frustration

How to Not Deal Appropriately with a Slow Eater

Violet loves to eat slowly. Scratch that, she loves to talk, jump around on her chair, change her shoes, give hugs to her sisters, sing Adele’s “Hello,” twirl, walk our dog Batman on a leash around the house, talk, jump on the furniture, lose her tiny glasses, go to the bathroom, talk, draw on our chalk table, tell me all about Jesus, talk, ask for drinks of water, talk, and talk–all between bites.

You’ve never seen a tiny bowl of Apples and Cinnamon oatmeal* endure so long on a table with a spoon in it. Quite often, it ceases to be breakfast and turns into an fossilized artifact of some long, lost civilization where people went hungry because Jake and the Neverland Pirates was on TV.

*Which, in her defense, is kind of gross.

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The remains of this morning’s breakfast. She simply ran out of time.

I, of course, handle this terribly. I often remind Violet of external pressures that might lead her to feel a bit more inspired to get a move on–like time. I say things like, “We have to leave in five minutes or we’ll be late for school.” Since five-year-olds have no concept of time whatsoever, she pretends to take this very seriously and then proceeds to chase our dogs around the living room with a lightsaber.

Another tactic I sometimes use is to tell her how truly great that oatmeal is. It’s SO delicious. If she doesn’t get to it quick, I’m going to eat it. This has literally never worked.

Other times–less prouder moments–I try to intimidate Violet. I tell her how upset I am. I sigh loudly. I even hit the table for emphasis on the word “GOT.” As in, “You’ve GOT to eat. Please, please, PLEASE, eat!!” This also never works. What usually happens–because I’m a 5’10” man and she’s a sub 4′ little girl–is that she starts doing that frozen, shaking thing. Her big eyes look into mine and she doesn’t know what to do. My heightened frustration is intimidating to her, and it incapacitates her.

Technically, Violet does chew at an appropriate speed. I’ve seen food go into her mouth and within what seems like a suitable amount of time it does appear to go down her throat. (I swear it happens, but don’t ask me for proof. Violet eating is like Sasquatch running through a forest–we all know it happens, but the camera lens refuses it.)

What finally seems to work is to tell Violet how many bites she has left and then let her count them out. There’s something about that limit–that boundary she can operate within–that gives her enough calm and comfort to proceed to eat like a human girl and not a caffeinated monkey bouncing all over the house. She likes knowing when it will end instead of being overwhelmed by what to her is a mountain of food. It doesn’t even matter how many bites I tell her she has to eat–I could say three bites or five or ten and I could even even say they have to be big bites–she’ll eat every last one of them with a speed on the human side of the Human-Sloth Scale, and then she’s done. And we get to school on time.

I don’t know why I’m so slow to remember this tactic each and every time Violet sits down for a meal. It probably has something to do with the fact that I want Violet to eat appropriately in the first place, and not through trickery. But trickery is Parenting 101. I should know this–I should remember this. Violet is hardly my first slow eater. Watching my oldest inhale food now like she’s been learning at the feet of our vacuum should give me a bit more patience and faith.

I’m working on it. Violet is working on it. We’ll get there. In the meantime, I’m gonna buy better tasting oatmeal.

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Day 34 – It Can Never Be How it Was

On August 28th, my wife lost her job. 24 hours later, I lost mine. This blog is a continuation of the day-by-day chronicling of our emotional journey back to employment. This is bound to be upsetting, hilarious and hopeful.

Wednesday – October 1, 2014

Spent the morning doing something I wouldn’t have done while I had a job: taking care of our friend’s daughter and Violet while her mom and Erin went out to run some errands together. I’m not a terrible babysitter, but I probably seemed like one when mom came to pick her little girl up. At the time, I was doing my best impression of the undead as I looked practically passed out on the couch. I wasn’t, of course, but I made almost no attempt to make it appear otherwise.I slept terribly last night, but couldn’t even muster up enough energy to explain that before they were both gone. Had to send mom an explanation and an apology later.

* * *

I want to look as good as this guy. (Oh crud, that's a mannequin. I want to look like a mannequin...)

I want to look as good as this guy. (Oh crud, that’s a mannequin. I want to look like a mannequin?)

Had an exercise in futility this morning as I tried to shop for interview clothing. My Mother-in-Law, Lynn, was kind enough to pick up some clothes for me with Erin’s help, but I pretty much hated them. I have a severe prejudice against gray blazers and sport coats. Hitler wore gray sports coats, did you know that? You can’t tell because the photos are in black and white. There was no way Erin and Lynn could have known about my extensive Nazi research beforehand, but I didn’t feel right about lying and saying I liked them. So, I told them I hated the outfit. This made me feel terribly ungrateful.

Lynn was perfectly fine with it and encouraged me to exchange the clothes for something more my speed. Tried and failed. All the clothes in Fresno are boring. Dead boring. I’m not a particularly flamboyant person or anything, but I like the needle to move at least a little off “drab.”

I find I don’t really care about clothes (and you can tell) until somebody asks me to. Then I care a lot.

* * *

I spent the afternoon writing and feeling fulfilled. Writing does that for me. I can push everything else away and just give myself over to the story and the process. Feeling less fulfilled today? Erin. There are good days and bad days and today was a bad one for her. She’s really struggling with the change to our lives. She wants things back to the way they were before, when I had a job that supported us sufficiently and we had that security and I was gone for most of the day and she got at least a few seconds to herself. She was used to having her own space, but now I’m home. All the time. Not that she doesn’t love me, but my presence is, I’m sure, a constant reminder of what we’ve both lost, and it changes things. It changes her schedule to have me there, and it robs her of her “me” time.

This is partly why I left the house today to go hang out at Panera to do my writing–to at least imitate how things were before when I would leave and not come home until 5pm. Today was bad enough that she wasn’t exactly helped by my absence, but there’s always tomorrow.

Though, hopefully, not very many of them.

At the Crossroads and Frustrated

You may have noticed I haven’t been exactly present on this site for the past week. Some great comments were left on my post Should Adults Wear Shorts? and I didn’t respond to any of them. (Just so you know, message received: wear shorts, stop being a jerk about it.) I’m not totally sure why I didn’t respond, but I think a lot of it has to do with the incredible amount of frustration I’ve been feeling lately.

This is gonna be tricky because I don’t think the time to get into specifics is right now. Basically, I’m at a crossroads.

In all of the most important ways my life is better than it’s ever been. My wife and I have always been strong partners and very much in love, but now, even after 12 years of marriage, we’ve managed to discover a new peak. Our kids are fantastic and healthy. The emotional stress and confusion and doubts that have been with us ever since our daughter with special needs was born have largely subsided. Honestly never thought that would happen. New responsibilities at work have given me a new sense of purpose there. I love my calling at church. They actually made an Avengers movie. And it’s good.

So what’s the problem? Sorry, that’s just for me. Suffice it to say, the dissatisfaction and lack of direction in another, critical area of my life is leaving me frustrated and, at times, angry. Great change is coming, for good or ill, and I’m at the very tipping point. Plans I made have not worked out like I thought they would and I’m facing an undesirable alternative I’ve been avoiding for a long time. I thought I was on the path I was supposed to be on. It is hard, now, to see how things could possibly work out in my favor.

I’m being vague, but it doesn’t really matter what I’m talking about.

I seek God’s counsel continually. I thought He was backing me up on this one. Crud, I thought it was all His idea in the first place. Am I mad at Him? Of course not.

This is where my true frustration is coming from: underneath the disappointment I feel for my situation, I’m more disappointed with myself. How many times in my life have the dark and grim things later revealed themselves as just steps on the path to something great? Many times. Many, many times. God tests our faith continually, but it’s pretty much always the same test.

So, I have to wait this out. But waiting at a crossroads is pretty much the most stultifying thing a person can do. Instead of moving forward or backward or left or right, I’m left at the fork in the road to ponder and pray and scold myself for being so dissatisfied when I have so much that is so great. In the moments of my deepest frustration, I feel unworthy of the blessings given to me. There’s nothing I hate more than ingratitude, both in myself and in others.

I know this is only a moment in my life. I guess I just wish it was over by now.

More than that, I wish I didn’t wish that.