Friday, March 20, 2009

OK, So I'm Not Controller of the Universe

I surrender. I wave the white flag. I admit defeat and sadly relinquish my self-proclaimed title of Controller of the Universe. I am annoyingly reminded (way too often) that I am not actually Controller of the Universe, so I am just going to stop trying so hard to make sense of the senseless. My Controller of the Universe moniker needs to change to something more realistic like...Controller of a Few Random Things Here and There.

I am a planner and, I admit, a bit of a control freak. As such, I like things to be a certain "way," in a certain order, and in some kind of logical system. My theory has always been that the better prepared I am for...well...anything really, the better outcome I will personally have regarding said thing. I don't think it's too much to ask for a prepared person to be rewarded with her desired outcome? Guess again.

As Controller of the Universe I put a lot of pressure on myself to make everything in my life go as smoothly as possible, unwavering in my preparedness. I plan, I edit, I plan again, I edit again, I tweak, I twist, and I end up with what I think is a feasible solution. Whew! That took some effort! I work out the kinks and forge ahead. The problem is, things don't always go according to my plan. I have had it up to my eyeballs with things not going according to my plan.

For example, I had a "birth plan" before Nicholas was born, as any ridiculously prepared pregnant woman would do. I listed everything from labor and breastfeeding preferences to what music to play in the delivery room. Because I diligently studied my breastfeeding options, I was adamant that my child be put to my breast immediately after birth and not be given a bottle. That is what the book said so that is what I was prepared to do. Under no circumstances should my baby be given a bottle. I will breastfeed. It was in my birth plan. Mothers everywhere, including myself, are laughing hysterically at the naive young girl who thought she actually retained even a modicum of control after childbirth. Control? Ha! A birth plan? Ha! Ha!

I was in labor for 22 hours and Nicholas was not progressing. He was already six days late as it was...this kid did not want to come out. Time to prep for a c-section. Wait a minute? Prep for what? A c-section was not in my birth plan. Where is my birth plan? WHY ISN'T ANYONE READING MY BIRTH PLAN? After they whisked me off to the operating room and cut me open like a fillet of fish a beautiful baby boy was born. I did not see beautiful baby boy for two more hours because they knocked me out with more anesthesia after I screamed hysterically that I didn't think I was supposed to feel anything. I felt alot of everything.

My first words, which I slurred incoherently after awakening from drug dreamland, were, "...don't...give...baby...bottle." Even in a half-drug-induced state, I was worried about my birth plan. My husband came in to inform me that the nurses gave Nicholas two bottles since his birth because I was knocked out and could not feed him. Seriously, did anyone read my birth plan?

I planned to breastfeed because that is what all ridiculously prepared new mothers do. That was my plan. I read the books, I practiced with dolls, I had it mastered. Even though Nicholas was given a bottle for his very first suckling experience, I was not deterred. That is until almost two weeks later when I finally admitted that breastfeeding for us was not the mother-baby bonding rapture that other mothers experience. After many, many futile attempts I bought a breast pump and mechanically squeezed breast milk into bottles to feed my baby for the next six months. I could have fed a small village with the amount of extra milk I produced. The extra milk ended up in the freezer, but thawed to completely unusable portions after the electrical Blackout of 2003. Thank goodness I had an adapter for my breast pump because I spent the next three days filling my bottles back up in the front seat of my car, in the garage, in the dark. Really, really, not part of my plan.

I was convinced with my second child that I could master the breastfeeding thing. Because I was scheduled for a c-section I knew that my husband would have to be my eyes and ears in the operating room and tell my doctors to not, under any circumstances, give my baby a bottle. I will breastfeed, dammit! After Christopher was born they whisked him away to the ICU because he had low-blood sugar. For the next two days he was fed via a bottle. So much for my plan.

When Nicholas was ready to start Kindergarten, I filled out all of the necessary paperwork, quizzed my neighbors about teachers, took my son to the school to get a feel for his new academic surroundings and talked to him about riding the bus with his neighbor friends. He was ready and I was prepared. Three weeks later I got a notice that our district changed its Kindergarten curriculum from part-time to full-time. What? He ended up going to a different school that offered the part-time hours and I ended up driving him every day. Clearly the Superintendent did not consult the Controller of the Universe for any input before making such a drastic change. The nerve!

Christopher has been prepared to go to the same preschool as his brother. He told everyone all year that he is going to the "red" school in the fall and Ms. Holly will be his teacher. We were both eager for Christopher's new adventure and talked about Ms. Holly and the red school all the time. Well, Ms. Holly had a difference of opinion with the board of the preschool and is no longer teaching there. No more Ms. Holly. No more red school. That was not part of my plan.

Now that I think about it, my Controller of the Universe status seriously started to deteriorate the moment I got pregnant and had kids. Not much of anything I plan now comes off without a hitch. I have to rework my plans continuously and without much of a break. I live through constant bombardments of "...what the hell just happened?"

So, I have come to terms with fact that, contrary to my own popular belief, I am not Controller of the Universe. I am not controller of much of anything else for that matter. I have been reminded on too many occasions that I am a tiny dot, a small crumb, a "who" living on a infinitesimal speck of dust in this immensely huge world of ours.

I vow to try, from this day forward, to give myself a break, not take myself too seriously, go with the flow, do some yoga, meditate and take more deep breaths. Breathe in. Breathe out. Repeat.

That is my new plan.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

This Isn't About You

Christopher and I walk Nicholas into his school each day as part of our morning routine. I enjoy walking with Nicholas to his Kindergarten classroom and Christopher enjoys feeling like one of the "big kids" as he rushes down the hall with all of the other hurried kids who have places to go, things to do and people to see.

The other morning in our car, Nicholas looked at me and said, "Mom, do you think you could just drop me off at the front door and not come into the school today?" Uh oh. The day I have been dreading. Please, please, please don't say what I think you just said! I'm sure I must have misunderstood the question...

I said, "hmmmnnnn, so....Nicholas, why can't we walk into the school with you today?" He replied, "Well, I just really want to go in by myself. I can do it, mom. I can do it by myself."

Yikes. I am sort-of a liar when I say that I want my kids to be independent. I secretly want them to depend on me at least a little while longer. Just a little while. Is that so bad? Is that so wrong? All these years I have encouraged my kids to learn to be independent and do things by themselves without realizing that the day would come too damn quick when they decide they want to walk into school by themselves. What's next? Asking for my car keys?

I composed myself, took a deep breath and thoughtfully looked at my son trying in vain to invoke his compassion gene. I tried to explain my position. "Nicholas, I know you can walk into school by yourself. I know you can find your room. I know you are capable. I know you are ready. But, this isn't about you. It's about me and my incredibly selfish desire to walk with you into school each and every day because this is the last year that I can. Next year you will ride the bus to 1st grade and I won't be able to walk with you at all anymore. This is 100% totally and blatantly about me holding your hand just a little bit longer." I decided that the direct approach was best; here is my story and I’m sticking to it.

Nicholas being his reflective self, pondered my request for about a millisecond. "Mom, I really want to go in by myself." Well...what else could I say? I stated my case and it was dismissed. I kissed him outside the school door and Christopher and I waved as we watched him walk in unaccompanied. We stared at his backpack that heaved with each step until Nicholas turned the corner and disappeared.

The next time we drove to school, Nicholas did not say a word about going in alone. He was content to walk in with his brother and me, holding hands just as we have done day in and day out for the past several months. He did what he needed to do, accomplished his solo-entrance goal and now was offering to resume the routine that satisfied all parties involved. I hugged Nicholas profusely at the corner by his Kindergarten room and whispered, “thank you, buddy. Have a great day!”

Nicholas might not realize that he did something special that day. He might not realize how important our routine is to me. But, sometimes we just need to do things for people that we might not necessarily want to do. Sometimes we need to appreciate that someone else’s needs outweigh our own. Sometimes we take and sometimes we give. By giving unselfishly we gradually build our reserves so that one day we can withdraw from our karmic bank account without regret.

Nicholas was obviously the giver and I the taker, but I don’t feel any guilt or shame. As a parent, I have made numerous deposits in my karmic bank account to justify this small withdrawal. If Nicholas was even remotely determined to continue his solo entrance I would have relented. But, I believe that Nicholas was also secretly relieved to continue on with our morning ritual.

Not that he would ever say that out loud.

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