Just when I think things are good - I get a reality check. I finished my sunshine post earlier this evening and went into dinner/evening activities. Feeding animals, getting the bunny out for his exercise, getting out the separate meals for the vegetarian and non-vegetarians . . .
Lily started too get sort of whiny - I imagine she's feeling frustrated and down, getting a little bored and feeling neglected by friends. I get that, I can sympathize and problem solve. We agreed to call friend A and set up a fun day for next week. But then she started in on her brother. She doesn't want him to clap, make funny kitty sounds, typical annoying little brother stuff.
OK. There ideally would be some negotiating, some compromise. But they're siblings, only 16 months apart in age. She yells, cries, whines, he responds by doing more of what she doesn't want him to do, neither one listens to me, Lily works herself up into a case of hysterics. At some point I get him to back down and her to calm down.
By now I've chased the bunny around because he doesn't want to go back up to his cage, he wants to hang out and play with the cat - and - poop all over my living room. As I'm working on luring bunny up the stairs with some fresh romaine, Lily is deciding she's hungry again. About two hours after I've cooked a full meal. I offer foods easy to get out, fresh peach, instant organic oatmeal. Nope, she doesn't want those. Saltines? She doesn't like them. She wants stir fried carrots. It's going on 10:00 PM. I don't want to stir fry carrots. I again offer other easy choices. Lily wants none of them. Lily is hungry, and wants only stir fried carrots. If she doesn't get her carrots she's going to fall apart. Loudly.
I'm trying to hold this boundary. I've been fetching and cooking and doing for Lily all day. Since she got up at 8:00 AM.
Lily says she'll cook the carrots herself. I say fine. I'm going to get ready for bed. But Lily can't slice carrots while she's on crutches. I grudgingly slice carrots and announce I AM GOING TO BED. Lily crutches her way into the kitchen and asks me to get out the garlic press. I tell her to get it out herself because if she can stir fry she can certainly get out the garlic press. I'm regressing into my own adolescent huff. Ugly.
Lily gets out the garlic press and tries to manage it while balancing on her crutches. She does not want to do this. She wants me to give in. She cries. She drools on the floor while crying. She's very good at this whole routine. I know, because I was also very good at it once upon a time. See me, I'm sad, I need someone to care enough about me to do this for me. If you don't do this, you don't love me enough.
I do realize Lily's mental illness issues influence her distress. But again, there has to, has to, be a way to hold appropriate boundaries so that her brother and I maintain some sense of sanity. I've written about this many times. We keep coming back to it, because when I do try to hold a boundary and I see her falling apart, I do give in. But not graciously. With frustration and resentment and then, with remorse that I wasn't gracious and cheerful about meeting needs beyond what my energy level seems able to support.
So I stir fried carrots and complained and scowled. I vigorously brushed my teeth and made my displeasure known as I got ready for bed. And I felt awful.
I gave in, and then proceeded to make Lily feel bad about my choice. Some days I manage with so much more patience. I love this kid. And some days I'm the last person she needs in her space. I would never intentionally do something to hurt her, but my frustration and inability to maintain rational actions on my tired days do hurt her.
I spent a few minutes on my bed, trying to be still and regain a sense of calm. I went back out to talk to Lily, just to remind her that when I get upset it doesn't mean I don't love her, that I do in fact love her. I make sure she's settled in and I gently touch her soft brown head before heading back to my room.
Tomorrow morning I'll again ask the universe to give me the strength and patience to be a good parent to Lily and her brother. I gave up my childhood Catholic prayers many years ago. My belief system fell apart. But I have a huge need to reconnect with that part of myself that could find comfort in surrender.
Some Sundays I'm sorely tempted to drive up and park outside a church just to hear the music. I can't bring myself to walk in and declare a belief I no longer hold. But I sure don't have any answers now, so why not take comfort where I can find it?