Between these weeds, flowers grow

By Mir
October 18, 2006

I think I may need to stop reading blogs for a while. And stop watching the news. And stop talking to anyone. Mmmkay? I’ll be here in my cave if you need me, but only if you have something nice to say.

The world is a stupid, scary place these days. I feel guilty for having brought more people into it.

Which is why I am going to purposefully ignore any of the myriad happenings I’d really LIKE to point to and say, “Oh! Look! Crazy people!” and instead tell you about how your daughters may, in fact, be lovely, but I got the very best one even though she often goes deep undercover as the world’s most difficult child.

At the family reunion this summer, the kids met countless relatives they’ve never seen before. My aunt—who is both heavily into genealogy and has two sons but really should’ve been blessed with at least one daughter—took quite a shine to Chickadee. This is wonderful, except that we live about 5,000 miles apart. Not one to be daunted by silly issues like reunions every fifteen years whether we need them or not, my aunt proposed that they become penpals. Chickadee enthusiastically agreed.

I forgot about it immediately, of course. If it had been up to me to coordinate, it would’ve been another fifteen years.

My aunt has been writing to Chickadee and Chickadee has been writing back. She sits herself down just as soon as a letter arrives and reads it to herself with a small grin on her face. Then (if I ask nicely), she’ll allow me to read it while she arranges whatever she needs for her reply. Colored pencils and ballpoint pens (she likes to have an extra on hand) are her tools of choice. Then all is quiet for a bit, save for the sound of her earnest utensils on paper.

“I just need to put this in the mailbox!” she announces, and she’s got her shoes on and is out the door before I can remind her to put the flag up.

“She doesn’t know very much about Tae Kwon Do,” she confided to me, after the last missive. “I had to explain all the belts. And there are a LOT of them.” I have a sneaking suspicion that entire letter may have been a laundry list of belt colors. No matter; each correspondence is tended to with the utmost of concentration and pride. My aunt has unwittingly given a marvelous gift to my daughter; the distance renders her glamorous and the interest in Chickadee’s daily life from this exotic source has sparked a quiet confidence in her.

This morning I had a conference with Chickadee’s teacher, and for the first time ever, there were no “but”s. She spoke of her math aptitude, her insistence on learning and using cursive RIGHT NOW, her devouring of books, her helpfulness with others in the class. I waited for the other shoe to drop. And it never did.

“But…?” I asked. The teacher looked confused. “So, where is she lacking?” I clarified.

“I really can’t think of a single negative. She’s a joy to have in class.” I gaped at her while she took out some quiz papers to share. “Did you know that she’s… well… she’s really quite bright,” she added.

I laughed. What else could I do?

I knew she was bright. What her teacher doesn’t know is that she used to sit in the corner and wail a few years ago. And that I was still afraid for her future a year later.

She doesn’t know that Chickadee leaves messes everywhere and breaks things and loses things and mouths off and argues—oh, the arguing!—and sometimes takes out her frustrations on her brother, but that just in the last year or so she has started to blossom into a person effortlessly wise beyond her years, rather than one uncomfortably wedged between her big brain and her rampant emotions.

I’m not naive enough to think that this spate of smooth sailing is the final chapter. But for now, it’s enough.

Sure, I can obsess about the crazy people. Or I can look at what is real and right and joyful here in front of me. Even if it does forget to screw the top all the way back onto the thermos and now totes a backpack that smells of chicken soup.

Besides which: the crazy people? Don’t tell nearly as many good jokes as she does.


  1. Muirnait

    I think she’s a very special girl. With a very special Mum. :-)

  2. Carol

    You know what? I have a child who is BRILLIANT and CHARMING and SWEET and WHOLESOME while at school. At home this same child is mostly STUBBORN and UNCOOPERATIVE and UNREASONABLE. He often falls into a blubbering pile of flesh simply because I won’t put the Spiderman movie into his DVD player RIGHT.FRICKIN.NOW. I think he’s got a split personality actually.

    Oh. That probably didn’t make you feel better even though it was designed to commiserate and empathize with you.

    Be thankful (not that you aren’t) for the good things and drink when they’re not. Yeah. That’s my MO.

  3. Lulu

    Whoa. Was that “sit in the corner and wail” thing anything like Monkey’s recent sitting under the table (desk?) & wailing?

    Maybe it’s just the parental anguish that’s the same. Sympathies there, at any rate.

    This parenting thing, it isn’t for wimps. You’re doing great. And you’re pretty. Enjoy the blooms that come along!

  4. Sara

    I love that you are appreciating the joy right now. It’s sometimes hard to recognize and grab onto it in the midst of living life, so good for you. Chickadee and Monkey are two lucky duckies to have a mom like you.

  5. Christina

    Thanks for that wonderful glimpse into the future :) Sounds like she is really coming into her own, and thank god for wonderful relatives who do wonderful things.

  6. tori

    How wonderful! I have 3 kids in school that the teachers tell me are amazing people. I know they are, but at home they sometimes don’t act quite as amazing as the teachers tell me they act at school. I guess it is good that they feel comfortable enough at home to “let go” and relax, and also great that they are pretty much perfect at school. I’m so happy for both you and Chickadee!

  7. Zuska

    Woohoo for Chickadee!!! Feels good, doesn’t it?

  8. barbex

    That was beautiful! (must fight back tears) How great for you to see that she turns out to be such a wonderful person! (I wonder what her mother is like…;-))

  9. Lesley


  10. Aimee

    Now *that’s* what I like to hear/read. Goodonya, Chickadee!

  11. Bob

    here’s to good parenting and wonderfull children. *clinky clinky*

  12. Rick

    I know that genealogy wasn’t the point of this post, but consider passing the “teacher” thought along to your crazy aunt. This is the king of thing we “family historians” will kill for…

    “She doesn’t know that Chickadee leaves messes everywhere and breaks things and loses things and mouths off and argues—oh, the arguing!—and sometimes takes out her frustrations on her brother…”

  13. Susan

    That is so wonderful to hear!!

  14. Cele

    Pen pals are wonderful. As a child and teen I had several. For Christmas a few years ago I tried to set one up for my niece, unfortunately it fell through and I was the one heart broken. Penpals have such a special memory for.

    Isn’t hearing wonderful things about our children a highlight in our lives. It’s like the pat on the back that says, “Hey, you’re not screwing them all up.” Congrats mom.

  15. Daisy

    Isn’t it a relief when everything falls into place? You knew all along what a special child your Chickadee is; now she’s showing it in school, too.

  16. Jenn2

    lovely…simply lovely.

  17. Jenny

    Woo hoo! Mir, that is fantastic news. I do the same thing my my son’s teacher… I stand there with a raised eyebrow, waiting for the but… and this year, it really hasn’t come. Yet. So far.

    Oh, to squash this expectation of “but”

  18. Angela

    WAaaahhhhhh…..okay….now I want a Maisy AND a Chickadee. You think Santa will bring me some for Christmas?

  19. JGS

    That would make a wonderful article in a really famous and popular parenting magazine (or two). It’s not only a lovely piece, but it is inspiring for those of us with…oh say…Okapis…not yet Chickadee’s and Monkey’s ages.

  20. Melanie

    She sounds wonderful – and I bet you felt so awesome when there was no “but”… It’s great when you know how very, very fabulous your kids are and somebody else does, too. I miss having penpals!

  21. chris

    What a great post. So true how we overlook the beautiful perfect stuff under our own noses to obsess about the craziness elsewhere.

    Can I come to the cave if I bring pie? homemade apple??

  22. InterstellarLass

    Parenting, like aging, is not for the weak-spirited. She sounds like a normal kid to me! And I think you’re doing a great job. I also think it’s awesome that your aunt is taking the time to be pen-pals with Chickadee!

  23. rachel

    oh, I’m so happy for you and Chickadee! thank you so much for sharing this. It gives me hope for my difficult one.

  24. Sharkey

    Okay, how weird is it that I’m proud of Chickadee? Woohoo, way to go–both of you!

  25. Lulu

    I happen to be the cousin of that Aunt you speak of and let me tell you, the entire family is lucky to have her. She is awesome. Parenting is tough, and she know how important it is to be there to pick up, when there are messes around, but she also knows when to instruct, when to sit back, and when to be playful. Chikadee, you have yourself one great pen pal.

    Keep up the good work, you know what, each day is a gift, to be opened, to be cherished, and utalized to the max.


  26. Juliness

    Every so often you get a well-timed “breather” in life. This is a great one!

  27. daring one

    And so it goes. Thanks for focusing on the positive. I am continually pleased and amazed by my kids too. They’ll drive you to drink one day and then sometimes when you really need it, they show you how wonderful they are and why you’re investing everything in them.

  28. Mrs. S

    I’ve been lurking for a while now, but I wanted you to know that my mom had a similar struggle with me when I was younger, and I turned out mostly okay – I’m married now, and I have a new baby and I’ve given up caring what other people think – and I’m just trying to say that you’re doing great, and she’ll look back and thank you for it some day.

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