Diary of a Mom
Big community building event at the girls’ school tonight. Cover me, Dan O, we’re going in.
Diary of a Mom
We lasted 28 minutes. And by God I’m calling every one of them a victory. #HolyChaosBatman
“I feel like I messed up everything.”
~ Brooke, on the way out of the festival, using words borrowed from Maria in Bob and Marie Bake Cookies
International Festival, last night
The moment we walked into the school, I knew. Not only was this going to be hard, it was going to be damn near impossible.
They had moved some of the tables into the entryway. The US, Canada, Brazil – all squeezed into the tight space of the front hall. Brooke blew right by them. She was on a mission.
We’d prepped her before we’d left the house.
“Remember the passports, baby? We’ll get a passport just like last year, and we can get it stamped at each country we visit!”
Last year we’d gotten three out of some thirty some-odd stamps, but she remembered. Of course she remembered.
It wasn’t until we got to the check-in desk that we discovered that the passports and stamps had gone the way of the wagon wheel – replaced this year by maps. And pencils. And a very confusing system in which we were to mark down the countries we’d visited according to a legend that provided a number that we were then supposed to .. OK, yeah, we politely declined the map.
“We will go to the gym!” Brooke announced. I told Luau and Katie that I’d follow her and they should go on their way.
The gym was full. Really full. Hanging out in the middle of a rugby scrum full. But Brooke walked in.
We walked the perimeter of the gym, checking out the tables from each country. Well, sort of. I was just along for the ride, but I’m fairly certain that we were looking for only the following: Japan (they’d had sushi last year), China (they’d had toys last year) Israel (they’d had oranges last year) and India. That last one I can’t explain except that she made it quite clear that we were looking for it. Once we found it, she shrugged and walked away.
She made a beeline for Japan. There wasn’t anything there that seemed of particular interest to her, but the lady manning the table got a big kick out of the little girl who came over with her arm outstretched, pointed at her and loudly said, “Konnichiwa!”
In China, she grabbed for a dumpling before I could stop her. I’d already downed a piece of Bavarian poundcake, a square of Dutch cheese and a Greek cookie because she’d decided to ‘taste’ them at the various tables – meaning that she’d picked them up, put the teeniest, tiniest possible part of her tongue on the teeniest, tiniest corner of the item and then put it right back down again. I was on patrol, but in China I wasn’t quick enough.
I prompted her to thank the nice lady who smiled as she took the dumpling. And she did. By saying, “Xie Xie!”
When the nice lady responded with, “You’re welcome,” my girl muttered, “Bu Keqi,” cause – duh – that’s how you say, “you’re welcome” in Chinese.
I would therefore like to take this time to offer my heart-felt thanks to both Kai Lan and Dora.
After about four tables, Brooke had had enough. I suggested some pizza and we headed out into the hallway, where we encountered the lady in the quote at the top of the page. I’m telling you, folks, she almost did me in.
We ate our pizza in the same quiet hallway as last year. But this year we were there because it seemed like the best place to eat our pizza, not because we were holding onto the last piece of driftwood we could find in the sea, making one last-ditch effort not to drown – kinda like last year.
dropping the pizza face-down on the floor finishing up, Brooke took us back into the gym, where everyone, it seemed, had a red, white and blue pinwheel from the US. She decided that she needed to have one too.
We walked back out to the front hallway. It was crazy. A show was letting out of the auditorium and people were everywhere. They squeezed by, laughing and squealing and calling out for each other. Brooke’s entire body was tense. I waited for the inevitable scream. It didn’t come.
“Mom, I feel scared.”
That’s what she said.
“Mom, I feel scared.”
I thought of the pizza mom. “What a difference a year makes.”
Brooke reached up and pressed her hands into my back and belly, squeezing as hard as she could. It’s what she does when she’s overwhelmed. She pulled my face down and gave me a kiss. Not the affectionate kind, the panicked, eyes-wide kind where she mushes her face into mine. They hurt, but they help.
I assured her that I’d hold onto her. I squeezed her shoulders from behind, hoping the pressure might help.
It wasn’t enough.
She turned around and pointed in the opposite direction. “We would go to the library,” she said.
I asked her if she wanted me to try to get a pinwheel before we bailed.
“No,” she said, ” I feel scared.”
We lasted about ten more minutes. The library was closed, so we took a little walk around. Kids were running and yelling everywhere. Two boys who couldn’t have been older than six rolled around in the middle of the floor together, wrestling. Three more boys ran by at top speed, just missing them. The poor custodian looked like he was going to tear his hair out. “Where are their parents?” I wondered aloud. He looked at me like I had three heads. Yup, got it.
We tried the gym again, but Brooke was done. She simply said, “I’m ready to go home.”
Twenty eight minutes.
No tears. No screaming. Just words.
I declared victory as we walked out into the night. I told her I thought she’d done great.
We walked around the corner and up the hill to the car.
And on the way she said, “I feel like I messed up everything.”
I know the line. It’s from Bob and Maria, the series of stories that her speech therapists used to use for social prags until we discovered that she was mimicking the How Not To Be a Friend examples from the books. Oops.
There was no question that the line was a script. Even if I hadn’t recognized it as such (and this wasn’t one I was going to miss given the frequency with which she says it), her prosody gave it away. And scripts – or at least the words in them – can be easy to dismiss because, well, they’re scripts after all. But something gave me pause.
“Oh baby,” I said, “You didn’t mess anything up at all. Why would you say that?”
Her answer stopped me in my tracks.
“Because I had to go home.”
We stopped walking and I grabbed my girl’s shoulders.
“Oh, honey, you did not mess anything up at all! Just the opposite. You were amazing tonight. And you know what?”
“I’m really proud of you.”
“I am. Baby, you told me what you needed tonight. That place was really overwhelming, wasn’t it?”
She knows the word. We use it a lot these days.
“But you handled it, didn’t you? And when you felt scared, did you scream?”
“Did you cry?”
“That’s right, You used your words to tell me how you felt and what you needed. And that makes me feel really, really proud.”
“How so proud?”
“So, so, SO proud.”
“How how how proud?”
“So, so, so proud.”
And that was how we spent the ride home, with a whole lot of how how hows and even more so so sos.
So to recap -
My kid rocks. Other people see it too. Dora and Kai Lan are educational. Dutch cheese, Greek cookies and Bavarian poundcake are not a great combination. People who leave their five and six year-olds to fend for themselves at huge events are likely to find them rolling around on the floor. Custodians are underpaid. Scripts are not always what they seem. My kid rocks.