A little child shall lead me

By Mir
December 11, 2005

I am having a bit of difficulty getting into the holiday spirit right now. It’s not that I don’t want to, because I DO. I’m just finding it hard. I’m… too emotional. About everything. And so I’m either tearing up in awe and gratefulness that we’re actually all okay, or I’m beating myself up over my inability to just feel joy without it dredging up all of those less-than-joyful feelings that oftentimes follow.

Really the best I’ve been able to manage on my own is picking out and eating all of the peppermint bark squares in my Ghiradelli holiday assortment. I don’t know if it’s exactly filled me with the spirit of the season, but I’m full and my breath is minty.

The truth is, I’m just tired. Tired from lack of sleep. Tired from worry. Tired from my back hurting. Tired from trying to keep it all together for the kids. Tired from trying to force myself to just GET OVER IT already.

Tired of being tired of myself. It’s like the movie says, you know. No matter where you go, there you are.

Anyway, in the midst of this, I have been primed for the kids– Chickadee in particular, both because she’s more sensitive and because she sustained the most serious injury–to have lasting after-effects from the accident.

It’s interesting to me that it’s Monkey, not Chickadee, who has blossomed into the quintessential little old lady backseat driver. Any time I slow down with him in the car, he’s right there piping up– helpfully–with, “Slow DOWN, Mama!” or “YOU SHOULD STOP NOW!” or “LOOK OUT FOR THAT OTHER CAR!” I am trying to be patient with him. I have explained umpteen times that he rode in the car with me for nearly 6 years before I ran into anything, and he needn’t worry that just because we had one accident that I am a lousy driver or it will happen again. He listens intently to my reasoning, nods in agreement, and then mumbles, “Well, I just get a little worried.”

Out of the car, he’s fine.

Chickadee, on the other hand, doesn’t seem bothered in the car. But if I talk to anyone about the accident in her presence, she becomes extremely agitated. She doesn’t want to talk about it, or hear about it, and she’s very clear about saying so. It’s okay to talk about her stitches or decorate her bandages, but not to address HOW she was injured. The wound is a badge of courage. The events that led to it comprise a movie she never wants to see again.

Last weekend (before the accident) I put up our Christmas tree. The kids have been begging to do the ornaments ever since. For a few days I was able to put them off because I just wasn’t mobile enough to be carrying boxes up from the basement. Friday I finally brought everything up; not because I particularly felt a need to do so, but because the children had been relentless. They fell to arranging the nativity and hanging ornaments on the tree, and Chickadee was in an uncommonly cheerful mood.

I finally decided to join in (and perhaps get some ornaments higher than 4′ up the tree), and went to hang an ornament near the top. In doing so, I bumped against an icicle ornament Chickadee had hung as high as she could reach. Because she could barely reach, the loop was right at the edge of the branch. When I bumped it, it fell, and shattered.

It had been a beautiful glass icicle, given to her last year by some family friends. She was heartbroken. I cleaned up the glass while she asked if I could glue it back together, and I had to explain that the damage was too great. I apologized (several times); I felt awful. I told her she could pick from one of my ornaments, to replace it. Later she curled up in my lap and asked me about the ornament she’d chosen; I told her the story behind when I’d received it, and she said we should share it. I told her that was a great idea.

This morning I was just WRONG. About EVERYTHING. She didn’t want to wear THAT to church. She didn’t want to brush her teeth NOW, she wanted to do it LATER. And she was communicating her displeasure by letting me know how USELESS and DUMB she was sure I was. Somewhere around the third altercation I threw my hands into the air. “Okay, Chickie. I’m done. I don’t want to argue with you. You know what you need to do, and what the consequences are if you don’t. You’re being rude to me and I don’t like it. It’s all up to you. I’m going to go get ready.” It’s not the first time I’ve used that tactic. It’s the most graceful way I can extricate myself, usually, but the downside is that it often makes her even more defiant.

I was halfway through drying my hair when I noticed Chickadee slinking into my bathroom. I said hello and went back to my hair. She worked her way around the dryer’s cord and hugged my middle, wordlessly. I put the dryer down and hugged her back.

“I’m sorry, Mama,” she said, cheek resting against my ribs. I kissed the top of her head and thanked her, and squeezed her closer.

We stood there like that for a while. “I like this better than fighting,” I commented. She giggled into my side. It tickled.

At church, she both tittered with her friend and tried to corral Monkey during the children’s sermon when he inexplicably became boneless and lay down on the floor. She cast a furtive wave to me over her shoulder as she left for junior church.

After church, she begged to be allowed to go play at her friend’s house, and danced for joy when we mothers assented. She gave me a hasty kiss and ran off.

Later, Monkey and I met up with Chickadee and friends at a Christmas festival complete with Santa. The kids begged to stand in line for their chance to talk to him. Monkey fretted that he didn’t have his list done. Chickadee pointed out the kids she knew from school. When it was their turn, I had to move in fairly close to listen to their conversation.

Santa asked why they both had bandaged foreheads, and Monkey was only too happy to tell him that his mom ran into a truck. I watched as Chickadee’s lips clamped down in a straight line, then was amazed when Santa whispered something to her and she broke out in a shy smile. She whispered something back.

(Later, she told me Santa had asked her if he should bring me a new car. Chickadee told him “thanks anyway, but we got one just like the one we had.”)

The kids each settled down on Santa’s knees, and he asked the inevitable question. Monkey started rattling off a litany of items he wanted: Pokemon cards, a Pokedex, maybe some more cars or dinosaurs, or some Teen Titans stuff…. Santa turned to Chickadee and asked what she wanted. “I don’t know,” she said.

“I think we’re all out of ‘I don’t knows,'” teased Santa. The shy smile came back.

“I don’t really need anything,” she clarified. Santa told her he’d think of something befitting such a good little girl. I bet he will, too.

After their time with Santa, we wound our way back to the parking lot. The kids had decorated and inhaled sugar cookies, done some crafts, watched the firemen drive around the vintage fire truck, and chatted with the big jolly guy. And two very bored-looking teenaged elves had given them candy canes. It had been noisy and crowded and not at all the sort of thing that I enjoy, but the kids were giddy.

As we climbed into the cold car, I flicked the switch for my seat warmer. This car has a few more features than the previous one, like the ability to roast your buns on a cold winter day. Ahhhh. “You know what I like about THIS car better than the OLD car?” I asked the kids (even then steeling myself against the “well why don’t OUR seats get warm??” that was sure to follow).

“What?” replied Monkey…

… at exactly the same time as his sister quipped…

“That this one’s NOT SMUSHED?”

(Okay, that wasn’t what I was going for, but she had a point. A pretty funny point, actually.)

And tonight before bed, Monkey had a spectacular meltdown over the fact that he was STARVING on account of I NEVER FEED HIM. (Translation: He had turned up his nose at dinner, and realized his error several hours later.) As he wept in the hallway, I knelt down to hug him. Before I knew it, Chickadee had had emerged from the bathroom–mid-tooth-brushing–to comfort him as well. I patted his back and she patted his head and then made her foamy toothbrush do an enticing song and dance that went more or less like “come brush your teeth! come brush your teeth!” until he wiped his tears and followed her back to the sink.

I am amazed, each night, as I change the dressing on her head, at how quickly she is healing. That seems to hold true for what I can’t see as well as what I can. How did I get so lucky to have this goofy, compassionate, nutty girl to show me the way?


  1. Colleen

    I can understand why you are so emotional right now. One big reason is that near disasterous accident you had. The psychological wounds may take a little longer to heal than the physical wounds and that’s ok. It may even be normal!

    And Christmas is just an emotional time of the year. Media/religion etc focuses on family and there’s that pressure to buy lots of presents and bake all kinds of stuff and you have to deal with other crabby people in crowded malls and…I’m sure you get the idea.

    Be patient with yourself and take care of yourself.

  2. Cyndi

    Mir, sweetie…I have not had an accident (well, lately) to keep me from the holiday spirit, but I am having trouble just the same. I think it’s my lack of peppermint bark…so I will be headed for it tomorrow, first thing!!

    Thanks for the heads up…glad the kids (all of you!) are healing up well!

  3. julie

    Isn’t it funny that just when you think you don’t have another ounce of strength in you to be a good mother, your child mother’s you?
    I’m Suzanne’s sister. She recomended you highly! ;)

  4. DebR

    “That this one’s NOT SMUSHED?” surprised a giggle out of me. :-)

  5. alice

    Yay! I’m glad to hear that you’re all progressing along the road back to normal, and am *very* glad that you have toothbrush dances and peppermint bark to help ease past the weird spots. The ‘dee is one cool kid, I must say.

  6. Holly

    Mir, I hope that there are lots of good parents out in the world like you, but few of them can write as well, with as much honesty and humility and humanity as you.

    Keep on.

  7. Jenrigg

    Ecstasy and agony is about right! She sounds such a clever little girl. Take it easy and one step at a time. Hugs!

  8. Bob

    Kids are amazingly resilient. I also think, though, that you are allowed to take some credit for how well they are doing. You may doubt yourself inside, but it is obvious that you are projecting none of that to them. Monkey and Chickadee sound like they are dealing with this well and that is a tribute to you. Take heart and keep up the good work.

  9. buffi

    Chickadee sounds so much like SugarPlum to me. Sweet and funny and sensitive and infuriating all in the same day. I love that she makes up silly songs and dances for Monkey and keeps him in line (or tries to). SP does that with her brothers, as well. Some days she teaches me how to be a better mommy. These boys are lucky to have such sweet big sisters in their lives!

    It sounds like you all are healing well and right on schedule. I’m sure it seems like it’s been a year, but it’s not even been a week. You are a great mom, Mir. Don’t forget it.

  10. Theresa

    Colleen is right. You all need time. It will get better.

  11. Kris

    Between staggering around with “I want your BRAINS” and “it’s not SMOOSHED” and everything else, I just have to tell you what a great mom you are, no matter what you think. They’re GREAT kids.

    And as for not wanting to talk about the accident, I can’t say I blame her, but do get her to talk about it eventually – with a therapist, a friend, a church member, whatever. She’ll eventually need to work through it. Might not be for a few weeks, a few months or even a year, but it will linger. She’s a smart kid – she’ll find a way. Just don’t let her bury it too long.

    I’m so glad you guys are doing much better. (HUGS)

  12. chris

    i marvel at your kids as i continue to marvel at my own. no matter how well we think we know them, there is always something new around the corner or buried in a box we had overlooked. for good or bad (but usually good), the surprises never end!

  13. Lil

    Things will calm down, in time. Please don’t beat yourself up anymore about it.

    Because, when you are not beating yourself up: You’re pretty!

  14. angela

    “How did I get so lucky to have this goofy, compassionate, nutty girl to show me the way?”

    Because, dear Mir, you yourself are a goofy, compassionate nutty girl who shows so many others the way.

    From the blogosphere, know we love you and we love your Chickie and your Monkey and we are praying for you daily.

    “This one’s not smushed” How on EARTH did you keep from grabbing her up, dipping her in ketchup and swallowing her whole??

    By the way, congrats on the minty fresh breath!!

  15. Nothing But Bonfires

    Have you ever read the poem Keeping Things Whole by Mark Strand?

    In a field
    I am the absence
    of field.
    This is
    always the case.
    Wherever I am
    I am what is missing.

    When I walk
    I part the air
    and always
    the air moves in
    to fill the spaces
    where my body’s been.

    We all have reasons
    for moving.
    I move
    to keep things whole.

    For some reason, it kind of reminded me of “wherever you go, there you are.” And the whole idea of how we keep moving after something horrid happens, just to keep things together.

    I’m sorry — I never meant to become the kind of pretentious person who leaves poems in comment boxes. Might as well stick a black beret on me and take me to a poetry slam where everyone smokes clove cigarettes and snaps their fingers instead of applauding.

  16. Amy-GO

    Awww. That just made me want to squeeze her to bits! “This one’s not smushed”…nothing I like better than just the right amount of smart-ass. Hugs all around!

  17. Eulallia

    Oh Mir. You make me want to cry and hug you and hang out with your fantastic kids. You are awesome.

  18. Cori

    “How did I get so lucky to have this goofy, compassionate, nutty girl to show me the way?”

    My guess would be that you’d taught her to be exactly that way, by your words and actions. Stop beating yourself up, Mir. You’ve got two great kids and you’re responsible for that. The truly bad parents are the ones that don’t care if they aren’t doing a good job. You are, you care, and that’s what kids need. {{{Mir}}}

  19. Lisa

    I am amazed that you would be amazed that you have such great kids! It sounds to me that Chickadee takes a wee bit after her Momma! The funny, goofy, nutty part that is!

    I’m so very glad to hear that everyone is healing after that ordeal!

  20. Mike

    Angela and Cori utterly stole my thunder here, so I’ll just add my voice to theirs. You got lucky enough to have Chickadee by letting her be lucky enough to have you as her mother, Mir. You’re raising yourself one extraordinary young girl…and a terrific young boy, to boot! Not bad for a peppermint bark cherrypicker!! Keep it up, Mir, like I know you will.

Things I Might Once Have Said


Quick Retail Therapy

Pin It on Pinterest