Discussions with my Daughter ... are sometimes only in my head.
A few weeks ago, I finally worked in some time to take down the pool. Of course, the day we decide to do it the weather was so warm we should have been swimming in it instead. None the less, it was the one day I had and I was determined to get it done.
To move the project along, I asked Allison to help me. Repeatedly. While she said "Yes" she would help me each time I asked, her eyes and attention never actually left her Mindcraft game on her iPad. Finally, I told her one last time to please come out and help me before I went outside to get started.
That's when this discussion with my daughter took place, more or less. It was not necessarily a discussion with my daughter but with myself about my daughter going on in my head. One that may have been very good for both of us, even if only one of us actually heard it.
It went something like this...
I had been scrubbing along the bottom of the pool while blasting it with the hose for awhile... long enough to be basically done when I had begun to accept you were not coming outside to help as I had asked. My mind debated between several conversations we would have if I went back inside to tell you to come out. I thought of how completely dead I would have been if I would have not come out when asked, or if I would have been asked multiple times by my parents to do something at your age. (At least with my dad, I honestly can't remember my mom asking me to do much outside of clean my room which I rarely did so...maybe not "completely" dead - it would just depend on which parent asked!) As I struggled between disappointment, frustration and feeling like I'm completely failing as a parent I looked up to see you standing on the deck, eating a Popsicle looking down curiously at me.
"Hey there" I said to you, "I'm glad you made it outside to help me. Do you want to grab a towel and jump in here to help me finish scrubbing?"
You looked at me for a minute while finishing your Popsicle and then, without saying a word climbed the ladder into the pool to join me.
"Why are we cleaning the bottom?" you asked in a curious and innocent tone.
Appreciating your interest, I explained how there were places on the bottom of the pool that dirt and stuff had built up over the summer that we never got completely cleaned when vacuuming it and how it's better to get it completely clean and dry now before we put it away or next summer the pool will be disgusting.
Happy with that answer, you let me know you would rather spray the hose than scrub with the towels. I felt that was fair enough and handed over the hose. Together we worked to finish cleaning the bottom, reaching every spot that needed our attention.
Draining the small amount of water left turned out to be more difficult than I anticipated. I too am learning as I go through life. Feeling a bit overwhelmed by the heat, I let you know I was going to take a break to get some water and rest before taking the pool apart and figuring out the answer to draining the rest of the water. While I went inside, you happily played on the swing set. I thought to myself how much I appreciated that you stayed out to play instead of coming in and jumping on the iPad.
When I returned outside, I walked over to the swing set to let you know the next steps and that I would need your help. I had walked into your world, filled with imagination and felt badly asking you to leave it to work with me. In my mind I justified the importance of balancing work and play... even at 11.
As I walked around the pool taking apart the pieces you would pick them up and put them in a pile near the garage. It went fast enough, I didn't even mind stopping to pick up some of the pieces for you as you had a habit of getting sidetracked during the process. In my mind, I began to wonder about what goes through your head, what do you see through your eyes when your imagination is free to explore and create in the world around you. You've always had the most incredible imagination, this hot late summer day was no exception and I couldn't help but smile as I watched you interact with each piece clearly off somewhere else more fun than taking down the pool in our backyard. I stopped now and then not to tell you to hurry up but to appreciate and adore the innocence I was witnessing at that moment.
I talked with you over the options of getting the rest of the water out. We agreed that w could pull one end over the other, basically flipping the pool to dump what was left. We talked it through together, your input was appreciated and then I walked over to begin pulling the far side to the direction we wanted it to go. You watched. My mind wondered why on earth you were watching, that wasn't at all what we had just discussed yet there you stood, not moving at all.
There is that part of me that wanted to snap at you, telling you to get your butt over with me as we had just talked about to help me pull the heavy pool over to the other side. I couldn't bring myself to do it as I saw how intently you were watching what was happening, almost calculating if it would work or not. When the pool became too heavy you ran over, holding a spot near me ready to pull together. I was not sure why you chose to grab where you did so I stopped and asked. You simply replied "this is where I need to be" and it turns out, you were right, it was the perfect position to help us dump the pool. I smiled as you smirked with our accomplishment.
We flipped the empty pool back to start drying it off. I handed you a towel while taking one of my own to start soaking up missed spots and drying what was left. As I worked, you simply wandered around the pool tossing your towel down once and leaving it there. My frustration was building as I noticed you had left your towel and were interested in the feel of the pool between your toes instead of looking for water spots to dry. I asked what you were doing and why you were not drying the pool. You simply said that you "could not find anymore wet spots" so you were doing this instead while you waited. I wanted to be frustrated as there were clearly many puddles of water remaining but instead appreciated your curiosity and wonder of how the pool felt different in different places along the bottom. Feeling out each spot and how it varied from another. It was actually fascinating to watch you. You shared with me the difference in the spots and encouraged me to feel them too. Against what my mind wanted me to do, I stopped and did it anyway...I'm glad I did.
While the pool was drying in the air and sun, we talked of picking up all of the pieces to be stored for winter. I grabbed a couple of pieces and headed to the shed, cleared out the spot they would go, put the pieces I had in and walked back for more. You were still trying to figure out how many pieces you could balance and carry at once. I made three trips, you continued to fine tune your balance and attempt to add pieces, frequently dropping some that you had in your arms.
I was hot, tired and wanting to be done. I tend to go through life a little too fast sometimes so on my fourth trip back for more pieces instead of snapping at you to just take 2 at a time and get them put away, I asked if I could add a piece or two for you to help you balance knowing if you didn't have to bend over to pick them up the odds of keeping your balance were better. Your face lit up as you explained to me exactly how to stack them in your arms, 3 on each side, triangle tip down - flat side up. While I could see the fault in your plan, I could also see the determination so I stacked them exactly how you asked verifying each piece was how you wanted it. With 6 pieces stacked in your arms you began to walk to the shed - beaming from ear to ear. I walked beside you carrying my 2 pieces, also smiling and watching the pieces begin to slip from your grip.
When they crashed down we both burst out in laughter. Not at your failure as neither of us saw it that way but at the attempt gone wrong. The busy part of my mind wanted me to say "enough" of the silliness we needed to get this done. But the mom in me, constantly amazed by how your mind works, won out and encouraged you to try again but maybe stack them a bit differently. Taking a minute to lay them out on the ground you quickly saw multiple new ways to fit the flat and triangle pieces together. Starting with them flat, then adding the triangle piece down to wedge between we stacked not only your 6 pieces but my 2 on as well. You successfully made it to the shed...we laughed when you discovered you had no way to put them down without dropping them - so I encouraged you do to just that reaching out for a fist bump after your hands were again free.
I smiled as I reached for each piece to stack in the shed while you ran back for more and ready to load your arms without me using one of the new ways you had figured out. I congratulated you on your success when you returned with the next load.
When all of the large pieces were away you drifted off away from me again filled with imagination you were back in another world. We still had lots of small pieces to pick up, I called for you - you continued to play while singing a song you had just made up. I took my load of smaller joint pieces to the shed, as I walked back I called you again. I was not sure what you were thinking or playing but you were very deep into the thought of it not hearing my call either time. I made another trip to the shed.
As I picked up my joint pieces ready to call you over and remind you of why you were outside, I looked over and watched. Beyond the signing I watched your motions, your curiosity as you checked out bugs and I stopped to appreciate the incredible ways in which your mind works.
You see, while I needed help, I also need you to take this time in life to discover, to explore, to imagine, to believe. The older you get, the harder that becomes.
There will be a time in your life where part of your brain is hurried too. I just don't want to rush that, I don't want to take away your curiosity and wonder of the world you are exploring around you. Instead of calling you over, I went to your side when you asked me to come check out some bugs that you found. Trying not to let my distaste for the bugs show, I pointed out what I saw in them too hoping to build your curiosity and tell you what I did know about the ones I recognized - hoping it would encourage you to learn more and most of all asking questions not just for answers but to encourage more thought.
You live a life different from your friends, you were born into a situation that forced you to grow up faster than most. You have more responsibility, more frustration, more understanding of disappointment when things don't work out. While you struggle with how fragile x complicates your own life, you take on tremendous responsibility of helping to care for your brother who is significantly impacted by his disability. Moments for just us are rare. Even when we have a job to do, it's important for me to let you step back and just be 11 and more importantly to enjoy this time for just the 2 of us even if it wasn't something we would have chosen to do. While your brother stayed inside to watch t.v. our world outside was quiet and filled with opportunity to take in the world around us . We both had a choice, to focus and work quickly and hard or to slow down and take in so much more than the work at hand, appreciating time, the world around us and curiosity. I'm thankful we both chose to slow down and look at the world in a new way during that time, I know the difference it made in me being able to appreciate the world through your unfiltered eyes.
As we walked away to finish picking up the joint pieces when you were ready, you couldn't just pick up one with each hand and walk them to the shed though, that would be too easy. You are always looking for new ways to make things happen and how you can stack items to carry more than two at a time.
Instead of being upset, I was thankful you were there to help me and encouraged your ambition to carry more pieces.
I wondered if at 11 I had your imagination, curiosity and vision - you see I too, liked to daydream and imagine. Like you, I loved to make up songs, I still do you hear me sing them often to your brother. You've never been impressed with my silly song ability, the songs in your mind are much more complex and thought out. You put many of them in your song book, like me - you love to write and see something come together.
As I started to roll up the liner of the pool, I sent you in the house for some duck tape to hold the tarp together. A significant amount of time later (I was ready to go see what happened to you) out you came with tape in hand. I had the liner completely rolled up and in the tarp ready to seal closed with the tape. When you handed it to me, I realized it was masking tape and gave you a look. You said it was all you could find and assured me it was still sticky while sticking a piece to your arm. While you were right, it was sticky, it didn't have the strength needed for this project. I decided we were fine without tape and put the final piece of the pool in the shed finishing the project we had started together.
As we walked back to the house, you asked me the purpose of masking tape for which, I had no answer. You laughed at me for owning it when it doesn't have a purpose. I reminded you everything has a purpose even if it takes us time to figure it out.
Inside the cool house we fixed glasses of ice water to drink to cool us down, as I handed you your glass I put my arms around you for a hug - while you never knew of the conversation going on in my head - I heard each word. I could see you, I'm always watching. You make me proud, of who you are every single day.
I kissed your forehead as we went to sit down. You picked up your iPad and returned to your game while I sat quietly watching you, appreciating the many ways in which your mind works. And in complete awe of how you are able to slow mine down to be sure instead of rushing your life along I stop to encourage the curiosity and exploration that build within you. I remember once being filled with never ending imagination - I still am only in more focused and realistic ways. At times I miss the playful imagination of far away lands I had as a child and cherish that your mind is still able to whisk you away in such amazing ways.
While the conversations that impacted us both the most today were all inside of my mind, they changed my actions because you changed my thoughts simply by being you. Thank you for slowing me down, giving me the opportunity to appreciate not only our time together but all of the amazing things I love most about you. You continue to amaze me every single day.
I was once 11 too. I remember. I want to keep the curiosity alive not only for yourself but for your mom, who at 40, can still see your world through the eyes imaginative eyes of an 11 year old.