Saturday, May 10, 2008

Mission Impossible: Episode 10,001

Now wait a minute, what happened to April? The first time I put a note in my calendar to post this particular blog was three weeks ago. It has since appeared on about ten different dates in my calendar. Fruitless planning...and now it is May, and I hear yellow finches calling outside through the open window in our computer room. Some people call such rooms offices, but ours has not graduated to that title as I'm just as likely to be doing my consulting project work on the living room couch or sitting up in bed as here at my desk.

So anyway, lately, when I have trimmed Noah's fingernails by flashlight after he's asleep in bed for the night, or popped bites of scrambled eggs into his mouth as he wildly waves his arms at the bouquet of flowers on the table ("Oooohhh! Dat! Dat! Dat!"), I have increasingly felt what a covert operation motherhood must be to be at all successful. For this boy to be bathed, dressed, fed, happy, healthy, and all the other things he needs and deserves to be, involves stealth and sometimes what feels like a magician's sleight-of-hand. It's simply impossible to negotiate everything outloud with an almost two-year-old. Even as I write that, I know that this is a bigger reality. It's impossible to negotiate everything outloud with a 37-year-old as well (which would be my age), and I sometimes feel a palpable sense of my own prickly behavior when I start to catch either of my own parents looking out for me. As if, "How dare they, those parents!"

In screenwriting, this aspect of things might be considered a subplot. On the surface of things, in the major plotlines, people are saying and doing things, la-la-la-ing along nicely, and in fact lots happens this way. But what makes a good screenplay and story great is when the subplot actively and visibly rolls along underneath. One of the characters says something, and their true wish or need is for the exact opposite, or some other variation. Something happens, and it is what didn't happen that makes the most impact. It is the the subplot that most needs to be reconciled or actualized, driven to resolution, for characters to become our heros and heroines.

So it is with Noah and me. His plot and surface goal for most days, is to do, well, what's fun I guess. Noah wants to do what is fun. Wow, people, what a place to be! If I set aside even a day a week to focus only on what's fun and perhaps three or four duty-driven or responsible-to-others type things, I wonder how much more balanced I'd be. For Noah though, on most days my subplot for him is that he bathe, get dressed, eat, and be active for a good part of the day. Luckily, all of these things can involve fun, as well as some flexibility. I am finding that transitions are potentially the least fun for Noah. He's usually very easy going when given some notice that a change is coming, but still often emits that wonderful energy of "This is great, why stop?" when something truly needs to happen, like a nap let's say because he's lost coordination and has started to fall down every other minute. So the music starts - da-da-daaaaa, da-da-daaaaa - and I become a superspy, plotting avenues to get his late-morning diaper changed and a blanket over him without him noticing too much.

I was reading an article this week that someone sent me in anticipation of Mother's Day tomorrow. It was written by Anna Quinlan and in one part she talks about wishing she had raised her kids with a little less drive to get them on to the next thing, and had been more present with whatever was happening in the moment (I paraphrase). It has taken me a few days to sort out why this actually rubbed me crossways, because I love Anna's writing, and I think it's because for me being a mother is more complicated than being present with your children with where they are at any given moment. For me it is doing everything I can to be open to Noah and to making his life fun, and is also recognizing that it's a major responsibility I have to help move his subplot along. It's also getting out of his way sometimes, and trying to meet my own needs somehow too. I can't forget about that, even though I really have a lot of the time. While there is flexibility with almost everything Noah "needs to do" if I allow it to exist, there is so much about this relationship I have with my dear son that is guiding him and and not letting him see me do it. Ethan Hunt has nothing on me.