The much anticipated Kite Day did not work out, despite the most beautiful sunshiny weather a little kite-flier could ask for. Annika was just feeling too tired, all day long, to work up enough enthusiasm to move herself off the sofa. I was disappointed: we had talked about it all weekend long, checked the weather report to choose the optimal day, discussed the kind of kite she would choose for the expedition. I know the outing was for her and Frankie, not me, but I couldn't help feeling a little angry that day. It's crazy to be angry at her, but sometimes I just want her to get up and get going and live life and be H.A.P.P.Y. Instead she sulked around the house all day, whining instead of conversing, and disagreeing with me at every turn. Frankie, too, was disappointed, but taking her to our backyard was enough to restore her good cheer, while Annika sat on the sofa, snuggled into a woven throw blanket and drinking chocolate soy milk while watching a DVD of Hello, Kitty!
episodes from the 80s.
Annika was finally lured outside by a visit from her neighbor friend, Sabrina. And then the two older girls (they may as well be pop star superheroes for the kind of adoring reaction they generate from my two) from across our backyard came over to turn it into a near party. But as the rest of the girls ran around happily, Annika ambled unsteadily at the fringes. Until, with no warning, she just toppled over. Frustrated and a bit sore, she headed back inside. Where her mood turned even darker, until we finally settled her into bed early.
Contrary to most television specials on the subject, sick kids, particularly ones that have had issues all their lives, can be the most annoying creatures you have ever met. They have often been a bit over-indulged, and they frequently know how to pull the parent puppet strings with shocking mastery. They can get whiny and grumpy and generally exasperating. And you want to just shout, "Enough!" (And you sometimes do.) But in the back of your head, you know that usually the bad behavior springs from feeling lousy that day. The question becomes: how much slack do you cut a kid in the name of understanding
? Obviously, you don't want to throw all your rules out the window, but you also don't want to make your kid feel like they don't have the right to complain or express their feelings. Sometimes, when I talk about it to other parents, it feels like the boundary should be simple. Something like, stick to the rules as usual, but be sure to make it clear that their feelings are warranted and that you are sorry they're not feeling well.
As with everything else in parenting, though, it's always so much harder to put into practice.
Annika greeted the next morning by telling me the first bold-faced lie of her life. Not the kinda sorta true, but not really
, mumbled half-truths she's come up with before, but an all-out, embellished with lots of (false) details, 100% unmistakable Lie
. So I took away all TV-watching privileges for the day. Now, one day may not seem like a lot to you normal parents out there, but TV is Annika's crack cocaine. And I was pretty sure that taking away the TV for one day was going to be about as much fun as going through detox with her, which, incidentally, I have
done. Twice! (And they don't share the methadone with the parents, you know.)
Surprisingly, though, the day was wonderful. We ran errands in the morning, and I let Annika and Frankie choose their own flowers (pansies, the big, fat, frilly ones with the eye in the center of the flowers) to plant around the house. In the afternoon, Annika went to preschool (she started this week and words cannot describe how thrilled she is to be back). When Frankie and I picked her up, she told me proudly that she had done "Kindergartner work" that day, and showed me the counting workbook page she had completed. Then we went home and planted flowers. True, she got tired after about 15 minutes and went inside to hang out with Jörg, but she was back out again 20 minutes later and played until bath time.
She was asleep by 6:15.
Patience, really, is what it takes. Sometimes a whole lot
of patience. There are bad days, sometimes weeks and weeks of bad days one after another. But there are always very good days, too. And sometimes weeks and weeks of very good days.
Framing skills are also very handy when you're creating the mental picture of your life. I've been focussing so much on the scary aspects of Annika's medical situation, mainly that she needs a transplant but isn't strong enough to undergo the surgery right now and meanwhile keeps bleeding. But the more pertinent fact is that Annika's surgeon is willing to retransplant her. Certainly he wouldn't choose to do that unless he thought that she had a shot at coming through the surgery and living many more years to come.
So maybe those many more years will find Annika honing her whining skills to a sharp and annoying point. I'm sure at some point I'll finally muddle my way into a more effective approach for those moments when I find my teeth grinding together at the high-pitched keening sound of Annika protesting the unsatisfactory temperature of the water in her cup. This, in fact, was my very situation just a few days ago. I let out a theatrical sigh, loud enough to startle Annika into silence. Then I hunched my left shoulder up to the side of my neck, elbow cocked to bring left hand right up above my shoulder. Then I began making tiny sawing motions with my right hand, which was right up beside my left.
"Do you know what this is, Annika?"
Eyes wide and serious, she shook her head.
"This," I say dramatically, "is the world's tiniest violin playing the world's saddest song."
Jörg rolled his eyes at me, "I don't think she's quite old enough for sarcasm to be an effective communication tool, do you?"
But Annika was not put off at all, looking, instead, rather intrigued
"How about we hear that very sad song
And Frankie, bless her sweet and loving little heart, raised her arms for a hug, "Oh! Don't be sad, Mommy!"
April is National Donate Life
month to promote organ, tissue, and blood donation, and recognize the positive impact donors have had on the lives of so many. Go to Donate Life
for more information, and, if you live in Illinois, you can click here to join the on-line donor registry
. The organization I volunteer for (Gift of Hope
) also has a wonderful and informative website. Pass the links along, if you like, and feel free to pass along this photo of a beautiful (if occasionally grumptastic
) little girl from her forever grateful parents: