Inside the vortex

I have approximately twenty minutes before I have to go back to Mabel’s school. I left her at school about half an hour ago. This does not seem exactly the way my leisurely mornings were meant to go.

Poor Mabel was very tired this morning, piggybacking on yesterday’s tiredness due to her late bedtime the night before, and adding to it a newly-congested wakeup at midnight, one at 3 when she was wide awake for far longer than I was, and one at 5 when I had to compromise my principles and give her some boob in the hopes of getting her back to the sleep she so badly needed. I don’t think it worked, but I can’t exactly tell because I was only half awake myself, but she bounced out of bed at 6 and I told B it was his turn. Then I went back to my own bed (since Mabel had taken the duvet downstairs with her) and dreamed about impossible things for a delightful hour and a half.

So by the time B and Dash left for school and I was trying to get Mabel out of her beloved tutu and into regular school clothes (“it’s not a skirt, it’s a tutu” and “because it’s delicate and I don’t want to get it dirty at school” – she can be reasonable, sometimes) she was busy working herself into a state about how much she didn’t want me to leave her at school. She wanted me to stay, or else her to stay with me wherever I was going.

Digging down into her wails to find out what, exactly, the problem is, is a process that leads to a sort of vertigo. I winkled out of her the tiniest point of objection – that she doesn’t like the rule that you only take one piece of paper to dry your hands with – by burrowing down the layers through I don’t want to go to school, to I don’t like that they make me blow my nose, to I don’t want to wash my hands, to the nub of it.

But then I had to reverse up and out of the rabbit-hole again to figure out whether this was really the problem or whether this was the one small thing she was choosing to represent the whole, which was that she was too tired to face the idea of functioning without the buffer of me being there.

When I’d offered all the solutions I could to the hand-towel issue, and was still making no headway, I decided to tackle the problem from the other end. I still wanted her to go to school, and I still had to go to the post office, but I could come and be with her earlier than the school morning would finish. I promised to come at snack time. She agreed. So I took that and ran with it, literally and metaphorically.

When we got to school, she cried and I almost fell at the penultimate hurdle – getting her out of the car. But she agreed to come inside to talk to her teacher about it. When we got in and she washed her hands, she chose a book to read. I told her I was going to read it, and then I would tell her teacher that I’d come back early, and then I was going to the post office, and that she could hide under the table until she’d finished crying if she didn’t want anyone to see her. (Just like her brother.)

And that’s what we did. I’m grateful that I don’t have any other commitments at this stage, so that I can ease her into the school year gently, if that’s what it takes. I like that I can listen to her fears and work out a compromise that works for both of us. I hope I can remember to look for her real emotions and take them into account, whatever happens, no matter how much it seems like she’s just being a drama llama.

And now I have to go again.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *