Friday morning was one of those days where we’re aaaaaalmost done with the week, and everyone is tired and grumpy, and we’re running late and wishing it was already Saturday. So when Chickadee dragged her way through her shower and came downstairs late and then was fussing with a necklace instead of eating her breakfast or feeding the dog, I may have been a little impatient. There may have been some yelling. She may have flounced out the door without even saying goodbye, and I may have been righteously indignant that SHE was mad at ME when I wasn’t the one dragging ass.
When the phone rang and the school came up on the caller ID, a couple of hours later, I figured she was calling to apologize and/or make sure I wasn’t mad. That’s kind of her way. And so I was very surprised when I picked up the phone and she asked me if I could come get her.
Turns out, it’s kind of hard to get ready on time when you have a fever of 102. (I totally had to buy her a pony to make up for what a jerk I was earlier that morning.) She was really a very good sport for someone who probably felt like dog poop, but as she proceeded to be sick all weekend we had to find some low-key ways to keep her entertained.
My very favorite game to play with a sick child is Let’s Take A Nap. It goes like this:
Me: How about you go take a nap!
(if sick child is) Monkey: Okay. Good night.
(if sick child is) Chickadee: But I’m not tiiiiiired!
(If you think about it, it’s kind of fascinating. I mean, Monkey is the one with the complete inability to TELL you he’s unwell or even, apparently, recognize it. But if he’s sick and I suggest he take a nap, he heads straight to his bed and conks out within minutes. Here Chickadee is always I’M DYING yet you’d think the nap was the number one enemy of the people.)
In order to try to encourage my darling daughter to rest, I often climb into bed with her and snuggle and try to get her to settle down enough to realize that she’s sleepy. She’s wise to my tricks, though, and often wants to read a book together or otherwise chat endlessly to fend off any potential opportunity for sleep.
So. I’m lying there with her, and the dog, trying to say soothing things. (“Youuuuu are getting veeeeeeeery sleeeeeeepy! Yooouuuuuur pillooooooooow is caaaaaaaalling!”) Meanwhile, Licorice is flopping around like a beached fish, licking one of us and then the other, much to Chickadee’s delight. Finally I get the dog settled down and Chickadee decides she’s going to read me a book. So she reached up and grabs… Help! A Girl’s Guide to Divorce and Stepfamilies.
Now, I want you to understand that I wholeheartedly recommend this book. It’s a great one, particularly for girls in the 6-10 age range, which is of course when we bought it, years ago. The format is a lot of Q&A, so girls feel like other girls have the same questions they do, etc. Like said: Great book. I think it was enormously helpful for Chickadee to have it on hand as we went through all the changes the divorce and then my remarriage wrought.
That said, given that 1) it’s now a little young for her and 2) she was burning up with fever and consequently a little goofy, her reading of said book took a definite turn for the ridiculous. First she started reading passages in a variety of strange accents, landing—quite disturbingly—on something that sounded an awful lot like Dr. Ruth. (“Ven you are feelingt sad, you should TELL YOUR PARENTZ!”) Then she started making up captions for all of the little cartoon pictures, and it wasn’t long before we were both giggling so hard, Otto stuck his head in to see what was so funny.
“This girl is sad because her ears are big!” she’d howl, at the drawing of the girl so sad about her parents’ divorce, or maybe just about the size of her earlobes.
“I wish my mother had a face!” I declared, seeing the series of picture of the girl talking to her mother, whose drawing always seemed to cut off right at mouth level.
Maybe you had to be there. It was super entertaining to us.
“Wait wait, let’s read this one!” Chickadee said, as we flipped through the book looking for pictures to recaption. “‘If you feel awkward with your stepdad at first, that’s natural,'” she read. She put the book down and turned to face me. “I feel awkward with Otto. Very awkward.”
I laughed and she grinned at me. “Three years hasn’t been enough time to adjust, huh?”
“Nope! It’s all just so TERRIBLY AWKWARD!” she exclaimed. She flipped a few more pages. “Oh wait, listen to this one. ‘I have a stepdad. He wants me to call him Dad,'” she read. “‘But I just can’t. He annoys me every day with the same remark: Don’t call me Doug, call me Dad.'”
This, for some reason, was hilarious. Poor Doug! Poor kid with a stepdad named Doug! The book’s advice was sound: Let him know that it bothers you, because he may not understand how hurtful it is to put pressure on kids about the names Mom and Dad.
“‘Maybe Doug’s parents have always called him by a special name that you could use, too,'” Chickadee read. “Oh, I know!” she said, “She could call him MY DARLING SON! I bet his parents call him that!”
Again we were making quite a commotion, and Otto stuck his head back into the room. “Do I need to separate you two?” he asked.
“No, that’s okay, DOUG!” called Chickie between giggles. “We are just talking about what to call you!”
“Um,” said Otto. “Please don’t call me Doug. On account of that is not my name.”
“Okay, MY DARLING SON!” she agreed, doubled over again.
Otto came in and sat down on the bed with us. “I’m not sure I like this book,” he said. “It seems to be making you weirder.”
“THIS IS AWKWARD!” Chickadee yelled, rolling around on the bed, book flapping, giggles magnified by Otto’s confused expression. “I feel awkward, Doug. Please go away.”
Poor Otto. He, of course, was only too happy to tickle her in retaliation, because that’s what guys who have stepdaughters who are that weird have to do.
“AWKWARD!” she shrieked. “STOP TICKLING! IT’S AWKWARD!”
Eventually he stopped. “Thank you, Doug,” she said. “I mean, my darling son.” Otto shook his head and left.
At dinner Chickadee refused to stop calling him Doug, and Monkey started calling him “my darling son” just for good measure. I have to say, Otto is being a pretty good sport about it.
Maybe because everything is just so awkward.