Aftershocks (part one)

Thursday, August 9, 2012

The other night, while we were just turning in for the night, I suddenly felt something shaking the bed.  I turn to Josh, as he was just sitting on the edge of the bed and ask "Are you doing that?" to which he all-too-calmly replied "Nope, that's an earthquake."

a lie detector? a heartbeat? Nope.  earthquake.
We swayed one second longer, as his nonchalant words reached my brain for comprehension.  EARTHQUAKE!  And then it was over.  Having lived in Southern California for years now, this was not my first quake.  But, having moved here from the part of the country where "earthquake" might as well be code for "about to fall into the ocean", it has never settled well with me (no pun intended) to be okay with a bit of a shake-a-roo now and again.  No thank you.

It would be one thing if it was left at that midnight shake...but, those tectonic plates just couldn't leave well enough alone, and it was followed by 3 more quakes within the following 12 hours.  Good gracious earth!  Get a hold of yourself!

I grew up in tornado country.  Land of Oz, yellow brick roads, munchkins, and sure - all the "Auntie Em from Kansas" jokes you could muster.  Now, don't get me wrong in my preference for tornados, they are diabolically catastrophic and terrifying.  I've seen more than my share in real life, and there is really nothing scarier for a kid than witnessing a black wall of debris tearing through your neighbor's farm only a few miles away.

But, if I had to choose (and this is particularly silly since obviously I would rather neither existed at all) I gotta say that tornados got something on earthquakes that just makes it all a no-brainer to me:  WARNING.

Sure, I suppose you could argue that us silly Californians live and breathe in an ongoing state of warning.  That, if feeling the earth move under your feet (and I'm not talking Carol King) isn't enough for you to wanna ditch Tinseltown, then by all means you are really asking for it and might as well count your blessings until The Big One sends us floating off towards Hawaii.  Fine.  But, let's be realistic.

this pic i found was just too cool not to include!
With earthquakes, there is just no warning.  No thunderstorms.  No eerie green clouds.  No hazy calm.  No hail the size of chihuahuas.  No tree-bark-stripping winds.  No louder-than-a-freight-train force.  It just happens.  A jolt.  A sway.  A shake.  A rattling, rumbling, roll that takes you a second to realize you might be in the presence of danger.  And then it's over (usually).

I'm so grateful to live in a time and place that is more or less prepared for natural occurrences like earthquakes.  I'd be remiss not to take a second and mention how it certainly makes me stop and pray for those around the world who have suffered through so much loss due to such an, yes, please, take a moment and do that.  But, that's not where I'm headed with this post.

This particular series of shakes brought something else to my attention.  Warning signs.  Or, lack thereof, really.

Parenting is full of earthquakes.  It's full of tornadoes, too, no doubt.  Sometimes you can see problems before they really start...intervening just in time to avoid tragedy or further chaos.  But, lots of times, most times, you simply never see it coming.

tuckered out from a tantrum
It's always the aftershocks that surprise me the most.  I will go to battle with my toddler over the silliest things: Yes, you WILL get in your carseat!  No you WON'T sit on your sister! Do NOT bite your nails! Please tell mommy BEFORE you need to go peepee! STOP pulling the cat's tail! Put DOWN the golf club! 

And just when I think an issue is resolved, or peace has been restored or all is right with the world once more (usually about the time I reheat my coffee yet again)...someone else starts crying over something.


It never fails.  The aftershocks keep coming.

We start the day waking up relatively calmly.  Jammies, coffee, maybe some cereal that slowly makes its way one crumb at a time from the bowl to my carpet (which my bare foot will no doubt find and shatter deeply into the fibers never to be recovered by my vacuum later).  Then, there's always an earthquake of some degree.  The initial JOLT that shocks my morning into overdrive, shooting my adrenaline sky high, and causing my eyes to twitch between caffeine intake and simply comprehending the events in front of me.
literally me at the end of today

It could be anything, really.  A poop explosion.  A spill of milk on someone's head.  A bonk on the noggin that sends one of them into a screaming frenzy.  It's never catastrophic (though, my neighbors might argue otherwise by the yelling they hear in our apartment).  But, it's always enough to initialize the domino that is "reality" for the series of aftershocks that follow.

Today had many aftershocks.  We never quite hit our pace in the day where things seemed to just settle down and everyone could take a deep breath.  Not once.  And never with any warning.

Maybe I expected earthquakes when I moved to California.  Just like I expected there would be "hard moments" in parenthood.  But, to be honest, I don't think I ever thought about the aftershocks.  It never occurred to me that sometimes there would be days that just seemed to be full of naughtiness, mischief, disobedience, outright sassiness, and that I would be the one to have to keep going, stay sane, remain calm...and stick to the original escape plan as laid out beforehand.

Ah, escape plans.  A necessary element in the face of such destruction.   This, I have yet to master.  But, I am working on it.

What do you do in those dark moments of frustration when all you really want to do is duct tape your child's mouth shut and go hide in your bedroom with a carton of ice cream??? (or something like that)

No, really...tell me.  (Get the discussion going, mamas!  How do you cope?)

And tune in next week as I tackle this question for myself.  


  1. If my husband is home, we usually switch kids. If I've been battling the witching hour(s ) with my 2-month-old and he's having it out with our 4-yo, a switch of the kids is perfect for all of us...fresh perspective and maybe a different approach. Now, when I'm alone and need to take a step back, I try to remember my older son as a tiny baby. For some reason, this helps me find patience and perspective. I'll also focus my son's energy on something physical, like riding his bike or scooter or running through the sprinklers. Thanks for a great blog :)

  2. Emily - when I was in those days, I learned to go outside as much as possible. That was a huge coping strategy for me. It seemed to brighten everyone's mood, including mine. I also kept the TV off and the music on. Having music on helped me to feel nurtured and just kept the tone of the house more "settled." Apart from that - Diet Coke sista, bring on the DC!


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