Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Brain sick

It is incredibly hard for me to write at the moment. I am struggling again with my vaguely defined mental illness (Borderline personality disorder? Bipolar II? Pre-menstrual dysphoric disorder? I have yet to find two psychiatrists who agree on what is wrong with me.), and I am such a terrible, snapping, sobbing, unjust mother as a result that I am not sure how to live with myself, let alone craft a witty anecdote about it.

This morning, for no other reason than my children wouldn't eat anything except some high-sugar yogurt for breakfast, I threw their little IKEA breakfast bowls into the sink and mango-lime yogurt splashed everywhere. My self-loathing is already dangerously close to being too much to bear, and then the yogurt bowls, and Henry and Amelia's wide eyes, and, oh, I am in very bad shape.

I expend a great deal of energy trying to conceal my lunacy, so I'm not sure why I'm writing about it in a blog. Undoubtedly, this will be one of those things that comes back to haunt me during a job interview 10 years from now.

In the meantime, I tell Henry it is not his fault I am sad or mad, that I am sick in my brain.

"When are you going to get better?" he asks.

"Soon," I say, and I really, really, really hope that's true.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Really, really sorry

So last night Simon and I had a big fight that was 100% my fault.

I hate that. Not just the fighting. I hate when there is absolutely no shred of substance to my side of the argument. I am not wronged, I am simply a stark-raving bitch. And this after he bid on those Giants tickets for me.

Simon and I talked and mostly made up this morning, after a chilly, glaring breakfast during which Henry kept trying to guess what was wrong. "Are you mad because Amelia spit out her sorbet last night?" "Is Daddy sad because I ate the Mommy-candy (a.k.a. dark chocolate)?" "How come sometimes you're nice Mommy and sometimes you're mad Mommy?"

I also yelled at Amelia because she wouldn't get out of the bathroom doorway so I could get dressed. Then she followed me into my room saying, "I sah-ee, I sah-ee," and trying to hug my shins.

I wither with shame.

I try to console myself with the thought that I am much more stable that I was six months ago. But, then, so is Afghanistan, and you see how that's working out for the innocent citizens. They're less likely to get blown up by drones at a daughter's wedding, but it's still a possibility.

For someone who wasn't beaten as a child, I am remarkably defensive. I see insult and malice behind every smile. And I fight back. I yell, I stomp, I scowl silently. Then I spend hours apologizing. I need to get business cards printed that say, "I'm sorry," so I can hand them out when my voice finally gives way.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Baseball and other games

On an historic note, I just want to say how thrilled I am about the passage of the health care reform bill. Somehow, somewhere, the Democrats found their spines. God bless America!

Now back to me.

It pains me to admit this, because being completely self-righteous is one of my few joys in life, but my husband is wonderful.

Saturday night, at a fundraising auction for my former high school, I grew starry-eyed at the Giants' "Homerun" package listed in the auction catalog: a catered luxury booth for 18 people, 5 VIP parking passes, a ball autographed by every member of the 2010 team, and a Giants jacket. Two members of the group will be allowed on the field during the Giants batting practice. And if those members haven't passed out from the sheer enormity of it all, they get to spend the 7th inning stretch with the finest play-by-play man in major league baseball today, Jon Miller.

Simon joked that we should bid on it. I laughed. He bid. The alumni tables cheered. Simon dropped out at one point, and I kissed him for his efforts, and he bid again. More cheers. He dropped out again. He bid again.

So I am going to be on-field during batting practice, and I'm going to meet Jon Miller.

For the record, we're not just filthy rich people throwing our money around here. The winning bid was technically placed by Simon's engineering company, because he's going to fill the luxury box with clients. It actually ends up being cheaper than taking that many people to dinner. But batting practice, Jon Miller, the baseball: all mine, baby.

Simon's a good man.

I, on the other hand, continue my efforts to drive my kids into therapy before they're 10 years old.

Our latest issue has to do with Candy Land. I got it for Henry last week. I thought it would be a nice change of pace from video games, as well as something we could do together. And then Henry won. Once he got that first taste of victory, he wanted more.

Now it's like playing with John McEnroe. When he pulls ahead, by just a few spaces with a double purple card or by half the board with a Princess Frostina card, he laughs and dances around the room. "I'm winning!" he sings. When he falls behind, either because I slip through the Gumdrop Pass or he gets sent back to the candy cane forest, he throws himself to the ground and screams, "Noooooo!"

In spite of the histrionics, I refuse to let the boy cheat. "Two blues! Not six!" I tell him, making him slide his plastic gingerbread man back a few spaces. I am now the traffic cop of Candy Land. It is not fun for me, and not fun for him. Unless he's winning.

But that's the point of these games, right? Teaching kids to follow the rules of a game, teaching them how to win graciously, how to lose cheerfully. Or something. I mean, I am speaking as someone who once locked herself in the bathroom when a former boyfriend beat her at Scrabble. I only wish I had learned those lessons.

Of course, he's not learning those lessons. He just doesn't want to play Candy Land with me anymore.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010


Yesterday as I was cleaning the kitchen, or maybe not cleaning the kitchen--more likely I was staring at the pile of unread magazines on my counter with tears filling my eyes at the impossibility of it all--Henry came running in from the backyard, wailing.

I dropped to my knees and held him until he quieted down enough to speak. "I killed my friend the fly!" he said, between heaving sobs.

I told him he could come in and play with the big housefly that had been buzzing around the living room all morning. "That fly is not my friend!" he said through a fresh wave of tears.

"I'm sorry," I said. "Of course he's not." I felt callous for suggesting that his friend could be so easily replaced.

I suggested we have a funeral for his fly friend. Henry agreed, and led me outside to a tiny, half-smooshed fly on the patio.

"Thank you for being such a good friend to Henry, fly," I said as I scratched a thimble-sized hole in the dirt of the planter box and dropped the fly inside.

"Goodbye, fly," Henry added, tearfully.

We marked the grave with a cross made from two sticks tied with crab grass. As Henry ran off to play again, his heartbreak eased, I had one shining moment of feeling truly useful.
And then it was gone. As I was silently congratulating myself on being such an outstanding mother, unsupervised Amelia tumbled down a few stairs. More crying, more hugging. And the kitchen remains a mess.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Sunny day

Today I will begin with a small confession: I am a little bit manic depressive. For about six months I was bordering on severely bipolar, but now I'm on a new birth control pill, and despite my $225-an-hour psychiatrist telling me that would never be enough to control my severe mental illness (that, in fact, I would require a lifetime of lithium if I wanted to stay out of a mental institution), the pill is enough, and I am back in the realm of normalcy. I may, arguably, be on the outskirts of normalcy, but I am certainly within the county line. And I also have less premenstrual cramping. Win-win.

At any rate, today I am on a mood upswing. This means that I can get by on just 7 hours of sleep, and I feel ever-so-slightly productive. This morning I identified two publications to query, two possible sources to call for information, and questions to ask those sources. After lunch I plan to actually make several phone calls. It is all very exciting, this doing something.

It has not been easy. After nearly four years of staying home with small children, my mind has come to behave like one. I require constant redirection away from Facebook and celebrity gossip columns and even my own old journal entries. I feel like I need parental controls for my own laptop.

I have been thinking a lot about marriage recently, too. Our strategy of venting our resentments sort of backfired, and instead of liking each other more, we came to like each other less. So now we're just working on this revolutionary new strategy of--get this--being nice to one another. We're trying to be appreciative and affectionate and respectful. Weird, right? Of course, we are still left with a warehouse full of unaddressed anger. But we are having sex again. It's really hard to find a downside to that.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Dirty girl

After the underwear discussion with Simon, I turned over a new leaf and recommitted myself to doing housework. Since then, I have washed and folded the laundry promptly, cleaned the kitchen after every meal, and vacuumed at least once a week. I cleaned out the book boxes, reorganized the downstairs playroom, and created an "art box" to hold the kids' paints, crayons, and stickers. I made Henry and Amelia help me clean their rooms each afternoon before Simon came home.

It was a very educational exercise. Mostly, I learned why I don't do this on a regular basis. First, it's not like you do housework and it's done. Five minutes after I've vacuumed, Amelia tears up tiny pieces of toilet paper onto the floor. Two minutes after we've cleaned their rooms, I turn my back to answer the phone and the two of them proceed to take every toy out and leave it in the middle of the room. It's a sisyphean effort, and, really, didn't we all think Sisyphus was an idiot for continuing to push that stupid rock up the hill? I may be a slob, and I may be lazy, but I'm not an idiot.

Wow, that last sentence was a lot less empowering that I had anticipated.

Second, despite all of my efforts to clean and reclean and keep a perpetual cycle of laundry in motion like a row of spinning plates, Simon has noticed none of it.

Anyway, I'm back to my old filthy ways, letting the dishes and crumbs pile up while I read the New York Times. Which has its own drawbacks. Did you see what Texas is doing to its educational curriculum? They cut Thomas Jefferson out of the list of people whose writings influenced revolutions in the 18th and 19th century. Why? Because he coined the phrase "separation of church and state," and they are trying to emphasize that the founding fathers actually wanted to create a Christian country. And these assholes declare themselves to be REAL Americans. Right, because Thomas Jefferson only wrote the Declaration of Independence and much of the Constitution and was our second president. That socialist, commie bastard.


Now my house is dirty and I'm pissed off. This may not be the best use of my time.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Old yeller

Reason number 132 why I would have been refused a parenting license if they issued such things: I am a yeller.

I am angry, I yell. I am irritated, I yell. I am tired and overwhelmed, I yell. It's not always screaming and shouting. Often it is just loud and sharp. Over the years, yelling has become an intrinsic part of my personal communication style.

The first time Simon and I went to marriage counseling, the therapist asked us to describe our coming-home-from-work routines. I said I got the mail, came inside, yelled at the cats, fed the cats, and started dinner. She looked up from her notebook. "Why do you yell at the cats?" she asked, cautiously.

"Well," I said, slowly, trying to understand her curiosity about the behavior, "I walk in, and they are meowing, loudly, and tripping under my feet, and I'm just trying to hang up my coat, so I yell at them." I didn't go into the specific profanities I hurled at the cats, or the fact that some evenings I also threw the mail at them. I mean, it's not as if I kicked the cats, or set fire to the cats. Being cats, they barely even noticed the yelling. If I threw the mail they might scatter for a minute, but then they were back at my ankles, mewling for dinner.

The therapist just stared at me, wide eyed, then pursed her lips and went back to writing in her little book. Two sessions later she declared that I was a "prickly pear" whom no one could love.

Still, I didn't really consider that yelling could be a problem until a few years later, when I became a parent. I don't curse at Henry and Amelia, and I certainly don't throw things at them. Early in the day I am even able to calmly say things like, "I know you don't like it when Amelia plays with your cars, honey, but I don't want you to grab from her. What could you do instead?" But by the afternoon, when the grabbing and growling between them escalate, and I am tired and trying to do some tedious chore such as cooking or vacuuming, I am barking little motherly gems like, "If I see you grab something from her again, I will take the item, and throw it directly in the garbage can."

These children, they are not like the cats. They don't see this as part of our repartee. Instead, they cry. Especially Henry. His eyes grow watery and his lip trembles as he says, "I feel bad for myself," before bursting into sobs.

And I feel like a monster. I tell myself I won't yell anymore, I will be patient and kind and will finally take one of those classes on positive discipline. And then Amelia is back in the warming drawer, and I am yelling, "No babies in the warming drawer," and then she is crying, and then I think maybe I am just not temperamentally cut out for this parenting business.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010


You know what sucks? My life.

God, that's whiny. This is exactly why I drop my blog when I get depressed. Depression is bo-o-o-ring. Especially coming from a woman who doesn't have to work and lives in a nice big house where it doesn't snow with two happy, healthy children and a husband who...well, anyway, a husband.

When I get in these moods, there are so many layers of regret and self-loathing that I don't know where to begin. I'll just say this: never, never, never become a stay-at-home mother. Ever. It seems like a great deal when that first baby is so little and lovable that you can't possibly imagine leaving him or her to spend eight hours a day in a beige cubicle. But after a year or two, or, in my case, almost four, you start to realize that your kids' time with the babysitter is infinitely more positive, educational, and fun than their time with you, and in the meantime you've created a black, gaping chasm in your resume that will hinder you for decades. Add to that a marriage that more and more resembles a caged death match, and suddenly you understand why so many moms in the 1950s were alcoholics.

Clearly, it is time for me to get back to work. And as soon as I can identify one or two marketable skills in myself, I will dust off my resume. In the meantime, I tend to my children, try to keep my house clean, and wonder how I ran my once-promising life into a dead-end.