Tuesday, June 26, 2007

bad behavior + beach diary

Being bipolar is no excuse for bad behavior. I read that on someone’s bipolar blog, and it’s stuck with me. When I have rough days, and when they spill over into lashing out and biting at my husband, I try to remember that.

Speaking of biting – Duckie’s doing it, literally. It started last Friday. Apparently her best friend D hit her for some reason (I’m guessing over a toy), and she bit him back. I spoke to her teacher about it over the weekend. She tried to bite me on Saturday afternoon, when she was over-the-top exhausted from her trip to the beach, and refused any quiet time because she didn’t want to miss Poppy coming over. I can hardly blame her. And it’s hard not to laugh (albeit hysterically) when your itty bitty daughter smacks your ass with a flyswatter.

She feels so bad afterwards. Yesterday I spoke to her over the phone at school (she had tried it again that morning). She was wrecked – at herself, for doing it, and most especially because she was separated from D and because Miss A called me.

There are several potential causes – personnel changes at day care, initiated by summer campers, and one of her best friends has left the school. He was, of course, the buffer between her and D, so his departure is tough on both of them.

But I can’t put my finger on any other direct causes. Over the last few weeks her sense of independence has skyrocketed. That seems to be triggering some other incredibly annoying stuff, most especially willful ignoring, immediate apologies to try to get out of a time-out, and purposefully defying my instructions when she knows it’s going to piss me off – button-pushing at three-and-a-half. Brilliant. The mosey, of course, has become epic. If it gets any worse I’m going to have to start making up words.

My mantra over the last few weeks has been simple. Remain calm, I chant. Remain calm at all times. It seems to be working for me in terms of adapting to her new behaviors – but it drives her entirely batshit when she can’t get a rise out of me. (Hence the flyswatter incident.)


I finished Children of Men last night. I have yet to figure out how they got from the book to the movie. The process must have been close cousins to the adaptation of Howl’s Moving Castle. In both instances, the movies kept the frames, the environments of the novels, the basic premises. In Children of Men, though, the plot and the ensuing action was injected with some kind of massive super-growth steroid. For Howl’s Moving Castle, they had to simplify the plot just to get it on screen. I barely understood it just reading the book.

I’d highly recommend Children of Men, even if you have no interest in the movie. I enjoyed James’ prose immensely – by the second page I knew it would be the kind of book I would re-read just to be able to savor the language. She has a wonderfully lucid, precise style that allows her to really dig into place descriptions – although I will admit that I skimmed over some of it. Hence the scheduled re-read. I’ll have to buy it just to keep it around, I think.

I thought the movie did a wonderful job of capturing the essential sadness and heartbreak of Theo Faron, the main character. It was impossible to read the book without seeing Clive Owen and hearing his subdued voice in the first-person narratives, which didn’t detract from the experience at all, being that he’s one of my favorite actors. (I understand that this opinion is not shared by my publisher, but still I think he was perfect for this role.)


Beach diary, Summer 2007

Day One

We drive. It’s hot. Opening the windows does nothing. Air outside is the same temperature as the air inside the car. (Previously logged report gives account of why a/c is not running.) Duckie wakes up late in the drive complaining, quite justly and accurately, that she’s stuck in her seat.

Bob Segar’s Night Moves comes on the radio. Brian serenades me relentlessly with a satirical cover of the song by the same name. It has to do with beans and cheese. No more need be said on the account, save that I was howling with laughter and almost drove off the road because I couldn’t see to drive.

We arrive around midnight. The Food Lion is blessedly open 24/7. Our friend W, whose family house this is, is still awake. I set up in a downstairs bedroom with ice-cold air conditioning. I do not question the greenness of said arrangement – at this point I don’t give a shit.

I make the beds up. My eye is drawn to a little toy under Duckie’s bed – one of those little jointed wooden snakes that look so realistic. Better move that, I think. She’ll be up all night playing with it.

It’s awfully smooth for a wooden toy. Oh – and a closer glance shows that it’s awfully still, too – dead still, to be exact. They call them “chicken snakes” in Brunswick County. This one bit off more than it could chew when it tried to eat a small bird. The beak… well, never mind. Suffice to say that both had been sent to their next lives.

“What’s that, mommy?”

“It’s… it’s a toy, honey,” I lie. “I’m going to go get daddy to put it away. Come along with me, darling.”

Day Two

Bright and sunny. Enter the sunblock. Duckie loves watching the boats pass by the dock. Her reunion with Poppy is tearfully sweet. Worth the drive just for that.

Duckie spends an inordinate amount of time ignoring everything I say, especially if it has to do with staying within our view.

A mother starling has set up housekeeping in the bookshelf of the downstairs bathroom. She’s built a cozy nest for her tiny babies inside a big conch shell. They’re so cute. We guess that the dad was the one who had the mutually unfortunate encounter with the chicken snake. W moves the nest to a less busy area of the downstairs, so we’re not assaulted by mama every time we visit the bathroom.

We go to the beach. Water is lovely and warm, beer is cold, sand is everywhere. Duckie is nervous around that much water but she gets bolder by the time we leave. We lose her flip-flops and sun hat.

Brian forgets to put sunblock on his chest. “It’s just a little pink.”

Duck is close to sleep when I pull into the driveway of the house. She’s exhausted and completely unmanageable. Eventually, after much crying and gnashing of teeth (specifically, on Mom’s ass) we rest for a couple of hours in air-conditioned comfort.

Later that evening, Brian grills rib-eyes and zucchini. We eat late, but no-one minds.

I go downstairs to wash my face, take my pills and change into pj’s.

In the bathroom, I glance, as always, at the collection of books on the shelf. Hey, that’s odd, I think. I don’t remember… and that’s an awfully realistic-looking… Then the artfully draped décor flicks its small forked red tongue in my general direction. Realistic, indeed.

I do not panic. I finish the project at hand slowly and carefully. Duckie is upstairs, so there is comfort in that.

I stick my head out the downstairs screen door. “Brian,” I call to him on the porch above. “There’s another toy in the bathroom. Would you please come get rid of it?”

He does so, and I’m able to get a closer look at the chicken snake that wraps itself around his arm. A light brown with an avant-garde pattern of black, dark brown and white on its back, he’s about three feet long. I’m glad I didn’t know how big he was exactly until Brian pulled him out of the bookshelf.

I’m also grateful that W had moved the nest. Those nestlings wouldn’t have had a chance where they were. They still might not – I can’t imagine that there aren’t more snakes around.

Day Three

We go back to the beach for a shorter visit, sans beer. Duckie find her flip-flops and beach hat, and we are all amazed – none of us noticed them, half-buried in the sand, but she did. Someone must have found them and left them by the beach access boardwalk.

We drive back. It’s worse this time. I’m driving a crock-pot set on high, stewing in my own sweat. Humidity is high but we only get one good storm. I’ve never been so glad to see our mountains in the distance.

1 comment:

Karen Beth said...

My little brother was a biter and was really bad about it, never feeling remorseful afterward. Finally, my poor Mother, distraught and frustrated with his behavior, bit him back.

He never ever bit again.

Good luck with your little biter! :)