Reclaiming privacy

Last night was the first night I have not had a bath with Maya in over a year. I don’t even like baths, particularly. Mommy daughter baths started off innocently, as a way to get her to have a bath when she was really cold and refused to get in. “How about Mommy gets in the bath too? Wouldn’t that be fun Maya?” But, like many things in our family, what was supposed to be an occasional thing has developed into a rather rigid routine.

I had told Maya on Sunday night that we were starting a new routine. I would have a bath with her that night, but not the next. I made sure she had heard me. She told me that she understood. The next night I poured her bath.  She got in and started playing. There was no “Mommy you get in the bath with me!” I was so excited by this unexpected cooperation that I rushed into the living room to tell Dave the good news. Just as I was whispering “She’s in the bath right now and hasn’t even asked me to come in!” I heard a small voice in the background say “Mommy I want num nums!” Silence as my elation deflates. “Mommy I want num nums!!” More silence as I decide how I’m to approach this. “MOMMY I WANT NUM NUMS!!!” 

I go into the bathroom. “Maya I told you last night that mommy is not going to have a bath with you tonight.” “But I want num nums mommy!” she says tearfully. “I know sweetie. You can have num nums when I put you to bed.” “But I want num nums now!” said even more tearfully. “I know sweetie. I know it’s hard.” Now the tearful pleas turn into wailing. Oh boy.

I sit by the bathtub and REMAIN CALM. I use my compassionate-counsellor voice and remember that this won’t last forever. And I wait and say soothing things, knowing that everything I suggest or say will be responded to with a “NO MOMMY!!!! I don’t want to do that!!!” It is at this point that I am eternally grateful for my training as a therapist. I spent a great deal of time having to sit with people (and not run away) while they experienced very intense and unpleasant emotions. And all I could do was be with them in that time, often in silence, and say the odd soothing thing. “Everything you are feeling is completely okay.” There were times when the intensity was intolerable. But I survived and I knew I would survive this. I tried as best as I could to exude compassion. It sometimes works.

The lovely thing about Maya is that she can often be distracted out of her anger or sadness. So I waited for an opening. After a few minutes of wailing, she stopped and played with a little bath toy. “That’s it!”, I thought. But she quickly remembered her despair and the wailing picked up where it had left off. As she was flailing her legs in protest, her foot made a squeaky sound. We both looked surprised and I pounced on the moment. “What was that Maya?” said with exaggerated surprise and delight. “Can you do it again?” And for the next few minutes Maya tried to get her feet to make the squeaky noise and giggled every time she did it. Tragedy narrowly averted!

When thinking about our bath routine and all of the other little funny routines we have developed in our family, I have concluded that whatever privacy I may have craved prior to Maya, it is completely absent now. When I am home, Maya is with me. Everywhere. This includes the bathroom. If I have to go the bathroom, Maya has to go to the bathroom. She will sit on her little potty and I will sit on the big one. And while we are going potty together, she will hand me her Pinky Bear and demand “Do Pinky Mommy!” And I will talk for Pinky Bear and she and Pinky Bear will have a delightful conversation.”Hi Pinky Bear!” “Hi Maya! How are you?” “I’m going pee pee!” “I can see that!” “That’s funny Pinky! Mommy your name is Flushie!”

But while I have abandoned any notion of privacy long ago, Dave still covets his. Especially privacy in the bathroom. Last night while we were getting Maya ready for bed, Dave was in the bathroom with the door shut. Maya and I were playing with her pizza set in her room. She wanted to bring Daddy a piece of pizza. I knew this would drive him nuts as he does not like to be disturbed when he is using the potty. So of course I said “Yes Maya I bet Daddy would love a piece of pizza!” And off she trotted to the bathroom with her piece of toy pizza for Daddy. “Daddy!!! I have a piece of pizza for you!!!” And he was a good sport the first time. “Thank you sweetie! But could you please go back to your room and shut the door? Please?” Not so much the second. Or the third. I sat in her bedroom laughing hysterically. Hopefully he won’t read this because he will be furious that I am writing about him using the facilities.

So this is me, on the road to reclaim a little bit of privacy from my daughter, who I love to bits. Not only am I taking my boobs back (see post below), but the rest of my naked body as well. Hopefully my laissez faire attitude towards nudity has helped Maya to be comfortable with her body. She has such a cute little baby body! From her incessant streaking through the house every chance she gets I am pretty confident that thus far, she has no body image problems. She also knows that boys have a penis and girls have a vagina, and labia and a clitoris, even though she’s not always clear about who actually is a boy or a girl. She judges people’s sex by the length of their hair.

Another benefit of a general lack of privacy is unexpected moments of intimacy. I deeply treasure the intimacy that Maya and I have developed as we have shared these private moments. After her bath, for instance, she will run naked into our room and get under our covers. I will follow her and get under the covers too and we will wait for “Daddy Crane” to come and get us. (Daddy Crane uses his big crane arms to come and pick her up. Whenever he comes near she squeals and jumps into my arms). Snuggled together under the covers, looking into her face and mirroring her expression of joy, excitement and anticipation as she hears “Daddy Crane” coming, is a moment of private joy. It is like a part of me is observing and experiencing such awe and bliss that a moment like this can exist. So although I am may be slowly putting limits on physical privacy, those moments of private intimacy will be unbounded.

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The dreaded commute

My little silly billy

My little silly billy

Helping mommy fold the laundry

Helping mommy fold the laundry

When Dave and I realized we were truly moving back to the lower mainland from London, Ontario (where I realized with panic I had lived for SEVEN FULL YEARS), the decision of where exactly to live became an issue. A rather large issue you might say. I would say there have only been two times where our fights were colossal. This was the first. The second was after moving back West and deciding which car to buy when my little station wagon, that I had bought brand new and mostly all by myself, was headed for auto heaven. Out of those two, this one tested our relationship the most.

I had always lived in Vancouver, was going to be working downtown, and hated commuting. This made made Vancouver the most logical choice in my mind. Dave, on the other hand, hated Vancouver, had only felt at home in North Vancouver, and didn’t think a 45 minute commute each way was a big deal. And so the battle began. 

I ultimately agreed to settle in North Vancouver with the understanding that Dave and Maya would drop me off at the sea bus and pick me up, to at least make my commute bearable. It is about a 10 minute car ride to the sea bus terminal, then 15 minutes across and a 15 minute walk to work. It would increase by over a half hour if if I had to bus and walk to and from the terminal. I had tried that once, to take the bus home from the sea bus terminal. It was, to put it lightly, a disaster, and proof that I am directionally impaired. I didn’t realize that the routes changed after a certain time. My confusion as to why everything was looking more and more unfamiliar prompted me to ask the bus driver where I in fact, was. He let me off immediately and pointed north. This did not seem right. After 15 minutes trudging north, I realized it definitely was not right (with a little help from my Smartphone). Forty-five minutes later I limped, in seething silence, through the door.

I had worn new shoes, as my new job required a professional wardrobe that I did not yet own. I had purposefully taken that specific bus to lessen the distance my poor squished feet would be required to walk. I vowed that I would never take that f&*&king bus again! 

Our mornings, as we rush to get ready to drop mommy off, are a bit hectic to say the least. We try to let Maya sleep in as late as we can and still get out the door by 7:45 a.m. Prior to waking her, Dave and I enjoy a coffee or two, if we’re lucky, in peace. It is our only bit of peace together for the most part. I cherish those moments (aside from the times I want to throw Dave’s phone in the toilet). The problem with our carefully structured timing, however, is that it doesn’t allow for one minute of deviation. If Maya, for instance, decides she is going to go poo poo on the potty, which can take quite awhile depending on how many songs she will sing whilst on her throne, we have to do some major catch up to get out of the door.

Maya has taken to prolonging things she hates to do. She loves almost everything, but avoids the routine, mundane things that most of us don’t enjoy, but have to do nonetheless. Like going to bed. Or driving mommy to work. At night it’s things like brushing her teeth, flossing her teeth, blow drying and combing her hair, and getting her pajamas on. Her favourite prolonging the inevitable tactic is to run throughout the house stark naked singing at the top of her lungs or squealing in delight and then hiding behind the curtains in our living room. The routine is that she will stick her legs out from under the curtain. I will happen upon them. I will remark “Oh my goodness what are these legs doing here? I wonder whose legs they are? These toes look like Maya toes. Do they taste like Maya toes? Do these knees tickle like Maya knees? I think I’ve found a Maya!” as I pull back the curtain and she squeals with delight.

This darting off routine will happen during every transition: from bath to getting dried off; getting dry to getting pajamas on; getting pajamas on to drying hair etc. etc. When she dilly dallies at night, really the worst that happens is she gets one less bed time story, or goes to bed a bit later than normal. So I indulge her. But now these routines are showing up all over the place. When we get home and get out of the car, she now has to climb into the front seat, look into the passenger mirror on the visor and yell some strange and angry language into it, then climb over to the driver’s side and do the same thing to that mirror. If she doesn’t get a chance to do this routine there will be wailing. And it will be loud.

These delaying routines have now started to leak into our morning routines. This is not good. Most of the time in our dealings with her running away stark naked routine at night, Dave and I are a version of our “best parent selves”; we use humour, creativity, encouragement, singing, games etc. to get her to move it along. Occasionally, if she is being especially naughty, we try to discipline her. Ha! We tried time outs in her crib a couple of times. We diligently and with Very Serious Expressions took out all of her toys, blankets and pillows and told her she would have to stay in the crib for 3 minutes. She LOVED it. Whenever she did something naughty she would ask excitedly “Do I get a time out?” The only “threat” that has even remotely worked was taking away tomorrow’s cherished time with Dora the Explorer. I am a firm believer in picking one’s battles, and picking them wisely. Dave often calls this indulging, but I swear that if we measured our sanity levels, mine would be in the moderately sane range. And his? I won’t contemplate as he will likely read this. In the mornings, however, we are not any version of our Best Parent Selves. There is no time for that parent. We rely totally on the “Maya get over here and get your shoes on! We don’t have time for this!” parent.

This morning, a Monday and my first back to work day, Maya’s nightly procrastination routine leaked into the morning. It was one of those days where the minutes slipped by so imperceptibly that I would almost swear I had had a mini stroke that impaired my ability to assess time. We were late. And Maya only wanted to wear her brand new pink long underwear, which were covered in hot chocolate from the night before as she tried to drink it from a mug all by herself. Then her purple underwear was nowhere to be found, nor were any purple clothes (they all being in the wash that I had forgotten to do over the weekend). This is close to a Very Big Disaster in her mind as she LOVES LOVES LOVES purple. At first she had worn all shades of purple, meaning I had 4 pairs of tights to choose from, but this has suddenly changed and now light purple will not do. 

We finally got her dressed and at the front door to put her boots on when she sprinted down the hall gleefully running away. This led to tears as Dave caught up to her and carried her back. Our rushing didn’t even help. I missed the sea bus by about 30 seconds. 

My conclusion is that my hate of commuting has to balance with the facts. Fact one is that Dave and I are hopelessly disorganized and will never be the kind of parents who prepare lunches the day before, or have the coffee all ready to go the night before, or who even know where their clothes are, let alone what they are going to wear that day. Fact two is that we have a 2 1/2 year old, who loves to play. I don’t want the few moments I share with her in the morning to be battles. The new plan? A compromise. I’ll take the bus on the days they have pre-school and they will continue to pick me up at night. And I won’t secretly look at apartments in Vancouver. North Van, even with the crappy commute, is a good place to live.