Sunday, June 08, 2008

Keeping the Pace

I don't know if it's me, or if it's being a therapist. Therapists are in tune with people, certainly the ones they treat, or they should be. They get the energy, the feelings, the intensity, that urgency for speech, and hesitation; the pause we talk about. I think, honestly, like other artists, maybe, dare I suggest actors, we're into timing.

There's a certain sensitivity to other people and what they need Right Now that defines the better therapydocs, that and a fine education.

But maybe you don't need to be a therapist at all to have that sixth sense. I'm sure you don't. I know you don't.

Anyway, this little aptitude can get in the way when there are competing bodies needing something different from us Right Now, when the Right Nows are in competition. This is very much the dilemma of family therapy when the therapist doesn't set a solid boundary, which can happen when the therapist is human and not a stone. And to be effective a family therapist wants to be one of those, a human, and can't help but become a part of the family system. The salubrious part, ideally, the one that discusses the parts, the players, and the system.

We're the conscience in some families, the ego in others. Sometimes the id. Add the community system that refers you to us to that mix and we can totally lose our personal identities. Want to feel enmeshed and dissociated all at the same time? Become a family therapist.

Feeling torn between competing bodies happens more often, really, when we deal with our own families, our children and our parents. At least it does with me. I'm pretty strict about boundaries with everyone else.

So here's the story.

FD and I got on an airplane on Friday morning, cruised airspace (I got a great deal in April) for the nearly four hours it takes to touchdown in Los Angeles. United was great, by the way. I don't know why, but we had more room to breathe it seemed, on that 757 with 38 rows, 3 seats abreast, music, a movie (terrible, I only watched a little, but still; FD never glanced up) and snacks galore if you're into that sort of thing. In the middle seat you take what you can get in terms of cheap thrills, and well, you know me.

My son picked us up at LAX, wouldn't hear of our taking the shuttle, and I popped into the backseat of his old Presario next to my granddaughter who was sound asleep in her carseat, slumped over so I couldn't even see her face. There's plenty to talk about with my son and last Friday was no different, so I forgot about her.

All of a sudden I hear, "Bubbie?!" I turn. Huge, huge smile.

I'm in. Anyway, we had a very nice chat about the bugs on the mountains and she couldn't wait to see the lime green ballet slippers I bought her. When we arrived at Empath Daught's house, my daughter had timed it perfectly (is this genetic?) and she drove up right behind us, just seconds later, with the boys.

Heaven on earth, surely, so much to catch up on, and Where are the Toys is still a fresh scene out of a Disney movie, no matter where we get the toys or what we pay for them. They need so little, kids, when it comes to help with playing.

Anyway, I don't travel as well as I used to, and didn't get my nap. The weather was beautiful, warm and sunny, dry like a desert should be, low 80's. Playing most of the day into the night is fun but I'm pretty wiped by dinner, which is so late on Friday, almost 9:00 pm. Dinner's an elegant affair, a welcome for the Sabbath bride, we're almost second to her arrival. It's unconscious the intensity of preparation, replete with the Oh, we forgot to feed you epiphany and No, we didn't want to eat lunch. Everyone's fresh and clean and dressed, and last I remember of the dinnertime conversation is my granddaughter saying, "Bubbie's sleeping," and it was true.

Some therapists are awake even while asleep, something to remember when yours dozes off, but I'm not.

I've got Rac on my right playing the most remarkable game with my granddaughter. The kid is on her lap, and I am in awe. In Stage I sleep I still hear the game, which goes something like: I love you, Mommy; no I love you, No I love you; no I love you, and they can go on like this for hours. If there's a break in the action by Rac, granddaught bursts into tears, so Rac, being an empath, doesn't allow for a break, lets the little one be the one to stop the game, for she started it, after all.

I awake next day to small hands and giggles, and since I'm not great before my second cup, suggest they stay with me for five minutes and let me wake up slowly. They are already on top of me, clawing at my flannels, so this suggestion thrills them immensely. We all fit just fine in the twin, like a glove, until one of them says, "I'm smushed," and it's over.

We roll out gradually and they take my hand, lead me to the kitchen where I pour the apple juice. (What is it with kids? Don't they ever outgrow apple juice?)

They find the mini yogurts in the fridge (horrible, horrible things), and while they eat these I have a chance to talk to FD who has found himself a comfortable spot on the sofa to drink his coffee and learn a little. He says, "You'll take them to shul (Sabbath morning services)."

Oh, I don't think so.

"No, you should. They should go to shul."

"Don't hold your breath, sweetie."

"If their parents want them to go, you should take them."

"Oh, for sure. If they're parents. . . sure. . .but. . "

I feel bad for controlling the vertical and the horizontal, because he's got to go, has to be on time, but I've never been great with strong suggestions. If he begs I can't say no, not usually, but here we are, me and the kids, just getting cozy, and stressing to get dressed up, walking to shul, having to socialize, losing them to the multitudes, well, this isn't going to happen.

I learned long ago not to even try to dress my grandsons.

But I get dressed. They want to play a game inside but there's a sunny backyard and although it's early, this seems like a good place to be. I open the sliding door to the patio and take my siddur (prayer book) with me to say a few words to the Old Mighty in the sun.

The boys are already there, of course. You know how it is when you open a screen door and the pets dash outside? This feels the same to me. My grandsons are checking under rocks for bugs and are throwing an avocado to see how far, exactly, one can throw an avocado. Can you imagine having avocados just fall onto your lawn, no grocery bag need apply?

After awhile they make it over to the new swing set, which is awesome, it's green and brown with one of those little forts on top near the slide, not as expensive as one might think, assuming you're able to install it yourself. I hear them calling me. "Bubbie, Bubbie! Push me, push me!"

I look up from the book, wave the, Just a minute index finger at them, finish my conversation, and stroll over to do the honors. The youngest needs a little coaching on how to pump, and although it's not something I feel is necessary, teaching him how to swing higher, I'm tempted to see how he'll handle suggestions and explain that trying to touch the sky with your toes on the way up, and bending them back at the knees on the way down really helps the game.

He does it, too, pumps more efficiently, but his brother makes a crack, "You're never going to get as high as me."

"Yes I can."

"No you can't."

"Yes I can."


"And I'm faster."

"No you're not."

"Yes I am."

All this while I'm getting a bit of workout, pushing. I'm kind of getting into it, though, thinking that if need be, I can do this all day, push the kid on the swing. The sun is out. The birds are singing, the windchimes occasionally join in.

"Higher, Bubbie. Higher!"

copyright 2008, therapydoc


Midwife with a Knife said...

I really loved the swing set as a kid. I would go as high as I could, and then see how high (how close to the perigee of the swinging) I could make myself jump off. When you're really high and you jump off, it always felt like I imagined flying would feel like. :)

therapydoc said...

Have you seen Shrek? There's that flying scene in the beginning...and then all of a sudden the realization...I CAN'T fly!

katiebird said...

(waving) Hi Therapydoc!

What a great story. Let's all go higher....

Anonymous said...

This scene of you playing with your grandchildren is so poignant for me. My 2 year old will have no grandparents to push her on that swing as she grows. While I know this is my issue (they are deceased) and not hers yet (if ever), I am always grateful for grandma's matter who they are. Thanks for sharing.

porcini66 said...

Mary, I am sorry for your loss - it is more than losing your parents - it is losing your kids' grandparents, too. I get it.

I swore that I would never, NEVER move my kids away from their grandparents. EVER. So when my husband took a job 1000 miles away, well, my "pledge" was taken out of my hands. I had a huge decision to make. I am only now being honest about the resentment that decision caused, six years later. It will be fine, and all things work out as they should. But my point in commenting is that your blog helped me tonight. It helped me to understand that the memories my kids have of "going to visit Gramma & Grampa!!!" or of "Gramma's coming!!!!!!" will stay with them forever. Just as your grandkids will cherish the memories of you pushing them on the swings.

Thanks for writing. peg

therapydoc said...

Thanks all of you for these comments. Wait until you hear about the elephants and what grandparents mean to them. You'll plotz (Yiddish for fall over laughing or fainting, I'm not sure which).

Soon to come.

SuperRaizy said...

What a beautiful depiction of what was obviously a beautiful day. I'm so smiling.

Anonymous said...

I have those memories myself of going to visit "Grandmommy" in another state. Every summer. Grandparents are so special, no matter where they are. I guess that means in heaven too. At least my mom got to be a grandma for 17 months...albeit in another state. oh well, what can you do. Thanks for responding. I've never commented before on someone's blog...this has helped me.

therapydoc said...

Thanks Peg, for giving me some perspective :)

Anonymous said...

I grew up on a number of Army bases, never close to the grandparents and sometimes not in this country. Vacation was synonymous with going to see the grandparents, one stop in Tennessee, one in Kentucky. We wrote letters (gasp!) inbetween, and felt we knew our grands very well. Wonderful memories!

Jack Steiner said...

That sounds great. FWIW, I try to fly in and out of Burbank as often as possible. It is so much easier than LAX.

BTW, my folks and inlaws have told me that short of outer space there is no place that I can take my kids that they won't follow.

Grandparents and kids- kind of a pied piper thing going on there.

Anonymous said...

Mmmm...Lovely :)

Anonymous said...

Want to feel enmeshed and dissociated all at the same time? Become a family therapist.

/almost spitting out really, really expensive single malt scotch


And yes, yes, I know how you feel about alcohol...

therapydoc said...

PSYCHO, you need to know this. It's not how I personally feel about alcohol, it's how I feel people need to think I feel about alcohol.

I learned many years ago, from Al Tannenbaum, a psychiatrist somewhere in this country, not sure where he eventually landed or if, indeed, his name is Alan, that if you give ANY permission to people that it's okay to drink just a little, the alcoholics will use it as an excuse, and they'll get drunk and someone will get hurt.

So no one gets permission from me.

Sorry about the Scotch. Was it that funny, really?

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