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Survival Mode Deja Vu

Ian has drill this weekend. His current Army unit is only about 90 minutes away and he’ll be home tonight, so this is nothing.  It’s just one weekend on our own and we’ll see Ian at night.  But it’s funny how certain states of mind can feel like reflexes.  I woke up in the bed alone and immediately had a twinge of that sense of survival mode I get during a deployment.  That sense of I’m on my own with all the kids, there are things to get done, and I’m the only one who will do any of it.  I’m a more no-nonsense kind of me when Ian is away.

The upside to this state is I take ownership of things I may have let slide, like housework.  Instead of simply passing through rooms I look at them critically.  They become all mine and I take control of them in a way I don’t when Ian is home.  I’ve been tackling each room one at a time in preparation for hosting Aden’s book club on Sunday and I like how nice things are looking.  As much as it is a hassle to have the kids here at work with me (I’m writing during a down moment at the violin store) I love having them around.  Mona is playing on the computer, and Quinn is doing Sudoku puzzles.  (By “doing” I mean I let him have the book of puzzles out of my purse and told him the kid version of the game is to fill in all the digits just by box.  That’s enough at four to figure out which numbers are missing and write them down without actually doing the puzzle, but I have a feeling he may want to step up to the real rules soon.)

The downside is my fuse is shorter.  I snapped at Aden this morning and I feel bad about it.  She is so capable and so scattered it drives me crazy.  We’ve been trying to drill into her the necessity of doing things in the right order.  She can work on the puppet she’s making or dance around the living room or watch TV only AFTER she’s done her homework or switched her laundry or packed her lunch.  She knows what she’s supposed to do, but between point A and point B she spots something shiny and then I have to start nagging.  This morning she had hours to get ready for the drive to the big choir event she has going on today, but as we were heading out the door she wanted to start searching for some toy puppy.  I told her it was too late, she should have thought of that earlier.  She got pouty and started stomping out to the car.  I lost it and gave her a loud lecture about how I wasn’t going to be punished for her lack of planning.

Aden goes into her own version of survival mode when I yell.  She gets very still and waits for the storm to pass.  She doesn’t fight back.  And I try to rein myself in and remember I’m the grownup and feel terrible.  I apologized on the road and told her I meant the words I was saying, but I shouldn’t have said them in such a scary manner.  She just nodded silently and went back to looking out the window.  We were back to our regular selves by the time I dropped her off at the gymnasium where the big choir event is happening.  We hugged.  I handed her off to the volunteer who was checking lists and handing out T-shirts.  I looked back before Mona and Quinn and I left the building and had already lost sight of Aden in the crowd of kids.  Even though Aden is nine it’s hard for me to leave her somewhere.  She’s still my baby.  It’s hard to walk away from your baby even for all the right reasons.

When Ian’s gone there is just a lot more to do, but I realize my reaction to that stress is disproportionate.  Yes, I had to find a ride home for Aden so she can do her choir thing today.  I’m sad I can’t go to her concert this afternoon because I need to be here at work, and that there is no one else to go hear her sing.  It’s complicated having Quinn and Mona at the violin store all day even though they are good and know how to entertain themselves and stay out from underfoot.  I don’t know what to do for dinner.  I’m not sure my plans for book club tomorrow will work out.  But it’s not a big deal.  Or at least, it shouldn’t be.  It’s just a weekend.  But there’s that small twinge of panic deep down left over from other times I’ve been on my own.  I know Ian is just in Madison and not Iraq.  I know that.  But part of me always worries when he’s gone that he’ll never make it back.  It’s not rational, but fear seldom is.

And now that I’ve thought about it a little bit and can see things more clearly I think I can face the rest of this weekend.  More than that, I’m going to enjoy it.  Survival mode keeps you alive but is not a good way to live.  I’d better get back to work.  These violins aren’t going to fix themselves.  (Wouldn’t that be nice?)  We’re open until 5:00 if you need anything.

END OF THE DAY UPDATE:  Today was a pretty awesome day, actually.  I had lots of nice customers in my store and got some repairs done.  Mona and Quinn were adorable and no trouble at all.  They handed out popcorn and crayon enhanced pictures of violins to anyone who wanted them and they drew many chalk rainbows on the sidewalk out front despite the cold.  Aden had a wonderful day at choir and came home happy and huggy.  We ordered Chinese food.  Ian came back from a successful day with the Army and put the kids to bed while I ran out to pick up some groceries.  Life is good.  No complaints here.

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