Camping, therapy, and Bonus Kids

Camping was a mixed bag. First: it was a gorgeous location and we will be going back. Second: it really sucks when a group of 29 people shrinks to 5 people within a week of an event. That feels poopy. Every person who needed to cancel had excellent reasons (partner being admitted to the hospital and you don’t know if it is MS, cancer, or something equally as festive… ok I won’t be a bitch about you not going camping). Every single person who cancelled had an equally valid reason and I just can’t be mad at them. But I lost 24 people in a week. That sucks.

Other positive for camping: the one friend who went with us was a treat. I haven’t gotten to talk to her as much as I would like over the years and I got to have extra time. That was nice.

Other negative for camping: I brought two fucking stoves and neither worked so we couldn’t cook. That was incredibly stressful but not actually a big deal nutritionally. I was prepared. Unfortunately, me being me, I wanted to turn the malfunctioning stoves into proof that I am a fucking loser who should be shot. Because I’m awesome at the rational follow-ups and all. My shrink and I talked about this. I am getting better and better about being able to verbalize while I’m freaking out that I “know” that I’m not having trouble with the stove because I’m stupid. But in my head that is the only thing happening. Stupid. Stupid. Worthless. Moron. God you can’t do anything right.

Even though I got us there and we had plenty of food even without cooking. Clearly I am a failure as a human being. Or something!

I’d like a new brain.

I had terrible anxiety all weekend. I was very grateful that my friend said out loud that she was bleeding so funny facial expressions were related to that. I felt so much relief. Thank you for telling me it isn’t my fault that you are having a hard day. Holy shit I appreciated that. I spent half the weekend shaking because I was afraid she was going to hate me for doing so many things wrong.

I can’t even fucking cook dinner. Because I’m a loser. Why would anyone want to be friends with me?

Uhm, she was very gracious and supportive and kind about the whole thing. I’m mean to me more than my friends are.

Also, I spent time being pissed off because Shanna was no help at all. Which really isn’t like her. So I picked up the 7 year old book! Oh hey! 7 year olds are known for being unhelpful assholes. Hurray!

I’m telling you, these books  are probably the reason that I am as good of a parent as I am. They are really explicit about which behavior issues happen when and why they are developmentally appropriate and then she tells you how to handle them. Many problems she says, “Ignore it and it will go away. Pay attention to it and you will have it forever.” This woman is a god damn genius. I am so grateful to her hard work.

She is very clear that she is talking about averages and every child is an individual but she talks about the ranges that are common. So far Shanna is about 3 months ahead of the development curve, but she has sat at that point since before she was 2 years old. These books are wonderful.

I shouldn’t say “unhelpful assholes” because that’s… that’s strong wording. Seven year olds are known for being so self-absorbed they become way less helpful for a time. They are too busy looking inward at all the little “mean” things they experience. That’s ok. I’m self-absorbed like that. I can find a way to make room for it.

And I will be much more patient if I have a nice lady from the 1970’s telling me that this is a phase where I cannot expect ready help. I will have to ask for and demand most of the help I get for a while or I can whistle for it. It is good to know that I’m heading into that kind of phase. It changes my behavior a lot.

I have coasted a lot on the fact that Shanna is naturally empathetic, kind, generous and helpful. There are going to be ages and phases where that is less true. If I am compassionate about her not being in the mood… she will get back to the mood. If I remind in kind ways, she will later remind me in kind ways.

You get back what you give. I mean, not perfectly… but in the long run. My kids are very nice to me because I have modeled the behavior I want to receive. When I have a problem with their behavior I meticulously examine my own behavior to see what I need to change about what I’m modeling. I don’t directly address “their” stuff that much.

Ok, I’m working with Shanna on not flipping people off all the time. It’s unconscious. She didn’t even know what it meant. She just likes pointing with her middle finger a lot. That I will directly say, “Ahh. You don’t know that you are making a rude gesture. Let’s talk about that.” I can directly address some issues without shame or fuss. Why do I freak out so much about the forking stove? I think it is tied into my food-nurturing-abandonment-neglect cycle of stuff.

Today I went to therapy and said, “Noah and I had a long chat and we think that I need to work on ______.” My therapist blinked hard and said, “Noah helped you decide what?” Then she listened a bit more and said, “In my 18 years as a therapist I may have said this one other time but I’m not sure–you have the perfect partner for you.” I grinned my shit eating grin and said, “I know!”

We didn’t do EMDR. We decided to do somatic work instead because EMDR can actually trigger heavy suicidal ideation in someone who is already abreacting. Wheeee. If the goal is to help me calm down, I need to calm down before I can do the heavy lifting to calm down.

Sometimes my life seems very unfair.

We talked about grieving the loss of a potential relationship and how that is almost as hard as losing a real relationship. We talked a lot about why I pick the people I pick to try and have relationships with. She flat told me to create more space in one relationship because I can’t fix other peoples problems and I get very enmeshed. If I love someone and they are struggling emotionally… I’m struggling emotionally. Which isn’t actually useful. Not for me and not for the person I would purportedly like to support.

It is weird having my therapist tell me that I should only spend time with a given person if I have set, concrete plans as a back up because I should assume that person will flake. Don’t depend on people to be there to fill your time. Fill it by yourself.

I’m not being much support to anyone lately. I’m not supporting Noah very well. I’m doing… less well than usual with the kids. I think there have been periods of being less engaged, but I’m not doing that much for them.

I’m not playing games. I’m not reading. My throat feels tight all the time. It goes along with the burning belly. I can sit with them and snuggle. I provide food. I talk. I talk about things all day long. I don’t retreat into a dark room any more. But I won’t play the video games they want me to play with them. Just, no. Not my thing.

So I’m telling them no a lot but I’m very certain they aren’t being neglected. I’m not doing as much as I want to be doing.

I’m not being much support for my friends. Once in a while I’ll have a conversation with someone where I work really hard on listening and being supportive. Mostly I’m being a self-absorbed twat.

It isn’t even really that I want to talk about me. I just don’t want to hear about anyone else. I feel like I don’t know who I am and where the boundaries are between me and other people and listening to their lives gets very confusing because I start feeling like I can’t remember if I’m remembering stories people told me about their life or if I’m remembering my life.

I feel permeable. Mushy. Alterable. Unfixed.

But I got to see my Bonus Kids today. We went to the Lawrence Hall of Science. Both kids were very upset that they didn’t get to ride in the van. My heart just about exploded when they both complained loudly about not getting to be with me the whole time. Thank you for wanting to be near me. I want to be near you too.

Even though I was a little mean to the Bonus Baby today. She wanted to take off and run away from us. I picked her up and carried her down the stairs as she screamed her head off. I am very mean. Sorry kiddo, diaper changes aren’t optional no matter how much fun you are having. I’m mean mean mean. I can live with it. So can you. We will both do ok with my strange fanaticism around not sitting in waste products. Neiner, neiner, neiner.

Usually she doesn’t fight me about diaper changes. Her mom says it is normal. Fair enough. Shanna was a serious pain in the ass about diaper changes. She fought like a fish on a line. It was awful. Then I figured out standing diaper changes and they got slightly less hellish.

I am so god damn glad I’m done with diapers. Kids are a pain in the butt. Some day I may have grand kids. I may require serious bribery to change diapers.

Or, let’s be realistic, I will scoop the kid away and say “I’ll do it!” like I did today with my Bonus Kid.

If you take care of the physical needs of a child they will remember you as a trusted caregiver. I want to take care of children. I want them to remember me. I want them to trust me to keep them safe and teach them things they need to know. And unfortunately diaper changes are one of the first things that is a real need that can be performed by anyone, not just mom. So I will continue to volunteer. And feel STUPID the whole time because WHY IN THE HELL DO I OPT IN TO DAIPER CHANGES?! Because then I have a Bonus Baby who sees me and says, “Krissy! I missed you!” as she hugs me fervently.

I missed you too. I’m so glad to see you again.

It was funny talking to my friend while camping this weekend about the amorphous concept of friendship. She is more of an out-of-sight-out-of-mind person. She sees people to keep them fresh in her head.

I still sit down to have a cuppa with Brittney and Anna. I will talk to myself out loud. All the stories I want to share with them. “When Shanna did ___ it reminded me of when we were 5 and we went to ____. Do you remember that?”

I think about my friends. I rehearse their names and remind myself that I love them and … probably… they love me. I think about what I should be doing to demonstrate my love more frequently and I beat myself up for not having the spoons to carry more relationships more fully.

I think about my friends. I think about the people I don’t see much any more because life circumstances have changed. I think about how glad I am that they are in the world even if I don’t see them any more.

I think about all of my lovers. Well… ok there are a few one night stands I have probably completely forgotten. Let’s be honest. People who made it past a third date make it through my mental rotation. I listen to music I associated with them during our relationship and I wish them well.

I have very few people I wish ill on. It’s bad juju and I just try to avoid it. Sometimes I am so mad that it slips out anyway. Mostly I try to get better about having my ill wishing be limited to things like a bird pooping on their head. I would not feel guilty about my joy in that circumstance. Especially if it happened right in front of me. I could not contain my glee. It would be wonderful. But I am working hard on that being the limit.

It is funny how most of the people I’ve had problems with make it through the rotation. I have a cuppa and think about why things went wrong. What did I do wrong? There is always something. Sometimes I did a lot wrong and sometimes I did a little wrong and it didn’t matter that it was only a little.

There is no fair. There is what is.

I got stupid and this week got overbooked. Hoo boy. After camping we have plans with folks five straight days. Long plans. The shortest visit will be three hours.

I want to touch base with a lot of people before we leave. I’m not going to get to everyone who is important to me. I would collapse.

I can literally book 60 hours a week of socializing. But I don’t tend to feel “healthy” afterwards.

Balance is an eternal struggle. I was given permission by four separate people in the past five days to be emotionally dysregulated and upset for a while. Yup, it takes fucking forever for me to calm down. Unfortunately bad feelings can be stuffed for a while and then they must be dealt with. You will pay the piper some day. I have stuffed a lot of feelings for a lot of years. There is no more space for stuffing. Instead, I am safe and secure. I can be kind of a mess and I won’t be thrown out. Even if I am difficult for a few months until I calm down my central nervous system the people I worry about the most will still be there when I stop freaking out.

And the people who aren’t still there… I never had them any way.

I told my therapist that I spend a fair bit of time feeling ashamed of the fact that I’m a bad patient. I’m likely to be in therapy for 50+ years and I will still say the same repetitive, stupid shit I said when I was 3.

She said that whereas she believes that I will probably be in therapy for 50+ years… I’m not saying the same things. She said I’m actually one of her favorite kind of patient–the kind who perseveres even though it is a really awful slog sometimes. Yes, I’m hard to work with. My shit is complicated and I have a lot of problems with transference and projection so I work out a lot of my emotional push/pull issues with my therapists. It is not fun to work with. But if you look at the course of my life, most of the bad parts aren’t my fault and I keep working. Even when it feels hopeless. Even when pretty much anyone else would quit… I don’t. She said she is very happy to work with me. She laughed and said, “You are satisfying in a way most people really can’t be.”

I didn’t ask for clarification. Better to let that one just kind of be ambiguous.

I think I push people so much partially because I want to figure out who will leave. Who will put up boundaries. Who is safe. Most people don’t have firm enough boundaries to be safe for me. Lots and lots of people aren’t really dependable enough to be safe for me. That doesn’t make them failures as human beings… it just means that I am foolish if I depend on them.

If I can’t do pattern matching by now then I need to just hang it up.

But a lot of people can be dependable within very narrow parameters. I have many friends who can handle about three hours a year of my company. Some of those people frankly can’t handle my kids.

I go back and forth on whether or not those relationships are worth the effort of carrying my side. Mostly I decide that it is worthwhile because loose ties keep you alive. My shrink thinks I should carry fewer of the relationships. I told her, “Said with the smug assurance of someone who has brothers she can call for help.” First she said that her brothers haven’t helped her in decades.

That’s not the point. Most of my friends don’t seriously help me either. But every so often I need help and I toss out the net and I never know who the hell will show up. She can call her brothers if she needs to. The fact that she hasn’t needed to doesn’t change the fact that she can. (Did your brothers come visit you when you were over seas? Then yes your brothers have done something for you.)

I wanted to edit. I wanted to go through and tie a few ideas together. But Noah just walked outside and said, “Dinner is ready!” Internet, you lose when it comes to dinner. Bye!

5 thoughts on “Camping, therapy, and Bonus Kids

  1. Michelle

    There’s a lot I want to comment on but it’s late, I’m forgetful, and our power is out so I have limited brain/cellphone juice. 🙂

    I have been on two camping trips that I remember where my stoves didn’t work. One I ate nothing but expired canned fruit for three to five days (not good when you are pooping in the woods) because we were car camping and I happened to have it, the other I was backpacking and my gas leaked all over the campsite instead of pressurizing and I ate cold canned beans and sucked on dry pasta, that sort of thing. I also forgot the poles for my tent on the backpacking trip and had to rig it up by threading rope through the tent under a tree. Both times I felt like a fuck up but I was told, repeatedly, that I was a resourceful bad ass.

    So I will say it to you: You are a resourceful bad-ass. 🙂

  2. inflectionpoint

    Go you for doing a trial run and for working out the stuff before you’re on the big trip. That’s super smart, and SO MANY PEOPLE don’t do it. The way you plan and test stuff makes me confident that you and your family will enjoy your trip.

    I love watching how you work with your kids. You give me ideas for how to work with the big kids at my job site. I can’t change them. I can change what I do, and what I expect, and see what happens. That’s a positive thing actually.

Comments are closed.