August 29, 2000
Watching Mommy Cope

If there was a theme to this year's Tot Visits -- a theme besidesthe photo booth thing was *my* idea, of course ant extermination, cheese-in-a-can and spending obscene amounts of money on school clothes, that is -- I think it would have to be "Watching Mommy Cope."

As in: let's see how *New Improved Sober Mom* deals with unexpected snafus, delays, dilemmas, and assorted other ridiculousness ... without bursting into tears.

Without falling to pieces.

Without using the "F" word.

Without throwing stuff at anybody.

And without dive-bombing into the nearest box of Mountain Chablis.

I had plenty of opportunity to practice my newfound *crisis management skills* while my children were here. During each and every one of the Tot Visits, without i said, 'c'mon ... it'll be fun!fail, there was at least one Crisis Moment. One specific moment when things went horribly, hideously awry. One moment when I was suddenly called upon to be the calm, maternal voice of reason.  (The "calm, maternal voice of reason" who fixes everything. Preferably before the 6:08 p.m. flight back to TicTac.)

With Jaymi, that moment came when we walked into Lenscrafters for her eye exam appointment, all excited about buying her first pair of glasses, only to be informed by the snooty receptionist that the optometrist had suddenly "gone home for the day."

With Kyle, it was the The Backpack Incident.

And with Kacie? It was the missing trance-and-techno CD.

We spent most of Saturday tromping around downtown San Francisco, visiting one trendy downtown department store after another, in search of shirts and shoes and snakeskin halter tops. ("I need at least one *dress-up* outfit for pictures and stuff," she explained.)

At one point -- as a change-of-pace from clothes shopping -- we popped into the Virgin Megastore on Stockton street. Kacie headed for the electronica section, where she immediately found the CD of her dreams -- some ultra-rare, extra-special, once-in-a-lifetime mix of someoranother dance music, like the kind they play at her beloved weekend raves.

"I know it's not school clothes," she said, "but would you pleeeeease buy this for me?" 

And of course being the ultra-rare, extra-special, once-in-a-lifetime mix of maternal wonderfulness and total sucker that I am, how could I say no? I honestly think she was even more excited about that CD than she was about her new clothes. I suspect that had something to do with being removed from her social universe for an entire weekend: the music would serve as a temporary *connection.* She was pawing through the shopping bags before we even got through the door of The Castle.

So when we realized that the CD somehow hadn't made it back home with us, the whole world collapsed.

Crisis management has never exactly beensort of like that time she was two and she sat on my lap in the photo booth at the burien fred meyer store ... my strong suit.

I've always been prone to huge emotional upheavals. (Flashback to eleven-year-old Secra, sitting in the principal's office, tearfully explaining why she called Mrs. McShane an 'idiot.'

Why handle problems calmly, when you can cry? Why count to ten, when you can slam a door?

Why be reasonable, when you can throw a plate of spaghetti at the wall?

Drinking just made it worse. Drinking took what few precious *coping molecules* I possessed naturally and eroded them down into little pointy stubs. By the time I ran away, three summers ago, I had absolutely zero crisis management skills left.

While they were visiting us this past month, all three of the Tots regaled David and I with nightmarish stories of that awful summer. Jaymi, as mentioned previously, told us the story of blood, wine, and broken glass. ("You were just sitting there on the floor, looking at me and laughing," she said, shaking her head in amazement at the memory. "You didn't even know you were bleeding!")

Kyle recounted the horrific morning I was getting ready for work and couldn't find my hairbrush. Frustrated, furious and hungover as hell, I slammed the medicine cabinet shut so hard that it rained glass all over the bathroom floor. The Ex-Husband was still sending me bills for that broken mirror, two years later.

And Kacie ... except this time she didn't pee on me. thank you, kacie. reminded me of the Rice a Roni Incident ... an episode I had totally forgotten about.

My ex-husband came home from work one night, tired and crabby, and made a disparaging remark about the rice and chicken casserole I'd cooked for dinner. At that point our marriage was on its last legs. (More accurately, it was on its last scraggly infected toenail.)
I said, "You don't like it? Fine. YOU cook." And I picked up the Corningware casserole dish from the counter, turned it upside down ... and dumped it onto the floor at his feet. ("I had to clean up the mess," said Kacie.)

What can I tell you?

Old Unimproved Drinking Mom had lots of problems coping with crises.

Old Unimproved Drinking Mom would not have been able to cope with cancelled optometrist appointments, misplaced backpacks and missing CD's.

With nearly two years of sobriety to her credit, though, New Improved Sober Mom is working very very hard to not only "cope" with this sort of stuff ... but to teach her beloved Tots how to cope with this stuff, too.

On Sunday morning we dragged Kacie off the couch at the ungodly hour of  9 a.m., drove her all the way out to Ocean Beach and fed her a world-class brunch at The Cliff House.

This was followed by photo opps in front of the ocean, a tour of the Mechanical Museum [Yo! Bev! Laughing Sal says *hi*!], photo opps in front of the ocean some more, a long scenic drive through San Francisco ...

... and another trip to the Virgin Megastore, where we bought her a replacement copy of her trance CD.

We did this without raised eyebrows, heavy sighs, pointed expressions or long lectures about how money doesn't grow on trees.

The look on her face said it all.

I said, "See? We don't focus on problems: we focus on solutions." It's a motto I've shamelessly purloined, over the past few months, from David. It's a little trite and new-agey, I know ...  it probably belongs on a coffee-mug or a T-shirt or a bumpersticker ... but it's true. It's the way I want to live my life now. It's the way I want my kids to live their lives.

We focus on solutions.

The optometrist has gone home for the evening? Fine. We schedule an appointment for the following day. We resist the urge to call the receptionist a snooty, seriously adenoidal bitch. We make arrangements to show up for the appointment early. We buy the glasses. 

Problem solved.

The backpack turns up missing, half an hour before our flight? We do our best  --  short of doing 80 in a 45 mph zone  --  to retrieve it before the plane takes off. And if that doesn't work out, we ship it Overnight Express. 

Problem solved.

Our brand-new $21 trance-and-techno CD disappears before it even makes it to the stereo? We call the restaurant where we had lunch and politely ask them to check the lost and found. We do the same with every department store we've visited that day. We double-check the car, the apartment, the parking lot, all of the shopping bags. And when the CD is still missing, in spite of all our best efforts to locate it ...

... we simply go back and buy another one.


Yes, it's true that part of my new *crisis management strategy* is having a boyfriend who keeps me level, reminds me to breathe ... and cheerfully drives us every place we need to go in order to make all of this groovy, miraculous *solution stuff* happen.

Yes, it's true that under ordinary circumstances -- "ordinary circumstances" meaning the Tots and I, living in the same Zip Code -- I wouldn't be busting a hump, trying to fix every little problem right there on the spot.

And yes, it's true that I have a long long way to go. Daughter #1 actually caught me flipping off Franz, during a moment of exhausted Executive Ass weakness. I suppose I probably swore a time or eleven, too.

But New Improved Sober Mom is determined to keep trying, for as long as it takes, to focus on solutions, solutions, solutions.

And to make damn sure that no one else is ever forced to clean up HER Rice a Roni mess again.

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one year ago

throw a rock