On the last day of our wonderful December trip to Bethesda to visit Andrew’s family, Oliver tumbled down the stairs and broke his left tibia. This was obviously traumatic on many levels, and we (parents) felt pretty terrible. Although Oliver rapidly adapted to his new cast, it was frustrating because he had just been learning how to walk. Crawling had remained his preferred mode of rapid transport, but he had been taking more and more bipedal steps every day. Now, he was saddled with a cast that he couldn’t even hobble on.
The cast finally came off on January 31, and Oliver spent the first few weeks developing strength in his left leg and relearning the mechanics of standing and walking. A few weeks later, and he rampages around on two feet most of the time.
This morning I’m thinking about how the end of my pregnancy with Maggie is a metaphor for the way she moves about in the world. Pretty much every morning, no matter how much time I give her and prep her for the fact that the bus is indeed coming at 8:14am, just like every other morning, she waits and waits and waits and waits until the very last minute to get ready. No amount of gentle cajoling or reminders gets her to budge. Then she just acts like, “What the hell is your problem? I’m coming!” when I’m anxious and yelling about getting her out the door on time. Just like her birth. She waited and waited and waited and waited until the last possible moment at 42 weeks when they were requiring me to be induced, and then she arrived the night before induction, in less than 20 minutes at the hospital, like, “What the hell is your problem? I was coming!” And she always gets there. There’s a lesson for me in there somewhere about how to help her and myself move through the world. Not sure I’ve grasped the practical realities of it yet.
In the evenings at our house, in those interminable minutes while we try to finish preparing dinner, the two older kids are often “bored” and don’t know what to do with themselves. Recently, Griffin shuffled into the kitchen and asked me forlornly, “Daddy, what can I do right now?” He wasn’t asking, “How can I help?” No, this was a bitter expression of hopelessness in the face of far too few minutes of screen time.
I usually reply with something snarky like, “Go stare at a wall!” (Never very effective, but surprisingly satisfying.) Last week, however, I came up with something new. Perhaps a parenting lesson from ECFE finally sank in. Or maybe it arose from the fact that I was facilitating an immersive “design thinking” week at school. Instead of snark or exasperation, I said, “YES! Quick, get a piece of paper and a pen. Draw a shape that represents you in a color that represents your mood!” (I was riffing off of an icebreaker from a recent workshop.) Startled by my specificity, Griffin immediately went to his desk and did it, coming back with a multicolored blob that included a variety of emotions (including “hungry” and “bored,” but also some positive ones). Then he asked for another “art challenge.” And I heard the distant sound of angels singing.
Art challenges have become a fun new activity to keep the gremlins of our witching hour at bay. Maggie, of course, joined in too. Below are a couple of examples of their responses to my challenges from the last few days.
I’m not deluded enough to imagine that this will work forever, but I’m enjoying it while it lasts. And I do love watching their artwork evolve.