“Don’t break the chain.”

One day, about exactly two years ago, when I had just recently begun blogging (dabbling is probably a better description, actually) on WordPress, while browsing through different pieces and writing tips, I came across a piece about Jerry Seinfeld. The title of the piece was a quote of his, which was, “don’t break the chain.” He had said it during an interview when speaking about keeping his writing fresh and generating new material. His tip was simple, but it stuck with me, even through my long, horrid dry spell when I wasn’t producing much of anything.

This particular method involved nothing more than a wall calendar and a pen or a marker. He claimed that every day that he spent writing was marked on the calendar with a big X. As each X is connected, side by side, it forms something resembling a chain on the calendar. It serves as a reminder to yourself for the work you have done and it gives you an incentive to keep on going with it. Along with the pat on the back you can give yourself after each day of work you put in, you also get to see how long you can make your chain. Obviously, if you miss or skip a day, your chain will surely be broken (assuming you’re being honest with yourself) and you’ll have to start a new one all over again.

Though I haven’t yet started drawing links for my chain, at least physically, I’ve made a commitment and I’ve been putting in the time. I’m forming a habit. So even though I’m exhausted from the long, busy day I had at work today, the bedtime war I just had with my child and all the reading and writing I did last night, I still showed up. I thought perhaps I should be continuing my thought on the last piece I started two nights ago and was working on last night, but I’m honestly too tired to think so in depth at the moment. But I’m here, at least. I’m here because I can’t break the chain!

I just had a proud parenting moment. I have plenty of proud mommy moments, multiple times on a daily basis, because Astrid is nothing short of amazing. However, what I find is a little rarer are the times where I feel proud of me for the mother I am. A few nights ago, I had a “bad mommy” moment, where I felt I was doing it all wrong and I was about to lose my mind. She’s a tough one, my Astrid. She’s a really sweet, adorable, well-behaved kid, but when she gets into a particular mood, she can really grind you down. So tonight, as I watched her finally drift off to sleep, I felt accomplished and good about myself, because there was nary a shred of self-doubt.

Sitting by her bed, rubbing her back, I gazed at my sweet little monster, as her breath became rhythmic and her mouth, no longer breathing fire, finally became silent. Ahh. It only took an hour and a half from bedtime to get to this point. On Tuesday, it was almost four hours. Progress! We had to convert her crib into a toddler bed on Wednesday, because she climbed (and fell) out of it during her tearful fit of rage early that morning (she fell asleep around Eleven PM after screaming bloody murder for hours and then woke up again around Four AM to pick up where she left off). This was the second time she climbed out of the crib. The first time was about a month ago and I’m honestly shocked that it took so long for her to do it again. So it was definitely time to make the change.

The first night in the “big girl bed” was surprisingly easy, last night was so-so, but tonight, she was absolutely not having it. Long story short, for almost two hours, I played the game of coaxing, bribing, and walking a thrashing toddler back to her bed over and over again, only to have her angrily spring back up and out the door after me for another go-round. It wasn’t pretty. Her screams are loud, shrill and violent. To me, she sounds sort of like those virus-infected things from the movie I Am Legend, and it’s almost just as frightening. Each time I picked her up to bring her back to bed, she tried to slither through my hold like a snake. When that didn’t work, she would kick, shriek and growl in her high-pitched voice, like some kind of rabid, wild animal. You would think, by her reaction, that I was bringing her to her death.

I say it all the time, but I honestly think she is the most stubborn, willful child I have ever known. She doesn’t put up with any crap, that’s for sure. If she doesn’t agree with something, she will be sure to let you know. For me, this is a double-edged sword. On the one side, I’m thrilled. I couldn’t be happier to have a daughter who is strong-willed and determined. It’s a beautiful thing. On the other side, however, I see that I really have my work cut out for me. I find myself getting into some serious power struggles with her and she isn’t even two years old. I can only imagine what awaits me fourteen years from now. I suppose it will all be in how I handle the situation. Tonight, I stayed calm and cool, at least with her, anyway.

The other difficult part in these situations is working together with John. It’s not that we don’t work well together, but as every parent knows, this job ain’t easy! So when I try to implement a technique that I’ve read about, when researching the subject (which he rarely does), and he does something to contradict what I’m doing, I get frustrated and raise my voice at him. Then, not only is our daughter throwing the most stress-inducing, blood pressure-raising, ear-splitting tantrum, but now he and I are arguing on top of it. I guess we need to get on the same page. That’s a topic for another discussion, though.

What’s important is that everybody’s doing fine. We get through it, and that’s all that matters. For me, lately, it’s all about the small victories. Small things add up to great things and there have been a lot of these little wins lately. I’ve really been making an effort to recognize and appreciate them and the more I do it, the more frequently they come.

After the battle was over tonight, I made sure to be still for a moment and take it all in. My sleeping daughter, breathing peacefully in her bed, surrounded by her stuffed animal friends, their kind, familiar faces, the glow of the nightlight, the artwork hanging on the walls, even the walls themselves. I took it all in and remembered a time when these things were not all here, save for the walls. The carpet too, I guess. This room has been through a major transformation in our time in this apartment. This room used to be our weed-smoking room. Our junk room. The place where we put all of our stuff. It was also, in all fairness, my music room, but I wasn’t really doing too much of that, so it was more like the room that held my music and instruments. I used to believe that if we were to ever have a kid, we would have to move, because we wouldn’t have any place to put all of our things if we took them out of their room. What the hell was I thinking? No matter, because not long after, I discovered my true priorities.

It’s almost hard to believe that two years ago, I was setting that room up, anticipating a baby shower, eager to find a place for all the new, more meaningful items we would receive. Two years. It’s been a wild ride since then, to say the least. I knew then that my life would soon be changing for the better, but I had no idea just how good it would be. I had not the slightest inkling that the change would lead me to a complete personal transformation. I guess this particular chain of events was set a little before Astrid came along, but I know in my heart that I would not be in this beautiful reality without her. It’s truly incredible what she has done for me.

So I’ll take the hard nights of disobedience and never-ending tantrums, the times when she breaks something of mine or poops on the carpet while potty training. I’ll even take the crazy moments when I feel like I’m unraveling and don’t know what to do with her or myself. When I look closely, I find that these moments always point the way to a better alternative. They point the way to a better me. They always give me an opportunity to learn something about myself and to grow. Most importantly, they always provide me with a little extra appreciation for those quiet, beautiful moments.

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