[rereading this, it almost sounds like things are Just Plain Awful. and they're not. there are a few more struggles than usual, and eva and i could stand to reconnect a bit, but it's not like we're having a big problem or anything. i just felt compelled to point that out. that, and that she adores her sister like you would not believe... but loving your baby sister doesn't preclude you from missing your mama. --k.]
eva has been a bit out of sorts lately. i know some of it is just the usual stuff -- social learning at school, what seems to be a pretty good growth spurt in the last month or two -- but some of it is coming directly from me. i've been struggling (again!) with this health stuff, whatever it is (we're guessing orthostatic hypotension type stuff, but who the hell knows), so i'm often tired, or cranky with her when i shouldn't be. plus, hazel is requiring more attention these days, and with hazel's tendency to get into eva's stuff, the responsibility of figuring out the early sibling dynamic falls mostly to eva. it's hard being three and a half sometimes. so she's been expressing a lot of frustration and anger, but also a lot of love, sometimes colored with a bit of longing, i think. (and she tells me things like "... and sometimes you're tired and papa has to help me instead" or asks "are you too tired mama? do you have no blood sugar?" which pretty much breaks my heart.)
i decided that maybe what might help would be some one-on-one time with me, which she has had almost zero of in nine months. (our big first date!) so we discussed it, and made a plan to have some "special eva and mama time all by ourselves" at a coffee shop. she planned the activities, and wisely chose things that are made more difficult when hazel is around (books, puzzles).
so after i took the dogs to get their vaccinations (these would be the stray puppies that last week began living in our back yard -- after being tossed over our fence in the middle of the night -- but now due to inclement weather apparently live in our kitchen), and after she selected exactly what she wanted to wear and how she wanted her hair, we headed out to a coffee shop we had never been to before.
from the moment we set out, her mood was completely shifted. we chatted and joked, no crankiness anywhere (from either of us). she ordered a foamy milk and chose a cookie as her treat. she chose a high table and scrambled right up into the chair.
we finally did the puzzle gram sent. she loves puzzles, but they can be hard at home because hazel can't leave them alone, but hazel also gets upset if we're all somewhere she isn't. i noted that she did this puzzle with zero frustration, when lately even taking off her pants can cause an explosion of frustration. so much of this is about feeling heard and validated (which can't be faked while doing six other things), i'm now realizing the full extent of this need. then we read a chapter in the book she chose. she lounged back in her chair and sipped her milk as i read to her, uninterrupted, until we were done. and no one tried to grab the book out of our hands, or needed to nurse, or bonked her head the whole time. (reading can also be a challenge at home.)
she wanted to label our cups with our names, which she did, and then she moved that into my writing words for her to sound out, which is one of her favorite games these days. it's fun to watch her start to make all these connections about letters and sounds and words, and the concept that someday she'll be able to put that all together herself and read on her own. she insisted we bring the cups home. i guess once something has your name on it, it becomes more difficult to just toss it mindlessly into the trash.
and then, she had a hard time leaving. i know she didn't want it to end, and promises to do it again soon fell on deaf ears. like a switch, she instantly moved back into that other mode, the "if you say that then you're not my mama anymore!" mode. "if you keep saying we have to leave," she continued, even though we were in the car and halfway home at that point, "then i'm never going to play with you again!" oh, i said, then i would be sad because i like playing you. she replied in true three-and-a-half form (so many conflicting emotions!): "i would be sad too, because i like to play with you, but i still wouldn't play with you because you said that!" all followed by a sigh, sounding just about as exasperated as she could manage.
and true to form, i understood and worked with it at first. i know where she's coming from, i get it. but after being yelled at every-which-way for the entire drive home and into the house and then waking up her sister, i lost my cool and got snappy at her. i always mean to do better, and sometimes i do. or, i do for a while, but i can't quite shake the feeling that i'm failing her at least some. because for two hours on a saturday afternoon, removed from all distractions, we were perfect. and it was lovely. and i miss that.
but i know life is just what it is. we're both doing what we can, and generally it's good and only sometimes it's not... but then sometimes it's amazing. today was amazing in that little pocket of time. and never mind all the rest, we have that. and we can move from there.