Monday, March 15, 2010

The Unphase

My daughter turns 4 on Friday. She has been talking about her next birthday party ever since last year's as we pulled out from Pump It Up, her cheeks coated in a thin layer of dried birthday cake icing. She is like most other children in that she adores parties. Any event is made better by cake and balloons, non?

It came to my attention a few weeks ago that while Sabra would gladly participate in any fete that celebrated her existence, she wasn't actually looking forward to her birthday. As in, she doesn't want to turn 4.

Every time I excitedly say that there are only 15 more days....7 more days...4 more days until her Big Day, she whines that she reeeallly doesn't waaaant to turrrrn FOOOOUUURRRR. So far the only reasons she can give aren't shedding any light on the problem. She thinks that she can't play with Black Charlotte when she turns four. She thinks that she won't be able to play with her 3 year old friends. She also thinks that on her Big Day, I need to move all her size 3 clothes out into the garage with all the Rubber*Maid buckets. I really like those plastic tubs. They bring me peace.

So in the end, I don't know why she is apprehensive about turning the big 04. I could try to soothe her about the whole issue, but really she's just going to have to get over it. Even if she lies to herself and says it hasn't happened, the rest of the world will know by availability of factual evidence that she is indeed a four year old girl.

We all feel that way when approaching a new phase of life. Unsure of what to do, what to say, who to befriend, and what we'll wear. It falls for some of us when the clock moves one tick forward and we add another number to our age. For others, it is when the wedding ring finger becomes enclosed in a band of smothering platinum and ALL the finger wants to do is BREATHE. Maybe for you it is when that ring finger really does get to breathe. And then again for others, we fear the Unphase.

The Unphase is currently what I'm dreading. On my good days when I've had a shower and talked to an adult in a medium that doesn't include texting or Facebook, I think that I'm not in the Unphase. I can tell myself calmly that I'm just in that odd and difficult time when my kids are small and someone needs me every minute of every day for something that I usually cannot adequately provide. On my good days I'm also able to go in the backyard and pet the pretty unicorn that lives there.

But on the bad days...well. The unicorn is a squirrel and it doesn't like to talk to me. More importantly, I'm only able to tell myself that there is no end in sight and I will never EVER emerge from the hamster wheel that I unwittingly jumped into.

I know that many mothers of young children (or other unsavory jobs such as deodorant tester or tampon string puller) feel that they live in an alternate universe in which years, months, and weeks are all comprised of single days. Get through the end of today and your reward is simply to start it over again. Or did it end? Maybe that was just a nap. Did I nap? Perhaps I just gazed at that blank wall for so long that all conscious thought fell out of my nose onto my shirt. Is that my shirt? My sister bought that for me 7 years ago when Moira was baptized. I wore it when we went to Atascadero to see Austin's friends. She bought it because all my clothes were tight after having had a baby. I only wear it when I'm fat. I don't think I had to wear it when Sabra was little. I'm never ever going to stop wearing this shirt now. I wear it every day. Or maybe I don't wear it at all. What was I saying?

Welcome to the Unphase, which is characterized by nothing at all, or perhaps everything. In the Unphase, you will eat breakfast three times on one day. The next day, discernible to the naked eye only by the new episode of WordWorld, you will forget to eat breakfast until 3 pm. At this point, you will look at the pantry's offerings and decide instead to have a cup of tea. The tea will go cold and murky in its pretty cup with golden edges before you realize that you haven't had a sip. You will look at the microwave and remember just in time that pretty gilded cups do not go in a microwave. Sure, you could pour the cold tea in another cup and nuke it. But then you will have more dishes to do. You apologize to the tea and feel that it understands you better than anyone else who has texted you on the day following Three Breakfast Day. (And what will we call today? Almost Blew Up The Microwave Day?)

My head is full to bursting with the words of Sunday School Teachers Past. I hear them tell me that life is what I make of it. I hear their sweet Southern drawl advise me that there are no small jobs in life. Everyone matters. Everyone is important. Everyone has a purpose. I used to believe that they had some sort of golden egg of wisdom. That somehow, in their cardigan sets and pearls, life had infused them with little nuggets of pillow crochet sayings.

I'm starting to wonder if perhaps they were in their own Unphase. Perhaps they signed up for teaching my bratty self because it helped them to tell one day from the next. They might have been so drunk with Unphase that they just wanted to get out of their prison and talk to a bunch of kids about how life can be better. Now I'm realizing that they weren't telling me that everyone has a purpose. They were saying it for their own benefit. They needed to hear that there are no small jobs, that everyone matters. Poor teachers. I highly doubt that I was helpful in their quest of breaking the shell of Unphase. Hopefully I was entertaining. I used to pour glue on my hands and then wait for it to dry and peel it off in a big glue glove. I was in the double digits when I discovered how interesting glue can be. My more mature obsession with plastic buckets doesn't seem that odd now, does it?

Today is a better(ish) day. I've been to the doctor once, but we didn't go to the hospital. All medicines were administered on time and written down so I don't have the chance of overmedicating one kid and undermedicating another. Instead of talking to my husband for his 30 minutes of available time today, I went running. That gives me points for exercising and going outside but negative points for not talking to my spouse. I didn't have to make dinner. Although, if you know my mom...I kind of wish I would have. Potatoes and mushrooms aren't a normal dinner for most people I know. So in this better(ish) day, I can slowly pat my poor little sad feelings and soothingly whisper that one day I will indeed have time to paint my toenails. I will get to work on the book that is rattling around in my head, gathering dust. I will wear my favorite size 4 jeans and I will go one whole day without crying about how I physically am incapable of worrying about one.more.thing. I will read all about Middle Age politics and practice French until it is flawless and full of gutteral r's.

But that is still all for the future, for One Day...and I'm still Here in Unphase.

I have something in common with my almost birthday girl. She doesn't want the next phase to begin because she doesn't know what toys or friends or clothes she can take with her into the uncharted seas of age 4. I don't want the next phase to begin because I'm not sure what pieces of my tattered sanity I can take with me. But in the end, Sabra will turn 4 and learn to live with the changes.

I guess I'm going to have to do the same. I'm hoping for something more exciting than Unphase. But if not...well...I'll just buy myself a bottle of glue.


Steph said...

I don't know how to make it better... but it WILL get better. xoxo

Lori Buck said...

Wishing for the end of my own personal unphase reminds me of the saying, "How can the days be so long and the years be so short?" Some days I feel caught in the proverbial Groundhog Day of mothering young children that makes me want to pluck my eyelashes out one by one just to dull the pain and monotony of hearing, "Mom, mommmy or MOTHER" 42 times in one 10-minute span. Other days -- better days -- I put on my 9-year-old son's hoodie to brace against the cold and want to weep, because he is almost as big as me. My firstborn, sweet baby child is almost as big as my own 30-something self, and I want to weep, because wasn't it just a very few short years ago I held his freshly swaddled, newborn self on my knees and rocked him back and forth to sleep? The dichotomy of motherhood astounds me.

Maude Hirsch said...

Can I have your Mother's receipe for mushrooms and potatoes?

I can appreciate your struggles with unphase. If it helps any, your writing about it made me laugh.

Thank you,
Patricia Cross