Welcome Fairies

RR loves a fairy. I suppose it’s only fair here to note that I still believe in fairies because life is magical and just because I haven’t seen them doesn’t mean they aren’t out there somewhere. That’s fine. You can still like me for my other qualities. Don’t let fairies come between us. Camp is teaching RR lots of things, things I wish they hadn’t, things I wish I’d thought to teach her first, and things I’m hope to hope Montessori knocks clean out of her.

Fairies though, that’s fine. And so when she came home from what must have been a particularly delightful art session (only so noted because it’s the only thing she’s ever talked about enjoying. once.), and said that all you have to do to get a fairy to move in is:
make a fairy a welcome mat
close your eyes
cross your fingers
say “I wish a fairy lived here” three timesI sincerely hope that such a pattern can’t be used on all magical things because I sort of superstitiously quiver to think you can just invite…things… in. Again, we can still be friends, you and I, even though I am admittedly a bit to the left of just-like-you.

And so RR rushed to make a welcome mat, and I’d like to say for the record that it was my wife who indulged her in this endeavor, did the requisite crossing and muttering, and dictated a note just to be perfectly clear to future fairy residents that they were quite welcome.

And so I drew her a tiny door. Because wouldn’t you?

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She was over-the-moon delighted. Since she hadn’t seen the fairy she commented that it must be coming at night and, since it was on the wall adjacent to the yard, it must be a Nocturnal Mushroom Fairy. No artistic rendering of the fairy is available at this time. And wouldn’t you know, a giant toadstool grew out of the yard not too many days after, just across from the tiny door where the tiny Nocturnal Mushroom Fairy comes and goes. I’ll let you imagine just what happened when RR saw that.

 

 

The Wolves at the Door (Boundaries, Part 1)

I think we can agree on a few things:

1. The Olympics don’t come all that often. I mean, every two years if you like both curling AND shot-put. And if you’re more of a trampoline fanatic, you have to wait the full four and that takes a lot of patience. We get how many summer olympics in our lives? 20? That’s not many if you’re a devout badminton enthusiast, that’s for sure.

2. Television reception and programming is a tricky thing. I mean, haven’t most of us waited for the cable guy at least once in our lives? And haven’t you also looked at the clock at 4:50 when he said he’d be by between noon and 5 and thought, well I could call, but I’m probably not getting to watch Game of Thrones tonight.

3. And isn’t it super hard to move? I mean you have to pack all of your things and say goodbye to all of your friends. Every day you wake up to new walls and different light. Things smell different. You don’t know the fastest way to the grocery store. You want things that are familiar, of course you do, even when you really wanted to do this, you still want something familiar.

3. Family is important. And sometimes they are also assholes.

Glad we’ve gotten all that straight. I feel like I’ve done you a disservice by not telling you more about my wife’s family, the wolves. There’s this Thanksgiving post, which offers up a glimpse. It doesn’t get to the heart though. The fact is, I was raised on an entirely different planet from these people. Her family would call mine (and have, no doubt) stiff, stuffy, and formal. Memorably, Debra’s mother referred to me as fancy. My family would say something shitty and self-congratulatory about grandfather’s good choices. Take mealtimes, for example. We used cloth napkins, silver, and place cards and not just on Sundays. One memorable Christmas, my mother once refused to allow a 2-liter bottle of soda in the kitchen and the aunt (married-in, of course) who brought it, drank it in the garage. If ketchup was served, it was transferred from the bottle to a charming bowl with miniature spoon before it was served. You’re getting the idea. Suffice to say, Debra’s family is about as far as you can get from my family.

Now, I recognize that, having just moved to town, Debra’s sister, niece, and nephew, are probably a little lonely and they certainly don’t have all of their stuff. The laundry in their complex is open odd hours and we have a washer and dryer just sitting in the basement. So it’s not so weird that they dropped by while we were at work to put the laundry in. But it IS weird when, at 9:30 at night, the basement door opens and the wolves come pouring in, make a ruckus in the hall (where your daughter sleeps with the door open), plop down on the couch and stay…until 11. Their cable isn’t hooked up, you see, and our TV sure is pretty. It was unsettling and worrying. Will this be a habit? I don’t WANT to have a boundaries conversation. But just coming in? At night? So loudly? So late? My wife cannot bring this up to her sister, because there’s only one way that would go: badly. Frankly, friends, I was thinking murderous thoughts.*

And so, because I can’t cry, I bring you this piece of humor which saved my evening via text from a friend and, if this goes on, my future co-parent.

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* Note to the police, this does not indicate a desire to kill my wife. If anything, it’s a desire to change the locks, draw the blinds, and hide from her family. I promise you, I’m a proper grieving widow.

Sneaking Out

Dear Sophie’s Mom,

I understand Sophie will be picking RR up at around 11pm to go on a Secret Mission. I’m sure little Sophie will be adorable in her tiny pedal car. I’ll be sure to pack some sort of Secret Mission snack. I believe the girls will be driving about three hours and RR will be sleeping in a trailer in the back while Sophie drives. Sounds lovely, doesn’t it? I wonder if you might send Sophie with a tarp to cover RR since it hasn’t stopped raining all day. Also, the directions to our home have been inscribed in RR’s Tiny Book of Secrets and so I’m not sure if Sophie will be able to find us before daybreak. I’ve included it here, just in case it helps.

From one mom to another, I’m sure you had a good chuckle when your daughter announced that she was going to sleep at 7pm, in her clothes, so that she was “ready to sneak out at night for the Secret Mission.” Adorable, wasn’t it? Oh and I’d almost forgotten, since the girls are sneaking out and driving three hours to see Tyler, that scamp from Cabin 4, would you remind them no smoking, no drinking, and no sex for the next decade at least? Thank you so much. I’m sure Sophie will see RR waiting for her on the curb. At night. In the dark. To sleep in a trailer. For the Secret Mission. Please send the tarp.

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The real question – had Debra and I not faked a call from The Real Sophie’s Mom, would our daughter have crept out in the night to the street? I was willing to bet on her sleeping too soundly or being too nervous to try but Debra faded to a remarkable shade of pale pea green at the mere thought.

I admit to a teensy tiny worry though, as I hear her in her bedroom, an hour after I left the room, singing and chatting animatedly and shuffling around making noises that some might say sound very Secret Missiony indeed. Send a tarp.

 

And Now We Are Six

YOU GUYS.

She is turning six tomorrow.

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Also, you know how you think, oh, I wonder what she will look like when she’s older? Pretty much exactly like this. So I’m still wondering what she’ll look like at 15, 20, 50 but I’m thinking much of that little person is here to stay.

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But now, she does this:

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And this:

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And this:

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In fact, she mostly does that.

So six it is. There are a few things I thought she’d be doing at six that she still isn’t (riding a bike, asking where babies come from) but lots of things that I never really internalized would happen someday (making up jokes, reading, actually reading, asking about death and dying). She’s nervous about first grade, she bites her nails, her best friend is Meemo, the bunny she has slept with her whole life, she wants a scooter and a light up mermaid for the bath for her birthday (check and check), she can flip over the bar in gymnastics and do cartwheels, she is as kind as she is beautiful.

Debra and I still get frustrated that she has accidents and that we can’t save her from them. We hope she will grow out of it. This year will be hard. She will probably lose some of her pets and her grandfather. She will have a new school, friends, and teachers. She will encounter big girl expectations and consequences. She will find she can’t always bat her eyelashes to get out of them. She will face the pedals on a  bike and overcome them.

But she will also make it through a whole week and realize she hasn’t had an accident (please let this be true) and she will find that her remarkable empathy, coping skills, and deep personal relationships with adults and children will hold her up when I’m too mired in grief to truly help her. She will swim to the other side of the pool and laugh in triumph as she bobs in the water. She will read a whole book to herself in her room and open a secret world neither Debra nor I are privy to. She will find independence she didn’t know she had and successfully push for more. She will relish six, fully and completely. She will bask in its opportunity.

So happy birthday, baby. Welcome to a new world.

 

 

Meltdown in 3…2…1…

For an entire week RR’s behavior has been spinning into chaos. She’s screaming at things that haven’t bothered her before (bugs), she’s screaming even when we tell her to stop (at the dog), she’s ignoring us when we ask her to do something (help, walk, shoes, stop screaming already for pete’s sake), she’s throwing an almost tantrum at bedtime when we stop reading (and physically grabbing at the book), she’s kicking and pouting and generally being an asshole.

As she says about anyone else behaving this way, she’s “mist-understood”.

Whereas on Friday I was wondering what got into her and how illegal it is to lock her out, I think the reasons are starting to surface. She went to visit her new camp yesterday, the first time she won’t be staying at her regular school for camp. On Tuesday, she is headed to her new school for a day-long visit, part of what they do with all incoming students. On Friday, her school holds an international luncheon which is a big event for the kids. They rehearse songs in many languages and have a family feast afterward. It’s the traditional indicator that school is almost over and it’s downhill from here.

Whether it’s  a symptom or is part of the cause, she had several accidents last week. On the bright side, I’ve noticed she’s actually dancing around and crossing her legs when she has to go. She’s never shown any signs like this before so I’m hoping we’re turning a corner. It’s stressful for me knowing that she’s going into a new environment with this issue and I worry that she won’t fit in or will be asked to leave. I know that’s unlikely (at least at the new school) but it’s keeping me up at night. Still, we remain neutral when an accident happens, ask her to change, and let her take responsibility for clean-up. It’s just the norm.

Last night she burst into tears at bedtime and wept about how she will miss her current teachers. My heart breaks for her (and for Debra and me too – this isn’t easy!). I think it’s a testament to our parenting that she was looking for solutions even as she cried, wondering if we might invite her teachers over for dinner.

I don’t know how to make this easier. We are giving her time to warm up to new situations before they happen since we’ve long since learned that she needs that attention to transitions. She’s visiting the new places she will be and she’s doing it with optimistic anticipation, if not outright enthusiasm. We let her take the lead and try not to push when it comes to meeting new people. Yesterday at camp, she tried things she hadn’t mastered before, like a short rock wall and a seated scooter. She also sunk down to draw with chalk at the first opportunity, relief practically oozing out of her. I don’t know what the new school will hold tomorrow since we won’t be by her side. That’s a good thing. At least until she comes home transformed into a terror.

I hadn’t even noticed how overwhelming it all must be. And now I feel bad for wanting to lock her out. A little. Let’s hope this isn’t a pattern until school starts in September and that there’s at least a little reprieve after camp gets into full swing.

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Grounding Our Fairy

RR has a lot of things going for her. She’s everyone’s friend, she charms adults, she got a fair shake in the genetic lottery, she’s strong and fast and coordinated, she reads and writes, she’s funny, really funny, she’s thoughtful and kind, she draws like an artist.

She still isn’t fully potty trained. She walks on her toes.

So far we’ve gotten by on the doctors’ assurances that:
1) There are no sensory issues.
2) Many kids struggle with toilet training through 5.
3) Her toe walking will abate.

Our wonderful doctor once wrote:
“Given how utterly fabulous, active, creative and intelligent RR is I do not believe that her tippytoeness is indicative of anything other than her wings not being fully developed yet. Fairy wings don’t typically develop fully until the age of 7, and she is just compensating because she is ready to fly NOW.  I would only pay attention if you see her leave the ground, and then only to make sure she doesn’t take flight before she’s mastered it fully and can do so safely.”

You guys. Do you not just love her?

But in a visit today we talked about the two issues combined and tried to zero in on what might be causing them and whether they are related. She thought that a visit to a developmental pediatrician might shed some light. Debra and I have been cautiously watching the (lack of) development in these areas and with a new camp and new school coming, I’d like to make sure we’re doing everything we can to ensure her body supports her development rather than hinders it. Still though. I hoped it wouldn’t come to this point.

It’s unlikely we’ll get in quickly so there’s no point in worrying now. I’m hopeful that they can help bring her back to earth and more hopeful that another doctor will have a breakthrough suggestion on eliminating accidents. And, of course, that nothing else needs attention.

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Meet Fred

Have you had this conversation?

“Your baby is so cute!”
“She’s a lot of fun. Do you have kids?””Oh no, just a dog. But that’s nothing like raising a kid!”

Yes it is. I am fully into the puppies are just as hard as babies camp. In fact, I think there are more than a few weeks when raising a puppy is actually harder.

Both are endlessly cute. Both make charming noises. Both have the softest bodies. Both need constant attention, special food, and sleep completely odd hours. And by odd I mean mainly at odds with your own preferred sleeping hours. There’s an upside to dogs in that puppyhood is over very quickly, relative to babyhood, but it doesn’t erase those weeks when your puppy is acting like a baby while also peeing all over the carpet and running away at light speed to chew a shoe.

Asshole.

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Maybe you’re wondering if it was really such a good idea to get a puppy right now. You know, with the impending grief. And then I’ll suggest we discuss why my mother got a puppy and…yeah. That totally happened.

So we’re back in babyhood for a moment. Cleaning the carpets, trying to get some sleep, yanking our hemlines away from his sharp teeth, and teaching him not to grab RR’s ponytail and drag her across the floor. Always winning friends, is Fred*.

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*who is a hound mix, not a Beagle.