Tuesday, 23 April 2013

Welcome to Your Kingdom, Princess Peanut

Your tiny little body barely makes an imprint on my pillow as you wake me with a cuddle and kiss. Four years old next Wednesday and still fitting into size two clothes.  You hop around the house as if there were wings on your feet. You're a dragon fly skimming atop a pond. Skipping from table, couch, chair, my head, any obstacle in your way. You own that pond, and I simply stumble along beside you to catch you incase you bounce off the ground or off a tree.  You are my peanut, and yet, you demand to be my princess. We compromise, Princess Peanut.

You march fearlessly through your kingdom in which the corners are padded and scissors hidden.  A kingdom where I redirect your attention from the wobbly man in the park and the roaming stray dog you reach to pet. You do not yet realise that there are things to be afraid of, but I do, so I stand or crouch in your shadow and keep guard.

When you call, I will come. If you fall, I will pick you up.  You shed tears, I wipe them away.  I do this because I love you, because I have from the first time you disrupted my cycle. I do this because it is my mission as your mother.

This morning, I made you and your sister breakfast as you watched TV.  It took your attention away from my swollen eyes, from the tapping sound my fingers made on the phone. Then, I heard the bomb explode and turned to see the runner fall. I shouted,  "Change the channel." Your sister asked why and I, grabbing for the remote as she pulled away, said "because there are sad things on the TV."  My voice cracked and I hid my face from your first introduction to cruelty. How was I to explain this?

I woke last night, often, thinking of my friends and family in Boston. Praying that responses not given were due to time differences and nothing more. I thought of mothers who couldn't keep their children safe and memories of frightening crowds who pushed and rubbed against us and tried to separate us.  I thought of how, in crowds, I always clutched my bag and held you close, always looking ahead or at the ground, that is, when I was not watching you. You who smile, trusting strangers, and speak your name proudly. You have not, yet, recognised those who hate; although, sadly, they have probably recognised you-one that is innocent. Their understanding of justice is not rooted in the tangible, logic stilted with anger. I cannot plan for the nonsensical, make precautions for the absurd. I cannot always assure your safety.

Your sister asked "Why, Why did this happen?" and I felt the tingling in my chest, my eyes burning again and I cried, "Because there are bad people that want to scare us." Your sister's eyes focused back on the screams of the running people.  You sat, examining my face, the tears, you had never seen me make and asked, "Are you scared?" I decided to be honest, and honesty that would crack your perfect kingdom, "Yes," I answered. I left the room to get a tissue and you looked back up to see a different picture on the screen.

It took until the evening before I received the last response to the many messages sent to many friends.  It took until the evening that I could release the tissue in my hand. She phoned to say, "We're OK." She didn't go to the marathon. She stayed  home. Stayed tucked away with her husband and beautiful boys in that home that she never locks because that world that she lives in she describes as safe.   

Friday, 5 April 2013

Before and After, A Year In The LIfe of You

You cried tonight at the thought of school.  You were so happy all summer long, but tonight you cried. At the beginning of summer, when first assigned to a new class, when first told of this class being different to the class of your friends, your best friends, you told me that it was fine.  It was all fine and then you smiled, and turned back to your drawing and finished colouring in the picture of our house.  You continued by saying that you weren't scared by "boys" anymore and that the man teacher, Mr. ..... was fine.  Later that night, I asked if you would miss your friends and you said, I will still  play with them at playtime.  I wasn't sure whose words those were but you held up a Roald Dahl book and asked if we could continue reading, so we did.  It was easier to pretend you were fine, to explain this reconciled behaviour as maturity.

However, tucked away in a little crevice, in a little you, hid the truth and tonight it decide to no longer hide.You yelled the truth quite loudly through a snotty tear-muffled tone at 12:00 AM and I tripped my way into your room to see you sitting up in your bed, wet hair stuck to your face, moaning. "I don't want to go to school!  None of my friends will be in my class!  Mr. ...  scares me ..... so and so says he is horrible! Don't make me go to school." I came to you, held you, gave you a tissue and sip of water and tried my best to calm you.Yes, the truth is you don't like change and you don't like men and next week, you will walk into a new classroom and come face to face with a rather tall, rather loud, head shaven, male teacher. Another problem facing us that I am just not sure of how to fix.

I know that at drop off, I will seek out other mothers who have positive things to say about this teacher and relay those messages back to you. I know I will have a word with the teacher and pray that he can at least feign sincerity and interest and  that he looks at you when he promises me it will be all right.  And I know, if there are "bumps in the road" I shall try to work with this teacher to help fix it. I promise you I will. But, Darling, it may not be all right and with all my best intentions and efforts, I may not be able to fix it.  In fact, things may be shit.

Tonight, I stay awake, thinking of the sliding door theory, the nursery you attended, which introduced you to a certain group of friends, which introduced me to certain mothers, which shaped both our schedules and in a way our personalities.  I think about difficult personalities, past social struggles and the teachers who assured me that you weren't really upset as they pulled your white knuckle grasp from the school gates. And, I try to come up with a plan.

 I don't know how this year will progress other than it will progress and the days will pass, and it will point you in new directions and give you new ideas and affect your personality again and ironically most of these days and events will probably not be remembered. However, what I do know is sometimes in life we need to hold our breath, wish for the best, surround ourselves with ridiculous feel-good cliches and jump into the abyss screaming yahoo. And,  Babe this is one of those times.

OK, I have left this in draft form for about nine months, hoping for a happy ending and guess what, here it is.

On the first day of school, we walked slowly in rhythm towards the brick building. You twisted both your arms around my elbow and leaned your head into my arm. Girls walked by and some waved, which gave you a momentary distraction from the gates and the man standing by them.  We joined a line of parents, waiting to talk to him, and I realised that my house was probably not the only one with a a midnight wake-up call.  I told you not to listen to schoolyard gossip, make up your own beautiful mind. You nodded because you wanted to believe me or maybe you were just being polite. You loosened your hold slightly, feeling the pull of the abyss and we moved forward to take front position in the line. He smiled and bent down to greet you first. I smiled. He knew your name and you smiled.  I explained you were nervous, and in a serious tone he promised you it would be fine and then he looked up and promised me it would be fine.

And, it was fine. No, it was better than fine.  After a few shaky weeks, you made wonderful new friends, which you couldn't wait to tell me all about and the stories filled our afternoons. You taught me the new games and jokes you learned and showed me the the dangly things hanging from your coat which they had given you. And as for Mr. .... Yes, at times he used a "Loud Voice" to corral the group and this frightened you, at times, and then it didn't. He also gave out sweeties which seemed to release him of all his crimes.

At Parent Teacher evening, he sat there at the table telling me all the things that I already knew and then he asked if I had concerns.  I said my daughter's happy and I am happy that is all I could ever want. I smiled, knowing he didn't appreciate the gravity of that statement.   He didn't have to.  He just needed to create  and position the cushion that would protect your landing and he did that splendidly.