Sunday, June 08, 2014

Finding strength

Bartender: How old is she?
Iner: She's still shiny.....she still expects everything's going to turn out alright.
Bartender: That's a good age.

~ An Unfinished Life

You make allowances for family. It's a given, no matter how idyllic your family may seem. There are times when you must dig down deep and find your strength to deal with them. I wash dishes rather obsessively when I need to control my environment. Suffice it to say, we're gonna have a clean kitchen week here chez Johnson.

The MIL and niece arrived Friday. It's Sunday now. So far, time is crawling a bit. I have to start working, already have today, and my days will be full of it from now until they leave, and that will help with the whole time-crawling thing.

But I'm learning about myself as I interact with them, and it bears notice. How I am able to find patience when how I really want to react is "wow, seriously?!" (MIL was angry yesterday when she got a lousy steak at Cracker do you walk into Cracker Barrel expecting a decent steak?! Also, MIL's driving in general...I need a shot of whiskey before getting in a vehicle with her.) How allowances must be made for my niece's minor emotional and developmental delays, and when to take a hard line with her. The child could manipulate paint off a wall, but she's a product of an unhealthy environment. I've never been so glad that a child attended public school. I wish it were year-round. She needs the structure. And focus therapy. And speech therapy. And has no business going into any "gifted" program when she's getting C's in regular work. And....I'm not her parent.

My gods, the frustration!

But she's a smart critter too, bright and curious. I hung out with her outside yesterday, let her climb all over our creekbed. The water's way low right now, and there's plenty of bedrock there, so I let her explore so long as she remained in eyesight. She likes throwing rocks in the water to get a big splash. But she was also checking out bugs, wild strawberries, all the green.

We have an ancient and neglected playset just below our property, next to the creek, a climbing set with slide and a swingset. They're not 100% safe, and my first reaction was "absolutely not" to her playing on them, but I took another look yesterday and relaxed. What's the worst that could happen, she snags on something and needs a tetanus shot? Our town has an urgent care and she's Medicaid. Parenting, even spot/trial parenting, requires knowing when to react and when to relax.

Picking your battles...such a dance. Hubs was all, no problem, you can work in the bedroom, but I knew better. Could tell this morning that if I kept that up, I'd have a small person popping in every 5 minutes, half bored, half curious, wanting my attention. So I moved to the living room, and sure the work's going slower, but I'll make it work. The child is neglected rather criminally at home, so it makes sense she'd demand more attention. I'm not going to punish her for her parents' shortcomings.

I've popped outside now, so she can burn off some energy on that playset. She's being 7 this morning, a little needy, more than a little pushy. Hubs will take them up the Blue Ridge in a little while to see the views and picnic. For a second, just now, I thought some other kids had joined her. She's on the swings, singing at the top of her lungs. Such a great kid.

How different our lives would be with children. I'd get up earlier to knock out some work before the small ones rose, and my day would be punctuated by stolen moments of precious time, both for them and for the work that keeps my family fed. Same with if we had more animals, or a small farm. I'm not managing my time well enough in my present life, not nearly. Interesting that it takes a little reality to really see that. I wish, and say "if only" where the niece's raising is concerned, but the adjustment would be incredibly jarring. We are such lazy creatures.

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