Wednesday, January 30, 2013

I Shove with Love Encore

Not taken today.  She is not this happy
today.
I was in the midst of an excellent pity party for myself when I remembered I wrote these words.  Sean's on a "business trip" for three weeks and we're barely two days in when Sweet Girl gets sick.  The shower in the master bathroom is leaking through the living room ceiling.  Last night I struggled for 30 minutes to figure out which circuit had been tripped so I could actually have some light in the bedroom.  Little Man has not been using his best, or even acceptable, behavior at school.  The kids haven't been sleeping well AT ALL which means that I haven't been sleeping well either.  And I'm a horrible mother because I forgot it was Sweet Girl's turn to be Student of the Week.  That's a pretty good pity party, right?  I was starting to let it get to me when I remembered that I expect more than that from my children.  So I should expect more than that from myself.  So no more pity party.  Watch out, Sweet Girl and Little Man, I'm coming out shoving.

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.

Saturday, January 5, 2013

My Favorite Puzzle

Even princesses wear hats.
Somehow I've managed to lose Sweet Girl.  Not in the literal sense as has happened before, but in the sense that she is changing.  Somewhere between her birthday and starting a new school and getting along with her new speech therapist and occupational therapist, Sweet Girl has become something new.  Something just as gloriously her as she was before, perhaps even a little more sparkly.  If she were The Doctor I would say she regenerated.  However, she has but one heart, big though it may be, and I have yet to find evidence of a blue box so I suppose she's just growing up a little.  She used to be my girl who cared little for dresses because they inhibited mobility.  And there are rocks to climb and puddles that need a good splash, you know.  Sweet Girl used to prefer the company of Lumpy and Roo (Tigger too!) to that of Cinderella or any other princess.  Cinderella seems incapable of jumping high and appreciating a good music montage featuring food fights and frog chasing.  Sweet Girl has always deep jewel tones - purple of course - finding them preferable to pastels.  Sweet Girl was all girl-on-the-go and now she has become girl-on-the-cusp-of-girly.

She has a new idol; Princess Sofia the First.  Sofia has a purple dress which helps in the idol department, but I'm pretty sure that's not the only reason Sweet Girl loves her.  Every night before bed, Sweet Girl reenacts a scene in which Sofia tries do dance in enchanted shoes.  The enchanted shoes make Sofia trip and fall repeatedly.  It does not go well for Sofia.  Coincidentally, it does not go well for the light fixture hanging directly below Sweet Girl's room.  In the end though, Sofia manages to find a way to dance wonderfully and manages to make amends with her new step-siblings all the while being true to herself.  Things aren't easy for Sofia as she transitions from being the only daughter of a single shoe-maker but she never gives up.  Bonus, she gets to talk to animals and go to school in a winged chariot.  As far as cartoons go Sofia is not the worst choice Sweet Girl could have made in idols. I have no idea if Sweet Girl is internalizing the princess thing because she identifies with Sofia's struggles to fit in and be herself or simply because she has a rockin' princess suite and a wide array of purple wardrobe choices.  Either way it's become necessary to wear nightgowns to bed every night.  This from a girl who spent six-plus months of her life sleeping in her birthday suit.

Sweet Girl has begun expressing herself even more as well.  "I'm Princess Sweet Girl! I am waiting for my royal picnic."  I have yet to discern the differentiating qualities of a royal picnic and a "normal" picnic, but there is clearly a distinction to Sweet Girl.  Perhaps it's the pretend tea she pours rather than lemonade.  Or the pretend parasol behind her head that shades her royal skin from harmful UV rays.  I would say it's the pretend talking animals, but they show up a lot in Disney cartoons so they're players on both stages.  Last night I had to give Princess Sweet Girl AND Princess Gray Cat goodnight kisses.  It's serious business when stuffed animals get involved.  Sweet Girl was persuaded to participate in the school's winter concert thanks to a "beautiful, soft dress! Oh, I look so pretty!"  When did this all start to happen?

Of course, she is still every bit herself.  She still loves a good swing regardless of temperature.  Sweet Girl still loves to sing regardless of the social situation.  Her teacher and I were just discussing her new mash-up of her original composition to the "Where's My Water?" soundtrack (it goes something like "All the night.  All the night.  All the night night.  All the night night.") and "O Holy Night" which she sings in class and, well, all the time.  And she'll say what she wants when she wants - thank you very much - regardless of conversational flow.  "Mommy, I love you very much (insert Mommy swoon).  You are my favorite Mommy!  Now let's go poop!"  If she is asked to do something she'd rather not do, she'll perform the task and then refute any thanks or praise.  Yes, she did it but you don't have to acknowledge it. "No! No 'thank you'!"  Her willingness to fulfill the request and her denial that did is somewhat puzzling.  As is the juxtaposition of gooey emotional declarations and the need to declare her intent to use the loo.  She is a girl who knows her own mind - even if the rest of the world doesn't. 

Tonight as I was putting her to bed, she grabbed my necklace.  It's a Christmas present from Sean (though he says it's from her, he's an awesome guy like that) with a small puzzle piece and one of my favorite quotes: "Different Not Less" stamped on a small circle.  On the back of the circle are Sweet Girl's initials.  I love this necklace.  I love it as a reminder to myself of Sweet Girl's struggles and her astounding courage.  I love it as a reminder that the rest of the world may not know her but they can appreciate her nonetheless.  I love it as a visual for the mysteries that often surround my girl and her actions.  And I love it as a visual that it can possibly make sense someday.  That someday the pieces of the puzzle may all come together to see an entire picture.  That might happen someday, but even if it doesn't the puzzle itself is still amazing and deserving.  Sweet Girl picked up my necklace tonight and exclaimed "Oh look!  It's your favorite puzzle!"  So I tucked her in and assured her she's right, she's my favorite puzzle indeed.