Thursday, December 10, 2009

Counterbalance and Birthday Fun (Babble)

Getting to know my children as they figure out who they are is fascinating to me.   Each one is unique, and yet I spot bits of myself or my husband in them all the time.  Sometimes that’s good, but often I cringe a little inside when I recognize some behavior or trait that I know will lead them toward complications.  It’s hard to see wheels beginning to be set in motion and not be able to do anything about it.  I suppose some lessons have to be learned anew each generation, and no amount of cautionary tales from mom can help.

One of those traits I see in all my kids is a need to counterbalance too much joy.  I’ve always wanted to be one of those people who can enjoy the moment I’m in without reservation.  But I’m not built that way.  I can appreciate it if someone does something nice for me, but I don’t want to be the center of attention.  If everyone around me is happy I feel myself ratcheting down a bit.  On the flip side, if everyone is down I’m usually successful at cheering people back up.  I guess I want things level, but I couldn’t tell you why.

My kids are a little like this, most noticeably Aden.  She was happy when I went into her room this morning and wished her a happy birthday–for about two seconds.  Then she started telling me how much she was going to miss being seven.  I told her seven had indeed been great, but that eight was nice too and to give it a chance.  She perked up as she got dressed, and when she found I’d made pancakes in the shape of eights for breakfast she was delighted–for about two seconds.  The more you try to make her happy the more likely she is to get a bit down.  If we’re not careful and we try to do something too great she ends up alone in her room under the covers. 

There are times I want to shake her and say, “No!  Just be happy!  There are real things in the world to be sad about and this is not one of them!”  But there is nothing to be done.  She is who she is, and part of who she is happens to be me.  Poor thing.  But again, on the flip side, if someone is sad or in trouble or hurting, no one rises to the occasion better than Aden.  She is ready with a hug or a picture or a joke.  She will stick by your side like smiling glue until you are okay.  I think she likes things level, too.  She only indulges in being sad when everything else is fine, so that’s something.  There is a practicality to her counterbalancing act that must be imprinted in her genes and my own somewhere.

Mona at her own birthday party loved running around Chuck E. Cheese’s with her friends and she liked getting a medallion and a crown, but the more the guy in the mouse costume tried to engage her and make her feel special the flatter she seemed to get.  Several people asked me if she was tired because she’s normally so bouncy and bright, but I don’t think that was it.  She didn’t want the attention.  The calmer things were around her the more energy she seemed to have.  At Quinn’s little party we weren’t supposed to sing to him.  He loves being three, but if you try to congratulate him on it his mouth turns down and he sinks toward the floor.  He was happier when he got to share his toys than he was opening them.

We would all make terrible politicians I suspect–none of us able to bask in our own glory or talk ourselves up.  But that’s fine.  My children are all nice people with good hearts, and I like the way my life has turned out, so maybe things I perceive as flaws in myself will help them out in the long run.  I hope so.  I want them to be happy, but maybe that’s the wrong thing to wish for.  More than anything I want them to have purpose and be fulfilled.  There is a different kind of joy in that that I know I do have.  It’s probably not as much fun as being swept away in the moment, but it gives me a grounded sense of peace that I cherish.

But I still hope Aden smiles tonight for more than two seconds after she opens the over-priced pillow pet thingy I bought her that she wanted so badly.  Maybe if I stub my toe first she’ll keep smiling just to distract me….  Not that it matters.  Her real gift she gets this weekend.  Her dad’s coming home for a visit.  She’s planning to take him to show and tell and I’m sure she will be smiling the whole time.  I know I will.  Some kinds of happiness defy counterbalance.

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