That’s me. The mom, I mean.
I know this isn’t a groundbreaking idea. The old adage “If Mama ain’t happy, ain’t nobody happy” is still circulating for good reason. But as I’ve been stuck in the quicksand of diva drama lately, the image of the canary has been occurring to me repeatedly. I am a canary. And yes, sometimes in the deep dark murk of a coal mine.
The swirling moods of teen girls, the reverberations and wafting spread of the gaseous poisonous presence of those same moods on any given day can be toxic to us all. As mom it’s my job to offset those moods; yes, to redirect and reframe and temper and sooth and ignore (often all within minutes). It’s up to me to keep my equanimity (a favorite turn of phrase of the dad in the house) and to carry on and muddle through.
But, there’s more. It’s my job to be the marker. I have a hyper-vigilant daughter who gauges many of her reactions based on mine. Yeah, talk about pressure, eh? Or, on a good day: opportunity. It can really swing either way, based on my sleep deprivation, sugar levels, weather, you get the idea. And of course, sometimes, no matter my reaction or cheer or calm, she can’t maintain. But, sure as shootin’ (as they say here in the south) she will look to me first, to gauge my reaction/mood/approach to whatever is happening that has any volatile twinge to it. Sister late to be ready for school? Marta’s eyes are upon me, watching if I am cool and can smile and give an eye roll of “no big deal, all’s well” or “big sis is so busted” so Marta can be angry too. Seriously. Since Marta IS hyper vigilant and hates having anything off routine or mark (leaving at 7:10 NOT 7:11, 12 or 15….) her anxiety is just looking for a reason to overflow. She watches to see if the canary is choking or singing. Me.
The others too, however, all of them, also check the canary gauge/cage. If I’m busy and flitting around, maybe chirping about this or that or even handing out directions then life is puttering along just like it’s supposed to. But if I get sick, then the crews stop and stare, wondering what to do. Worse, if I start choking in frustration and toxic fumes of mood (mine or others) and falling with ruffled feathers….well, everyone else will, swiftly, too.
So, instead of putting pressure on myself to only sit on my perch (in the kitchen, of course) and keep a beady eye on the toxicity in my house…….I am deciding that this gives me a power of influence that I shouldn’t waste.
I want to, I choose to, sing.
For several reasons, but not least of those you cited, I am glad my girls are ten years apart! I do know that a key to dealing with my older daughter’s moods has been to gauge her carefully (as Marta does you) and know when to offer sympathy, encouragement and affection–and when to back off and let her get through a mood on her own. I have also noted that most of my kids seem to reflect my moods back at me, so I have to watch it, naturally.
Thank you for the DVD loan. I’ve been enjoying them immensely!
And one day I’ll tell you a canary story…