|Not taken today. She is not this happy |
I Shove with Love
When Sean and I got married, I vowed to love him for better or worse. And I meant it. So far, I have held up my end of the deal: better=Sweet Girl and Little Man, worse=Sean becoming a Tar Heel, worse than that=people assuming that I am also a Tar Heel or Tar Heel fan. If I'm willing to put up with that, then it's clearly a deep love and strong dedication. So I wonder why we have two adults (who can opt out should they so choose) publicly proclaim their intentions to one another and yet we don't have something similar for when one becomes a parent. Shouldn't we have to declare our intentions for the raising of a helpless baby before they actually let us take it home from the hospital? Sure it might be empty promises-like some marriages-but at least there would be a public record that the one (or two) bumbling idiot (or idiots) to whom this new kid is permanently attached are aware that they must do more than just throw the kid in the backseat and drive away. Honestly, there should be a committment ceremony right after they make you watch the "Don't Shake the Baby" video. Again. For the fifth time.
Because we've had a rough patch around here mother-childrenwise, I thought I would affirm my vows to my children. Actually, Little Man has been doing much better since he finally recovered from whatever upper-respiratory funk he was sharing with his sister. Which means he'll probably wake up at some point today in full Exorcist mode; 360 degree split-pea vomit and all. I truly hope not because I have my hands full with his sister. Sweet Girl went to school all last week (hurray, hurray, hurray!) but came home Friday a little puny. As the evening progresed, she laid down on the couch signaling all was not right in her world. The next day she had a high fever and though that's all but gone, her attitude remains less than healthy. She is overly emotional. Yesterday she was putting on her rain boots (one was backwards) and came to tears over the fact that her foot wouldn't go in the boot (the foot was not backwards hence the problem). Her communication skills, which were already severely impaired, have taken a huge step backwards. Instead of telling me she's hungry she has taken to pulling on the refrigerator door until I hear her grunts and come to rescue the appliance. A million other little things aren't quite right either, all of which lead to the breakdown she and I just had.
I was putting laundry away in her room and she was playing with her books. I was going over verbal communication/conversation prompts - basic information like name, age, likes/dislikes - and though I didn't expect a reply, I expected her to take at least 10 seconds of interest. She didn't. She continued to look at her books and sing various Wonder Pets songs. I stopped putting away the laundry and got eye level with her, which I should have been doing in the first place. I asked her the same question. "What's your name?" She knows the answer. She places possession to her yogurt daily ("That's Sweet Girl's yogurt!" And at $1.99 a container no one else is getting any, trust me) and can identify the letters in her written name. "What's your name?" Nothing. "What's your name?" No more eye contact. "What's your name?" She dissolves into screams and tears and sits on the floor. She had given up and called a retreat. And that is what undid me.
I can accept slow progress. I can accept steps backward when we're sick. I can accept an uncertain future in terms of cognitive development. I can accept Sweet Girl just as she is, if this is the place where we find we can climb no higher. I can accept frustration and screams and tears. But I cannot accept quitting. She has shown she is capable of so much more than I was asking, so it is unacceptable to me that she give up on it so easily. We have too much ground to cover for something this basic to shut down the works. This ended with both of us in tears and me apologizing for not properly demonstrating my emotions - ahem, I think some stuffed animals may have taken some inadvertent flying lessons on their way to her bed - which is always a humbling experience. She has forgiven me for my meltdown and I have forgiven her for being human and needing a break, and now we are in the midst of The Great Chicken Impasse. *By the way, she likes chicken so it's not quite the Death by White Meat that she is making it out to be.* It would be so easy to give in to what she wants. She would be happy and I would have a lot less crying in the house, but ultimately that doesn't help her. So I push. Somedays I shove. Sweet Girl and Little Man may truly never understand why I'm so pushy, but I swear it's because I love them.
I'm taking time out of The Great Chicken Impasse (no chips, no hot dog, no tv, no swing until she eats four bites of her baked chicken and, never fear I have back up chicken that's not covered in salmonella) to publicly declare my love for my children. To record some solemn vows to them. That way when I need to remind myself not to shake the baby or the toddler (again, for the fifth time), I'll have something to fall back on.
I promise to never put conditions on my love for you. It will always be here for you when you need it or want it and even when you don't. I promise that I will never give up on you; that the further you may retreat in to a world all your own, the harder I will fight to pull you out. I promise to remember that a love this big can be too heavy for little shoulders to carry, and so I promise to remember to also give you space to be who you are. I promise I will always see you and not a label whether that label is good or bad, true or false. I promise that I will publicly humiliate you with inappropriate emotional outbursts at least four times in your life. And to shorthand the argument that is bound to follow those instances: Yes, I know I'm embarrassing you. No, I won't stop. Yes, I see other people are looking. And if you can find someone else willing to have you in their house, fine by me. I promise to know your laugh without seeing you. I promise I will not eat organic uncured hot dogs and organic potato crisps in front of you (for several different reasons) when I won't let you eat them yourself. I promise that when I screw this up, in approximately 30 seconds from now, I will start over and you get that opportunity as well. I promise to encourage you to grow beyond and away from me even if it hurts me to do so. And I promise in order to do that, I will push and shove but I will do so with love.