Category Archives: just a phase

For The Birds

The sun came out and the snow melted and the hour went on, and suddenly children were playing together after school and I was chatting with my neighbours and we all remembered that this is what it’s like, life, when we emerge from our carapace of winter and interact with each other again like human beings.

Carapace is a good word. Everyone should use it.

Onwards. I have a story for you.

Mabel is currently in a phase. This particular phase is quite annoying. (I believe all phases are annoying. The ones that aren’t, we call maturity and/or good parenting, and are delighted about; until they disappear, and then we call the disappearance a phase.) She won’t go to the bathroom alone, she screams blue murder if you try to leave while she’s in there, and she won’t stay upstairs or downstairs alone either. She blames her father. (So do I. Why wouldn’t I? Her genes are 50% his, so it’s a good bet.) Specifically, she blames him for encouraging her to watch North By Northwest with him a few weeks ago. She seemed to like it at the time, but apparently some scenes were a little too tension-filled for her liking, and suddenly she’s scared of people bursting through walls while she poos, or something.

I suspect that if she hadn’t happened to watch North By Northwest there’d be something else she’d be pinning this new fear on. I think it’s just something that has come over her and it’ll go away in a few weeks. But that’s no comfort at 4am when she’s just noticed that I’m not in her bed any more and she can’t go back to sleep without me. (Did I mention that part? The part where she won’t sleep without me either. She won’t sleep without me, or at least not as soon as she rolls over and finds me missing.)

However! Silver lining! Today there they were watching Word Girl in their post-school veg-out TV time (and it’s educational! PBS for the win!) when suddenly I heard her laugh and exclaim, “It’s just like Daddy’s film. They’re climbing up Mount Rushmore!”

So obviously, having a pint-size movie critic who can already recognize an homage (say it in French: ohm-ahj, like the Americans do) to Hitchcock at 6 years of age is clearly worth all that time spent standing as directed in the corner of the bathroom beside the vent while she pees. I’ll just send the husband in next time, since it’s all his fault.

What I miss

Helen at The Busy Mama’s asked me to join in her linky about the things you’ll miss when you don’t have babies any more. “I’d love to,” I thought. “Just let me think about what those things could possibly be…”

Once Upon a Time... Tales of Parenting Moments Gone By, a blog linky with The Busy Mama

I loved having babies. (Well, just one at a time, I mean.) But when I stopped to think what it was that I loved about it, I wasn’t quite sure. Their delicious chubby thighs, their little wiggling fingers, watching them grow and learn and discover the world? Yes, all those things. But babies are also just basically little pink slugs, lying around (or, worse, propelling themselves into everything) waiting for you to change them and feed them and try in vain to make them sleep at some time that might make your life easier instead of harder. What’s to miss, really, I wondered…?

Then I got it. The thing I’ve been vaguely nostalgic about lately. The thing that was so wonderful about having my own little babies was the exact same thing that was so terrible, so daunting, and such a millstone around my neck – their total and utter dependence on me.

It’s just, it’s pretty special, that feeling, when you’re the one who puts them to sleep and wakes them up, the soft body they look for to press themselves against when they’ve gone bump, the one whose touch can stop them coughing at night, the one they want to fall asleep beside. (It’s also suffocating and terrifying, but let’s not dwell on that aspect.)

I feel like I’m not selling this very well. I know, of course, that I wasn’t the only one, and some lucky babies even have more than just two of those people who are that special. I also know that I could be special to another baby in time, even if it’s not exactly my own.

But there – that’s the thing. It’s having my own. Maybe I’m just selfish. Maybe I liked the limelight-by-association that I had as mother-of-cute-baby (and every baby is cute, of course). Maybe it was the pride in knowing that I grew this baby in my own body and nourished it with my own milk and here it is growing and learning and laughing and crying and wanting to be with me, more than anyone else. Being so totally attached to and entwined with another being that you wake when they wake and feel pain when they cry.

It can’t last, that time. Nor would you want it to. Which is what makes it so precious, so fleeting, so hard to live in the moment.

mother and baby asleep

Frozen, the art project

Mabel might have possibly inherited some artistic talent from her grandfather, or something. I mean, it’s hard to tell, because she’s a typical little girl who likes colouring and drawing, and who has much better fine motor skills than her brother before her – though he has his moments, but mostly at this age he favoured bold sweeping gestures in black. But she goes through phases of producing masses of artwork, and even though I should make her use the scrap paper I tend to turn a blind eye when she nips down to the basement and steals some “clear paper” from beside the printer, because hey, it’s not TV.

Mabel drawing

Prolific

Yesterday she created a narrative tale of Frozen, including never before seen scenes such as “Anna in Her Mummy’s Tummy” and “Elsa Wants Anna’s Ice-Cream.” I had to record them for posterity. Also because her figures, at the moment, bear an uncanny and delightful resemblance to Hyperbole and a Half‘s people.

Child's drawings

The Early Years

We can move swiftly through the first set of four. “Before the Fall”, if you like. From top left, we see Elsa as a baby, with Anna still in utero (plenty of room for growth there). Next we have Elsa aged three years with new baby Anna (11 weeks exactly, I’m told). Then we have Elsa alone in bed, and finally a happy portrait of the young sisters.

Child's drawings

Sad Elsa, twice

Things start to change. Anna gets an ice-cream cone but Elsa has none, hence her sadface. Later on, Elsa and Anna are on different sides of a door… foreshadowing…?

Child's drawing

The Fall

The piéce de resistance. The central scene of young Elsa and Anna’s life, with Anna (in pigtails) unconscious at Elsa’s knees between piles of magic snow. Their parents rush in through the big double doors and their father’s mouth makes a giant “O” of horror

Child's drawing

Elsa’s coronation

Things have changed in the palace. The girls grew up and got fancy updos, but Elsa’s still sad and Anna’s still happy. Note the golden orb and sceptre (one each). Also, Elsa is made of zigzaggy lines because she’s trembling with fear at this pivotal moment.

What will happen next? Will we be treated to scenes of Kristof or Hans? I don’t think Mabel’s so interested in the boys. Maybe a reindeer and a snowman. I’ll keep you posted.

Finding the good

Last night, while Mabel failed to even try to go to sleep at a reasonable hour, I was filling in her forms for next year at nursery school. (She turns five in November, so she won’t go to elementary school until she’s nearly six.) It was, perhaps, not the most fortuitous timing. By the time I got to

What are your child’s strengths? 

I wrote

She will win every argument and never back down. We just have to harness her power for good, not evil.

Reading back over it this morning, I think I need to print out that page again and frame my thoughts in a more positive light. Next year’s teachers know her already; I don’t need to make her sound like the preschooler from the Black Lagoon. (Besides which, sometimes these answers reveal more about the parent than the child.)

This morning she’s painting calmly and delightfully while her brother plays at a friend’s house, and I am more inclined to find the good in her. I’ve been thinking lately that this year, for the first time, she looks outwardly much the same as she did last summer: she’s reached the age where she’s not changing and progressing by leaps and bounds any more, and I have to look a bit harder for the advances. But if I put a little thought into it, she has grown up a lot in the past year:

  • Last summer she was still nursing to sleep and several times a night, and would only go back to sleep for me and a boob. She would wake up two hours after she went to sleep, like clockwork, which was not good for my social life. Now, she only nurses first thing in the morning, and often sleeps all night. Even if she does wake up, she goes back to sleep easily with no nursing. We can let a babysitter put her to bed. This is HUGE.
  • Last summer she was still biting people. She doesn’t quite have a handle on her temper just yet, but at least she confines herself to hitting, which is a lot more socially acceptable.
  • She’s not picking the flowers out of other people’s gardens this summer, which means I can leave the house without sneaking past the neighbours.
Green marker, 3.5-year-old face.
And she hasn’t drawn on her face for at least a week.

Honestly, four-and-a-half was such a low point for her brother (in a different way), and he came out of it so well, that I do have faith in her. I think it’s an age where they’re starting to see themselves from the outside, to understand that others look at them and form opinions – and that they can influence those opinions. Sometimes they run away from that – as Dash did, by becoming overwhelmingly shy for a few months – and sometimes they fight it, as Mabel does now with defiant and rude behavior.

But trying to condense your child’s personality into a few lines that will help her teachers in three months’ time? This child is an enigma to me, and I should know her best. She’s a bundle of contradictions, and anything I say has to be immediately qualified by its opposite.

I think I’ll just let the teachers find her out for themselves.

Pedicure

One wholly superficial thing that tends to make an otherwise nice-looking man less attractive to me is long fingernails. Long dirty fingernails are, of course, worse. I had a huge crush on a guy in college until I noticed his nails, and that – happily for me because I was more insignificant than a gnat in his eyes and he was probably a total asshole anyway – put the kybosh on the crush. I was once again able to attend my Greek and Roman Civilization tutorial without blushing furiously and fumbling my pen the entire time.

So when I met B the B, I was happy to see that his fingernails were perfectly groomed. Not long at all. Maybe a tiny bit on the short side, to be honest, but whatever, there is no too short. Unless you’re talking about my History teacher in high school who used to bite his so low that they were painful to look at. (No crush there either. Not a hint of one. Good teacher, though.)

So anyway, B and I had probably been married quite a while before I realised that he never clipped or cut or filed his fingernails. “What do you do?” I asked, mystified. “I bite them off,” he replied. They don’t look bitten. They just look neat. I never see him biting them. I decided that I could live with this, and decided to pretend we’d never had that conversation.

Trouble is, apparently it’s genetic. Dash lets me cut his nails very nicely now that he’s, you know, seven; though for the first few years of his life I carried the nail clippers with me and would give him a manicure whenever he dropped off in the carseat. Mabel, on the other hand, is a whole other kettle of keratin.

When she was a baby, I suppose I managed to cut her nails as required every now and then, but since the age of about two she’s been biting them, just like her father does. They’re too short, but they don’t look gnawed, exactly. I tell her she’ll pull off too much and hurt herself, but it hasn’t happened yet.

She also bites her toenails.

I suppose some day in the distant future she’ll want to wear nail polish enough to stop herself biting, or else her joints will seize up in old age and she won’t be able to get her toes to her teeth any more. In the meantime, this is just one fight I’m not really fighting.

She’ll probably blame me when her boyfriend dumps her for doing it, though.

Consumer index

I panicked at Target this morning.

So many of Target’s success stories probably start out that way. And by success stories I mean times they parted people from way more of their money than they went in intending to be parted from.

So I went in to get a pack of crayons for Dash (yes, we have eleventy million crayons in the house, but he needed a new pack for school, and taking some brand-new practically unused crayons out of our big box and putting them into a smaller box would not do, in spite of the fact that he and his sister scorn everything but markers at home but I digress) and maybe a couple of other school supplies his teacher said they were running short on (scissors; how do kids run out of scissors? What are they doing with them? Using them to cut up other pairs of scissors?) and some toothpaste because he won’t use the new “clean squeeze” tube I just got because it’s too minty, damnit, even though he likes mint, and then I thought maybe some new bathtub foam letters for Mabel to keep the grand universal scales of “you bought something for one child” level…

… and then I got to the Star Wars section of the toys and suddenly worried that Target would stop promoting Star Wars all of a sudden, because maybe something else is the next big thing and now that Disney has Star Wars (even though with JJ Abrams at the helm everyone knows that it’s going to be absolutely the thing to see, but maybe the 6-year-old set aren’t so well up on JJ Abrams’s oeuvre, not having watched all of Alias, probably) perhaps the cool kids won’t want lightsabers by April so I bought the damn Darth Maul red double-blade lightsaber that Dash has been begging for since some time last summer.

(I got into big, huge, trouble with him one night a few weeks ago when he suddenly remembered that he had thought he might get one for Christmas and then he didn’t, and I was the worst, cruelest mother on the planet (and probably also on Alderaan and Tatooine) for not giving him a double-blade for Christmas when I had promised I would (note: I hadn’t) and I should go out the very next morning and get him a double-blade to make up for it and when I wouldn’t agree that this was clearly the correct way for me to atone for my sins, he threw a long, long hissy that still gets revisited from time to time when he remembers to be very upset about the whole incident.)

So there, fine, now he’s getting his double-blade for his birthday (at the end of April; never say I don’t plan ahead), because you can’t just go out and buy people big presents when it’s not Christmas or birthday or the culmination of some long-worked-for sticker-chart extravaganza.

(In related news, Mabel is plotting how she can get another baby sooner than her November birthday. She asked me the other day if we could do another star chart for her using the toilet, since that worked so well the last time. I pointed out that she knew how to do that now, so no, that wouldn’t work. I wonder how I can leverage this desire of hers into some sort of necessary behaviour?)

But despite having the entire cave of wonders at my child-free-browsing disposal, I still didn’t manage to find anything nice or unexpected or quirky or even predictable to give my beloved husband on the occassion of tomorrow’s Annoying Hallmark Holiday. Looks like he’s getting two delightful children. Again.

Hey, this year they’re potty trained. It gets better.

All the rage, no hormones yet

Whenever Mabel is talking to her dolls, she admonishes them with Sweetie. Thus: “Sweetie, how many times do I have to tell you? No more snacks. Eat your dinner.”
I’m sure I don’t use “Sweetie” like that. I’m sure she did that all on her own.

You know I like to pseudo-psychoanalyse my children to find out why they’re doing what theyr’e doing and thus exonerate myself from blame in the bad-parenting deparment, right? So that’s what I’m doing at the moment with Dash’s intermittent bouts of rage, which seem today to be directed solely at me. (Of course, I was the only authority figure around at the time. But I still think he’s taking things out on me that he wouldn’t on other people.)

We went to a playground after school, and Dash bumped his head. He briefly allowed me to hug him, agreed we should go home, and then ran off for one more go on the monkey bars. Then he had a shitfit all the way home because I wouldn’t give him a piggyback. Excuse me, but I’m trying to push your sister on her bike because there’s a very infinitessimal uphill gradient in this direction and she’s wailing because she’s thirsty and I didn’t bring a drink for her and you will have a canary if I let her drink yours and we have bags and you’re SIX AND A HALF AND I’M NOT GIVING YOU A DAMN PIGGYBACK.

So he dragged my scarf all the way home trying to lasso branches with it instead. When we got back he said his head still hurt. Which might have been why he was so pissy but I didn’t know that seeing as how he had run off to do the monkey bars two minutes after the bump. Gah.

An hour later it was dinnertime. He told me he still had some sandwich left from lunch in his backpack and he wanted to finish that first. I said Fine. He said “So go and get it.” I said, “You get it.” It was on the other side of the room and I was pretty sure I didn’t need to be ordered around in such a manner when I was making his dinner (another sandwich, of course). He screamed at me for the next half hour, and the stalemate was only resolved when his father came home and got the lunchbox for us.

I mean, I wasn’t being petty. I just felt he could get it himself, and once he started screaming at me and ordering me to get it, then the moment had passed and I couldn’t even think of giving in to such demands. I don’t know how single parents manage when they come to an impasse like that without a third party to intervene.

So maybe this is directed at me. It’s a new feeling, because before, I was the favoured one. I’m not saying he was all Yes’M, No’M to me, but in general I was the one who would swoop in longsufferingly and present a few words of reason when he was at loggerheads with his father (say) and come to some sort of agreement. The tables have turned. I am inestimably grateful to his father for providing levity with the children when I’m wrung out, and good-natured races to get them where they should be when I’m run down, and wine in my glass when I’m at my wits’ end. He saves my sanity daily.

Perhaps Dash is entering a new period of separating from family – maybe he’s getting more involved with school and friends and his life outside the home, and as the main symbol of his life inside the home, I’m the one he manifests the push-me pull-you effects with most strongly. Maybe he’s yearning for boundaries and hard-and-fast rules and he needs to test his limits with me, Keeper of the Rules (hah) most of all. Maybe he’s just in one of those turd-phases. All I know is he’s picking fights with me like a boyfriend who wants to break up but doesn’t have the nerve to do it.

I’m not going to break up with him. So he’s just going to have to deal. I hope there’s enough wine in the world while I wait.

What to do when you don’t know what to do

Where is the hilarity, you might ask? Where have all the funny conversations gone? Where’s the real stuff of life? (Wait, it was just Jimmy Durante asking that one.) I dunno, really.

Mabel has calmed down, a bit, but Dash has ramped up the anger management issues, and it’s not so funny when he goes all hulk smash on me, because I can’t just hold him at arm’s length and let his not-so-little legs windmill around without connecting. They get my kneecaps every time.

This boy has never been physically violent in his life before. Even as a two-year-old, he’d throw things and rip up books but not hit people. So I’m hopeful that this is a phase; I just hope it burns out soon, before somebody gets hurt. And the rage is always directed at us, the parents: at school he’s doing wonderfully; everyone else thinks he’s the “easy” child – but right now, not so much.

However. As threatened, I took How to Talk so Kids will Listen out of the library, and I think it might just be saving my bacon. I even got B to read the first few chapters, though he’s still not as convinced as I am by it – he feels they’re presenting a one-sided argument, while I’ve been totally brainwashed and have decided this is the One True Way. It certainly offers a parenting technique that fits my style and personality, and even now that the initial Come-To-Jesus-ness of it has worn off for me, I’m trying my best to use it, and it’s working often enough for me to remain convinced.

If you don’t know the book, its basic message is empathetic parenting. That sounds all wishy-washy and lovey-dovey, but they give some examples of how you would feel when things aren’t going your way, and people in authority talk down to you, try to coerce you, or ignore you, and I found they really rung true. If I want to teach my children to respect other people and think of their feelings, then I have to start by parenting them that way. The book helps. It gives me tools that I can pass on to them. It tells me what to do when I don’t know what to do. I don’t know about you, but I really like that in a parenting book.

For instance. At least three times lately I’ve been faced with a boy who is determined not to give in. Whatever the original issue was, it has come down each time to a refusal to get ready for bed. There is no way to force this with him, and it’s very hard to get a graceful exit. Or any exit, come to think of it.

One of the problem-solving techniques in the book is to make a list of options. Even with a non-reader, you say “I’m going to make a list of the things we could do to work this out” and you sit down with a piece of paper and start writing. You list what the child wants, and what you want, and any number of options in between and around about and totally unrelated. Somehow, the act of doing this, giving his plight the weight that a written list denotes, and appearing to (yes, you’re allowed pretend) seriously consider what he wants to do, helps ground the crazed beast and draw him into the process. With a little luck, you’ll even think of some totally ridiculous options to inject a little levity into the situation.

Then you go through the options together and cross out the ones that aren’t acceptable to you, and the ones he doesn’t agree with. And eventually, magically, something appears that is not remotely related to the matter at hand, and you write it down and draw a big circle around it and he does it and then the whole thing goes away.

I know. It sounds as if it couldn’t possibly work every time. I’m not saying it will. But I am saying that several times now this has got me out of a totally boxed-in corner with Dash. Today I spent an hour asking him to sit down and do his homework. He never did. I told him that he could do double on Thursday (the week’s homework is due on Friday; we don’t have time for more than one day’s worth on Wednesdays), or he could find out what happens when you don’t hand in any homework. But either way, he wasn’t getting to watch his favourite TV show today, because he didn’t do it. He went outside to play after dinner, and when he came in he was under the impression that he could still do his homework and watch his show (on the Internet).

Dash tends to think that time is elastic and that the evening will stretch to fit all the things he wants to do, but bedtime is not so forgiving. When I told him the window on homework, and therefore TV shows, had closed, he had a total meltdown. It wasn’t pretty, but he still thought that his will would prevail. Now, I’m a pushover, but not that much of a pushover, and his way was not an option tonight. We were utterly stuck.

I got out my trusty notebook and a pen, and wrote:

How to get Dash to bed

Then I listed some options, like “Watch his show,” “Watch a 2-minute snippet of his show,” “Go straight to toothbrushing and bedtime stories.” I asked for more suggestions: “Watch ten episodes,” he said. “Watch 16 episodes.” I wrote it all down. “We sit on him until he falls asleep,” I added, for good measure. And “Run naked around the house five times,” since he was refusing to put on his pyjamas.

We started crossing things out. I had no idea where this was going, because we hadn’t yet hit on anything both of us liked. He grabbed my notebook and ran away. I sighed.

Then, out of nowhere, he came up with a new one. “I put on a puppet show of my TV program, and you make a movie out of it [with my camera] and I watch the movie.”

“Oookay,” I said, “but it has to be all done in five minutes, because we’re right up to bedtime now.”

“Okay,” he agreed. We got the camera. His father set the timer for five minutes. Dash picked up two random objects to be the puppets and started making them talk before I’d even found the movie setting. I filmed until (luckily) the camera memory was full. He watched it play back. And then he put on his pyjamas, brushed his teeth, had two very short bedtime stories, and was done.

It took time and dedication, but we resolved the stalemate without violence, without shouting, without tears. I don’t know exactly why it works, but it works. It might just save our sanity.

In short, Chicago

I could just sit down for two hours – if I had two hours – and spew out a spool of words about our long weekend in Chicago, but I think I need to use my editorial function a bit more wisely than that. Here, then, are the posts you might or might not be seeing in the future, in no particular order:

The one about how small children don’t like going from mild to cold weather in the space of a 40-minute train trip, and will continue to refuse to wear a coat, even when they already have a cough that sounds like one hound of Hell, for days afterwards because if they do not bow to outside influences like parents, what chance does Weather have?

The one with all the photos.

The one about six-and-a-half and whether that’s a thing or not, the way three-and-a-half and four-and-a-half are recognised Horrible Stages, because I hope to God this here thing with the 6.5-year-old is a Thing because it’s Horrible and it’s as if I’ve just been handed an entirely new child whose ways I have to figure out double-quick before he kills us all or vice versa, which I was not expecting, frankly.

The one about how we nearly didn’t go at all because Dash nearly had croup, and then on Saturday night I was convinced that instead of supporting the marathon runner the next morning we’d probably be busy taking Mabel to the emergency room because she coughed twice and that was enough, but it all turned out okay in the end except for that one other little coughing fit that made the nice airline lady come and tell me about her granddaughter who had a cough that sounded exactly like that and it turned out to be pneumonia, and then I felt like I was the one getting pneumonia for the next hour, but then she didn’t cough again and now they’re both back at school praise be to the holy deities.

The one about how getting a suite instead of just a room with two beds really didn’t make any difference because Dash refused to sleep with Mabel so it was still one adult and one child to a bed and the door in between was quite pointless though I suppose maybe I was spared some sounds of snoring, perhaps.

The one about how your priorities have to change from getting decent food into them to getting any sort of food into them because when you’re away from home and held hostage to the hotel restaurant and the crappy little hotel gift shop full of cookies and dollar-fifty apples you just need the children to eat and suddenly a plate of french fries sounds like a perfectly good dinner option if he would only damn well eat it when it’s there rather than refusing it and getting hungry half an hour later.

The one about how parenthood changes you because when the small child asks you if there’s a bathroom on this train, instead of holding her out at arm’s length, you hold her closer on your lap and wonder how bad your jeans will look if they get soaked with pee; but how happy I was – I cannot express just how happy – that she managed to hold it in every time and make it to the bathroom so my jeans were unscathed and so was Chicago’s public transport system.

The one about how all American cities look the same at first until you look a little closer and get to know them, but all airports really do occupy the same unchanging point in time and space and it makes no difference where you are because it’s like being in a vortex of expensive food choices and pleasingly sanitary bathrooms until you finally get to leave. But Mabel won’t keep her shoes on there either.

—-

I think I’ll just do the photos.

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.