(For Part I, go here.)
When I was a kid I had an active imagination. I was as good as an only child since my brother graduated high school and left home when I was seven (which was also, I just realized, the year after my father left), so I created my own companionship in my mind. There was my imaginary friend, Tead Berglund, who eventually died of a broken arm when I outgrew him; and there was the time my parents and I drove from Minnesota to Maryland to visit relatives, and I spent the entire drive squished against the door of our silver Cutlass to make room for all my imaginary brothers and sisters in the car; and I filled notebooks â€“ the blank hardcover books with fabric covers â€“ with melodramatic stories that I wrote about children who persevered through tragic loss.
Lately Iâ€™ve been thinking a lot about my imagination, and the budding imagination I see in Ruthie, and how she completely zones out when watching t.v. Even in just the few days that weâ€™ve been without a television she has pretended over and over (and over) again that she is getting married, and she makes birthday cakes out of play-doh, and wraps up random items in a paper napkin to give away as presents. And she plays with Thomas, racing cars or they chase each other.
Maybe sheâ€™s done these things all along and I havenâ€™t noticed, but itâ€™s possible she is just now getting the opportunity to explore the wonders of her own mind.
Another routine I have established is spending time alone with Ruthie before Thomas wakes up. I started this a couple weeks ago, and we do it on the mornings she doesnâ€™t have preschool. We do a craft project that involves coloring, cutting, and gluing; we read books; I help her play a Dora the Explorer game on the computer, and other things that she can eventually learn to do independently, but for now enjoys my participation.
After Thomas wakes up I try to send them outside to play, or we go to a play date, or run errands, or visit the Aquarium or gymnastics club for their open gym time. These are all things weâ€™ve kept busy with in the last couple weeks, and I feel simultaneously empowered as a mother and exhausted as an introvert. I am connecting with my children; I am engaging; I am paying attention. This has been my ultimate goal since I began re-ordering my life back in November.
But still, as I begin to get healthier and manage my time more efficiently, I continue to crave time alone and feel â€“ perhaps rationally, perhaps irrationally â€“ that Iâ€™m not getting enough. Is it because Iâ€™m not getting enough? Or is it because Iâ€™m selfish and want more, more, more?
At the end of the day I feel like itâ€™s a crap shoot as to whether Iâ€™ll have the energy to do something that re-creates me or if I just crash on the couch with a remote. Tonight? I feel energized to explore my mind, and Iâ€™m wide awake because of it. Last night? I was like a fool, wandering aimlessly about the house and squandering away my time â€“ the later I stayed awake, the more frustrated I became with the emptiness of my actions. It was not time spent re-energizing my soul, and I should have just gone to bed when Bryan did.
I think over-all I enjoy life without excessive television, and I enjoy the routine Iâ€™m establishing, and Iâ€™m enjoying the activities Iâ€™m participating in with my children, and I enjoy getting up early in the morning. With all the puzzle pieces put together, I can stay ahead of the curve throughout the day.
But I have been morose today, and have been all week. Morose and irritable and on the verge of crying at any moment all day long. I canâ€™t explain it. Hormones? Busy planning a trip? Mourning a sick dog? Who knows. God does, and herein lies the issue: even with all things falling into place â€“ my routine, our financial stability, the achievement of goals â€“ even with all these great things, I still feel wretched in my heart.
And that, my friends, is a topic for another day.
One thought on “The t.v. Fast (Part II)”
I’m an introvert, too, and as I imagine being on with 2 preschoolers, almost 100% of the time, “wretched in my heart” is a really perfect phrase to describe how I think I’d end up feeling a lot of the time. Really depleted, despite what an amazing accomplishment and feeling of satisfaction it would be to be making it through each day having done the kinds of activities you’re describing. It seems so wonderful that you have time away on Tuesdays (that’s the day, right?). Is there any possibility of Bryan being on for childcare for another daytime chunk each week? That’s my vote. 🙂 I find myself so much less depleted when I know I can count on certain hours away.
Regardless of what’s possible, it seems like there is no way around the intensity of these early years of parenting. I don’t think you’re selfish at all in your desire for more time alone. I think you’re normal, and all the more so as an introvert. Parenting is really, really intense. But have I said that already?