Getting Better

 

It’s surprising to me how much my two-year-old daughter’s moods affect my own, but they do. She seems to finally be settling in. And therefore, so am I.

Last night she even let her one-year-old housemate hug her. Correction, not just let him, ASKED HIM to hug her. Repeatedly. It almost brought tears to my eyes, because this has been one of her (therefore one of my) greatest struggles. Plus, watching them hug and then clap together was one of the sweetest things I’ve seen in a long time.

She’s also finally peeing at home. Yes, this was a thing. She was holding it from the time she left daycare until she returned there, not comfortable peeing in our house. This means she’d sometimes she wouldn’t pee for up to 21 hours. It was really stressing me out. But that problem seems to be gone (and yes, she will probably not appreciate me posting about her urine problems years from now).

Also, last night, she cried before bed because her cousin wasn’t there to sleep with her. I found this charming.

Most importantly, she has returned to the happy kid she once was. Sure, there’s the occasional (read: daily) fight about wanting MORE AND MORE oatmeal, MORE AND MORE toothpaste, etc. But, I don’t see this as moving related.

With my daughter feeling happier in her environment, I am too. Last night I watched a movie with a few housemates in our new “chill out” room. And it was good. I like to hear people’s voices downstairs when I wake up. I like our kitchen being full of people when I get home from work.

And I’m looking forward to making the house cleaner, more organized, and less cluttered as time goes on.

Strangely calm and composed

Hm, I guess that person would be me.  😀

I’m not usually described as “calm” (too much energy), but perhaps unstressed is more accurate.  I am not feeling any stress from this new housing situation.  Am I happy?  Heck yeah!  Feeling at home and in my element?  Absolutely.  Loving living with others despite the chaos of boxes, the lack of kitchen shelves/cabinet doors, the almost complete lack of furniture in our bedroom, or any of the other slight frustrations?  Definitely.

One of my reason for feeling so comfortable in the house is my personality: as I mentioned before, I’m an extreme extrovert.  But another is how clear it is to me that my son is much much happier here with his faux-siblings around most of the time than in our old house where there were no other kids at home and our housemates worked every day.  He probably has my extroversion, and he’s just a lot happier here.  (I wouldn’t call him calm or composed either, though.)

I’ve also lived in coops for so many years that I’m accustomed to the general “social contract” that comes with.  I am not picky, so I don’t have a lot of policies I want to communicate with others.  But since I’m not picky, I don’t mind following most policies if it makes my housemates happy; just let me know.  There are a lot of things we haven’t worked out yet, like who does which chores or where to put all our stuff.  But I know we’ll figure it out eventually, and in the meantime it is refreshing to live with a bunch of people who are kind & thoughtful.  Looking back at my past coops, it seems like most of the real problems came from housemates who were just too selfish or self-centered and unable to be thoughtful or generous or empathetic.

Oh, and let’s not forget that my house growing up was so messy on a daily basis that one time when my dad asked a police officer inside (because he’d seen a teenager jump the fence at the pool next door) the officer thought our house had been broken into and trashed.  So I have a very high tolerance for mess, but I’m not messy myself.

So I’m happy to be that person who’s just really content right now.  Could it be improved? Sure!  And it will be.  We make great strides at organizing every week, and that is no small feat when smushing three families into a one-family house.

Oh, and it could also be happiness by comparison: we spent the previous six weeks couch surfing with a one-year-old.  Our last place was very small and our son would get so bored there that he would literally beat on the door and cry.  So I took the bus into Berkeley (from Oakland) and spent the entire day shuttling him from the YMCA to the library to a restaurant for lunch to the occasional muddy park (because it was raining almost every day during that month) and back to the Y and back to the library for 8 hours every day because we had no nanny.

So maybe that was just so stressful for me that this seems like heaven!

 

One big happy family

For the first time since my second child was born my husband is spending one night away. If we still lived in our old place I would have been scared to handle my two kids at night on my own. But with families around it’s ok. I noticed today I was waiting subconsciously for him to come home, and I had to keep reminding myself that he wasn’t coming home tonight. When he is home, then everything feels right. After the fourth time I caught myself waiting, I shifted my thinking. My husband is my family, the person I lean on the most. But in this new house we have a new, bigger family. We are here to lean on each other. Just a little at first, and then maybe more once we build trust.

We made dinner. Anna put up with Jeremy “helping” her cook in the kitchen while I sort of watched the younger kids and tried to chop sweet potatoes at the table. We sat down to a tasty dinner and the kids all ate with only minimal plate-throwing and choke-vomiting (1-year-old M.O.) Then my sister came home with her friends and their kids, initiating a delightful buzz of adult conversation and children fighting and playing with pillows and ride-em vehicles. Way past everyone’s bedtime, my sister read to the older cousins while I put the baby to bed.

Remember Real World where they put all these random people in a house together and incited them to quarrel? I have not watched reality TV since the 90s, so perhaps that’s still the standard plot; I don’t know. Either way, this is our Real World. I’m expecting fights or people not able to handle things. Especially considering the boxes everywhere and the disorganized kitchen. But for now, it’s working just as I had hoped.IMG_9363

Transitioning

It’s the one-week anniversary in the new house (it was when I started writing this). I have been crazy overwhelmed every minute, with no rest and no leisure for me or my husband. Some of our roommates seem strangely calm and composed through the chaos (especially Rusty Dog). I would like to have that kind of personality, but it seems I’m pretty excitable.

Good parts: having people around all the time. I don’t have a lot of need for alone time. I’m most at ease when I’m sharing a space with a few people I know well. I love waking up to a bustle in the kitchen and someone frying eggs. After the kids are in bed if I have any energy at all I walk downstairs and feel the quiet comfort of people using their laptops and sipping tea.

I love the casual collective parenting that happens effortlessly. It means I can steal a few minutes for myself in moments I never could before we moved. As the only party with two young children, rather than one, I benefit more than anyone. I can sleep in a bit even after my co-parent has left for work. Thank you, roommies!

In writing the list of good things, I started to forget what the difficult parts are. Which means I’m getting more sleep. Still, let’s disclose them…

Difficult parts: There are dozens of tiny household policies to be defined, discussed and communicated to everyone. I general enjoy these kinds of conversations, but I started to get very weary partway through the week. At its worst, it is policing and being policed. For example, “Hey, do you mind if we don’t listen to talk radio in the common space?” that was me policing. Mostly it’s just peaceful discussions, but usually only with 2-3 participants. Then you have the remaining 3-4 participants not aware of the discussion, so you have to schedule a part 2. This should all be resolved with a house meeting, but good luck scheduling that on short notice! Also, we have to inform the nanny about any decisions that affect her.

One issue is particular to me and my husband because we built the house. Every choice we made about the house becomes something we have to explain or defend or just sort of shrug at and say “oops”. Why do we have an induction cooktop that renders half of our pots useless? Why can’t we install shelves in the upstairs hallway? It’s really very hot in here! And so on.

The bittersweet parts: The sound of children playing loudly. Happy chaos, but sometimes too much chaos. Right now – sad, troubling, but a tiny bit satisfying – the sound of two children crying, neither of which is mine.

Four kids under four? What were we thinking??

 

Four kids under four means there’s always someone crying, or whining, or yelling with joy (all equally annoying, it turns out). There is always someone needing oatmeal, or asking for milk, or chasing the dog, or hitting their cousin, or dripping snot down their face. It’s rarely relaxing and it’s never easy.

This is my take. And I’m somewhat surprised by how hard it’s been for me. It may be due to how hard it’s been for my daughter, who has been a whiny mess since we moved in. I thought this was due to the flu, which she caught the day before we moved. But the flu seems to be gone, and the whininess and tantrums seem to have stayed.

A think a lot of my stress also comes from the state of the house, which I know is temporary (I know this because I repeat it to myself constantly whenever I’m home… “this is temporary, this is temporary.” A mover’s mantra.) Picture a whole family’s worth of boxes taking up every room in the house. Now multiply it by three.

My hope is that once the boxes are unpacked and the kitchen is organized (I guess my husband’s need for order has rubbed off on me more than I realized), I will be a calmer, happy person. Unfortunately, those words cannot describe me at the moment. I look forward to returning to a better me.

Babies & Papasans; my aggressive hugger

I just had to blog about an adorable scene.  The two one-year-olds love the papasan!  One of them will go up to it and say, “up! up!” and the other one will run over and say “up! up!” to get in at the same time.  Then they sit in it together, laughing and hugging and pushing each other.  Tots adorbs.

And I think the other kids are beginning to get used to our son’s style.  He is an aggressive hugger.  He loves hugging people, especially little kids.  So he chases each kid around (and the poor dog) multiple times per day so he can hug them.  Occasionally knocking them over while he does so.  After he hugs someone he grins & claps.  I can’t help but think it’s ridiculously cute even when the other kid is trying to avoid the hug.

The nuclear family is rubbish!

(Okay, so my mom is a Brit.)

Dang, we’ve only been in the house for a few days and it is soooooo easy to take care of kids this way!  This is the way human beings are supposed to raise kids.  Multiple kids, multiple adults.

The kids entertain each other.  The adults trade around watching them naturally and with little effort.

Yesterday Eliza asked me if I could watch her two kids this morning while she had an early telephone meeting.  I blocked off the time: 7:30am to 9am, and the mental space: three kids, possibly by myself. Be prepared — could be tough.  We had plans that if her 1yo was particularly fussy and needed to nurse I could try to carry him to her quietly while somehow also watching the other two kids.

But it wasn’t anything like that.  Around 8:45 Eliza came out and thanked me, and I couldn’t remember why — oh yeah, I had “watched her kids” — ha!  I didn’t do anything.  The kids all wanted to eat at the same time (cuz the littler kids want to do whatever the bigger kids are doing), then Audrey happened to give the older two kids a bath, which the younger two found fascinating.  And at some point Nate came down and “watched” them while I took a shower.  Did I even do any watching?

The other evening Wes & Audrey came out of their rooms while I was playing with two of the kids and said, “oh! we forgot that were were supposed to be watching Eliza & Harry’s kids!”  Apparently I had one of them and Nate had the other.  And we didn’t even notice.  It’s actually easier to watch two kids than one, because you don’t have to entertain them, they entertain each other.

Anyway, a longish post just to say wow, the kid watching part of this setup is even easier/better than I expected.  And I expected it to be pretty great.  😀