posted May 18, 2009 at 1:25pm
She might have been on time, if not for the umbrella.
Rather, the lack thereof.
Here’s the thing. We live in Phoenix. We have no need for umbrellas. Even on the rare rainy day, it’s not like you’d actually walk down the street to get to your destination — instead, we race a few feet from the house to the car, from the car to the school/office/grocery store/mall. Anyhow, umbrellas are a pain in the ass — they get wet, they break, they never open or close when you need them to. Mine never do, anyway. I’m lucky I live in a place where you really don’t ever need to actually zip a jacket — I can never get that to happen, either.
Sophie has no appreciation for my lack of coordination — or really, for much of anything else when she’s on a tear, as she was this morning. Mornings are tough. No matter how early we get up, no matter how much I plan ahead with bribes, outfits laid out, lunches pre-made, she manages to push me — and the clock — to the very limit.
I’m pretty good at staying within that limit, but this morning I didn’t account for the rain.
I say I’m pretty good. Actually, I kind of suck. I am a control freak. When met with another control freak, I — well, I freak. After many years I’ve realized that doesn’t work well with Sophie. When she gets it in her head that she’s in charge, yelling doesn’t work. I’ve found that distracting her with a joke or a game (“Let’s see who can get dressed first!”) can do the trick sometimes. But more and more, she’s onto me.
I can’t blame her. I get it. One recent morning, we had a particularly trying time getting out the door. Sophie pushed and pushed til my buttons were thoroughly pressed and we were both exhausted. We drove to school in silence, pulling up just as the bell rang. I turned around and sighed.
“I love you, Sophie,” I said. “That was a tough morning. Try to have a better day, okay?”
She shook her fist at me, grudgingly told me she loved me, too, then opened the car door and got out. Suddenly, she was no longer in charge.
It takes Sophie longer to get out than most kids, and not because she’s balking. She’s tiny, and though she’s well-trained by years of physical therapy, she’s still not well-coordinated. She climbed out of her booster seat, wrestled on her backpack, and with a heave, closed the car door, then walked slowly toward the playground, as other kids hustled by to get to class.
From the rearview mirror, I saw one of Sophie’s friends approach. Saw Sophie spot the friend. Saw the friend spot Sophie. And saw the friend continue at her much faster pace. Sophie started to run, trying to catch up. The friend turned to look, then kept going.
It was a glimpse into Sophie’s world — a world where she can’t quite keep up. Where she has friends, sometimes, and where she has times where she has to trudge to class on her own. A world where it’s hard to be in control.
Since that morning, I’ve tried to be more understanding when Sophie makes it clear she wants to be in control. And so even though we were both still in our pajamas with half an hour to go before school, this morning I sat patiently on the couch while she performed an impromptu play called “Sisters,” which involved two sisters, a game of badminton, and a few details I didn’t catch. I managed to get us both dressed (and get her glasses on, thyroid medicine taken, hair brushed — sort of) but we got in a tussle when, 5 minutes before the school bell, she was still busy on the Wii, creating a Mii for her homeroom teacher.
Still, I swear we would have gotten there on time if it hadn’t been for the umbrella. When she saw it was raining, Sophie demanded an umbrella. I handed her a raincoat with a hood, explained she didn’t have far to go, that I didn’t have an umbrella for her. She stomped her foot, announcing she wouldn’t go to school umbrella-less. I wanted to shake her, pick her up and toss her in the car, yell. Something. Instead, I sat on the edge of the bed and reasoned with her, pulled the hood slowly over her head. Made it a game.
“I’m sorry, Mom,” Sophie muttered as we pulled up to the deserted school yard after the bell. I got as close to the office as I could, preparing to race out of the car and hustle her in. To be totally honest, it was a time where an umbrella really would have come in handy.
Before I could open my own door, Sophie’s opened and out of nowhere, there was her wonderful aide. Holding a giant umbrella.
It was the smallest gesture. And the biggest.
The three of us grinned at one another, the aide expertly juggled that umbrella as she took Sophie’s bag and her lunch — and her hand. Sophie hopped out of the car and into her day.
“I love you Mom!” she called out, before I could say it first.