The marathon of time-outs has finally passed. In fact, the morning after I wrote about how Annika was about to make my head explode, she made me breakfast. She is eerily perceptive when it comes to knowing when I've hit the proverbial mothering wall and just need a sign that I've not given birth to an adorable menace to society, who is surely destined to be the very downfall of civilization as we know it.
For me, all it takes is a bowl of soggy Life cereal, with droplets of milk splashed about like some high concept garnish.
I appreciate all your combined parental wisdom offered up on the occasion of my little maternal breakdown. Of course, I know that time-outs aren't necessarily meant to be punitive, but an opportunity to calm the atmosphere. Still there was something so simultaneously hilarious and depressing about Frankie's eager misbehaving, just so she could get in on some of that sweet time-out action.
Of course, given the way things were going on Thursday, I probably would have looked for any opportunity to have a guaranteed five minutes away from me, too.
You don't have to look too hard to know that often the worst days with our kids are a result of our own moods*. She does something naughty, which I would normally shut down right away and then move on with my day. But sometimes, instead, it seems like the most irritating thing in the world, and I make a bigger deal of it than I should, which then sets her off on her own counter-productive reaction to my counter-productive reaction, and so it goes. Hello, exploding head!
*Not always, notice! I'm not going to go in for this blame the bad parent solution. Sometimes, kids are just difficult poopy-heads, maybe even by definition. But, sometimes, it makes sense to recognize how we contribute to the meltdown. That's all I'm saying.
Last week, I think my source of stress was that Frankie was invited to a birthday party on Saturday. The problem was that the party was to be held at our local Children's Museum. Both girls love the museum, but we try to avoid it during the winter months, when tummy bugs run rampant and an endless stream of elementary school kids on field trips run through the place, touching everything in sight with their adorable hands, all flecked with microscopic flecks of viral-ridden poop.
It's happened too often that Anni's come down with some atrocious something or other approximately 24 hours after a great day at the museum, thus leading us to at least a week of Chicago hospital time (some of Annika's meds are exquisitely sensitive to changes in the intestinal tract that come with diarrhea, making tummy bugs especially difficult for post-transplant kids). So we're always a little wary of taking her there, but especially now when it feels like everything with her is in such a delicate balance.
My first impulse was to let Annika go to the museum, too, but with Jörg coming along so that he could help me with the application of the hand sanitizer every five minutes. But when I told Jörg about my plan, his reply was something along the lines of, "Hell, no! Also...and please don't take this the wrong way, you are clearly insane."
Despite the fact that my less than angelic children had led me to question my own sanity just hours before, or maybe because of that fact, I didn't take kindly to Jörg's accusation. We fought for the next hour or so, interrupting the fight to watch The Office together, and then turning down the volume during commercials so that we could dive right back in where we started.
"Where were we?"
"I believe you were wondering whether perhaps I had blotted out the last 3 hospitalizations after a visit to the museum in some sort of rose-colored glasses form of amnesia."
"Good point! Have you?"
"Of course not. But I think that sometimes it's worth taking certain risks in the interest of giving her a good life."
"This doesn't seem like the time to be taking risks. Besides the museum is not all that great. It's just not a good exchange."
"Fine. But how are we supposed to tell her that it's OK for her sister, but not for her?"
"Just tell her that it's Frankie's party, with her friends!"
"Wait. Turn the volume back up! It's starting. Why is it that Dwight is creepy, but also loveable, while Angela is just plain creepy?"
In the end there was nothing I could do. I couldn't take Annika to the museum without Jörg going along, since I would be busy supervising Frankie at her party. And since Jörg refused to take part in what he saw as a colossally bad idea, Annika wasn't going. I thought about cancelling for Frankie, too, since I couldn't see how I could tell Anni that her sister was going, but she wasn't. Especially since she had been asking to go there for the past few weeks, and I couldn't imagine what we could possibly offer her to make up for missing out, again.
But as it turned out, Annika was thrilled with the idea of getting to plan her own party for Saturday afternoon. In Anni's world, "a party" just means getting to eat cupcakes off of paper plates, and taping some balloons and crepe paper to the ceiling of the basement.
It's funny how much we create our own adult idea of what it means to have a great childhood, when it turns out that a kid's idea of a perfectly wonderful time is so much easier to achieve. Sometimes I cry when I see commercials for Disneyland, wishing we could whisk Anni there, and away from all our worry. But I have to be honest enough with myself to admit that I'm not crying for Annika, who is just as happy with a can of shaving cream and food coloring in the bath tub as she would be strolling the promenade with Mickey.
Anyway, Saturday was already exciting for Annika, since her former babysitter (now leading an exciting life as a techno whiz for Discover card) was coming for a visit. Since we live so far from any family, and since we only moved to this town right before we had Annika, there aren't that many people in Annika's life who have spent a great deal of time with her, going all the way back to her babyhood. We are still working on building friendships and connections, and all this is hampered by the fact that we have a seriously ill child, which, quite honestly, throws up an instant barrier of discomfort for many people, who either worry too much about sounding frivolous to engage in normal conversation or else feel compelled to dive into serious discussion about her illness and prognosis with such earnestness that we both feel exhausted after just a few minutes. (Plus, as long as I'm being honest, I'm a lousy friend-maker.)
So there just aren't that many adults out there who can talk to Annika about what she was like as a baby; about what songs she liked and how she liked to be held. Thus, a visit from Lauren was surely reason for a party.
And party they did.
Annika never even asked Frankie about her party at the Children's Museum. Of course.
Lesson learned: don't fight with your significant other during The Office. It totally ruins one of the few good shows airing right now.
And last Saturday: