Grace, at the foot of Ms. Thorny Roses

24 03 2015

Yesterday, I was reminded, taught, re-instructed, gifted (these are all stabs at the word, because I’m not sure which one I like best, and sometimes I think I like best to see them as a word-web, like the online dictionaries that connect language as data-points in a 3D web (on a 2D screen, of course) of nearnesses of meaning: it’s not necessarily just one of those things that’s what I mean, but they’re too close in meaning to list as correlative adjectives, and too far apart to delete the rest to keep the best, so it seems only reasonable to keep the whole batch onscreen together) with a demonstration, etc., of how Evanny is a terrific person with much to teach me. This is not going to be one of those trite stories about how the young have so much to teach us all just by virtue of being young, stopping to smell the flowers etc., although I’m sure that’s also true about them in general and would be true about this one in specific if we had any flowers in this forsaken hinterland. Instead, this is a very specific story about her awesome personhood, this little being who I feel so lucky to know, & whose stuff-like-this I don’t know where she gets, but it blows me away so much that I have a hard time believing it comes in any way from me!

Yesterday (as some of you read something about online), we had another, yet another, YET ANOTHER version of the nap fight. We’ve stopped having bedtime fights because I’ve given up on bedtime; Matt does it every night he’s home now. He contends that this is because he wants to see me ever, and if I take Evanny to bed, I’m in her room trapped in my efforts to get her to go the $%*# to sleep for an hour and a half, and then when it’s finally over all I can do is drag myself into pajamas (or be ousted by his armful of screaming baby, who never wants to wait that long for anything!); it’s also because the logistics just don’t work with screaming baby, and he has no patience for knowing these shenanigans are going on anywhere in the house. Fortunately, this also forces a little daddy-daughter snuggle time, which is a good thing, so it’s not a habit I mind much (although it does impede on my ability to set up habitual bedtime storytelling featuring the stories I’m writing in my head for her). The nap fight, however, has lived on, because Daddy isn’t here at naptime.

I’m not going into too many details of the naptime fight, because while most of the time I want to remember all of the precious and precocious little things my babies do and say, I’m not sure I need the naptime fight to follow me into the future. It always starts with one or another (and usually by the end, many) glimmers of love and glitter: reading books together, snuggling with Tabitha, a little tickling, a story about Batman or Jake or unicorns or our made-up family characters, a little more snuggling, a little more tucking in, and then it descends into rolling and kicking and bed-gynmastics and cross, raised voices, and threats to leave, and baby-waking wailing if I follow through on said threats, and me getting angry and either swatting her butt (which never hurts because it’s through two layers of thick blanket and a diaper, which is probably why this usually leads to more of her laughing at me instead of complying) or dragging her ass back down and shoving her cute little head onto the pillow, which sometimes sets off the weeping cry of “you hurt my heart!” and sometimes just seems to read as an invitation to wrestling. There: that’s more than enough to set the scene. Yesterday we started trying to create a nap at around 2, and at 3 were still fighting about it; I’d given up on her, not for the first time this round, and was trying again to nurse an overtired Tabitha to sleep in my room, and Evanny was in her room yelling and toddler-cussing and generally keeping her sister awake by processing her emotions at the top of her lungs. And then she quieted down, which sometimes happens on the way to sleeping, and then I heard her turn the doorknob & click the latch open, and Tatha popped off to look for her and I sighed, waiting for the start of round whatever, and in padded those ever-so-beloved but occasionally unwelcome little feet.

Here’s where the magic happens, though (and she’s done this before; it doesn’t always happen, and I don’t even remember enough to reconstruct the other versions of this tale, but it’s a rare gem, yet not unique in our experience: it’s something true in her that I’ve seen shine through a number of times). I’m sure my last words on leaving the room were ugly. I’m pretty sure they were something along the lines of (or exactly) “I am so done with you!” I’m also pretty sure that the words coming from her room that I couldn’t make out over the twin wave machines and nap music weren’t so nice either. And I’m sure my face wasn’t very inviting when she came into that room. But she didn’t bring the fight with her, not at all. She didn’t bring the angry words, she didn’t bring mad-face, she didn’t bring tears and complaints about what I’d said or done. And that’s impressive in and of itself, but it gets better: she also didn’t bring apologies, guilt-face, sorrow, sniffles, or woe. She left the whole thing in the other room. All of it.

Evanny padded into my room on those sweet little feet with a composed, quiet face. She walked over to the bed and held out a hand for me to help her up, and when I pulled her up beside us, she leaned over and kissed me, then kissed her sister, and when this caused Tabitha to burst into smile like a rose blooming in a fast-motion nature video, she instigated a low-key round of tickling and we lay there in the sunny spot by our bedroom window for a while playing with the baby.

With the fight left behind, I was able to re-think the situation, start anew at reaching our goals, propose and implement quiet time, nap the baby, & successfully get dinner started while both girls got some rest.  With the fight left behind, I was able to go through the rest of my day feeling like a reasonable, together, successful parent-person instead of the asshole telling her daughter she’s done with her (at the age of 2–come on!  There are so many moments to come when I’m going to feel so much more “done” with her and these shenanigans; it’s as ridiculous to say that at 2 as to whine about being sick of winter by the day after Christmas) and making that little face crumple (again) with (a fresh batch of mostly crocodile) tears.  With the fight left behind, I was able to enjoy her and she me–and both of us were able to be more present for Tabitha, a welcome change to how terribly confused and sad we make her when I (with Tab always in my arms for these fights, because plopping her down somewhere else alone would be worse) shut Evanny’s door firmly against her wailing cries.  (She looks at me, beseeching, every time, and then the door, back and forth, and flails her little hands around.  “Mama!” she seems to be telling me, because obviously I’m an idiot and I don’t know, “something’s wrong with Sissy–we can’t leave her there all alone!”)

When Evanny woke up, she was peaceful, content, and slowly ready to play.  There are often no hard feelings on her end after a nap, even when the fights get fighty, but she’s often sluggish and sad and just wants to be held; this was better.  Calmer and more contented is good for Mummy too; not starting off the nap with a slam and a curse meant being just glad to see her, without the echoes and remorse of ending our earlier interaction on a fight.  There was nothing to recover from.  Her dad and I aren’t good like this; both of us carry the fight with us.  Maybe all of the fights, ever.  Still.  If we’re not still mad, or not still actively mad, we bury the mad and fake pleasantness while continuing to blame the other person, or we grovel and tiptoe and sulk about because we’re sorry and blame ourselves for everything instead.  We sometimes make gallant efforts to leave at least one part or the other behind, but it’s almost always one of us trying and the other not ready to, or both of us trying to leave behind different parts, and it never works.  Because it’s patchy, and it’s conditional, and it’s a lot of watching to see what the other person is going to do first, none of which is nearly as successful as just leaving the whole thing right where it lies.

My teacher in the art of grace, 30 months old tomorrow.

My teacher in the art of grace, 30 months old tomorrow.

I have no idea where she gets this smart, peaceful little strength, but it’s a bit miraculous, and I love it, and I love her, and I am filled with pride and delight when I think about all of the other lucky people who are going to get to know and learn from this lovely little light, and about how crazy lucky I am that I have a future of learning from this little sage (aka little sassafras, little firebrand, little pirate, little monkey, little angel, little goober, little sweetheart, little punk, little snotface, little darling, little big girl, little me, little who in the world are you going to be) to look forward to.

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