Lately it feels like there’s a million little things happening at once, but no cohesive story worth sharing that has a beginning, middle and end. You know? Right now we are living a lot of middles, and the beginning maybe isn’t so interesting and the end is still unknown. And I’m having trouble coming up with things that feel worth the retelling when they feel incomplete.
I got a very nice email from a reader who wanted to know how Monkey was doing, and that’s a middle if ever there was one. On the one hand: The surgery was such a success, physically, it takes most of my energy not to spend every spare second flogging myself over our not having done it sooner. It remains to be seen if Spring will kick up his allergies and force him back onto his Zyrtec/Flonase regimen (probably it will), but for the first time in YEARS he’s not on any allergy meds and his nose is clear. You truly don’t realize how annoying it is to live with someone who sniff-sniff-snort-gurgle-SNORTs all day long until it’s all blessed silence, instead.
On the other hand: While his behavior is MUCH improved (like, by a factor of about a hundred), he is only beginning to settle back into school after nearly a month away, and I’m still holding my breath. How much of The Bad Times were him being sick, and how much were him being… him? I’m not ready to call it.
We spent most of Saturday at the next level of the Reading Bowl competition, watching our favorite female nerdling giggle with her friends and eat Skittles and, oh yeah, occasionally answer obscure questions about books. Chickadee does this thing at competitions (I’ve seen her do it at Academic Bowl, as well) where she knows the answer but assumes her teammates do, too, and so somehow she uses this as justification to never buzz in, because by the way, she hates having to do any sort of public speaking. So it’s not at all unusual for us to attend a competition where she doesn’t open her mouth even once, and afterward if we dare to point this out, she huffs and says, “Well I KNEW all the answers!” Like, we should just be 1) using our powers of telepathy to deduce this and 2) congratulating her because how many times have we said that “It’s the thought that counts!” after all, right?
So before this tournament we had a conversation about how academic competition is one part knowing the material and one part BUZZING IN BEFORE THE OTHER TEAM FORTHELOVEOFGOD. And when that loving explanation appeared to fall on deaf ears, we bribed her: Buzz in and answer just two questions correctly, and we’ll let you watch that PG-13 movie we’ve been negotiating over for a while.
It worked. We’d already decided to let her see the movie, of course; but the big grin she flashed me after the second correct answer tempered any guilt I may have felt about our tactics.
They made it on to the next round, and there was much rejoicing. We then went out for lunch with some of her teammates, then sent her off with them and another parent to go do something fun, and then later took her over to a friend’s house for a while. Basically, by the time Saturday night rolled around, she’d been on a non-stop Do Fun Things ride, so of course that’s when she chose to pitch a fit about our unwillingness to take her to the craft store RIGHTTHISVERYMINUTE to get supplies for a homework project she’d forgotten to mention.
And our pointing out that we never would’ve let her go hang out with her friends all day had we known she had a project to complete were just further proof that we are mean and awful.
There was arguing and tears and disgust and my tired, oft-ignored observation that nothing is ever enough for her. That we’d spent half the day at her competition, let her go off with her friends, drove her there and back for more friend-time, and yet somehow it’s OUR fault that she “forgot” her project and we are horrible for not dropping everything to take her for supplies.
The promised movie was rescinded. She may have said some things, in her frustration and disappointment. I may have said that her level of ingratitude and ungraciousness in the face of all that is routinely done for her breaks my heart. Because it does, for reasons she will never understand. (And I’m glad she doesn’t—don’t get me wrong—but really, must one experience being a have-not to appreciate what you have? That doesn’t seem right.)
On Sunday she finished her work without complaint and without extra supplies. She did the dishes and apologized and told me she loves me and thanked us both for everything we do for her. By Sunday night she and Otto were bickering and I ended up playing peacekeeper, which I hate.
But this is the middle, with her. I have to believe it’s the middle.
Otto wants to figure out how we can do a vacation with his family, this summer, and we’re working on logistics. It’s complicated; it’s more complicated, perhaps, than it seems like it should have to be. But there’s us, and there’s the kids’ dad, and there’s nerd camp for Chickadee—which one minute I think will be the best thing in the world for her and the next minute I think is going to be too much for her when she can’t even put away her own laundry without freaking out about the difficulties of her horrible life—and there’s only so many weeks in the summer.
In his frustration over this, Otto made one of those sweeping generalizations (“You always…”) that relationship experts say you should never, ever do. Argue the issue at hand, don’t drag up ancient history. Except I think there’s festering stuff to be dealt with when that happens, particularly as Otto is never one to play dirty pool. So I tried to draw him out on that and figure out what’s up. We worked it out. And we’ll figure out the vacation thing, somehow.
I think he’s just frustrated by how much is out of our control, right now. I am, too. But I’m the one squarely in the middle, needing to make it okay for the kids, maintain the peace with their father, and let my husband know that as much as I love and adore him, sometimes his inability to fix the unfixable just is, and it’s okay.
I am apparently grinding my teeth at night again. I know this because Otto asks how I slept and I say, “Eh,” because I woke up a bunch, and then I get suspicious and ask why he asked.
“You were grinding your teeth a lot,” he says, worry around the edges of his voice.
“Sorry,” I say, because I am, and because I don’t know how to stop. Well, that’s not true—I do know how to stop: I could just get that expensive bite splint and probably that would fix it, and I even set money aside for it, but then we started talking about family vacations and nerd camp and part of our fence fell over and Chickadee’s rash flared so we started talking about how many we should convert the pool to salt water this year. There are always things that cost money and always plenty of excuses not to spend it on myself.
Monkey’s school just called. His parapro is out today, and he says that her substitute is trying to kill him. Apparently his paranoia was not located in either the tonsils or the adenoids.
I made a deal with him and the guidance counselor: I have a conference call in a few minutes, and I’ll call the school back, after. If he still wants to come home, then, I’ll go get him. If they can work it out in the meantime, he’ll stay. I tried to entice him with the reminder of a class he loves that he’ll miss if he comes home. “She’ll probably ruin that, too,” he cried.
I hope this is the middle.