Day 4: Hey, I have another kid, too!

By Mir
January 24, 2011

Monkey’s recovery continues apace. Yesterday was briefly a bit rough—he woke up in pain, pain bad enough for him to recognize—but with enough drugs TLC we were able to smooth things out and have a pretty uneventful day. By bedtime he was looking kind of ragged again, though, and as I gave him his last dose of pain meds I said, “How ya doing, buddy?” and he crawled into bed saying, “Not so good, actually.”

So either I’ve already made him into a full-fledged drug addict who doesn’t deal well with the monkey on his back (ha! a monkey on Monkey’s back!), or it turns out that having a bunch of stuff cut out of your throat/head really hurts. WHO KNEW?

By the way, THANK YOU to everyone who warned me that post-surgical stench-breath was a possibility. I am pretty sure they took out his tonsils and adenoids and replaced them with a mixture of burnt toast and rancid cheese. Lord almighty. And of course all he wants to do is curl up with me and rest, so let’s just say this week I’m learning more about the strength of a mother’s love than I ever thought I would. Monkey’s had a couple of visitors and I’ve struggled with whether to warn them and/or pass out gas masks or just pretend like we haven’t noticed. I had to settle for casting severe looks at the dog and saying, “LICORICE!” in an embarrassed voice, then explaining that I am so sorry, but she seems to have an intestinal disturbance. I think it worked.

ANYWAY. This isn’t actually about Monkey, or even about the fact that yesterday, MY throat started to hurt, and today when Monkey said, “Want to lay down with me?” it took everything I had not to respond “HELL YES!” Just a little souvenir I seem to have brought home from the hospital, no doubt, because that place was FULL of sick people. The nerve.

No, today is about Chickadee.

I think it’s pretty well established that my darling daughter would prefer to be the center of attention whenever possible, as is her designated slot in life as a nearly-13-year-old girl. I’m sorry to report that I often find this troublesome, particularly when, say, her brother has just come home from surgery and she is 1) not very sympathetic and 2) seems quite put out that SHE is not allowed to have ice cream for dinner! Because we are SO MEAN and no one LOVES HER!

On the one hand, I sort of feel like Chickadee has a high-needs sibling because one of the karmic lessons she needs to learn is that it’s okay not to be the center of the universe at all times, and a little compassion thrown in the mix there would be good, too. On the other hand, there is no denying that we have been in Operation Deal With The Monkey Crisis mode for months, now, and if she feels like she’s getting the short end of the stick, it’s because… she really kind of is. We’re doing our best to make sure she gets everything she needs and adequate attention and time from us, but it’s hard. It feels unfair all around, and even though I may roll my eyes when her voice is growing ever-louder over the injustice of why SHE can’t have all the apple juice she WAAAAANTS, I know that in kid-speak she is not saying “I want apple juice,” she is saying, “It feels like he gets more of you and I don’t know how to say I want you, too.”

I’ve been thinking about this a lot, lately. Maybe especially because Chickadee has continued—despite rather choppy waters here at home, with everything that’s been going on—excelling at just about everything, rather than using all of this as an excuse to slack off. Last year it felt like a losing juggling act, with her; if one thing got done, something else crashed to the ground. (“Oh, this 44 in English? I guess I kind of forgot to turn some stuff in…? It’s okay, it’ll be higher after I do that.”)

And this year, she’s just blossoming. While I’ve been berating myself over my parenting shortcomings, this kid has (ahem, brag alert): Stayed on the honor roll, gone to state Academic Bowl competition as part of a team that hasn’t been that far in years, won several Reading Bowl competitions (I forget what they’re up to now… Regionals, I think), won a couple levels of Science Fair, already been appointed next year’s yearbook editor owing to all of the work she’s done this year, and just completely rocked at everything she’s decided to do.

What’s more, Chickie took the SAT and qualified for all of the enrichment programs offered to kids enrolled in this gifted thing, so even though we’d warned her, beforehand, that we were “just taking the test to see,” Otto and I sat down with her scores and the web site and crunched the numbers and talked to her dad and… remember how I said we weren’t going to send her to any of those expensive summer programs? I think we lied.

The thought of sending my daughter away for three weeks this summer, three weeks without either me or her dad, well, it kind of makes my chest feel tight. But the thought of giving her three weeks where she’s free to be Just Chickadee amongst fellow nerdlings and not Monkey’s Sister or The Kid Who Has To Balance Between Divorced Parents or—heaven forbid—sending her to typical summer camp where she’d have to do sports and hate every minute… that makes me feel like this may be the best thing we could possibly do for her right now.

She’s THRILLED. I am trying to picture my shy little girl making her way among strangers for three weeks, far from home. I can’t see it, but then again, a year ago I never could’ve seen where she is now. I busy myself, instead, sharing my ancient stories of summer camp (which are truly some of my best childhood memories) and reminding myself this will be something she remembers her whole life. “I hope there aren’t any snotty rich kids,” she said to me, and when I stopped laughing we had a little talk about how you can’t let the snotty rich kids get you down, and always start with an open mind, etc.

Right now it feels like I’m nursing one little bird here in the nest with a broken wing, while the other one flies over our heads in ever-lengthening figure 8s. No one is more surprised than I am to discover that—while her stopovers are indeed precious to me—watching her soar is even better.


  1. Amanda

    Such beauty, seriously.

  2. Brigid

    I see so many parallels in my life and yours. I really hope my little darling will bloom as yours has.

    Oh, and the breath thing. Ack. Gagging just now remembering that. Had previously blocked it from my memory, but I did google it back then because I was sure they had left a small dead rodent in my child’s throat because what else could possibly make that smell come out of my baby??

  3. Randi

    Awww – I’m so glad that Monkey is slowly starting to feel better, and that Chickie is able to soar – how awesome!! I think, no matter how much we do for our kids, we always worry that we’re not doing enough. Hence the huge Christmas bills. But I know that you’re a great mom – just the fact that you worry about being a good mom means that you are one.

  4. liz

    I am all verklempt.

    Suggestion: set Monkey up with your husband or another caregiver for an afternoon, take Chickie out of school early and go have an adventure with her.

  5. Arina

    I was a nerdling like Chickie, and went to gifted camp at her age, and it was the best thing my parents did for me that year. Being around peers more like me than not was such a great experience, and I got a much-needed look at what the world could offer outside of my small-town school geared to the middle of the road kids. I hope she gets the same charge out of it that I did!

  6. Karen R.

    Yay for Chickadee. She is going to have the time of her life at camp, and the experience will stay with her forever.

  7. Another Dawn

    Going to a camp where she doesn’t know anyone will be a fabulous life experience for her. When I was her age, I went to summer camp for the first time with a school friend. They did not put us in the same cabin, as had been requested. I’ll never forget trudging up to the door of my cabin, and how scared I was that the other girls wouldn’t like me (not being liked = death at that age, as you know), when suddenly, I pulled a whole bunch of brave right outa my back pocket and strolled in as if I belonged. And I was fine. No one was more surprised than me at that, I can tell you, as I was one heck of a shy kid.

  8. Karishma

    You are I can only hope that I’ll be able to pull it off half as well some day. And yay for Chickadee!

  9. bad penguin

    My brother did the early SAT thing and went to one of those special programs (I think it was two or three weeks at a college) a couple of summers. It was a great experience for him — seriously, “free to be himself among fellow nerdlings” is a good description of what he got out of it — along with the learning, of course. I hope it is a wonderful time for Chickadee.

  10. Beth R

    I second Arina’s comment – those summer nerdling camps were one of the best things my parents ever did for me!

    And I always knew that Chickadee was going to soar. You just have to get through the “is she a beautiful chickadee or a glowering buzzard?” phase and everyone will be fine :)

  11. divrchk

    Wonderful! Camp will be awesome.

  12. diane

    Congratulations to Chickie! Her blossoming now is due to all the love and work you’ve put into raising her to this point, I’m sure you realize. Monkey will soar as well – in Monkey’s unique way – given time. Hugs and continued prayer for all of you.

  13. Melanie

    Nerd camp is awesome! I was lucky enough to get to attend nerd camps for three years starting at about her age. (In Arkansas, there was a state funded group of nerd camps on college campuses. The only expense to my parents was travel and spending money.) I can’t recommend them enough. I made friends that I continued to see at state competitions through junior high and high school. I was in college marching band with a couple of them, too. :) They were such a great experience. There were snotty rich kids, but there were also a lot of well-adjusted normal kids. I’m so excited for her! Woo Hoo for nerd camp!!

  14. Katie in MA

    So, so glad you have a moment to catch your breath and enjoy a Good Thing. You were certainly due! We’re all celebrating and cheering with ya. Go, Chickie, go!!

  15. zuzuspetals

    Eh, you know what? Let the kid have the ice cream for dinner like her brother. What harm would it have done, really? Cuts down on the drama and the whining, and she gets to have a big thrill. It’s all about choosing your battles, as you know!

  16. amy

    Wow, this is so eloquent. And spot-on. My oldest is starting to find her niche, and choosing to do things on her own and I’m kind of blown away, while my youngest is floundering and we have no idea how to help him.

  17. Christine

    Your writing about Chickadee brought me to tears – so eloquent!

  18. Ani

    Yay for Chickie, and for you. Those three weeks are an awesome gift in so many ways. Not to mention it will open the door to other opportunities she may choose to follow later on.

    As for Monkey his recovery is right on schedule. And the breath, ohmypreciousLord the stench…that will go away soon. ENT surgery sucks but he will feel so much better when it is all over and done with. (I pinky swear, we made it through both kid- and husband-surgery here).

    And for you. This is the start of a rocking new year. Away with the stress of 2010. Birng on a shiny 2011. :-)

  19. Deirdre

    So beautifully written (as always). The parallels between our daughters are a little spooky, although mine is a year younger. Someone else’s birthday? Why is he the center of attention ALL DAY? Something really crappy is going on? How many ways can I find to irritate you and help you all at the same time? And the whole gifted thing–where did you find these camps? I am starting to feel like that would be the best option for this kiddo this summer.

  20. Leandra

    Woo hoo, Chickie!! Smart girls rule!

  21. dad

    Beautifully put.
    And ever so true.

  22. Varda (SquashedMom)

    Just lovely, that is so wonderful for your daughter, to be flying so high. I second everyone’s feeling that camp may be a wonderful liberating experience for her. I went to camp myself for one summer only when i was 13 and it was incredible, a turning point in my life, a chance to learn how to reinvent myself, shy no longer.

    Also? I know all too well how delicate the dynamics are in a household with one special needs and one “typical” kid. Balancing the attention, the focus, working so hard to make everything “fair” all the time, when it can truly never be. It’s exhausting and seems I never get it quite right. Sounds like you’ve somehow found a decent point right now in the ever shifting equilibrium.

    I hope Monkey continues to heal well, that his breath doesn’t kill you, and that you all get some rest.

  23. Kailani

    Wait a minute…is it Love Thursday already??

    Glad Monkey is feeling better.

    You have two very amazing and *special* kids.
    You deserve them and you’ve helped to cultivate them into the unique incredibles they are!

    You and Otto are soooo right about encouraging/allowing Chickie to go off to a land of wonderful where no one knows her and people have the honor of making her friendship.

    I can’t wait to read all about it this summer! :o)

  24. Mary

    Don’t know if I’ve said it yet but I’m glad to hear Monkey’s surgery went well and he’s on the road to recovery! Hopefully, the old Monkey is finding his way back!!!

    And “Yay!” for Chickie. I never got to go to camp. Always wished I had!

  25. Tracy

    I was just wondering—why can’t everyone have ice cream for supper…just once???? j/k

    YAY!!!!! Chickadee is soaring!!!! What a great thing to give her…camp! I went to camp and you are is something she will ALWAYS remember! I’m so happy for her. She will love it! YAY Chickadee!!!!!!

    Oh and I’m so glad Monkey is doing better! I pray he continues to improve.

  26. beth s

    Awesome! Chickie will LOVE the nerd summer camp. I didn’t get to go until I was a jr in high school but it was the best 2 weeks of any summer I can remember. She will learn and grow so much to be around other nerdlings and just have a blast knowing it IS COOL to be smart.
    Hope Monkey feels better soon.

  27. Megan

    Way to stretch those wings Chickie! It’s wonderful watching them do things on their own – a bit bittersweet when you realize that they don’t NEED you to do quite so much, but equally (or more) rewarding at the same time. I hope Chickie absolutely loves her camp for nerdlings, and I think it’s wonderful that you are sending her off to this adventure she earned for her own self.

  28. Kelsey

    Hi, I’ve been a bit of a lurker for a while and I’m poking my head out to say… ‘nerd camp’ is the best ever. really. I went to CTY, the Johns Hopkins program, for three summers and their older leadership program for one, as did two of my sisters. We always went to different sites and took different classes, which I am sure was really super fun for my parents to coordinate, but we all LOVED it. CTY is a really freeing and empowering experience – humbling too, when you realize that for once you’re not the only smart kid around. I’m now studying geology and environmental science at college, graduating in May, and it was at CTY that I first got interested in environmental conservation. Do it! She will love it!

  29. AlisonC

    Hooray for Chickadee!

  30. Lisa

    I didn’t go off to gifted camp until right before my senior year in high school (even my parents finally conceded it might look good on the college applications) and…I. LOVED. IT. I think your Chickadee will have a marvelous time.

    On a different subject…I hate to bring this up…but I was wondering if you were kind of keeping an eye on Monkey’s potty habits? Those narcotics can plug a boy (or a girl) right up! Sorry. It’s the mom in me…

  31. Karen

    Mir, what a beautiful last paragraph – seriously, wow.

  32. Debra

    Yay Chickadee. Tell her she absolutely has to make friends with the snotty rich kids… especially if they have cute shoes and are about the same size she is! :) One of the things I loved most of summer camp was that all our clothes sort of ended up as a community closet and we shared everything! It was like no cost shopping for all of us.

  33. Kathy

    I love the TONE of your blog today! It seems just Yummy!! Monkey on the mend … all things considered … and some great things for Chickadee in the future! Good for you! Happy thoughts continuing your way!!


  34. Little Bird

    Before Chickadee goes off to camp, have a girls weekend! Go get manis and pedis, Do something just the two of you. She may not be the center of attention, but she deserves a day or two just for her. Of course, I’m preaching to the choir here.

  35. Chris

    You have two special kids. And you are a very special mom.

    Thanks for sharing with us all.

  36. Cele

    First, Mir – one word – Airborne

    Second – get well Monkey

    Third – enjoy Chickie you deserve it.

    Nine years of summer camp (Girl Scout) are definately among my best childhood memories and the reason I love folk music. Now I know brainy camp isn’t the same thing, but for Chickie it will be. Have fun.

  37. Brigitte

    I’d suggest she could help snuggle Monkey, but I don’t think mere siterly love could get past the breath. ;-)

    I’m glad she’s so excited about the smarticle camp . . and thinking how it tears the heart two ways to see them grow away from us, but in such a splendiferous fashion!

  38. Laura

    I am so PROUD of her! I feel like I should brag about her to the people I know!

  39. JennyM

    I’m so glad Monkey is continuing to make progress.

    RE: your sore throat, you know what I discovered during the Snowpocalypse Head Cold of Doom? Hot toddies. Hot tea with honey, lemon, a cinnamon stick and SCOTCH? Oh, hells yeah, where have you been all my life?

    I didn’t go to nerdling camp, I went to ballet camp, but it was great for me. The first time it was far enough away that I was really basically on my own until camp was over, we got there (it was in Washington, D.C., about 7 hours from home and my parents had just driven me up) and the night before they left I had sort of a shyness panic attack and almost wouldn’t let them leave without me, but they talked me off the ledge and I had a FANTASTIC time.

  40. Daisy

    One day I told my daughter that we had a fair amount of dysfunction in our home. She seemed surprised to hear that. “I thought it was all just normal!” was her response. I was happy when she went away to college. I missed her terribly, but I really wanted her to build a life that wasn’t affected by her disabled brother.

    Good luck to Chickadee in the summer camp!

  41. Aimee

    How beautiful!

    Yay Chickadee!

  42. Stacy Q

    Hmmmm…. I don’t know that anyone could ever balance a high-needs kid with a … not high needs kid… sounds like you must be doing something right!

    She is a darling! with all the other stuff, it sounds like underneath she’s a totally amazing kid.

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