Tuesday, March 4, 2008

ennui redux.

Although the head-cold fog is lifting, I’m still not able to come up with an original idea of my own for creative inspiration. But I want to write tonight, so once again I’m turning elsewhere for the motivation to compose.

I just returned from a post at Ree Writes called Ennui. It’s not a long post, but it sums up exactly what I was thinking today. No sense trying to re-invent the wheel, so why don’t you head over there and read it.

Then come back, of course. I’ll wait.

Great. You’re back.

I know. I had to look up the word ennui too:

ennui \on-WEE\, noun:
A feeling of utter weariness and discontent resulting from satiety or lack of interest; boredom. Listlessness and dissatisfaction resulting from lack of interest; boredom. The feeling of being bored by something tedious.

Yep. Ennui...

Sounds French. Mmmm. I love France. Those cute accents, the cheese, the museums… ahhhh. France.

Wonk. Wonk. Wonk.

Focus, Carolyn!


That’s me. I actually lay on the bed and played peek-a-boo with our three-year-old daughter today because I couldn’t come up with something more creative to do with her. And believe me. She is way past peek-a-boo.

Despite the giggling tickle-fest that followed, I have to admit it left me feeling like I’m failing as a mother right now.

I worry that our genius child’s brain is beginning to atrophy because I’m not providing enough age-appropriate stimulation for her every day.

I worry that I allow her to watch too much television.

I worry that my own lethargy is preventing her from getting enough fresh air and sunshine. (Actually, I’ll let myself off the hook on this one a little bit. Vancouver weather can share the blame too.)

I worry that I’m not making a big enough effort to get Csilla involved in activities and playgroups.

I worry that my own ennui, yes, my own lack of interest and boredom is doing a huge disservice to the one person I love more than anything in the entire world.

Is it enough that I allow Csilla to see my heart everyday? Is it enough that Csilla knows beyond a shadow of a doubt how much I love and adore her? Is it enough that my eyes light up when Csilla enters the room and I know she can feel it?

Do these facts make up for the fact that I lack the energy or enthusiasm to creatively stimulate her for 8-10 hours a day while we are stuck alone in this house together?

Is it fair to her that I simply don’t feel like carting her off to every playgroup and dance class in town because of our monumentally inconvenient public transit system? Or simply because I’m too lazy?

Does this make me a bad mother?

Here are the two questions that occupy 99% of my brainpower on any given day when I am home alone with Csilla:

1. What am I going to feed her? and;
2. What I am going to do to keep her entertained?

These are my two biggest problems in the parenting of Csilla.

I know how to love her. I know how to nurture her. I am extraordinary at these two things. This I know for sure.

I just don’t know what to do with her half the time.

Is it just me?

Am I the only mother who is woefully uninspired when it comes to stimulating her own child?

Actually, before I get further into this topic, let me go off on a tangent for a second and tackle the issue of food:

Csilla is a notoriously fussy eater. I spend a large portion of my day gearing up for the next mealtime. I aspire to create meal plans and to pre-shop, but it’s back to ennui. I lack an interest in cooking. I don’t particularly love the food that I make and it’s especially disheartening when Csilla turns up her nose at virtually anything I put in front of her, regardless of the time and effort I put into making it.

I’ve bought kid-friendly cookbooks. I’ve involved Csilla in looking through said cookbooks to choose recipes with me. I’ve involved Csilla in the shopping and in the cooking of said recipes. I’ve done it all. (See here?) And yet she still refuses to eat what I make for her. If she had her way, Csilla would only eat spaghetti noodles. For every meal. With no sauce. Every day. (I suppose I can at least console myself with the fact that it's whole wheat spaghetti.)

Worse yet with the food issue is that I’m constantly under the stress of trying to figure out what causes Csilla’s horrible eczema, which sadly (or luckily) goes away when she eats nothing but fruit and spaghetti noodles.

It is SO frustrating!

But I digress.

The picky-eater issue really is an entirely different post.

What I want to tackle in this post is entertainment.

What should I be doing with a three-year-old for 8-10 hours a day? I have no idea.

To add to this frustration is Csilla’s complete and total unwillingness to play on her own. It is a rare, let me stress this, a very rare occasion when Csilla gets lost in her own world and putters away with her toys for more than a few minutes by herself.

I hear other moms tell stories about how their kids go off into their rooms for an hour or two and play by themselves. What?? An hour? Or two? Who are these kids and what are you doing right that I’m not?

With Csilla, it just doesn’t happen. She wants me involved in every game, in every activity, all day.

I’ve tried to get Csilla to play on her own, but it just doesn’t work. My psychologist suggested I use a timer to insist Csilla play on her own, but I hate it. And worse yet, Csilla hates it too. She cooperates and plays on her own for the allotted time, but despite my insistence to the contrary, she thinks she is being punished when I do this and for what, she doesn’t know. For all the timed minutes I deny myself to her, Csilla looks sad and broken-hearted. And when the time is up, she quickly puts on a master class in mommy-adoration, respite with complements, encouragement and affection in order to win me back.

I know this may sound wonderful, but it’s heartbreaking.

I remember one time I was trying to wash the kitchen floor after a big spill and I insisted Csilla play on her own while I took care of the mess. I set a timer and asked her to do puzzles for ten minutes while I fixed up the kitchen. Not only could she barely stand to be five feet away from me for the entire ten minutes, but the whole floor cleaning exercise was narrated by my three-year-old saying, “Wow Mama! You’re really good at cleaning kitchen floors.” And, “Go! Mommy, Go! Go! Mommy, Go!”

Now again, I know this may sound wonderful, but it breaks my heart because I know what’s behind it. Coming from Csilla, she is sucking up. Big time. She thinks if she showers me in enough compliments and adoration that I will stop withholding myself from her. I can see it written all over her anxious behaviour. She thinks I’m shutting her out when I set the timer and insist she plays alone. It is incredibly uncomfortable for her.

Who am I kidding? It is incredibly uncomfortable for me too.

This seriously intense attachment to me only makes entertaining Csilla for an entire day that much more challenging.

And let me tell you. A grown woman can only play with play-doh so much before her brain starts to resemble the stuff.

And I love Dr. Seuss as much as the next person, but reading Fox in Socks ten times out loud is exhausting. Damn. That stuff tires out my brain!

And all this time I spend blogging? I try to blog in the evening after she’s in bed, but if I blog during the day, it is usually at Csilla’s expense. I plonk her in front of the television and hope she’ll stay entertained for the full duration of the show.

There. I admit it. I feel like a jerk because I let my kid watch television while I amuse myself with my own hobbies.

How awful is that?

Moving on.

My rant is finished.

Now onto the important stuff.

Dear readers, does anybody have any great suggestions for things to do with Csilla all day?

Here’s my repertoire of non-television, stay-at-home entertainment:

Crafts (ie things that involved paper and glue and glitter and mess)
Building castles with mega-blocks
Hide-and-seek (of each other and all her stuffed friends)
Baking and cooking
Doing laundry (yes, she likes to help)
Vacuuming (see previous post on this topic)
Little People play
Fort building
Pretend ‘store’ with shopping cart and cash register
Doctor’s check up
Potty training (I actually love this because it eats up time in the day)
Computer games

And a few other miscellaneous activities I’m forgetting. All of which Csilla generally will not or cannot do without me.

Does anybody have any other good suggestions, keeping in mind my lack of cash or car?

Gosh… look at the time. I must get to bed.

Help. Thanks.


Jen said...

I found your blog by way of Ree Writes! You both sum up how I've been feeling lately! I love your blog!!

Maggie May said...

Ennui .... pops up on my crossword from time to time.
How I wish I had time for it as I seem to be running round like a scalded cat, or is it chicken, most of the time trying to catch up! As you get older time goes faster, it really does. So make the most of it. Follow your heart with the little one & you will do an excellent job!

Kaycie said...

Ah, sweetheart, I remember feeling this way. My firstborn is a daughter. She was such a challenge for me. Her mind is lovely and not at all like mine. By the time she was Csilla's age, I had her in preschool. I was pregnant with my second child and just had to have a break. It was the best thing I ever did for her. She went from complete dependence on me, emotionally and intellectually, to having someone else with a different manner (and some education on the subject, I might add) stimulate her mind. She made friends. She blossomed.

I don't know if you can do preschool, but the program I did was only two mornings per week. It was at a local church and my recollection is that it was fairly inexpensive, but that was (gulp) fourteen years ago now and in South Carolina.

If preschool or mother's day out aren't within reach, go to the library and look for a book on Montessorri preschool. It was a revelation for me and gave me lots of new ideas.

Give yourself a break, Carolyn. You're Csilla's mom. But you're also Carolyn, and you need to be sure you hang on to that. It sounds to me like you're doing a wonderful job.

Hillary said...

Wow. We really are feeling the same way. If I had any suggestions for you, then maybe I wouldn't have posted about ennui myself. Good luck to the both of us! Oh, and if it makes you feel any better, I plop JJ down in front of the TV sometimes too. And I also feel bad about it. But sometimes I just don't know what else to do.

Kimberly said...

Ouch! I feel much the same way about my girls except...huge difference, they're not attatched to me the way Csilla is to you. Like. At all.

This? I feel guilty about. Did I do something wrong? Don't they need me?

I can't help wondering if the preschool suggestion is a good one - even a half day sort of deal. Sounds like a win-win situation if you can bear to consider it.

Jan said...

I hate days like this. Where you feel the weight of everything and it sometimes feels like your suffocating with all sorts of random thoughts that accumulate every corner of your mind. This is a very tough stage of life, but it does move on. We all do the best we can even if its day to day. But always remember that what you are doing for Csilla matters. It doesn't have to be perfect or over the top. Everything little thing will add up and matter in the big picture of her life.

Corey~living and loving said...

This is a fabulous post, and I am so glad I didn't miss it.

First off....you have every right to need some time for YOU during the day. You can not simply be a playmate all day and be a happy person. and if you aren't happy, then baby girl will not be happy either.

YOu seem like such a wonderful mom. Your heart is in the right place and your girl is soooooo blessed to have you.

as for advice.....
-if you can, find a way for her to spend some time apart from you a few mornings a week. It would be so good for you both, but I understand if that can't happen.
-involve her in as much of what YOU need to do as possible. If you need to clean the tub, do it. Offer her a job. If she doesn't want to help, then say, "Okay, but mommy has this big job to do. You can help me, or wait for me to get done. Maybe you could do some puzzles while mommy cleans the tub..." or something like that. If she keeps whining at you, acknowledge her feelings but tell her that it is your important job to clean the tub, and you'd love her help. She may enjoy helping, but may decide she'd rather do something else. Be sure to paln some play time right after you are done. In reality, even if it makes her sad, it is really okay for you to tell her you are busy right now. She must learn that mommy's have things to do,and that you will always have time for her as well.
-break up the day with YOUR stuff and playing. do every other one.
-If you are paying bills, set her up with some junkmail envelopes and such, and let her pay bills too.
-If you are cutting coupons, let her cut some other paper with sicisors right by you.
-run errands to break up the day. go to the library, the store, and post office. do one a day if that is feesable. Getting out of the house does wonders for you both.

I know I have more....but I am needing to work (shhhhh don't tell)

be sure to email me if you have anything you want further explained. I am not always sure I am clear about what I am typing. LOL