Sally was up all night, still struggling with a bad cold and probably some teeth. When Walter and Sean woke us up at 8 I was sure it was 6 or earlier. Sally woke up sad, sad, sad. She was sad while I nursed her, sad while I changed her diaper, sad while I took off her pajamas, and sad while I got her dressed. We were running so late that Sean had to take Walter in to daycare first so he wouldn't completely miss breakfast and then double back for Sally, which made Sean very late for work. I felt awful sending Sally to daycare so sick and sad. It took several tries to hand her over to Sean before she stopped clinging to and reaching for me. I decided to go get her from daycare and then take her to work with me. That decision meant I was running late all day, messing up both her schedule and mine for largely my own selfish reasons. It meant that she didn't get a good nap on day when she really needed one to help with her recovery. She came with me to lunch with my colleagues and made a mess of the floor so bad I tipped 80%. I did not, however, clean up the mess. I took Sally back to daycare, further messing with her routine. Getting her in and out of her carseat was especially difficult today--lots of back-arching, screaming, and crying of real, heartfelt tears. She reached for me, with pleading eyes, begging me to take me out and nurse her, and I just persisted and insisted and made her sit in the seat, because we were running late. I was also late picking the kids up from daycare at the end of the day. When we got home, Sally woke up very sad again, and had trouble eating because she was so phlegmy. Then I tried to give her some Advil to bring down her fever. She cried herself into a terrible state but I persisted ... and then she retched and threw up a huge amount of phlegm and Advil (but we couldn't give her more before putting her to bed, because we don't know how much she actually ingested.) We got her out of her clothes and into the shower with me, and she was sad for most of the shower. She bit Sean once and me twice: hard. She also decided that running toward our open and un-gate-able stairway was a great game, and alternated it with her other favorite game of putting her hands in Hank's water dish. While Sean and I took care of Sally, Walter was by himself in the kitchen, watching an endless stream of Curious George. He watched a lot of videos tonight and did almost no playing, and I had hardly any time with him at all. Perhaps because of that, Walter resisted bedtime mightily and is still awake as I write this at 9:45. He shows absolutely no sign of letting up and going to bed. Hank the Dog is worrying that we'll never be able to take him out. I can hear Sally coughing over the monitor and I know it's just a matter of time before she wakes up and we have another night full of coughing, spitting up, rocking and crying. And here I am ... not doing anything to catch up on all the work I need to do.
Today was a good day.
|Take me to the people in this picture!|
Like most little kids, I had a tenuous grasp on the difference between fact and fiction. It's fun to see that in Walter, now, as his imagination develops along with his language skills. I blurred the lines between truth and invention well into fifth grade, when one of my best friends, R., called me on it. She didn't call me a liar, though. She said, "Oh, Annie. You're telling stories again. You're always telling stories." It took me some time to figure out if she meant that as a good thing or a bad thing. I decided it was a bad thing, at least in the way I'd been doing it. I worked hard to direct and contain my storytelling toward fiction writing and other intentionally creative pursuits, and learned, in all other contexts, to tell the truth, even when it was uncomfortable or boring to do that.
Like most adults, though, I know now that truth itself is pretty subjective, and the stories we tell (and don't tell, and the way we tell them) shape and construct our reality. Depending on how I tell it, today was either bad (relatively) or good (relatively). The truth is that it was something that can't be captured that easily, not even in this post (possibly one of the longest and most tediously detailed I've ever written.)
This past weekend we went to a bluegrass festival, and a woman a little older than my parents engaged us in conversation. Her name was Suze and she was wearing head-to-toe tie dye and hippie-style headbands that looked pretty authentic. She complimented us on our parenting and also gave quite a lot of parenting advice. Then, as Sean chased after Walter, she leaned in close to me and started telling me stories about my kids and their futures.
"What's your little girl's name?" She asked. "Sally! Sally will make a lot of money. She may have a few divorces, too. She'll dress in red and black, with some white accents. And gold jewelry ...just gold, she shouldn't waste her time with silver. Walter, if he doesn't find the right woman ... I'm assuming he's hetero ... I see him with a good dog, like a labrador, as his companion. Walter will always be steady for you. Sally will be your challenge, but she'll be successful." Then she giggled. "I hope I'm right!" I told her, based on what I know of my children so far, that she might be. Later on she introduced me and Sally to her husband, who was pleased because he has a sister named Sally; she's a dentist living in the Twin Cities (I didn't ask if she'd had a few divorces, too.) Suze asked what Sally's middle name is. "Joan?! Ohhhh ... she'll have an interesting and successful life!"
Adults who tell stories like this intrigue me. I wonder about their powers of observation and intuition, and the way they notice so much more than most of us do. For example, most of the people at the festival assumed Sally was a boy, because she was dressed all in blue boy's clothes that day. Suze listened to us talking and paid attention enough to know that she's a girl. Most people don't do that.
But the real gift Suze gave me was reminding me that my kids have their own stories. Right now, I'm constructing their narratives, and I have a pretty great amount of control over what they'll remember and what they'll know of themselves at this point in their lives. But that's not always going to be the case, and that's a good and scary thing. Someday, Sally might read this post and Suze's story and think, "Well, everything else she predicted is true ... I guess my first couple of marriages are doomed to fail." Or she might think, "That's ridiculous. That hippie lady can't tell me what to do." (I think the latter is more likely, based on Sally's personality at one year old.) Either way, God and Sally are at work on her story, and my role in writing it will be greatly diminished as time goes on. Likewise, I really hope Walter finds the right woman (or man ... I make no assumptions) even though canine companions are wonderful, and labradors especially so. But I don't get to decide that, either.
That's not my story to tell.
In the meantime, though, I'm going to keep telling stories. At some point, Walter and Sally will combine my narrative with their own narratives and come up with something new.
It should be pretty good. They come from a family of storytellers, after all.