It has been so long since I’ve blogged, WordPress doesn’t know who I am anymore. Kids’ appointments, my own appointments, rehearsals, meetings, and the like have interfered. I considered not sharing that, the why, but isn’t that rather the point of the Domestic Flautist blog? I write about that tricky balance – the high-wire act so many of us parents perform daily, monthly, yearly. With my husband’s retirement from his military band job, our family has been in a state of flux for the past year. I’ll admit it shook my tightrope. Actually, I’ll go ahead and admit it shook me to the core.
I feel very fortunate that, 15 years ago, when our oldest child was born, I was able to scale back on work to spend time with him. I am, and have always been, a free-lance musician – making my living through a combination of performing, teaching, and writing. And I’m proud to say that, before my son, I did this full time, and actually made quite a good living at it.
Before our oldest was born, my husband and I had some rather unrealistic preconceived notions about how parenthood was going to roll for us. Specifically, we expected that absolutely nothing in our personal or professional lives would change, and that our little bundle of joy would simply come along, obediently and passively and silently, for the ride. I don’t know where we got this idea. I do recall a conversation we had in the car, zooming (it was a good traffic moment) along the beltway to an OB check-up, where this mythical being was to be born. Our naive rationale seemed to be that we were of above-average intelligence, and that all these people raising these loud, disruptive children, the ones who annoyed us when we were on one of our all-important nights out at a restaurant which we felt children should not be IN, well, our rationale was that they were just DOING IT WRONG. And we could do it better.
I look back on this 2001 conversation and I can’t help but want to slap us. We were the people that parents worry about when they go out. We were, in that moment, the man on the pedestrian mall in our town who, four years later, took the time to lean in my face and yell (he had to yell because my children were having simultaneous tantrums, which were echoing beautifully off all the brick facades and brick sidewalks and echoing down the mall, at ear-piercing frequencies that must have left all the neighborhood dogs and cats in pain), anyway – he yelled, “Ma’am, I can hear that all the way down the other end of the mall!”
It’s the worst kind of person for a parent in a moment of toddler/infant public tantrum to encounter. Because really, could he not see that I had the baby strapped (screaming) into the stroller, and was trying to strap the screaming toddler in too so I could GET THEM OUT OF THERE, but the toddler was arching his back and doing that “ironing board” technique, the one where the kid goes totally stiff and refuses to bend, and you’re pretty sure Child Protective Services will come along any minute and arrest you, as you’re trying to strap your ironing board-shaped kid into a seat that is simply not designed for ironing boards.
No, this man was of the same ilk that my husband and I had been before our son had come along and opened our eyes, (and kept them open, a lot, a whole lot, at all hours of the night and through the day, with the constant feeding, changing, rocking, and also staring at walls because I’m just the kind of person who can’t go right back to sleep after doing all that sort of stuff). He didn’t know the truth – that a child is not his or her parents’ possession to control, but another being which we have an awesome and frightening responsibility to guide.
Fortunately, an older woman then passed by, and I suspect she’d heard this “gentleman” speaking to me. She leaned over, put a hand on my shoulder, smiled and said, “This too shall pass.”
And she was right. And it did.
And now, we’re the parents of a teen and a tween. And while they don’t really scream and tantrum anymore, the game stakes are higher. There are so many THINGS that present themselves as THINGS which your t(w)een will need guidance around, over, under, or through. I say “THINGS” and I see my 12th grade AP English teacher shaking her head at the use of the forbidden term, but I really have no better word. They are not all challenges; they are not all obstacles; they are not all gifts. But some of them are. Clothing choices, sleep habits, eating habits (some holdovers from toddler-hood after all), the internet, learning to drive, managing money, social challenges, acne, hair, hygiene, balancing activities, depression, school elective choices, school choices. It just all gets bigger.
And so maybe it’s not just my husband’s change of job (he’s now free-lancing too, and I’m working more, and we’re grateful for his military pension and our healthcare) that has so much rocked my world and caused me to wobble on my tightrope as it is simply the inevitable moving forward of my kids into small adults. Adults that maybe don’t need me 24/7, but who need me, and my husband, with an intensity they didn’t before.
And so, pardon my wobble. It’s a new chapter for us. I’ll try to write more. But I’m also playing more (yay!) , teaching more, and writing pedagogy articles more. And I (we) need to find our balance, one step at a time. I suspect we’re not alone.