There’s the basics and the extras.
That’s how I’m breaking it down to Jeb these days. Of course, it’s all relative, too.
A few posts ago, I was grappling with the statistics that showed three billion humans living on less than $1000 a year. So by saying that putting Jeb’s dirty plate in the dishwasher is a ‘basic’, is already an ‘extra’ for nearly half the planet.
That said, since I’m giving you a glimpse into our little reality bubble, the extras here are things like riding with his friends at the skatepark. Using his iTouch. Watching a movie on a school night.
And the basics are just the usual. Take care of your body (wash it and brush your teeth), clean up after yourself, do your homework, be respectful.
These fundamentals are supposed to be our guiding compass. Something solid. A foundation from which the bonuses can then blossom.
And this last week, Jeb and I delved into his nine-year old world of add-ons. He stepped up with the basics and reaped the rewards, reveling in the feel-good place of supplements. He got an extra helping of ollies and pop shuvit’s at the skate ramp, and more time with Maroon 5 crooning on his iTouch.
Things were smooth. Our infrastructure secure. All was well in this perfect equilibrium of checks and balances. It was all so streamlined I should have known a seismic shake-up was just around the corner.
Simply put, yesterday was a debacle.
I’ll spare you (and our family’s public profile) the rattling of details on how the basics just weren’t met yesterday. But here’s the gist of me, in all of my lost, self-command of cool.
“No extras without the basics.”
My words meet air in an exasperated shrill.
I hear myself. I am some strange kingpin who’s invented her own language. If I wasn’t so vexed, I’d be laughing at myself. Words leave my mouth as Mother, but I am alienated from the woman who utters them. Who is this lady? Her hands move in exacting gestures, iterating the importance of her point.
My husband – the Bohemian – sits on the couch watching the scene. Ever-patient, ever-supportive, he agrees with what I’m saying, yet for now, he is quiet.
In this moment, I am far from sexy. In this moment, I am far from the calm, enlightened parent I want to be. In this moment, I am irritation embodied. And right now, I think I hate homework more than Jeb does.
The whole thing is embarrassing. This admission that often I am not the parent I wish to be.
Contemplating the family model of 100 years ago, it seems parents didn’t question themselves. Five-year olds were on the farm, feeding livestock right along side their moms and dads. Home life conditions may have been more harsh – not quite so warm and fuzzy – but the basics seemed to be quite clear. Undisputed.
Today, we are no longer in the 1900’s. We have evolved, right? (right?)
I do my best to live a conscious life, and so that means I make attempts at parenting with awareness, too. I’m trying. But the worst is when I’m in the limbo. Not old-school “stop crying or I’ll give you something to cry about,” but not the Cesar-Millan-of-child-rearing with “calm-assertive” energy, either.
No, just the convoluted mix of neither, which finds me in the hell realms, wavering in an amorphous midland of second-guesses steeped in aggravation.
So what’s the point of dragging you into this inferno with me? I don’t think this sharing is just about the vent.
Perhaps it’s the practice of being transparent. Admitting that there are times when, not only am I a conscious parenting failure, but I fall short of my human potential, too.
During yesterday’s disaster, you could glimpse inside the living room to see a family of three, dealing with dirty clothes on the bathroom floor, an overflowing compost bucket, and a misplaced spelling list.
Take a look outside that little room, and you’ll see the extras were coming on in spades.
Just beyond that family’s front door, exotic fruit ripened on the trees, with names like sugar-apple, chiku, and surinam cherry. Mother nature does not hold back. The basics of rain, sun and fertile soil are enough to illicit the sweetest nectar of bumper crops.
Far from the negotiations had about age-appropriate apps to be downloaded on electronic devices, the life cycle of a tree roots in the simple. It’s not complex. No second guessing. All compass points align with True.
Extras, just a natural consequence.