A few weeks ago, the parent group at E.C.F.E. discussed a beautiful childhood stage called disequilibrium. It’s when your child changes from a cuddly infant or a mommy’s little helper into an emotional, whiny, crying terror. This cycle (yes, cycle!) returns weekly for infants and every six months for toddlers, cycling again and again until adulthood, even beyond. Wait, I didn’t know I signed up for that….
Both my children experienced intense disequilibrium this week (joy!). The almost potty-trained toddler exerted her independence (is that what it’s called?) and refused to sit on the toilet, my go check, please flatly refused. In fact, everything is a very emphatic, sometimes sassy, sometimes weeping, sometimes whiny, very definite no, even when asked if she wants a treat (what has become of my child?) In her refusal of everything sane, my now formerly potty-trained toddler, my lovely little no monster is both a weepy emotional mess and a “why did you refuse to go check?! You made a big mess” mess. (Yes, double mess for that extra load of wash!) As an added pleasure, she seems to be going through a physical disequilibrium and keeps running into things -walls, floors, stairs, her sister- luckily, she’s remained largely unscathed and most of the time quickly pops up with a thumbs up. I’m okay. Bonus: it seems to have also affected her ability to get food anywhere remotely near her mouth (the floor thanks her). The height of her disequilibrium came when she proudly read the time on the stove, “three-three-three,” and I said, “yes, it’s three thirty-three.” Immediate tears, lots and lots of no’s, and then, “I’m leaving,” and she stomped up to her room (I actually didn’t mind that part. It was very quiet.) She came down several minutes later, arms crossed, “no, three-three-three, no,” heartbroken sobs, tears. And so we’ve gone on.
As if that wasn’t enough, an emphatic no directed at my nine-month-old, who decided to grind a just popped through tooth back-and-forth against my nipple, started a nursing strike (I had to look that one up after the first sleepless night), and she refused to nurse, crying inconsolably every time I tried. Several days in her disequilibrium matched and then surpassed her older sister. Lots of tears, lots of cuddles, lots of not getting much done, but also lots of new baby tricks: clapping on cue, pointing at objects, body bridges- head down, legs straight, butt in the air. And so we’ve gone on.
As happens at such times, the disequilibrium extends to the house. Recent purchases in a pile- a table cloth, coco-liner hanging baskets, lightweight foldable backpacks-impulse buys?; items to return by the door-toddler swimsuits, toddler flip-flops, toddler dress (drat, she’s in between sizes); stragglers that missed the winter clothes exodus on the stairs (double curses); projects on hold: collage frames with some empty horizontal picture frames (maybe collage frames aren’t a smart purchase?), a onesie project half finished (a fun project), vegetable plants from Mother’s Day ready to be planted (it’s been unseasonably cold, even for Minnesota).
Today, the weather has turned. We’re filling our DIY raised garden bed and planting vegetables. I took a moment amidst the chaos to snap a picture of our new plum tree. When we moved into the home two years ago, we wanted to plant a cherry tree to commemorate the new purchase and to track our time here. As with so many things, we never got around to it. My Mother’s Day treat was to attend a plant sale. The cherry trees were sold out so we settled on a plum tree and planted it on Mother’s Day. We’ve been in motion all week. I finally got a chance to acknowledge the little guy. Until that moment, I’d forgotten about the plum blossom festival on Purple Mountain in Nanjing, China. I’d forgotten about the beauty of plum blossoms and the cultural significance of the plum tree. Because it can blossom in winter, the plum tree symbolizes “endurance through hardship.” Plum blossoms are harbingers of spring, symbolically representing perseverance, transitions, beauty amidst harshness. I love that our plum tree was planted on such a special day. What a perfect symbol of motherhood.
As such things go, there are ebbs and flows. Disequilibrium seems to be on the way out. No tears. Very few no’s. Tasks checked off the list. Some clutter put away. Equilibrium has momentarily been restored, and then my toddler walks into a wall. “I got it,” she says, “thumbs up.” I’m starting to feel the same way.