Monday, December 28, 2009

In the Beginning

Once upon a time, in a life that is now a world away, there lived a young mama who thought that she had a lot more control than she did. She had a five year old daughter and was thrilled to find out that she would soon deliver a sister for that daughter. All was right with the world.
Soon, baby sister was born, and the mama was often caught singing, "A Dream Is a Wish Your Heart Makes" to the little girl, nuzzling her, nursing her, sleeping with her. The silly mama who once wondered if she could ever love another child as much as her first, was over the moon in love with the new little one,too. Once, while holding her little girl tightly to her chest, she felt as if her heart would burst and thought, "This must be what heaven feels like." She could imagine no greater joy.

Little sister was an easy baby. She smiled the day that she came home from the hospital. Laughed almost as soon. Slept 5 hours the first night home. She loved to listen to Mama sing and play with her and read her stories. Sweet, sweet curly-haired girl she was. Strangers would stop her mama in the grocery store to comment on what a beautiful, sweet baby she was. And Little Sister loved, loved, loved her mama.

As little sister got older, the fun continued. By the time she was two years old, she knew all of the letters of the alphabet and their sounds. She soon started reading with little instruction. Amazing memory she had. And would sometimes calculate facts...3 buttons and 2 buttons are 5 buttons...without Mama even realizing that she had heard anything about buttons. Mama and Little Sister talked about everything. Little Sister always asked, "What does that mean?", and Mama and Daddy knew that it was because she was so very bright.

Yep, Little Sister was as sharp as a tack. And a little quirky. It was so cute. She didn't want to get her hands dirty, kept her shoes lined up neatly on her shelf, didn't want to wear any clothes that would expose a sweet little mole on her shoulder and much preferred skirts and skorts to blue jeans, pants or shorts. She had long, curly blond hair down to her waist, and she was just a doll. Easy for Mama to discipline, too. Mama realized early on, that discipline for Little Sister was all about relationship. She wanted to please, and she definitely wanted to be in sync with Mama.

Mama and Daddy knew that the road would rise up to meet this child...such a bright future was waiting for her.

As Little Sister started preschool at age three, the family was anxiously awaiting the birth of Little Brother. When he arrived, Little Sister was crazy about him, as was everyone else. Her love for him included poking his cheeks rather firmly...even though she wasn't trying to hurt him. She hugged him, squeezed him, really, so seemed like she just couldn't quite feel it if she didn't squeeze him almost as hard as she could.

Little Sister had done fabulously in preschool (academically, anyway).  But it had been difficult for Little Sister to leave Mama and go into the classroom. Often Mama would go in with the child and stand and observe until Little Sister felt comfortable enough or was involved enough that Mama could leave without disruption.

Finally, however, the "leaving dance" stopped working. One day, Mama stayed for an hour until she finally had to leave. When she left, Little Sister grabbed on to Mama and looked as if her heart would break. The teachers, assuring Mama that she'd be okay the moment Mama left, shuttled Mama off and shut the door behind her. Little Sister couldn't contain herself, and the normally shy, quiet child began kicking the door with all of her might and screaming loudly. Mama, too, thought her heart would break.
Things improved for a while after that, butwhen it came time to start Pre-K 4...just two mornings a week, Little Sister's mood turned sour. She didn't want to go. Every morning all year long, it was a struggle for Mama to get Little Sister to go into the classroom.

Each Tuesday and Thursday, just a few hours after drop-off, Mama and the other mothers would wait in the hallway for class to be dismissed. Each of the other children would run out to hug his or her mama. Little Sister's mama would wait until all of the other children were out and find that Little Sister was still getting her backpack and cubby "just so". Little Sister didn't come out with a smile for Mama. Rather, she sported an angry-looking face that said, "Don't touch me." Mama would try to make conversation about the day, but Little Sister was too irritable to talk much about it. Mama missed her sweet, loving girl that she knew was still in there somewhere.

Despite her attitude after class, Little Sister's conduct at school was always great. Little Sister talked about the other little girls in class like they were good friends. Mama thought they played well together until she was up at school for a party and noticed that Little Sister was the last picked for an activity, and then none of the other little girls chose to sit with her. Mama came up at other times to find Little Sister playing alone at recess. Mama knew that it must be because Little Sister was so bright that she and the other children didn't have a lot in common.

Little Sister was the only child in her class who could read well, and her teacher often provided the opportunity for her to read things to the class. Little Sister loved to read.

And when Little Sister seemed interested in ballet, Mama signed her four-year old up to take a tap/ballet class. Mama just knew that Little Sister would love it. And while Little Sister did love the time to be with other little girls, she most certainly did not love to wear tights. And those tap shoes were horrific...never wanted to wear them--ever. Every Thursday afternoon, any neighbors who were outside were treated to Little Sister standing at the front door shrieking about the outfit while Mama, Big Sister and Little Brother waited for her to join them in the car.
And when the little ballerinas received their recital costume to wear, all of them were so proud and excited. Well, almost all of them. For Little Sister, the costume was too itchy. Too tight. Too uncomfortable to walk out of the dressing room. Much less to twirl around on stage in. Yeesh. Little Sister was chided by the costume maker. She was prodded by Mama. But she hated it and didn't want to ever see it again. And she wore the face that announced it clearly.

When the big recital day came, grandmas and grandpas came, but Little Sister was most unhappy. Mama knew that Little Sister would warm up at rehearsal and be so proud. But she didn't warm up. She hated the whole thing, and didn't really participate fully. After the recital, when everyone was ready to take her out to eat, she couldn't bear to have her hair in those tight curls any longer. She threw a fit, and it was a doozie. She shrieked on and on and on and on. Silly Mama tried to force her to keep her hair up until after would be such a job to take it down. But Little Sister screeeeamed and cried like neither Mama nor Daddy nor either grandmother or grandfather had ever seen before. Mama and Daddy ended up holding her tightly so that she would calm down. But she continued to scream for an hour or so while her grandparents sat dumbfounded just a few feet outside her parents' bedroom door. Her parents were mortified.

At the conclusion of each class, the ballet teacher had given all the students a treat--almost always it was a lollipop. Little Sister loved those. Not eating them, but collecting them. At the end of the year, when ballet had been over for some time, Mama found a neat little trail of ants making their way across the wall and straight to the ballet bag hanging on the hook...the bag was full of each and every lollipop that Little Sister had received between Christmas and the end of the year.

Mama thought about homeschooling Little Sister for kindergarten. Mama not only wanted to be sure tht Little Sister was challenged, but she wanted to provide the kinds of experiences that would help the little girl's mind to be well-rounded. But in the end, Mama and Daddy decided to send Little Sister to the same small, Christian school that the big sister attended.
Little Sister couldn't wait to start school. And when she did start, she was proud. But she quickly decided that she didn't like the part of the day that required her to sit in her seat and make the appropriate marks at the appropriate times and say the appropriate things. In fact, she rather firmly stated that she did not like that teacher. But she loved the part of the day that was Montessori-style. She did the work at her own pace, and thoroughly enjoyed it. And she loved that teacher.

Not long after the start of school, Little Sister started getting in the car with a scowl again. She was complaining about the teacher. Every day. She was clearly irritated with her. Soon the teacher complained to Mama that although Little Sister was very bright, every day after recess she would ask if they were going to start math group. The teacher thought this was a senseless question since they had math group right after recess every day.

Little Sister had always moved slowly when it came to getting dressed, but it soon became a real problem when getting ready for school. She was a very hard sleeper, very difficult to wake up in the mornings. And she took a reeeeeeaaaaaallly long time in the bathroom just sitting on the potty. And then the socks. Oh, my, the socks. The seam in those socks--any socks--was just unbearable to her. She spent a lot of time adjusting the seams and getting really flustered about them. And having screaming temper tantrums about them.

Then she couldn't get her socks on at all at home, and Mama would require that she go to the car with or without them on (they were never on), and she had to put them on in the car before she got to school. This worked okay for a short while but soon became so frustrating to Little Sister that she would start kicking and screaming at the top of her lungs---kicking the back of her sister's seat and being really ugly to her sister.

Before long, underwear became another great enemy. They were all too tight and awkward and had seams in the wrong places. Even the "specialty underwear" wasn't right. Pretty soon, Little Sister was down to two pairs of underwear that she could tolerate. Soon, however, she ripped up one of those pairs during what had became a regular, screaming, insulting and destroying tantrum. After that, Little Sister "was allowed" to wear no underwear as long as she had shorts on.
By this time, almost all other articles of clothing had become a problem. If they were not "stretchy", they were totally out. Mama soon learned that. Definitely no blue jeans. No shirts that showed shoulders, no different necklines, no t-shirts that had puffy sleeves or cap sleeves. Definitely no long sleeves like you would find on a turtleneck. And a turtleneck itself was basically wrong anyway...all that fabric close to her neck...terrible. No funny designs printed ON the fabric.

Basically, the fabric had been narrowed down to very soft, stretchy knits. Little Sister should have worn a 6 at the time, but she could not wear anything that close to her body. She would only wear a 12. Shopping for clothes without Little Sister was futile because Mama would miss some detail in design or fabric that wouldn't work for Little Sister, and Mama would have to return everything. Shopping for clothes with Little Sister must have seemed like a torture session to her and definitely seemed like one to Mama. Mama would suggest things, and Little Sister would be irritated at the very idea. She'd make faces, talk rudely or perhaps even melt down in the store. Mama did what, in the end, really amounted to begging (although Mama would have said that she would never BEG a child to do anything).

More of our story to come.....

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