Saturday, September 2, 2017

The Threenager in the Doctor's Office

Audra's three-year well-child visit was a couple of weeks ago. She was understandably nervous about it, as the last time she'd gone to the doctor she'd had to do the finger-stick to get a drop of blood and had lost her ever-loving mind at the resulting tiny speck of red that blossomed on her hand.

Luckily, I skipped that visit and Jason took her, but trust me, I heard all about it from my already-intensely-verbal two-year-old at the time.

Hand to God, that finger-stick is going to be the first thing she tells her therapist about in thirty years.

In any case, I had reassured her up, down, and sideways that the three year checkup didn't even have any shots, so she could go right back to daycare afterwards, they were just going to look and make sure she was doing okay.

We get there and settle into the waiting room, where Audra exhausted every single toy within thirty-five seconds and then spent the next eleven minutes of our wait time talking, seemingly constantly, about Moana and something Ellie had done that morning and how much she likes bananas and Mom Mommy Mom Mom Moooooooom-

She may have a superpower. Her superpower is simply that she doesn't need to breathe as long as she's speaking, she can just keep going forever.

The nurse calls out her name and my daughter suddenly clams up into utter silence, clinging to my leg.

The nurse introduced herself and said, "So what's your name, sweetie?"

Audra stared her right in the eyes and said, calmly, "No."

"Okay!" The nurse said brightly, totally unperturbed. "I see your name is Audra and you're three years old now. Wow! That's pretty grown up. Let's get you over onto this scale to get your weight, there you go, get your shoes off first and your Mommy will help you-" and thus the nurse began a nearly seamless constant stream of commands and banter with my child, who followed her instructions with wide zombie eyes, standing on the scale, holding her arm out for blood pressure, mumbling answers to every question.

It was like watching someone hypnotize a cat.

The nurse kept that lilting, sing-song mind-control up until we were in the exam room and then left us to wait for the doctor. I have got to ask her to teach me how to do that.

For the first time, Audra had to undress from the top up to on the "gown" that snaps up the back.

It didn't occur to me that this was Audra's first time wearing one of those things until I went to put it on her and Audra flipped. out.

"What is that?! I don't like that shirt! I don't like that dress! It's not a good dress! I don't like it! Get it off get it off get it off!"

I managed to talk her into putting it on anyway, and she had mostly calmed down by the time the doctor entered the room.

"Hi!" The doctor said cheerfully. "What's your name, little girl?"

Audra curled behind me, hiding her face in my side. "No," she said into my ribcage.

"No problem," The doctor replied. "I see you're Audra. How old are you now, Audra? Do you know how old you are?"

Audra dug her face in harder.

"NO, my mommy says when people ask I don't know I don't have to answer them!" She insisted.

Well, hey, at least she's been listening to all that stranger-danger stuff, I thought to myself, while answering, "She knows she's three, she's just being shy."

Thus began the least successful doctors' visit either of my children has ever had.

She refused to answer any questions. When asked simply to prove she could speak, she was silent. When asked to open her mouth, she clamped it shut even harder. When asked if she could count, my child who spends half her day obsessively counting nothing at all refused.

When asked about colors, my child who has very strong opinions about them pretended she had no idea what colors even were.

"I promise she's verbal," I kept saying apologetically. "I promise she's fine with mobility. I promise she knows how to run and jump. She knows all her colors, she can count to fifteen, she knows the whole alphabet except for Q, X, and Z and seriously who ever even uses those letters anyway... I don't know why she's being so shy today."

The whole thing culminated with her reacting to the doctor asking politely to look at her ears by beginning to scream-cry as loudly as possible and moan "no, no, no, mommy no, mommy help". Meanwhile I had to hold her down for the examination, which by the way is probably going to be the second thing she brings up in therapy in thirty years.

This girl has been in my care for three years and I've already given her medical trauma.

"Well," The doctor said brightly over my daughter's betrayed, furious wails, "I don't need her to open her mouth anymore, I'm getting a great look at her teeth and her tongue right now! Plus, she's kicking hard enough that I know for sure her reflexes are great!"

We managed to get her to hold still for the stethoscope test, while she sniffled and stared at me with "mommy how could you" eyes and I tried to figure out whether or not I'd ever be allowed near my grandchildren one day, since I was clearly such a traitor.

Finally, the doctor finished up the examination and said, "She's doing just great," over Audra's continued mumble-crying. "Make sure to grab a toy from the basket on your way out for her!"

The mumble-crying cut off like someone had turned off the worst radio station ever, and Audra blinked tears out of her eyes.

"A toy? Is there a toy?" She asked, already getting her mommy-can-I-have-it facial expression prepped and ready.

The doctor laughed. "There, now I know she's verbal, too," She said on her way out the door.

By the time we made it to the checking-out area, Audra's tears had vanished. You would never have known that she had ever cried at all. She was totally and 100% focused on that promised basket of toys.

She picked out one of those "make your own model airplane" toys and I put it together for her while she climbed up into her carseat. She chattered happily all the way back to daycare, all but skipped into her class, and I got back into my car and just sort of sat there, staring at nothing, for a long time.

I headed to work, running through Starbucks on the way because Mommy needed a drink and I just wasn't ready to start in on bourbon at 10:30 in the morning.

While waiting in line, I thought about having to hold my three-year-old down just so the doctor could look into her ears.

"What can we get started for you?" The barista at the register asked.

I replied, "What is the most amount of espresso I can get in a drink before it's probably a bad idea?"

Thursday, August 24, 2017

Every Single Second

It’s easier the second time around, although
I still spend too much time wishing this child
would just slow down for a second
that the two of you would give me a minute
to realize
how quickly you’re headed away from me.

God, how I love that you move independently
to watch you discover a whole world of things
that aren’t yours, I can see you bring
to your mouth crayons and Play-Doh
Can I eat this?
Even when the answer is no, you do your best.

We do our best to keep your mouth from turning blue… again.

You don’t want to be carried as much anymore
You can crawl — or scoot at least
It’s wonderful to see, but baby girl
you'd still fit just fine in the space of my arms
if you’d stop twisting so hard
to get to the floor and discover the world away from me.

I let the mornings and afternoons go by too fast
I don’t take the time, the second time around
to just slow down for a second
stop thinking about work and dinner and juice
so I can just watch you
and your sister giggle at each other.

You both were tiny bundles they placed gently in my arms.

I feel every. single. second. and still
I’ve somehow lost a year or three. You both
keep growing older while I
try to keep up and wish this time around
that we could all slow down.
Of course this is always how it goes.

It's going to be a privilege to watch
my girls learn how to walk safely apart from me.


Friday, July 21, 2017

Ten Months In

Audra got detailed monthly updates, each month. Percentiles measured, progress noted, special stickers purchased to give her something special to mark out every step we took towards one.

Ellie gets a hurried couple of blurry photos each month. Lately she's likely to still be wearing a onesie with zucchini bits from dinner stuck to it. Her sister's foot has about a sixty percent chance of being in the frame, because God forbid that looking at Ellie ever causes us, for even the barest second, to stop looking at Audra, too.

At least they love each other.

Ellie's expression is routinely one of abject adoration whenever Audra speaks to her. A half-smile will become a full beam, and then suddenly my mostly-quiet infant is shrieking happily right back at the older sister who is shouting about things she loves (she will often spend this time declaring how much she loves her Ellie) less than three inches from her younger sister's face.

Sometimes, Audra gives her a hug, and Ellie melts into joy.

Then Audra piles toys up until I can no longer see my child and we have to go rescue her from Audra's enthusiastic sense of how one plays with babies, which is apparently to gently suffocate them with your affection.

I can tell you that ten months in, Ellie says "uh-oh" and waves hello and goodbye, that she replies to my repeated requests to say "mama" by stubbornly and joyfully shouting "da-da" at the top of her lungs.

I cannot tell you when she began to do these things, because they all occurred alongside our chaotic race to keep up with the destruction and havoc wreaked on us by the daughters we adore.

I can tell you that she loves discovering new foods but they don't always make it into her mouth, that she has begun purposefully feeding what she doesn't like to the dog when she thinks we aren't paying attention.

If she can't see you but she can hear you talking, she will crane herself in every direction trying to look.

She and the dog routinely lie down on the floor together, back to back, just quietly soaking up each other's presence.

I think he likes that she is quieter than Audra ever was.

I can tell you that putting her in the clothes that her sister once wore, that seemed so tiny then, continues to choke me up a little bit as I realize how quickly I am losing this time with my second baby, and how often I am too distracted to realize how much time has already passed.

I can also tell you that sometimes waiting out her naptime protests before she finally falls into the sleep she so desperately needs makes every single second drag and drag because all I want to do is whisk her up and away to some new adventure.

She likes to sit on the floor to play with her toys, and today she almost started to crawl to reach a toy that was too far away. Then she gave up, sat back, and made angry faces at me, because damn it, toy acquisition and retrival is supposed to be my job.

She has fallen head over heels in love with a stuffed owl.

For all that she doesn't even move yet, I can barely keep up with her.

I don't know how often I'll miss the dates of things or decide that a quick once-over with a wipe will have to replace the leisurely afternoon bath I would have given her older sister at this age. How many times Jason and I will decide that a onesie is a good enough outfit because there simply isn't time to put pants on her.

But I can tell you Ellie Rose is ten months old, and her first word is "uh-oh", she's about to crawl, and her red hair is starting to turn blonde.

I can tell you she is so loved.

I can tell you that sometimes she simply cannot sleep until she has spent a half-hour in the bedroom with one of us, simply rolling around and laughing and soaking up this temporary world in which she is the only child being looked at right now.

(The other parent is busy reading seventeen books, and three at least twice, and most of them are about dinosaurs or sentient animals.)