Thursday, October 22, 2009

Put "Triage" on my Tool Belt

I could cradle her, but it's a gamble.

I could lay down next to her on her bed where she has been spending the last lone hour and ask "Did you do any laughing at pre-school today?" But she would likely say "No!" - with an implied post script of "get out of here and leave me alone" attached.

I might ask if she wants to read a book with me, help me put away toys, go for a walk.

Caroline has a cup full of vitriol that she regularly splashes in my face. That cup runneth over and never seems to empty. I may think she has used it all up or slept it away, but she has hidden reserves.

Even now I bid her "Good morning" as she comes sleepily into the room, my arms out to pull her up on my lap.
Head down, she gives me a kind of "back off" grunt-whine and drop kicks her stuffed snowman at me.
Ahhh, a bright new day has dawned.

How do I make friends with a four-year-old-girl who just doesn't seem to like much of anything? Matt says she smiles for him. He says she is delightful and fun. Does he have a secret code word that liberates her inner angel? I am the Mom - I should have all the code words.

Here are the two abilities that comprise my mother-skills as developed with my first child:

That's it.

Jonah has never been too bothered that I have no imagination to make up games or stories, or magic spells to jolly him out of a scraped knee. If I should rest awhile from the banal duties of the house to spend time with a child, I will read to them. This I do with a complete lack of interest in or ability to make up games. Many thousands of people before me have published their magic words and pictures to be read to this very child of mine on this very couch with no effort at all from me. I spent all my effort long ago pushing the kid out of my body. Thereafter I take the easy road.

And talking. I can ask a hundred questions. I can respond to questions. This is actually a true skill. Matthew has helped me develop this over time. Matthew is better at it. But never mind.

So, there you go - reading and talking - my mothering prowess in all its grandeur.

Caroline laughs in the face of my mothering prowess. Well...really she whines, or growls, or screams in the face of my mothering prowess. Laughing would be altogether too jovial for her.

In light of this I am putting a new arrow in my quiver. I call it "Triage".

We have a dear old friend called Chuck. Once, Chuck came to our house delivering a box of food stuffs I had purchased through him. Considering Chuck is around 80 and recently had knee surgery I would normally have carried the box into the house myself. But I happened to be about nine months pregnant at the time and therefore helpless even in the eyes of the one-kneed-eighty-year-old. While coming in Chuck inevitably tripped and fell up three steps into our kitchen. He came away with a bloody shin, but alright overall.

Caroline was almost three at the time. And I'm sure she almost felt sorry for Chuck. But what she mostly felt was total fascination. "Was he bleeding, Mommy? Did he cry, Mommy? Can he still walk, Mommy?" In the first day of the accident I must have recounted the story of Chuck Falling on the Three Stairs at least two dozen times. Books? We don't need no stinking books. Chuck Falling on the Three Stairs became our bedtime story, our morning time story, our I'm bored story, our stop-the-fit-throwing story. Caroline is four and a half now and we still get serious mileage out of this story.

A month or two later another dear old friend had an accident. My sweet 86-year-old Reva decided she was going to walk to church on her own because her ride did not show up. She (purposefully I'm sure) forgot her cane. She always says she doesn't need "that silly old thing." A block away from her house she fell flat on her face. A neighbor called an ambulance, and despite our worst fears Reva came away with only two black eyes and a few sore spots.

Caroline could not get enough of it. We added Reva Fell on the Sidewalk to our repertoire of stories.

We now have a rather august collection of Triage stories.

Mom Split Her Chin Open at the Pool
Aubrey Slices Her Leg Open in the Garage

How Dad Got a Harry Potter Scar

The Horse Stepped on Mom's Foot or The Horse Stepped on Aubrey's Leg
Mom Burns Her Hands Cutting Chili Peppers
Nana Breaks Her Arm Falling off the Porch

Tickle Grandpa Nearly Cuts His Arm Off While Fishing

Granny Breaks Her Wrist Delivering Christmas Cookies

So long as people we know continue to hurt themselves I have found a way to get Caroline in my lap and....connect. I'm not sure yet what this reveals about Caroline. She is not laughing at people's pain. It's more like she is absorbed in the horror of it. She doesn't like her own blood, and she DOES NOT like stories about her own wounds. I suspect there is a little bit of entertainment in it. I can tell a pretty good story if it is true, I just can't make one up as I go. But I also suspect that knowing each of these stories ends with survival is a wee bit comforting for Caroline. She gets hurt A LOT. Knowing other people get hurt - with blood even- and move on to enjoy chocolate ice cream again is promising.

So, "Triage" because it's kind of like nurses getting together to have a "cold one" after work and swapping emergency room stories. And "Triage" because it is my own emergency room effort to create a relationship with Caroline.

Now the label on my mother-skills arsenal declares:

Who knows what Cecily might put in my box.


shelley said...

Oh, poor Chuck. Your story titles made me laugh out loud. I could make a blog post of my own with titles from my house. Here's one from tonight:

Shannen accidentally stabs self in knee with pencil while fighting with Spencer over computer access.

From earlier in my life:
Shelley steps on rusty nail during visit to ghost town.
Shelley gets hit by a car.
Shelley falls down the stairs and gets a blue bruise the size of a grapefruit.
Shelley gives birth.

This is too much fun. I think I'll make my own list.

Sarah said...

Caroline used to tell me the story of your split chin when she was in nursery. :) If I think of any injury stories, I'll let her know. I just love that kid.

Menner said...

Shelley shouldn't forget the classic "Shelley Drops Dog Door on Foot and Loses Toenail."

Ah, I'm still laughing out loud.

How about "The Time Granny Shut the Trunk Door on Maren's Face and Split Her Lip Open" or "Maren Kicked Wall and Broke Toe" followed by "Maren Kicked Boy and Broke Toe" finishing with "Maren Stubbed Toe on Vacuum and Rebroke Broken Toe."

I'm so glad I now know the key to bonding with Caroline.

Susan said...

What about Granny Gets a Hernia? You could give her a few gory details, such as 1) a hernia feels like someone is pinching you really, really hard on the inside, 2) Granny had to go to the hospital and have a doctor CUT OPEN HER STOMACH WITH A KNIFE, and 3) and best of all, Granny's tissue inside was almost NECROTIC (but it pinked up after they fixed the hernia). If you focus on NECROTIC, that could give her some real chills.

aubtobobtolob said...

I know I am the star of a couple of these, and not in a good way. sigh.
but you could add the time Nana locked my hand in the car door in the church parking lot and I yelled choice words in front of the Bishop. Good times had by all on that day! And what about when you hit your head on the Geode when you fell out of the tree. soooo many great stories. I love you jess, even if I did cause most of your pain, I now see why it had to be. :)

Anonymous said...

I get it. You get your baby girl and can't wait for a happy sun-shiney mother daughter love fest, but then, she's different. She's Complicated, has a definite dark side, interesting for sure... but different. Your whole way of doing things AND expectations has to change. Your daughter has to teach you how to deal with her.
Learning about Sensory Processing Disorder explained some of that for us and things are getting better after going to an occupational therapist. But, the rest is just her... when she's snuggly I'll Take It. When she's angry and hates me I don't take it personally.
I'm glad you found your common ground place. And what a macabre but interesting common ground it is! :)

Chani Riiell said...

Oh my.
I'm glad I have yet to really experience Caroline's deviant side. When I'm around it goes something like this:
Day one, Chani: Hi Care! I've missed you so much! Come give me a big hug!
Caroline: *sneer* *hides behind mom's legs*
... later on that day
Chani: Caroline, do you want to sit on my lap? I'll read you a story!
Caroline: ummmm, no. *runs away with a shy smile*

Day two!
Chani: Caroline, I'm too tired. Go away. You know I don't wake up until well past noon. AWAY WITH YOU, CHILD! *garggle sneer yawn smile*
(ok, she may not have said that last thing verbatim, but... pretty close)

Maybe if I use Triage as my intro this time, I won't have to wait so long for her to open up.
I can just come right up and say "Caroline, did you know that when I was 16 I was hit by a car while at drivers ed? Isn't that crazy!? Isn't that ironic? And then I was 10 I ran into a wall on my bike and had a bloody knee. And when I was 13 I broke a mirror in my hands and had to get 5 stitches in my finger! See the scar?"

And then she'll hug me and all will be well.

JaeReg said...

Chaaa-ni, now that you know how to set up a's time to start a new one devoted to your words.
No longer can you hide your prose in the comment section of my blog.