Day Seventy-Five: Recovering, Negative Noise, and Book Ideas

Our family is the perfect size.  Still, six people, is a lot of sick people to have in one house.  I can’t imagine what it was like in the old days, with twelve people sharing one bathroom, or twelve people sharing one hole in the ground, outside, behind the cattle shed.  We have two bathrooms for six people, and most people think we must be insane.

We could actually get by sharing one bathroom.  I have a feeling that will change in a few years, probably about the time we have teens and/or preteens running our halls, but for now, we could get by with one bathroom without a problem, until we have a round of the stomach flu.

Right now I’m picturing one of my Facebook friends commenting on a stomach flu status, something like, “If you ate a proper diet, your family would never get the flu!” Listen, I am all for all of the earthy-crunchy holistic mumbo jumbo, but sometimes, the flu is just the flu.  We don’t get sick very often, but sometimes we do.  And yes, I think taking care of our bodies helps to fight illness, but I don’t think we got sick for lack of effort.

Now that everyone is safely on the other side of anything that could potentially be a serious illness, I’m mostly frustrated with the setback.  We started off the school year so well – meal plans, a freezer full of resources, a shopping schedule, piles and piles of clean laundry.  Now we are basically starting over.

Still, I am surprisingly optimistic that we will be able to get back on track.  It might take a few days, but it will come together again.

I haven’t been able to take the time to write for a couple of days, and I’m surprised how much I missed it.  Even being so sick, I thought about what I would be writing about if I had the strength to roll onto my back and pick up my computer (when I’m sick I rarely leave the fetal position, although I often have a child tucked inside and one or two more sprawled on top).

I thought about writing about how strange it is how family relationships can change over time, or rather how normal and rational it is, but how strange it can feel.  I thought about writing my frustration with family members who see other family members once per year or once every few years for a few hours at a time and form judgments about what those people are really like.*  I started to notice a common theme, I’ll call it “negative noise,” and I thought I would write about that instead.

Everyone has moments of negativity, and I think that’s perfectly normal, but there is a time and a place, especially for mothers, especially with young children, but even with older children, and even with adults.  If one of my children comes to me with a crazy idea about building a plane that can really fly with Legos, it is not helpful for them if I tell them that’s an impossible idea and they should just follow the building instructions.  They might not ever build a plane that can fly, but maybe they will.  Maybe not today or tomorrow, but maybe in ten years they will figure out how to build an airplane that can really fly out of Legos, and that would be great.  Now, I have to be honest with them, and admit I don’t know the first thing about building a plane out of Legos, but I can also be encouraging and say something like, “Wouldn’t that be so exciting!  I can’t wait to hear about your ideas!  Is there anything I can do to help?”

Unfortunately it seems like pretty much everywhere I turn right now, someone is negative about something.  Everyone seems to acknowledge how exhausting that is, to be around negativity, but we all play our part in perpetuating it.  One thing I am adding to the list (I know, I’m not doing so well with the things already on the list – but that’s not very positive, now is it?), is refusing to engage in negativity.  My cousin constantly complains to you about money but bought herself a new Cadillac?  Good for her.  My brother says he’s getting his life together and you believe him this time?  Good for him and good for you.  I hope that’s the truth.

I’m going to need some kind of code word or phrase.  I could choose a really terrible baseball team. “How about those Cubs?”  No, worse than that.  Is there a team worse than that?  When I googled “worst team in baseball,” ESPN informed me that the Phillies have only won 53 games this year, and since I have never had any love for the Phillies, that’s going to be my new phrase.  Feel free to pass it along.  What did you say?  You think her pants are too tight?  How about those Phillies?

It will be even better when baseball is over for the year.

Enough about all of that.  I was helping my oldest daughter wash vomit out of her hair while she told me about one of her new favorite books (my daughter is amazing – she can be extremely sick, vomiting one second, and teaching you about the life cycle of stars the next), when it occurred to me.  People really hate their parents.

I think about Disney movies.  The Lion King, father dies.  Finding Nemo, mother dies right away.  Cinderella, mother is already dead, father is already dead.  Beauty and the Beast, mother is already dead, father is crazy.  Sleeping Beauty, princess is taken away from her parents until she is sixteen. Aladdin, mother is dead.  Pocahontas, mother is dead.  Jungle Book, both parents are dead.**  I could go on.  There are so many books that are the same way.  One or both parents are dead, they are complete idiots, or they are not part of the story at all.  Why is that?

I’m sure there are a few reasons, and I’m sure Freud would have a lot more to say than I do.  For one thing, it’s probably an easy (and cheap) way for an author to connect with children.  It’s something most children, if they’ve thought about, are afraid of, or if they haven’t, there is a certain shock value.  If the parents are simply annoying, all children can relate to that, because not a single one of us is perfect.  And maybe, maybe because children reading this are growing up, becoming more independent, and slowly pulling away from their parents, they feel, in a way, that they are losing their parents.  Or maybe we all just have lingering issue with our parents that tend to come out when we sit down to write.  Who knows.

This is my plan.  I’m going to write a short story, or a series of short stories, about competent, strong, curious children, who have adventures with their loving, involved, but imperfect parents.  The stories will probably be relatively boring.  No one will be mean (or negative), and no one is going to die.  Maybe it will even be a little preachy (I can’t help myself).

Whatever it is, I will share it here.  That’s one thing I love about this blog.  It’s real.  It’s mine.  I can write about living and learning and improving, and cleaning up vomit, and writing a fictional short story for children.  Why not?***

*My favorite example goes something like this, and I’ve heard it at least five hundred times.  “I sure can’t believe you have four kids, and you’re actually a good mom!”  Yeah, I know, who would have thought… “I mean, I just remember you saying, ‘I’m never going to have kids!'” Yeah, I know.  Teenagers say some whacky things.  “Yeah, I guess so.  I guess kids change you, you can’t be so selfish.”  Sigh.  Yes.  I know.  I was once a teenager.  And no amount of being a real adult and devoted mother, changing diapers and cleaning vomit, can ever change that for some people.  Thank you for that reminder.  Thankfully for you, I have enough consideration not to bring up what you were like as a teenager, or at least what I’ve heard you were like, nor do I comment on what your actual teenagers are like right now, or what your kids will probably be like when they are teenagers, or what your kids were like when they were teenagers.

**I know this is based on a book, and the parents were already dead.  Most of these stories were based on previous books or stories.  That does not take away from my point.

***If you have an answer for that, I have one thing to ask you:  How about those Phillies?

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