Order From Chaos

Despite my absence here for the last month and a half, I have not been master goddess of my domestic realm. I am always surprised when I take a break from blogging, I mean you’d think that the extra 1-2 hours per day would get me something. And of course it does, it gets me a slower pace of life, a calm that I do appreciate when I can manage to acknowledge it. But it does not get me a cleaner house or happier children. At this very moment (and most others) the kitchen is a mess, the table is stacked with four loads of clean laundry waiting to be put away, the floors are disgusting, and I have no idea what I’m cooking for dinner. I feel that depthless falling feeling lately. The list, by which I mean The List, is miles long and filled with projects like “replace linoleum in the kitchen,” “put up the year’s worth of salmon,” “rebuild collapsed woodshed roof,” and subsequently “cut and stack five cords of firewood for the winter.”

And I can’t even get the fucking laundry put away.

The disappointment of times like this always starts me to grasping for a cure, and lately my obsession has been the Waldorf concept of Rhythm. The idea is that a flexible but regular schedule is essential for children; that knowing, generally, how their days will unfold gives them a sense of peace and stability.

Duh.

One of the things I hate about parenting dogmas is how impervious they are to differences in personality. Although I think a predictable schedule is generally agreed to be good for kids, I suspect there are kids who will never adapt to a schedule and furthermore don’t need to, as well as kids who’s lives could be turned around by a strong rhythm. Those are the kids who thrive on Waldorf, and “prove” the success of the ideology.

What I am realizing lately is that I was one of those kids, who’s need for a predictable, peaceful and quiet daily routine was never satisfied as a child. And as happens in a developing brain when a need is unmet, I am consequently malformed.

I have always had a near obsession with routine and yet an inability to actually execute it to any satisfying degree. I need it because I didn’t get it as a child, but I don’t know how to do it, because I didn’t get it as a child. My journals are always studded with multiple attempts to corral the chaos of my days. Literally,

“Summer Schedule
6:00 wake up, coffee
7:00 breakfast
7:30 walk
9:00 outside chores”
etc, etc.

I write it all out, earnestly believing every time that the mere act of writing will create the calm rhythm and self disciplined schedule I crave. Later I am convinced that it hasn’t worked because I just haven’t gotten it right, haven’t divined the Perfect Schedule. Inviting yet another attempt.

That’s me– forever believing that there is a formula for perfection. Not universal, but personal to me. If only I could figure it out.

Having kids of my own I have only stepped up this madness. Desperate for a handle on life, I feel sure that I am just missing something. If I could just get the kids to eat right, they wouldn’t have these stubborn screaming fits. If I could just get the house clean and stay on top of it, we would all feel so much more calm and relaxed. If the 2yo would just consistently sleep enough at night. If I got the kids enough exercise and peer play every day. If… If….

And then the kingpin– If only I could get us on a schedule, then I would (magically) have time to fit all this in to every single day.

Then, then! Life would be all soft watercolors and silk scarves. Hallelujah.

Looking around online for Waldorf rhythm is excessively discouraging. The blogshine that I always rail against is rampant in the Waldorf crowd. One that I read this morning went on for an entire post about their morning ritual of waking softly, lighting candles and singing morning songs and how sweet and perfect it all was. Well, perfect pink wool felting mothers of the world, damn you if you’re lying, and damn you more if you’re not.

I started this post weeks ago, in the midst of an obsession. Now as I come back to finish what seems worth finishing, I am trying to divine the lesson. Did I learn something? I do in fact feel like in the last few weeks I created some kind of order in my universe– the house is clean, the laundry is caught up, the kids are happy. But as usual, in retrospect, I find myself wondering if I created that order and peace, or if it created itself.

Do I follow a pattern of sinking to the bottom and then pulling myself up by the bootstraps? Or does life follow a pattern of chaos and hard times, which lead inevitably to a relative peace and better times? Or is it (more likely) both? Do we feed off of each other, me and life, and oh– don’t forget the kids, in their own two separate cycles.

Waldorf appeals to my depressed self because it is based on the premise that if you do everything “right” (and they’ll tell you how) your life and your children will be sweet and quiet. It taps directly into my innate compulsion to believe that there is a Perfect Way, I just have to figure out what it is. It feeds heavily on my propensity for mama-guilt, because if my life is not so perfectly sweet and quiet, it is my own fault. I have failed myself and my family.

Like any religion, it takes a human being in their weakened state of sad, disappointed confusion, and props them up on the idea that there is a prescribed way out. Just follow the master plan, and it will all be taken care of. The idea that there is in fact an underlying order, a secret to life, is so incredibly seductive to us. We want so desperately to believe, to be Believers.

For whatever cosmic reason, me and the kids were at a real low. I was desperate, I was vulnerable. I delved into the ‘rhythm as panacea’ concept, even started doing a Waldorf circle time with the kids every afternoon. I summoned my will and attempted to implement a stronger routine than what we already had. I checked out Over the Rainbow Bridge from the library. I berated myself appropriately over their movie watching, the overflow of plastic toys and my own yelling mad self. (This last one works wonders– beat yourself up about being a mean mom. Just see how sweet it makes you. Wow. It was from this place of yelling at myself for yelling at the kids that I told them I wanted to chain them up so I could just please fucking carry the fucking groceries the two blocks up the fucking hill to our house.)

The problem, for me at least, is that feeding the belief in achievable order interferes with the work I really need to be doing. Accepting the chaos.

Submitting.

Shit, there it is again. Not submitting to motherhood this time. But submitting to life. The universe. Everything. The greater-than-me. The things I can never know, and never understand. The mystery. Submitting to the fact that I am not ruler of this world, or even my world. There is no plan so perfect that it will tame my wild children. Thank god! My life is not reducible to a calm, clean, quiet procession of handcrafts. It is an uproarious mess of bewilderment and kitchen projects. My kids are LOUD because they are full of piss and vinegar, they run around the house breaking shit because they are full of nearly explosive curiosity for how the world works.

We are movers and shakers, a whole fam damily of them. Our life together is bound to be complex.

I’m not altogether done with the rhythm concept, or Waldorf in general. Of course, just because they have not created The Master Plan doesn’t mean there isn’t some valuable takeaway. Just because a solid rhythm would not singlehandedly create peace on earth, doesn’t mean it wouldn’t help create a bit more peace in our own household. Or at the very least, in my own brain.

As usual, I walk a weird line between wholesome organic crafty mama and ranting punk bitch, and it’s sometimes hard to know quite where to set my bags down. I guess my real work in this life is to just be without need to label, to search without need to find, to try without need to master, to take what comes as it comes. Chaos, order, chaos.

That’s not too much to ask, right?

How I Came to be Heaving 60 Pounds of Screaming Kid From a Waldorf Open House

You regulars out there are wondering where your semi-reliable Saturday post is, right?

Well, it all started when I ate my breakfast, Saturday morning. I had been feeling just dandy since I got up, a whole hour to myself to drink coffee and read. I was on top of the world really. Once the kids were up, I scurried around to get everything together for our morning outing– a visit to my favorite local bakery, then a Waldorf open house at 10.

I made breakfast tacos, a never fail way to get protein into the 3YO. Halfway through eating, my stomach started to feel… not so good. Hmm, too long drinking coffee, and then too quick cramming food in I thought. I’ll come right soon enough…

At the bakery it felt wrong to put a chocolate croissant down into the squirmy hole, but more wrong to go without (such are compulsive eating habits). Down the hatch it went. Then load into the car for the Waldorf school.

In retrospect I can see how I was just getting stupider. But at the time I was so sure it would blow over.

I knew enough to warn my friend, when we got to the school, to watch for any sudden excursions to the bathroom and corral my kids if necessary. I managed to stay reasonably coherent through the big open assembly room with the dreamy red watercolor hearts on the wall and miniature rubber boots lined up by the door; through the first and second grade classroom with each child’s homemade schoolbook open on their desk to reveal artistic crayon words and drawings in otherwise blank pages; through the smattering of questions my friend and I asked of the soft-spoken kindergarden teacher dressed in flowing white and pale pink. But once we settled in for play at the nursery, with it’s all wood kid-sized furniture, and faceless cloth dolls, I could avoid it no longer. I was sick.

The knot in my belly was low. Lower than throwing up. More in the impending explosive diarrhea region. The pain was pretty definite. Like the gearing up contractions of early labor.

Continuing my campaign of stupidity, I let my friends (and only possible backup) leave. The 3YO wasn’t ready to go yet, and when she’s not ready to go, going is hard. I couldn’t face carrying her out of there kicking and screaming, even if I did have someone else to carry the Little Guy. Somehow I convinced myself that in another ten or fifteen minutes, she’d be ready to file out in orderly fashion, we’d high tail it home, and all would be well.

However, in another ten or fifteen minutes, she was still decidedly not. But now the Little Guy was. He’d already deconstructed the baby doll swing into it’s independent organic pieces. Three times. He was done with this soft place.

For my part, I tallied the folly of my backup loss and my ever tightening gut wrench, and came to the sad conclusion that all hell was about to break loose.

Which it did.

Cue the 3YO’s wails, “BUT I DON’T WANT TO LEAVE!!!! I YUV THIS SCHOOL!” as I pry the cloth doll from her white knuckles, lift her up, wobble as I realize I can barely stand, then heroically, mythically even, manage to lift the now also screaming 1YO up with the other arm. Barely restraining a full 60 pounds of screaming kid, I make my exit.

I’ve had better drives home. The stabbing in my gut was now full force. The 3YO cried. The 1YO cried. I cried. It was the longest 15 minutes I’ve known in a while.

The cramping got even worse once I was home. I writhed in the bed as if I was in labor. At the worst of it, I couldn’t walk myself to the bathroom. I threw up once, as much from the pain as nausea. It was hideous.

I was in it’s grip all day. It was after 6 by the time the horror had subsided. My guts were still tight and incredibly sore, but I could move. I couldn’t help but think in self-pity, ‘What a waste of a Saturday!’ On the other hand, what the fuck would I have done if it had been a weekday, and My Man at school? Count your blessings, I suppose.

What was it, anyway? You’re sensibly asking. I was sure it was food poisoning, though nothing I’d eaten in the past couple of days seemed remotely suspect. Nevertheless, I was sure, up until the middle of Saturday night when the 1YO woke us up puking his little guts out. Then I reconsidered. He hadn’t eaten any of the same things I’d eaten the day before. A virus! What scandal. Who knew stomach viruses even came in such wicked degrees?

The Little Man was sick all day Sunday, and into today, Monday. He’s not puking everything up anymore, which is reassuring, but neither has he given up the puking.

And babies, wow. They just don’t know how to aim. I’ve washed seven loads of laundry so far, and it ain’t over yet. I had to break into My Man’s shirts, cuz I ran out. Almost ran out of everything. I thought 3 sets of sheets per bed, and 3 towels per person was plenty when I did the big Purge back in November. I wasn’t taking into account the stomach flu on a 1YO.

So that, my friends, is what I was doing over the weekend. Instead of sipping coffee at a local dive and writing one of the several posts buzzing around in my head lately. And now, my mom is coming to visit for a week. It will be awhile before I get to that ‘Kids and Cleaning,’ or ‘How to Build a Toddler Proof Stool’ or ‘Letting Kids Help,’ all of which are in the idea phase. Oh when will they just install these damn machines directly into our brains? So that I can blog while I’m sweeping the floor, or folding laundry?