with this thing that sounds so big and all-encompassing. I am here and I am listening.

Amy said...

Sorry you've had to deal with such a difficult problem. I hope you have the wisdom to figure things out to help your child. I'd have to agree that we often get so caught up in our day to day lives that we forget to be thankful for the little things. Hope you had a great Thanksgiving. Happy Thanksgiving!

ICLW

Bea said...

It is hard to be a kid. I remember it being hard. In so many little ways, being an adult is easier, even though it sucks sometimes too. Hope you keep being able to be thankful.

Bea

Io said...

I think this post should have been in your Friday blog roundup. Sure, sure, it would have seemed silly for you to point to your own blog, but just in case anyone missed it they should be directed back here.

Cynthia Samuels said...

Mel what a moving post - and what wisdom you showed. I have to tell you that happens to me, too. Myself, I mean - crying over nothing when it's really over everything.

It was beautiful of you to figure it out and respond so well. Yay mom.

Fertilized said...

i just learn so much from you. You are a geniune neutral and I wish I could be more of you and less of me! I appreciate you and all you do for this community more than you will ever know