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January 2015
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March 2015

Out in the air

So, remember when I told you that Sophia was fine? I seem to have spoken too soon. 

She's edgy and emotional, bursting into tears over issues like the "thank you" bite she's required to try at dinner. She doesn't want to go to school. She fights with her brothers, which is frankly not that unusual with the 13-year-old, but bewildering with the 19-year-old. And in the middle of the night she bellows into the dark, reciting her side of scary dreams that she doesn't remember in the morning.

All of that sounds pretty grim, but I suppose it could easily just be the pressures on a five-year-old who is realizing that life can be a little battering and school just. keeps. happening. There is, of course, that pause. That frisson of fear that something truly dark has dripped into her life, into her heart.

I hate the pause. I don't know if it's worse because she's a girl, or because she's gone, in the watch of others, all day. But it's worse, and I hate the pause. 

For what it's worth (I wish I knew what it's worth), I don't think it's anything more than too many stresses at once. Sick and then sicker, followed by hurt and then hurt worse. She's weary. She's the one who needs a vacation. Or something.

Today was a beautiful, sunny day. After school, Sophia begged again to play on the playground. I reached out and hooked a finger through the loop on top of her backpack, and waved her away. She ran off, her hair a cloud around her bobbing head. 

I found a spot with a huddle of moms on the side, and tried not to watch Sophia too closely. She dashed back and forth with her friends, shrieking in delighted fear during tag. And every few minutes she was back at the monkey bars, one hand on the bar above her, the other wrapped tightly around the safe bar next to her. She would lean out, testing her weight on her toes, and look down the row of bars. Then she'd tip back onto her heels, turn, and run.

I thought about the day she got hurt. She fell, and then she scrambled back up and tried again. She fell again, back up. Again. Again. At some point she faltered, turned to me and asked, "What if I fall?"

"Then you'll get up and try again," I said. And minutes later I was holding her and watching her fight for air and some way to comprehend all the pain.

It was just a fall, just a playground fall, with no permanent harm done. But life, it's full of unexpected falls. And not all of them have happy endings. This is the bar I am testing my hand on - is it my job here to urge her on toward greater potential pain? Or am I supposed to hold her back, safe and able to breathe? All I want is her life to always be full enough to light her up, yet never hit hr so hard that it extinguishes the light in her eyes.

After several passes by the monkey bars, I caught her eye. She balanced there and looked back at me. I moved over into place next to her, right next to her. Within arm's reach.

"Go ahead," I said, nodding at the bars. 

"What if I fall?"

"Then I'll catch you. And eventually, you'll figure out how to fall without getting hurt again. Go ahead."

She leaned forward, paused, pulled back. Looked at me...


...and swung out into the air.

Making it all about me, as all the best moms do.

So last week, minutes after leaving a birthday party attended by her whole class, Sophia turned to me and said calmly, "My throat hurts. And my head feels spinny."

This may not sound like a startling thing to say, but Max had been diagnosed with strep not two hours earlier. So. That was good. I reached over and felt her forehead, and I swear I could feel the temperature rising under my fingers. 

It was 5 PM on a Sunday, so I spent the next fourteen years (three hours) trying to find an open and functioning urgent care. We got there, and she promptly lay down on the floor to look wan.


Did you catch that part about how she had just left a birthday party? Attended by her entire class? Yeah. I'm ascending the ranks of school mothers. Totes. THAT was a fun, grovel-y email to write!

Well, needless to say, it was strep. So she missed the next day of school (the first day of ITBS testing! Ha! Schools love that!), then went back, fortified by penicillin and an obliviousness about shade directed at her mother in the drop-off line. All was well.

The next day I got a call from school, saying she'd collided with another kid on the playground, and although she was fine, there would be a report on a head injury in her backpack. 

Let me just say that I question this policy, in terms of reassurance. 

When I picked her up, the "head injury" turned out to be a nice bump on her forehead. She barely paused long enough to let me look at it before she shoved her backpack at me and begged to be allowed to play on the playground for a while before we went home. 

Off she ran to the monkey bars. She's making great progress on them, able to swing out to the third or fourth bar reliably, which is very exciting to everyone. She tried, and dropped to the ground, and tried and dropped and tried...

...and fell hard on her butt.

I could tell right away that she hurt, by the frozen look on her face. I ran over and scooped her up, and she gasped at me, "I can't breathe. I can't, I can't breathe."

"It's okay, baby, you will. I promise," I muttered, and I held her and rocked. After an eternity, a thin wail finally escaped her throat.

Let me tell you, friend, with nearly twenty years of mothering under my belt, I have never seen a child in so much pain. She could stand, she could walk, but she could not hold still. Her skin was chalk white, except bruise-like dark circles under her eyes and that bump on her head. I carried her gingerly to the car and strapped her in. She had settled down by then, and wasn't crying so much as moaning as she writhed in her seat.

"Hey," I said with deliberate calm, "can you tell me something? On a scale from one to ten, with one being no pain at all and ten being the worst pain in your life, how bad does it hurt?"

She pushed up on the arms of her seat and whimpered, "nine."

Long story short, I took her to the doctor, who told me that it looked like she had probably cracked her tailbone. She spent the rest of the week toting a pillow to school, which I'm entirely certain did wonderful things for her test scores, so thank GOD the powers that be have settled on such a reliable way to gauge our children's progress, can I get an amen?

So that's my report from last week. In the space of a few days, Sophia had strep, an official head injury, and a cracked tailbone. She's fine now, but I need a vacation.

Bacon, briefly

Today Raphael took a six foot slice of bacon to Monday school. 


It was paper mache, and if I'm telling the truth, it was more like 5'7". Six feet just sounds better. He made it because they were studying 3D art in art class, and the class had a contest to see who could make the largest piece of art. He won, which means he gets extra credit in the class.

Thank God for that, because he was previously squeaking by with an A. Plus.


He's picked a high school for next year, and the truth is that I'm almost as ready as he is. It's time. He's so sparkly and interested in everything ahead of him. He's the kind of person who makes practically six foot bacon on a whim. He needs more at his fingertips than I can give him anymore. He's excited about the school he's picked, and I'm starting to make plans about what I'm going to do next, and that's fun. 

But every now and then, I have a moment. Like the other day, he was working out an algebra problem on the chalk board. I don't know why the chalk board and not his paper. But nonetheless, he was standing there, in his blue hair and jammies, and I just sat and watched him for the moment. These minutes of quiet calculation, in the peace of our home and the sunshine, they're almost over. 


But today he brought bacon to Monday school.