Thursday, July 19, 2012

decoding that feeling in my stomach

This one hitched a ride
This one hitched a ride, Turtle Back Zoo, New Jersey, June 2012

That feeling - the butterflies flitting around in my stomach - is not indigestion. It is not actually butterflies. It is anxiety.

As mother of a 5-year-old who's prone to screaming fits in the privacy of our home, I spend a lot of time encouraging him to use his words to describe his emotional state. So perhaps having decoded the butterfly feeling in the pit of my stomach will help me. It's just a little anxiety, I tell myself. No biggie.

It's okay to be anxious. I've got a lot on my plate. Just like the average mama-of-two-small-children, juggling sippy cups, tantrums, and doctor's appointments. Bills to pay and deadlines (self-imposed and otherwise) to meet amid that nagging sense of Am I forgetting something?

Bike lesson, windy afternoon
Bike lesson, windy afternoon, a rather anxious endeavor, July 2012

Every once in a while, I start to think I've got to have it all together. I start to strive to have no raw edges, to have the checkbook balanced and never lose my phone charger. To always be on time. (HAHAHAHA on the always being on time one)

And then reality brings me back to earth. Sometimes gently, sometimes more harshly. This week, it has been a fairly gentle landing. The anxiety is not caused by something big. More like a dozen small things, a general feeling of unsettledness that's common before I travel. Anxiety over remembering everything. Anxiety over checking everything off my list before I go. Anxiety over packing (I used to enjoy packing, back before there were so many people with so much stuff, and people who enjoy unpacking the suitcase as I attempt to pack it).

This time, there's a measure of anxiety over the work I need to do while I'm gone. The lack of a childcare schedule and designated time for me to work always makes me anxious. I tried to be all Organized, Responsible and Together and set childcare up in advance, but nothing worked out, so now I'm winging it. It's okay for it to be messy, I try to convince the butterflies in my stomach. It's okay to not have it all figured out.

Sat projects- coloring our new ($9.99 cardboard) playhouse, making banana bread
Coloring our cardboard playhouse, super fun until the misty morning fog crumpled it, July 2012

I picked Elan up from camp, where he has been for the last month since his Pre-K class ended. Camp is over tomorrow. As I walked through the trees to pick him up, I realized that the next time I'll be regularly picking him up is when he's in kindergarten. My eyes instantly welled up.

I'll be honest with y'all: I am dreading the start of kindergarten. I feel like I should be excited. A new chapter! New beginnings! But I'm not. I feel worried about how the transition will go, how we will both find our way in our new roles: him as Elementary Schooler, me as Mother of an Elementary Schooler. Preschool felt so safe. It was still on our terms, at least kind of. If we wanted to take him out of school to go to Costa Rica for two weeks, we went. No problem! But Elementary School isn't on our terms anymore. We have to conform, to fit the mold; the mold won't stretch to fit us.

But maybe I'm wrong. Perhaps my worry and anxiety will turn out to be totally unfounded. Perhaps the transition will be relatively easy for everyone and we'll slide into our new roles like slick seals sliding over the rocks, finding their place in the colony without taking the bumps too hard.

You love that metaphor, admit it!

Mikhail's groovy playhouse art
Mikhail's groovy playhouse art, lost in the great Playhouse Collapse of 2012

As people tend to do, I'm concentrating my general anxiety about kindergarten, becoming Mother of an Elementary Schooler and what that means about Time Passing and Aging and Loss of Freedom on one small piece of the puzzle: Mornings. Mornings are both something I feel I could control (at least 50%) and a part of our daily routine that could really use some work. I simply cannot imagine delivering my child to school every day ON TIME (Butterflies!) at 8:15 a.m. (Butterflies crawling up the sides of my stomach!) without being a gigantic stress case (Butterflies batting their wings around wildly!) or screaming at my children every single morning (Butterflies chewing at my stomach lining!)

Gold-tipped butterfly, turtle back zoo
Gold-tipped butterfly on another woman's back, Turtle Back Zoo, NJ

Yeah. So I'm a little stressed out in advance about mornings in kindergarten-land.

Elan's behavior over the last week hasn't helped my anxiety. Oh, the screaming! Oh, the fits! Oh, the Black Looks! (I always want to tell him Don't start with me, I'm the Queen of Black Looks, but I don't think that will help the situation, seeing as he got the drama from me to start with.)

Looks like my husband missed me while I was gone
My welcome-home present from Mikhail after I took the kids to New Jersey, June 2012

Tomorrow is Mikhail and my 9th wedding anniversary. In celebration, we are going to go see a parenting coach who helped us when we were going through a particularly rough spell with Elan two years ago. We're going to work specifically with her on routines: Morning, Dinnertime, Bedtime. It will be very romantic.

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