Monday, February 27, 2006

Good Grief

It's 2 o'clock and I haven't written anything. I've been a little pre-occupied.

The Child didn't sleep much last night. She blames the book she had to read for Literature Circle, which is set in the Middle Ages, a heartwarming tale that combined the fun and games of The Black Death with evil lords and stewards and an orphaned kid who was falsely accused of murdering a priest. Can't wait for Disney to get their hands on it.

I knew she wasn't rested so let her sleep in but when it was time to get moving she started complaining that her stomach hurt. Here's the thing: you have to semi-believe a kid when she says she's sick because if she really is you don't a) want her infecting all her classmates and 2) booting all over the car. But who among us hasn't pleaded illness when we just didn't want to go to school? So, spidey senses tingling, I start the Program:

Part I: The Inquiry
Are you worried about anything? ("Just death".)
Is anything going on at school I don't know about? ("No, everything is fine".)
Is someone being mean to you? ("No. I told you, everything is fine".)

But her stomach still hurts.

Part II: The Big Build-Up
I proceed to help her focus on the positive. She has all her homework done, she's getting good grades (I didn't bring up math...I was going somewhere with all this), she's happy with her friends. I suggest that her stomach ache isn't organic, that she's feeling ambient anxiety about returning to school after a routine disrupted by genuine illness and Winter Break. She just needs to get back in the swing of things and she'll feel better.

But her stomach still hurts.

Part III: The Guilt Trip
"People are counting on you. What about drama rehearsal? You have a performance this week. What about volleyball? You have your first game this weekend".

But, you guessed it, her stomach still hurts.

Part IV: Game Over

Done with all the touchy-feely crap, Marshall Mom orders her out of bed, into her clothes and into the car. Touchy-feely Mom makes one brief appearance to say that if she really doesn't feel any better she can have school call and I'll come get her. (No better vetting process than having to convince a veteran School Secretary that you're not well).

Heartened by the fact that the class erupted into applause when The Child entered the room, I ran some errands, went home and started some laundry. I talked to another mom about volleyball transportation for tonight. Then the phone rings again. It's School Secretary.

Back on campus I immediately encounter The Child, who is not looking at all ill. She says she just has to find her teacher so she can get her stuff. I vent to School Secretary who tells me that The Child is not a malingerer and that there is a low-grade stomach thing going around. She also, however, affirmed that strong-willed children are a challenging gift and that even if The Child goes home, School Secretary thinks I won this round.

I go in search of The Child who is dawdling in her classroom. Teacher is present. I say, "Child, I think you're fine." She looks at me and says, "Well, it is kinda coming and going". I say, "You need to stick around. Drama Teacher is counting on you and we're giving N a ride to volleyball". Teacher mentions that she had been playing happily at recess. "It's just a few more hours, Child", I say. Suddenly, she breaks into a huge smile, takes me in her arms for a good, long hug and a kiss. "I'll stay, Mom. I think I'm fine".

Suddenly, I'm reminded of the toddler years, when she'd push and push and push against boundaries, even as we held firm. She'd fight and cry and fuss and then, when she was sure we weren't going to let up, sure that her world was still spinning on its axis, she'd relax into a peaceful docility. Children, they say, need limits. They crave them. Because even as they are learning to negotiate the world, asking the big questions and taking on responsibility, they want to feel safe. They want to know that we are still in charge. Being a tween is about as fraught as being Two. You want to be independent but it's a big scary world out there. After a few wobbly steps you kinda want to run back and make sure Mom or Dad is going to catch you.

Was The Child pushing the limits today? Sure. It's her job. Did I hold firm? Yes, because that's my job. Is that keeping me from worrying about her? Nope. Also part of the job. Maybe, after all those poor parents dying in the Plague, she just wanted to be sure that I was still going to catch her. And I did.



Blogger charlie opined...

And you'll continue to catch her until you are old, grey and too weak to do it, at which point, and if you are very lucky, and if you can allow her to do so without ruining her own life, she will catch you. Perhaps!

February 28, 2006 1:20 AM  

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