Six-Year-Old Cursing

Have I mentioned to you how much we love camp?

RR has been learning lots at camp. She is learning things mostly from the 8 and under set which gives a certain sort of spin that makes you wonder what’s going on in their little minds. Certainly they are importing parents, brothers, aunts, neighbors, sisters, friends thoughts and beliefs but in a distilled way that makes you wonder what was actually said on the other end of the line.

The first time she came home chattering about her newfound religious beliefs, Debra and I gave each other the side eye. What on earth was going on at definitely-not-church-affiliated camp? It was disconcerting to be participating in a sort of theological game of telephone where some child’s parents said one thing, that child told my child, and I was hearing some rendition that had been hybridized by two people who can’t tie their own shoes. We let it lie. On the whole, it’s harmless. In fact, it’s helpful. Better to start out knowing that everyone has beliefs and opinions and not everyone has to have the same ones.

On the other hand, the swearing I could do without. Surely RR’s school has prevented a fair amount of conversationally-transmitted blight and I have no doubt that the new school has just as low of a tolerance. But camp found us at dinner the other night and between bites she asked, “Mama, what’s the f-word?”

I don’t know how Debra’s mother handled this priceless piece of childhood, but mine was more than happy to tell me what words meant just so long as I a) didn’t use them and b) didn’t ask about the wrong ones. I’m in the words have power camp and if you really know what a curse word means, a female dog for instance, the power to hurt gets sidelined a bit. I’m not saying it doesn’t hurt at all, but we have A LOT of words, and there’s no need to rely on a few ridiculous ones when you really want to let loose.

So I told her and she nodded. And I mentioned that it was fine to say it in her bedroom or to herself but that she couldn’t use it in public. Fortunately, she didn’t ask me what sex was because that’s a conversation not covered in What Makes A Baby and that’s as far as we’ve gotten. Then we moved on to the a-word and the b-word. We all had a good chuckle at the s-word since we covered that one extensively the time the bed broke. After that though, she asked what the c-word was and there’s something deeply wrong about saying the word cunt at the dinner table. That was about the time that Debra mentioned that under no circumstances was RR to be the one enlightening her friends. Tell them to go ask their mothers, she said.

The rest of the dinner was spent with RR muttering fuckfuckfuck quietly in between bits of broccoli.

We were not nearly as composed when she was talking to a toy in the backseat and she said shut up. We were on her so fast I think I saw her head spin. Not in our house, not in our car, not in a box, not with a fox. No ma’am. She said it one more time under her breath and I thought Debra would pull the car over and take her out by an ear. Thanks camp, for everything.

 

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.

 

The Mysteries of Camp

We got through five days of camp with not a single tear and only one teensy accident. We even got to hear about the sorts of things she likes. She likes something about camp.

Lots of things, actually. She liked tie-dying a t-shirt. She liked pizza sticks. She liked a purple bandana, swimming in the pool, and her friend Kate. She did not care for the ponies, or the loud singing on the bus, or raising the flag, or playing ball, or her almost-but-not-quite-beacuse-she’s-mean friend Natalie. I can’t believe we’ve heard anything at all about camp, actually, given her tendency to cold-war-era communication.

It’s weird, isn’t it? The things other people get up to when they’re away. Especially when it’s a person who has spent the majority of her life an open book. Physically, at least. Invitations into RR’s thoughts come few and far between. My grandmother would say she keeps her own counsel. And indeed, it’s true. Occasionally she favors us with answers when we inquire how her day was. Like at Friday supper:

Debra: Did you sit with your friend on the bus today?
RR: Yep.
Debra: Well, what did you guys talk about?
RR: This mosquito bite I got.
Debra: Oh? You have a bite?
RR: Well it’s not a mosquito bite. It’s a sting. I got stung by a bee. Here on my arm.
Debra: You were stung? When did that happen?
RR: During Chill-Out time*. It came along and (sound-effect enabled bee flying noises) bit me there on my arm (brandishing her armpit and flailing her piece of pizza in the general direction of her upper arm). And then I got white stuff on it. Well, I had to go to the office. And then they helped it.
Debra: You got stung by a bee? Didn’t it hurt? RR: Well, I cried a little bit. So just a little bit of tears.
Debra: Wow. Huh. So does it feel okay now?
RR: (fills mouth with pizza, engages in no further discussion)

It’s weird, this idea that my child had her very first bee sting out of sight and it was so uneventful that she didn’t think to mention it until she’d been home several hours. My first bee sting was monumental (age 6, in a sandbox, clapped it in between my palms). It seems an important milestone, albeit not one that makes the first tooth-first words-first steps continuum. It was a glimpse of what’s coming. A whole life of unvoiced experiences that will be unknowable for us.

Soon we’ll be passing into grade school where, I imagine, they won’t call us every time she bumps her head. I’ll know less about her but she’ll have more to keep for herself. Think of all the secrets she’ll hold. Not deliberately withheld but resting like unique seashells scattered on a hard-to-reach beach. Exciting isn’t it?

 

RR Hates Camp

Well, it had to end sometime. RR’s three weeks of bad-planning bliss have come to a close. You see, back in April (APRIL) when we had to sign up for camp, Debra and I were grappling with how to afford both school tuition and camp fees in July. June was okay, no tuition. But July and August are double months. Ouch. At the time, we were already on a shoestring (thank god for a raise) and so we made the decision to keep her home for two weeks. Turns out we didn’t schedule three weeks so Debra and I have passed RR like a hot potato since the fourth of July. Mostly that fluffy steaming pocket of goodness landed with my wife because work didn’t go the way it was supposed to go and not only could I not take her during the day, I missed several bedtimes as well.

This worked well for RR. This is a child who abhors organized fun. She loves the moment and is nonchalant about what’s next. She loves her mothers. She loves cool, quiet spaces. She loves drawing for hours on end. She loves to dance and run and hide and chase when she gets bitten by crazy. She connects with one person. She sometimes stutters when rushed by others who wish she’d spit it out already. She likes to take naps. She spends hours, happily, playing in her room. She wants to read, and add, and decode secret messages. She wants to play music and twirl.

She does not want your woven bracelet.
She does not want your bus songs.
She does not want your Boom Chika Boom.
She does not want your broken crayons or your markers on the high shelf.
She does not want your “time to go!”
She does not want your comfort, your chants, or your smiles.
She does not want your ball games.
She does not want to capture your flag.
She will not have your toilets. NOT A SINGLE ONE.

The rivers of urine, you guys. She came home soaked each day. She came home in tears, left in tears, and cried at bedtime. She sobbed that it was too loud. She sobbed that she couldn’t tell she had to pee. She held our hands and screamed at the bus stop. You can understand the agony we felt in sending her back.*

But send her we did. We sent her with headphones for the bus. Our miracle-worker physician prescribed a new medication and the accidents she had with us had almost stopped. Debra emailed the camp to describe the predicament. We bought a new backpack that matched the other kids’, replaced her water bottle so it didn’t leak, and got new shoes that didn’t reek of pee. We bribed the unbribeable child with a game of Crazy 8s, a lollipop, and dance classes. You’re six now, we said, you can do anything. You can do this.

Today is only Tuesday, which means we really only have Monday to go on. I’ll whisper this so there will be no karmic backlash**: She came home dry. She came home smiling. She didn’t cry herself to sleep. There were storm clouds this morning but no tears. Cross your fingers that when we pick her up today we’re on the same track. I’ll just take one of those things. Anything is a miracle.

*Nope. No other full day options that aren’t identical. No friendly neighbor or sister or grandmother. No way to manage another 4 weeks of having her at work. It has to be done.

**I know that karma doesn’t work this way, yes.

 

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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