If you’ve received my holiday cards, you’ve seen some of my kids’ quotes from each year, lined up in the shape of a Christmas tree, typed in red and green, maybe Comic Sans or a homey handwriting font. One example: a couple of years ago, after Caroline received four shots at her wellness visit, I attempted to calm her by saying, “That’s it. That’s it. You’re four years old and you got four shots.” She screamed at me, tears flowing: “What’s going to happen when I’m 100?!”
Quotable, right? So darn cute what these kids say.
So last week I went to my over-29 wellness visit because my primary doctor wanted to make sure all my blood work was up-to-date. I hadn’t had a tetanus shot in forever, and since my daughters’ pediatrician had suggested earlier that I get the whooping cough vaccine because “even though the cough can’t kill you, if you get it, you’ll want to be dead,” I decided to buck up and get the combo. The nurse suggested I get the shot in the arm I use the most since it might hurt afterwards and I’ll want to keep it as mobile as possible. I didn’t clench. I pretended to read the healthy living magazine beside me. By some weird coincidence, someone turned up the heat in the room just as I was sitting there—so much that I perspired and turned clammy. Tried not to visualize the needle. Little pinch on my right shoulder. We’re good. Ouch. Wait, no ouch. Dead arm like my brothers used to give me. The nurse left the room and my arm still really hurt.
You can imagine my quotables. So cute, right?
After the doctor’s appointment, I went straight to Nordstrom because it was the first of a two-day sale, and I knew I had to get this arm mobile. Big-kid version of a lollipop and a sticker. Not that he doesn’t all the time, but my husband had to close the passenger car door for me for the next couple of days. Forget about all those push-ups I routinely do. My left arm had to lift and lead my right arm through daily activities: waving to neighbors, turning off light switches, mincing garlic.
Point is I sometimes need to see more clearly from my kids’ perspectives. I know getting shots is no fun (and I know there are those who do and do not believe in vaccines…this is not that essay), but oftentimes my kids will get a shot or a boo-boo, and I’ll want to move on quickly afterwards. How much of this drama is extended play call-for-attention? Did you even remember you had a boo-boo until your sister reminded you? Let-me-kiss-it-okay-mommy-loves-you-so-much-all-better!
I was a guest reader in Caroline’s classroom the other day (I hadn’t had the shot yet, so I could turn pages). Through a brief conversation with her teacher, I learned how quiet Caroline has been, and I’ve heard this before. The fact that Caroline is a motorized nutcase at our house and in the comfort of her neighborhood friends has made me worry less, but I do sometimes think—why is she so serious? Why does she focus so much on her schoolwork? Where does this come from? Caroline, why can’t you just smile and engage in conversation and relax a bit?
And then I remember who her mother is.
My husband is Uber-Social. We will be at the mall; he will see a man wearing a Phillies hat and he will cross lanes coming close to tackling the man in order to talk Philly sports. Same thing if he sees that green hat with the bird on it. He will say it—“Go Eagles!”—just as certain as he’ll take his next breath. You should see him work a crowd at a kids’ birthday party, at a neighborhood picnic, at a school function. He’s especially good with the ladies—the over 65 ladies. He wants to talk about when days were simpler: before cell phones, before self-checkouts, when people wore hats and drove Buicks. It’s genuine, his desire to connect with people.
I’m fine, friendly, have friends. But sometimes I like to connect on paper instead of face-to-face. Sometimes I have to work up the energy to engage, not really sure why. I like people, and I like good conversation, but sometimes, I’m shy or tired or just don’t feel like talking.
Caroline has caught me in these moods. We have been at a store and she will see someone we barely know, tug my sleeve and whisper—Mommy, there’s Brooke’s mom. Say “hi” to her. When I might have otherwise fished through my purse for something I know isn’t there just to avoid eye contact, Caroline sets me up socially, like she’s a schoolmarm leading me onto the gym floor to ballroom dance with Joey Pinkett even though his walk is a run and he owns 17 Led Zeppelin t-shirts.
This is not the first time as a parent that I’ve felt like I’m in the 8th grade.
Even though I may not want to talk to anyone, I get put-off when I do muster the energy to say “hello” and that person looks at me like she has never met me. Not that she just can’t seem to grasp my name—it’s there, somewhere close— but that she has not ever before seen this person who is standing before her saying “hello,” not in all of her time on this earth.
I’m not even great with names. Sure as day I said a strong “Hi, Mollie!” directly to Amanda after drop-off at Lexi’s school last month, blushing only seconds after Amanda drove away. I apologized later; Amanda graciously understood. It’s the attempt that matters.
I’ve wondered about saturation points, expiration dates, magic numbers. 7? Even that seems high. If I meet someone, acknowledge them in some way and get nothing back, no hint or pretense of recognition, after 7 such incidences, is it proper for me to forever avoid eye contact, even when Caroline is with me? Dave thinks I should do the opposite—make weird jungle sounds, feverishly pick my ear, introduce myself as RAAAAAAA, speak loudly and strangely enunciate, Be Remembered!
Caroline, with a tug on the sleeve, thinks Dave and I should both just grow up.
Good thing we have our kids around to give us the occasional shot in the arm.