Sunday, October 31, 2010

Lessons from Addie

We went on a little trip a few weeks back.  A family trip.  Short, but a real, true vacation.  The kids came with us, but there was loads of free daycare provided, so we got to have time during the day to be together as grown-ups, like a couple!  It was amazing.

But it started out rocky as hell.

Addie just wasn't excited about it.  She was going to be missing her dance recital at school, and I think too she is still a little nervous going into new experiences, even though she historically has been very resilient and handled them quite well.  But on this trip, she was pretty intent on making things difficult.  Her stomach hurt.  She wanted to stay in our (incredibly tiny) room and watch t.v. instead of going swimming or playing games or attending kids' activities.  She pouted, she whined, she cried.  She wouldn't eat.  We were pulling our hair out and feeling really exasperated, and maybe didn't respond very nicely.  At all.

We know now that there was a medical problem underlying some of her physical complaints (more on that soon) but the main ingredient was emotional.  I had been pretty frustrated with Addie the first day or two:  we had spent a lot of money, and I felt like I really needed a vacation, for God's sakes, and couldn't she just be a big girl for these few days and have some fun?

It's hard to force people to have fun, if you haven't noticed.

Finally I got wise, and on the second day of the trip leaned down to Addie and whispered, "If there's ever, ever anything you need to talk to me about, you just please let me know, and I'll make time for the two of us to be together, and we can talk it over."

She was quiet for a minute, and then responded, "I do have something we need to talk about."

So we let Nolie and E. do their own thing for a while and we retired to our really very tiny room and had a talk, where Addie--in a quiet but steady voice--told me that she felt me and E. were being too hard on her, that we only liked Nolie, and that she didn't feel like we loved her.


I assured her right away that our behavior would change immediately, and that she was absolutely right about us being too hard on her, and that we could never love one of our kids more than the other, it was just physically and mentally and spiritually impossible.  And then I sucked it up and acted as cheerful and positive as Pollyanna.  Man, was that some kind of acting job!  Interesting how I expected her to be so cheerful and then had a hard time manufacturing cheer myself, isn't it?  But the acting was was good enough.

Because after that, she perked right up, got excited about swimming and kids' camp and eating, and we had a great rest of the vacation.

Ah, jeez.  There's so many lessons to be learned here.  To not be hard first.  To listen to my kids.  To ask them to talk to me, and then be available to listen and respond meaningfully.  To pay attention to signs and signals, especially indirect ones.  To believe the highest and best about my children.  To slow down.  To make time for them (by the way:  one of my favorite ways to do this is to schedule special "dates" with them--a trip out to lunch, a visit to the library, some craft time.  Just with one at a time.  I don't think it matters what you do, just as long as you clearly label it "our time" and give them all of your attention).

I don't know.  All this is just evidence that these are exactly the kids I was supposed to have.  I mean, they're such amazing teachers.  I'm so lucky to learn from them.  But school isn't always easy.


  1. Thank you for this. Been having some issues of our own in our little family circle, and this is a good lesson to have in mind.

  2. I too want to thank you for this, JJ. Just the fact that you put yourself out there, telling A. that she could talk with you about opened that door and she walked in. Last night, I was texting with my Mom. she sent me a virtual hug, and I sent back a Looooonnnngggg hug, and then said Sweet Dreams Mom. Her response? "U2 and a snuggle for my baby girl..." I lost it. Well, I didn't break down into sobs but I felt the tears build. There was something in those words that spoke to the unending power of a Mother's love, and innocence, and this sense of timelessness...that I could, so easily, crawl into my mom's lap again and just BE there, loved, safe. You will always be a harbor for your children, Jen. And in their own special ways, they will always be your baby girls. So much in the years to come will grow from this foundation of listening, and caring to listen, and Asking. A. & N. are very lucky to have you as a Mom, and lucky too to have E. as a Daddy-O. Parenting may involve much stumbling and getting back up, but you do it. Again and again you do it. Amazing, you. (take it) ~msh