Clean up, pick up, put away…

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Image credit

Our house is not the tidiest of places. Long ago, I gave up the losing battle of making sure toys were in the toy box at the end of the day. I have gotten to a point with my fibro where I don’t have the strength or stamina to take on the stress of making sure the girls clean up, let alone doing it myself. The result is floors littered with land mines of plastic dinosaurs and stuffed baby dolls, Legos and princess dolls, books and dress up accessories. Rather than picking things up, we clear paths from couch to kitchen to stairs.

But last week, I couldn’t take the mess in Rachael’s room any longer. So covered in toys, there was barely enough floor to clear a path. It became difficult to open her closet or dresser drawers because so much crap was in the way. So, before bed one night, I told her she needed to pick up the princesses, Minnie’s Bow-tique, and her princess dresses. This wasn’t a huge task; it would only take two minutes at the most. But, like most kids, Rachael’s initial reaction was to whine about having to pick up her things. Then she had the audacity to say the following: I’m tired of always being your house maid.

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Oh, hell no!
When I was still in elementary school, we lived with my grandmother for awhile. At the time, she was working as a grocery store cashier. I don’t remember what possessed me to argue with her that she shouldn’t be tired because all she does is stand there all day. When my parents were told about what I said, punishment was handed out. I was to spend the following Saturday doing yard work. By the end of the day, I was begging to go to sleep.
That experience inspired me in my dealing with Rachael’s disrespectful attitude. No amount of yelling would make Rachael understand just how ridiculous what she said was. So I very calmly used my NPR voice and told her that what she had just said was very rude and disrespectful. I explained that it isn’t unreasonable to have her be responsible for her own toys, and that while I wash her dishes, her clothes, and pick up her toys, I do not make her responsible for my things. I informed her that, in order to show her just how little she had to do around the house, she would be spending the following Saturday helping me do all the chores I do around the house.

We began our Saturday morning attacking the piles of dishes that filled our sink and covered our counters. Rachael was giddy about having a chance to unload and load the dishwasher. She loved washing the baking sheets by hand. She declared that this was fun and easy, and that daddy’s job was much harder than mine. I erupted in shrill laughter and told her to give it time. It wasn’t long after that when she asked to sit down and take a break. Ehhhhhhhxcellent.

Over the course of the day, Rachael helped with two loads of dishes, sweeping floors, picking up toys in the living room and her bedroom, vacuuming, and dusting. Mike even pitched in to help Rachael with the laundry. There was some whining about wanting to be finished and there were unnecessarily long water breaks but, all in all, she had a pretty good attitude and plenty of energy. I, on the other hand, started breaking down by the time I was mopping the kitchen floor. I was getting so sore, but I wasn’t quitting, dammit! If I pooped out, Rachael wouldn’t learn her lesson. (And, more importantly, our powder room would remain super gross.) So I pressed on, fibromyalgia be damned.

By the end of it all, I spent some quality time with my heating pad and took a nap on the couch while Rachael twirled with her princesses.
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How is this fair?

Before I read Rachael her bedtime story, I asked her if she still believed she was my house maid. “No!” she said with a silly smile and giggle. Good, I thought to myself. She gets it. Lesson learned. “Well,” she said, thoughtfully, “I was today.”

Sigh.

Patience is a virtue I can’t wait to have

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The Goldbergs

If someone were to describe me, “patient” would not be anywhere near the top of the list. I would probably also say that I’m just a few turns short of tightly wound. These traits are not ones that predispose me to mother of the year. The universe, being the jackass goofy, fun-loving prankster it is, threw in fibromyalgia on top of those traits. The chronic fatigue that comes with it just drags any patience or composure I have down and repeatedly kicks them in the nuts. The result is a bear having been poked one too many times.
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My self-control has been tested a lot lately, especially in the mornings before school. This morning, in particular, was epic. Rachael isn’t really a morning person. Much like me, she’d rather snuggle under her covers or stab you in the face than bounce out of bed with a smile. This morning, however, she was out of bed before I was. She came in to snuggle with me for a few minutes before walking downstairs for breakfast. As we began to head downstairs, she complained of her legs being cold and wrapped her blanket around her waist to keep her legs warm. It dragged on the floor in front of her. I told her I was afraid she would trip on it and asked her to pick it up and carry it normally. She whined and said she wouldn’t trip. We repeated ourselves a couple of times before she drama queened out, turning her back to me and shoving her face in the corner. She cried that it was her blanket and she’s the one who decides what to do with it. From there, she flopped to the floor in the fetal position on top of it. I firmly told her that if she didn’t get up and stop whining, she wouldn’t get to take the blanket downstairs with her at all. For some reason, she took this as her cue to get up and try to flee to her bedroom. I followed through on my threat and chucked the blanket down the hall. Much ugly, hysterical crying ensued. As she sat crying tears into her waffle, I tried to explain to her that it was a consequence of her choice. Eventually, because he speaks Rachael, Mike got her to calm down.
The rest of the getting ready process went smoothly until what is usually the worst part of the morning: getting out the door. This is the time that I have to scream at Rachael to put on her coat as she argues that she doesn’t have to wear a coat because she has on long sleeves. (It was 26 degrees and windy this morning.) This is the time when both girls become incapable of finding their shoes because they suddenly begin laboring under the misapprehension that their shoes are located on the ceiling. This is the time that Zoë believes I am violating the Geneva Convention on torture because I insist on her wearing gloves. All of this while we were supposed to be out the door three minutes ago. I am convinced that our neighbor is going to call social services on us at some point.

This evening, Zoë refused to eat her dinner. Instead, she insisted on only drinking her milk out in front of the tv. Being the horrible mother I am, I countered with eating her dinner in the kitchen or nothing. I did eventually get her to eat dinner; I had to bring dinner to an abrupt end when she decided to smear peanut butter everywhere and purposefully let milk spill out of her mouth.
Rachael, on the other hand, did a spectacular job eating her dinner. Her meltdown came later, when I prevented her from moving the trash can as much as she wanted. She’s been crossing days off her calendar, which hangs from a cork board above our kitchen trash. As she was moving the can, I became concerned that it would get knocked over, (it’s almost as big as she) and told her she didn’t need to move it anymore. Holy screeching crying fit, Batman! She screeched that dad didn’t do it that way and continued to scream incoherently through her tears. I sent her to her room to calm down. She walked to the stairs and continued screaming at me from the stairs. I told her again to go to her room, and that she could come back down when she was able to talk calmly. This was when she unleashed words which I thought I wouldn’t hear for at least a few more years: I’m the boss of me! You’re always telling me what to do! You’re just trying to make me like you!

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“I’ll never be like you!”

Now, let’s rewind… fwurp fwip wup squip squeeeeeee wheep wurp…. and do that again. This time, let’s add in an unhealthy dose of soul crushing fatigue and hyper reactivity to stimuli, such as loud noises. Trying to handle such drama and shenanigans is hard enough when you feel like you have the resources to be an adequate mom. Remaining calm when you almost can’t catch your breath because your fatigue makes you physically feel like a human pretending to be Atlas is something the IOC should make an Olympic event.

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Theory: Atlas dropping Earth because he has to scratch his balls is the real cause of earthquakes.

I’m sometimes successful in using what Mike calls your NPR voice to coax the girls into doing what they’re supposed to do. In fact, I prefer to remain calm so as not to wreck my voice and avoid pressure in my chest. But when you’re on your third or fourth time of asking your child to do something like, come here, you’re going to lose your cool a bit. The best part is when they say, Okaaaaaaay!, in an exasperated tone, like you’re the unreasonable one. If you weren’t so aggravated, you’d think it’s funny that you’re basically living out a scene from the Cosby Show. Come here. Come heeeeeere. Here. Here. Come heeeeeere!

I wish I had some sort of wisdom to share with others who live with fibromyalgia and ME/CFS and also have children, but I don’t. All I have is my hope that tomorrow will be better, that the kids will be more cooperative and I’ll be less screamy. Oh, and that their visits to the therapist when they’re older won’t be too expensive.

In which Mike advises me on matters culinary and zoological

Me: I think I’m going to go for it. I’m going to do raspberry filling for the zebra cake.

Mike: Bloody zebra. I should just stop talking to you.

Me: Well, it’ll probably be more like a raspberry mousse. So it’ll be bright pink.

Mike: Well now you’re just talking crazy talk. Everyone knows moose are not native to Africa. It would need to be more like raspberry wildebeest. Mmmmm, raspberry wildebeest.