Sensory Deprivation and Motherhood

Lately, things are extra loud around here.   

Our kids are still little enough to rely on us for pretty much everything. Ciro never stops moving, talking, or moving and talking. He is so active and has so much to say that there is hardly ever a moment of silence. Yet, at any given point while he’s running around like a madman, I can see a strand of my hair stuck to his clothes or intertwined in his fingers; a subtle piece of evidence that he’s always on me.

Penelope is a talker as well, and though I love this about both of our kids, it leaves little to no time for quiet. Throw the puppy in the mix and I’m, how you say, fit for a straight jacket. 

The puppy. What – what?

Just before the holidays, Greg brought home a 10-week-old puppy. He apparently thought I needed a nervous breakdown for Christmas – or maybe just wanted to test the limits of both his OCD and our marriage – and what better way to gift it than to bring home another thing that needs to poop, pee, and be reminded not to inhale Legos? 

As anyone who has ever met a puppy could imagine, this thing has been having a field day on our dining room carpet. He either loves it or hates it, I can’t tell, and I don’t speak Schnauzer so I can’t really ask him, but I think he’s pooping all over it because he has some really strong feelings about it. He’s either thinking, “Your taste in area rugs is abhorrent and I’m embarrassed this is my home, excuse me while I desecrate it,” or “OMG, WHITE AND GRAY TRANSITIONAL MEDIUM-HAIR RUG?! I LOVE IT!!!!”  Spppppplllllaaaaaaaaat.

All of this free-pooping has caused Ciro to have a regression from potty-training, which is a fancy way to say he shit his pants at the kitchen table the other day while eating a sandwich. He didn’t even have the courtesy to tell me, either; I walked by him and caught a whiff, and asked, “Ciro, did you poop?” To which he replied, “No, Mama,” continuing to eat his sandwich without breaking eye contact.

What is it with us and the poop?

So when I saw a Living Social deal for “float therapy,” you better believe I scooped it up. If you’ve never heard of this, it’s basically an hour of sensory deprivation designed to promote deep relaxation, where you float in a giant pod-like tank filled with Epsom salt and magnesium. 

You know it’s bad that we are so overstimulated as a society that we need to pay for unplugged peace and quiet. But I figured I need sensory deprivation like I need air, and I booked appointments for myself and Greg on the spot.

The photo of the float tank in the ad was alluring. It seemed the stark opposite of what goes on in the day-to-day here, with the tantrums and refereeing, the needing and wanting, the impatience and attention, the pulling on and sitting on, the drop-offs and pick-ups and packed lunches and the “you’re-big-enough-now-to-work-it-out-just-tell-him-to-stop-slapping-you-in-the-head-with-his-hat” and “WILL YOU JUST PUT YOUR SHOES ON ALREADY FOR THE LOVE OF ALL THINGS HOLY?!?”

Time and energy are flying by, faster than we can keep up. That’s what parenthood will do to you. It will take the playbook of “Things You Thought You Knew” and light it on fire with the matches from your honeymoon hotel.

It will break you down and show you parts of yourself you didn’t know existed, for better or for worse.

It will sneeze rice in your face, then ask you for a hug and a napkin.

It’s your thickest karma and your greatest gift.

And these kids, they remind you that although you are the parent, you are not the teacher. You are the student. All you need to do is open up and let them teach you. And you better bring your notebook, because there is so much they teach you. The trick is to allow this while somehow maintaining some form of control. And not losing your hair, or going insane. You know, easy peezy

Back to the float therapy. 

I am a person with anxiety, so although the concept of the float tank sounded great, I had my reservations. 

For starters, I asked a million questions to the attendant before floating. How much salt is in the water? Can you float with the door open if you’re feeling claustrophobic? Is there a downside to all that magnesium? What happens if I need help when I’m in there? Is there an award for the most annoyingly paranoid customer to ever float here?

If you’re a person with anxiety, this is how I’d imagine it would go for you – not that I know from personal experience or anything, but you know, this is just my educated guess:

  1. Take a shower, as required. 
  2. Step into the float tank. 
  3. Stand up, wade around in the water until you’re comfortable enough to lay down.
  4. Lay down and wait for relaxation. 
  5. Make every possible attempt to quiet your mind while it plays the theme song for “Blaze and the Monster Machine” on an endless loop. 
  6. Stand back up. 
  7. Worry about the large amount of magnesium in the water, and if that’s actually good for you. Remember the night you took magnesium to help you sleep only to have it do the opposite and keep you up all night. Does absorbing magnesium have the same effect as ingesting? If only you could find out. 
  8. Get out of the tub and Google what can happen if you absorb too much magnesium. Find pages of contradicting advice, because Google. 
  9. Get back in the tub and lay down.
  10. Think of every possible scenario about how this could go wrong, or be bad for you, rendering it absolutely impossible for any type of relaxation. 
  11. Chalk it up as a loss, get out of the tub, and take a nice long shower. 

But you know, this is just my hunch. 

I took my time drying my hair while I waited for Greg. Finally, he emerged. “How did it go?” he asked. 

“Meh,” I said. “Anxiety got the best of me, but I’ll maybe try it again another time. You?”

“Great! I had about ten epiphanies, then I think I fell asleep. Do you think they do memberships here?” 

Sonofabitch. 

If I can’t find relaxation here, then where?

I think about all the chaos and emotions in the house right now, and I remember a nugget of information I once read from a therapist. She said that a loud home where there are lots of emotions and energy flying – yes, even tantrums and chaos – is a healthy sign. It means that children are comfortable and feel safe enough to express themselves, which is vital for growth. The homes that worried her, she said, were the quiet ones, where kids had to tiptoe around and suppress feelings and emotions because they weren’t allowed. 

I told this to my cousin, a mom of three boys, during one of our weekly walks. We both nod, and then say: but what about the parents? How do we keep ourselves from going insane through all of it? I don’t know. I have a lot to learn. 

What I did learn is that I already have what I was hoping to find in that float tank. That I can get to that place of quiet for free, without the pounds of Epsom salt, magnesium, and a special room. 

That sensory deprivation, at this stage of motherhood, equals putting myself first and getting in bed early, no matter what else is going on or needs to be done.

It’s being a gardener of my own mind and weeding out unnecessary expectations, thoughts, or “obligations” I unconsciously set for myself.

It’s climbing out of bed after a decent night’s sleep while the kids are still in bed and the dog is in his cage, and squeezing in fifteen minutes of meditation before dawn breaks. 

It’s tuning out bullshit noise and listening to my body before it has to start sounding alarms to get my attention. 

It’s a day where we celebrate messes, small wins, and everyone poops where they are supposed to. 

That will have to be enough sensory deprivation, for now.  

*****

NOTE: So many people have asked me more about the puppy situation. Greg and I have been together for fifteen years, and I know where his heart and head were at when he brought the puppy home. And although he’s brought another layer of chaos, he’s also added another layer of joy. It is an adjustment, but it’s all good, and Max is officially a part of the Mac fam. It doesn’t hurt that he looks like this: 

We’ll keep him.

Did you like this post? For a list of all the books I’ve written or contributed to, visit my Amazon Author page, and learn more about me here. Thanks for reading!

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