I took Ally to her first hockey game on Friday night. Things were going really well until the mascot showed up. We almost didn’t make it to the second period. Ally is still getting over her fear of giant, furry costumed characters and animals. It’s called masklophobia and I’m sure it’s threatened to ruin more than one Disney vacation.
I suppose seeing a six foot scowling eagle walking around can blur the lines of reality for young kids and freak them out. She loves Halloween and dressing up, so I think it’s just the size of them and their antics that she finds disorienting and terrifying. I’ve been assured she’ll grow out it.
For now, I’m just thankful that ice cream and avoidance was an effective antidote. We managed to watch all three periods and she was exhausted enough that she fell asleep right away and there were no screaming 2 a.m. visions of McGruff the Crime Dog.
With the holidays over, we are back to daily flashcards, piano, spelling and reading practice. As you might guess, Cecilia is thrilled. Even though each one takes 15 minutes or less, it’s usually a source of drama, but I’m a big believer in consistent, deliberate practice to learn new things. I believe it works, but there is a dark side: it’s not fun.
It’s hard. Sometimes it hurts. Most of the time it’s miserable. But it does work. I just haven’t figured out how to explain that to an 8-year old.
We are almost there. I can see it. I can sense it there just over that last pile of already discarded new toys. The holiday finish line is close. I can smell it. The house is infused with the scent of decaying pine, fresh plastic, children’s tears and half eaten candy canes. It smells like the end of December.
Despite that last sentiment, we did enjoy Christmas, the Santa excitement and seeing family and friends, but it’s all starting to take a toll. Cecilia has this weird rash on her arm, Allison is leaving a trail of used tissues behind her, Dash is throwing up more than usual and Michelle’s champagne supply is dangerously low.
I’m just hanging on by my fingertips. Holidays and introverts are a tough mix. Outwardly it can appear that we are Grinches that dislike holidays and company which, of course, isn’t true, but the forced ebullience, small talk and long spells of togetherness can be exhausting. Bring on the cold solitary of January!
One reason I write this blog is to time travel. Each Saturday that passes will never be repeated. The girls get a little older and a little farther away from me. One day they won’t want me to take their picture, never mind post it on the Internet. How embarrassing.
So I write it all down. To make myself pay attention. I’m not always great about being present. I’m trying, but some days are hard.
The old saw is the days are long, but the years are short. It’s true, of course. But here’s the thing: grandparents and friends with older kids, they forget.
8-year-olds rule the world. 8-year-olds know best. 8-year-olds don’t need parents other than to drive them places, reach things on high shelves and pay the Netflix tab.
I’ve mentioned this before, but Cecilia does not lack in confidence or self-esteem, sometimes to almost comical levels. I wish I had had some of her chutzpah at that age. We do not want to crush this confidence, but we also want to introduce her to reality, too. We need her to not seek praise for praise’s sake. We want her to seek praise for achievement. Real achievement. For setting a high goal, working hard and achieving it.
This has been harder to communicate in reality (8-year-olds don’t need advice) than in the pep talks I give myself on this blog. We are still having meltdowns when the new piano piece isn’t perfect after one day or the new math doesn’t click after one lesson. I might have found a solution however: baking.
Two weekends of wall-to-wall errands, holiday activities and birthdays caught up to us this week. The house, halfway decorated and otherwise disheveled, turned into a hospital ward. Dash threw up, Ally developed her annual winter hack, Cecilia’s eyes and nose started leaking and Michelle stubbornly refused to admit she was sick despite ample evidence to the contrary.
Due to their time in the day care trenches, the girls are rarely stay-home-from-school sick so the entire week was a bit of a flashback. The first day it was nice to baby them and tuck them in on the couch with blankets and all their lovies. That warm parental feeling was quickly lost in an avalanche of crumpled tissues and the empty Mucinex bottles littering every room.
It all left me wondering why we didn’t evolve nose blowing as a reflexive life skill. Wouldn’t that be proof of evolution? If an infant can innately survive being thrown in a pool of water surely they can blow their nose by age four!
Allison, as the second born, leads a different life to that of Cecilia. No matter what we do as parents, much of her life revolves around Cecilia. Allison has gotten used to tagging along to Ce’s schedule and activities. Unlike Cecilia, who often likes to defend her position as first-born and remind us that she already knows how the world operates, Allison is easier going and her flexibility is a key piece of her personality.
This flexibility has made Ally more resilient than Ce, I just hope it hasn’t taught her to expect a little less out of life. It was with this in mind that I was happy to see Allison grab the mic and demand the spotlight during her birthday week. Rather than let her big sister lead, she had clear ideas about what she wanted and how she wanted it done.
Sure, she became a bit of a birthday terrorist by the end, but she had also freed herself from the second child handcuffs. At least for a week.