Callidora is an adventure every day. She isn’t much like Shanna. Watching Calli and seeing how frequently I dramatically underestimate her gives me perspective on my mom. I understand better how she ignored me–maybe ignore is the wrong word. I understand why she had trouble seeing me.
In some ways I’m an open book. I will talk about a lot of things with ease that other people simply cannot discuss. But I talk about things on my terms and on timing that I pick and fuck everyone else. I didn’t tell my mom much about what was happening when I was a kid because she didn’t believe me when I tried. So I stopped trying. I can see how I could have that problem with Calli if I’m not careful. I work so hard to stop and sit down and listen to her. I need to treat her like she matters if I want her to believe she matters. That belief or lack of it will largely come from me.
Shanna has a kind of preternatural self confidence that blows my mind. She has been walking up to strangers and announcing, “I’m Shanna and I’m awesome” for pretty much as long as she has been able to walk and talk. She could speak fluently by 18 months so this is a very well established pattern.
Calli doesn’t do that. Calli is more scared that people won’t like her. Calli is less willing to believe with her whole heart that she is awesome. I feel like that is my fault. I sure haven’t spent the first few years of her life staring into her face and talking about how much I like her the way I did with her sister. It’s harder with divided attention. I feel like I’m letting her down over and over all day every day. I’m trying Calli. I know you want more attention. I’m doing my best.
I’m trying really hard to have special one on one time with Calli. She needs to feel like she is as important to the wholeness of the family as any of the rest of us. When I say “she needs to” I really mean, “I hope I can help her feel like”. I can’t make her. I can’t require her to have an emotion. I can’t force her to feel loved and accepted.
Calli has a lot of extreme jumps in emotion. Very sad to angry to happy within a short period of time. Sure, it’s normal for the age but emotional self regulation is a major thing to learn. We are trying. It’s hard. She is going to struggle more than Shanna. She has less inner peace to draw on. I feel like that different amount of starting reserve is my fault. I didn’t give Calli the center-of-the-world experience. I couldn’t. I try to help her see that even though there are down sides to having a big sister there is a lot of upside too.
Sibling rivalry has absolutely arrived but it is pretty mellow compared to some families I’ve seen. My kids have been harped at their entire life, “Your sister is the primary person who will be on your team in this life. You be nice to your sister and teach her how to be nice to you. Otherwise she won’t want to be your friend when you are a grown up and that is horrible and painful. Be nice to your sister.”
Shanna needs to back off and let Calli have more space. Calli needs to learn how to assert her boundaries without hitting. It took me till my late 20′s to master that so I can’t really throw any stones. We’re working on it.
I like that Calli likes different books and different colors and different foods. I’m getting good at that mom-skill of preparing separate meals from a joint list of ingredients. “Column A for people 1 and 3. Column B for people 1, 2, and 3. Column C for people 3 and 4.” Etc.
Both children have decided that since Noah and I don’t eat onions they are done. Fair enough.
Even though I get all tetchy and I wish I had a bit more personal space I’m still grateful every day that I get to have this life. Watching them grow up feels like magic.
I read parenting things that say that you shouldn’t tell your children that they are beautiful. You shouldn’t comment on their bodies. There should be respectful silence due to their right to privacy. Or something like that. I’m sure I misunderstand. Or rather I’m sure someone would be happy to yell at me and tell me that I’m misrepresenting the position somehow. Anyway.
I comment on my kids. I talk about the fat on their bodies and it coming and going as they grow. I do it in a positive tone of voice. “OOh! Your cheeks are getting chubby! You will grow soon. Want extra food?” “Oh your face thinned out last night. Here and here and here grew–I can see it. You are so beautiful. I love watching you change.”
We watch documentaries about history and culture and discuss why bodies vary throughout the world. There is a fairly distinct difference between your average Samoan person, your average French person and your average Japanese person.
Jared Diamond’s work has been incredibly instrumental in guiding how I talk about these things. I talk about what kinds of foods grow in different climates and why people evolved differently in different parts of the globe. And I tell my kids to assume that every kid they meet on the play ground is a Californian until they are told otherwise. You no longer have any idea where someone lives based on how they look. Totally irrelevant. Just because their distant ancestors were in Asia or Africa or Europe that doesn’t necessarily mean much about the behavior, likes, dislikes, or language skills of these current kids.
I am looking forward to traveling with the kids so much I ache with it. I don’t know why I have this strong need. I want to take off with them for a long time. I want them to have this basically risk-free chance to get good at meeting people when they are young. They will have a small taste of the perpetual new-kid experience I had but with a guide and assistance and safety I never had.
We are always trying to solve yesterday’s problems. That’s mostly because we can’t get enough perspective on the problems of today to understand what we should be doing. You solve the problems you can see. That’s all anyone can do.
All three of us Gibbs girls are now bike enabled. I asked Calli if she wanted to ride on a tandem sort of device with me or just get her own bike and she absolutely insisted on her own bike. I’m scared shitless. Bikes are terrifying to me in a way that other people simply can’t understand. Bicycle accidents have done a lot to ruin the lives of my family members. It’s a big deal.
We’ll see how it goes. Calli is on a balance bike and Shanna has training wheels. I tried to talk her into learning balance first and she refused. Ok, whatever.
I want us to be able to seriously get around on bikes. I would like to be able to do most of our activities on bikes. I would kind of like to move towards being a one car family again when one of ours dies. That means the kids and I can’t be trapped in our house without a car. We need to be able to live.
Not everyone in the world gets to have their own personal use car. I probably don’t really need to be one of them. But because I have the privilege and the luxury I’m going to wait until my kids are big enough to kind of get around more on their own steam. Like a lazy person. Because I can. Because that is what privilege means. It means getting to decide yes or no instead of having a choice thrust upon you with no alternative.
My mom usually had access to a car. Except when we didn’t. The idea of choosing to only have one vehicle is really scary for a lot of “I want to be able to leave in the middle of the night if I have to” kind of reasons. Not that things with Noah are bad.
I just like having options. I have other random shit I do to “be prepared”. That’s not the point of this journal entry though.
I see a lot of parallels between myself and my mother. I think I am past the point of being upset with her over not preventing the abuse. She didn’t. That’s the end of that tale.
If I try to be generous, at the end of the day I basically like myself. I’m interesting and motivated and stubborn and sassy. All traits I highly esteem. I learned a lot of those traits because my mother let me.
Clearly she isn’t all bad. She didn’t try to control me much. She let me explore and try things on and she would roll her eyes and accept every phase.
My mom hit me when my actions caused her to feel like she was failing as a mother because I was so bad. I get it. She was trying to instill boundaries. She didn’t have other models. She hit me less than she was hit. She hit me less than my father hit all of her other kids. She hit me less than my aunt and uncle hit their kids. She hit me less than my uncle did. She hit me less than my siblings did.
She tried. She really did.
She survived a rather hellish and horrible life by putting her head down and just getting on with it. If I would come crawling back she would take me. She loves me.
My mama used to scream at Uncle Bob that he didn’t need to hit me. All he had to fucking do was explain it and then I would do what I was supposed to do. My mama did that for me.
No. I won’t hit my kids.
When I think of what my mother was going through during my childhood I’m kind of amazed she was as nice to me as she was. I was like Calli only turned up a lot of notches plus constant sexual acting out. So uhm yeah. I feel a lot more compassion for my mother as the years go by.
I hope there is a way to consciously choose to fix these issues in my family. My mom was ignored because her mom dealt with mental illness and I don’t know what else. I was ignored as my mom dealt with mental illness and trauma and horror. My kids aren’t ignored.
I hope this will be enough of a difference.
Today’s run was long and hard. 10.75 miles. Took me 2 hours and 40 minutes. Everything just sucked. I wasn’t there. I was so sad. Tommy. My mom. Am I paying enough attention to my kids? Too much? Are they excessively self absorbed? Oh man. How the hell do you judge? God I don’t know if I am doing this right. Are they going to be able to take care of themselves? Oh man oh man.
I’m down to 12 years with the first kid and 14 years for the second kid. For some reason all of a sudden that doesn’t feel long enough.
I’m scared. Will I be able to teach them enough?