(From May 2018)
Sometimes, the things I study and write about are so heavy, heady, and effective in striking the discord of dissonance that I can’t stand it. Composting existential dysphoria into nourishment is one of my gifts…but there are times this other thing comes out of me.
Susan. Her name is Susan.
My brain has been more potato than effervescence since the loss of my father, and that is thanks to a little trick I like to call grief. Parenting with grief is an extra credit assignment.
Parenting is feral. Grief is physically painful and cathartic. Potatoes are not equipped.
Let’s go back a few months. You can only ass out so many times as a parent before you begin to understand you truly have no power. Logic doesn’t seem to sway little people, you see. They are the inspiring material of all our “give no eff’s” memes.
I’ve grown weary of hearing my own parenting rhetoric. Of course I drone on about flossing and putting pants on for kindergarten, like any good parent. “Pretend your mouth has a zipper and zip it shut, immediately,” is some of my finest work. Incidentally, I often wish I were Catholic. To have a confessional booth and a chance at atonement would be #handy.
So far, my expertise as a child mental health professional has only prepared me to call supportive friends after the aforementioned ass-outs, to be very honest about what I’m dealing with, and to NOT put it into the pockets of my kindergartner. I’m about 60/40 for making the call *before the crap goes into my kiddo’s pockets.
I’ve successfully traded “hollering until I’m going to stroke out,” which early childhood development date makes a solid case against, for “staring and blinking” until everyone is dressed. Then we all march off to school tardy and morose, but full of love.
A few weeks ago, I feared my potato had burst.
I was looking at my kids in the midst of some mundane, feral nonsense, fighting about who had the most dead beetles in his or her windowsill, when Something changed.
I looked at the floor, covered with more toys than any child could ever actually integrate into play, and I saw her…the little wooden figure I now refer to as Susan.
I picked her up, and from my lips came the voice of Susan. Susan informed the children that Mom had gone to Hawaii, and in her absence, Susan would be taking care of them. Susan is funny af and she enunciates very well, perhaps with a twinge of a Midwestern accent. As Susan would.
They stopped fighting. Each of their Mowgli-an heads turned toward me in slo-mo. My son’s eyes turned into sparkling jewels of joy, and my daughter stared in disbelief.
I don’t play much, ok?
We laughed harder than we have in months. Susan proceeded to lord over them, and they did everything she said. And while the novelty, laughter, and spontaneity were delightful, they were nothing compared to the bliss of those sweet, sweet moments of compliance. I know, let’s take a minute and weep.
The first couple weeks, they’d literally beg for Susan to come out, but Susan is not your typical codependent — she’s got her own jam. I took great joy in informing them Susan was off on one adventure or another and simply couldn’t be bothered. Then, in the midst of something utterly brain numbing, and only about once a month, Susan would pop out of my pocket, sending me on vacation to Costa Rica.
One day, she drove the kids to school while I “napped.” (Air quotes belong here; my son would demand it.) It was all fun and games until we pulled into the parking lot. Suddenly quite grave, my son said, “Mom, put Susan away right now. I don’t want you taking her out in my school.”
That, my friends, is power. #susanpower. Susan, you complete me.