On Sunday at about 11:45 am, I was running around like a maniac looking for a pair of white shorts. M was going to guest-play with the U-13 girls’ team, which is short on players, and an email had requested white socks and shorts if possible. I’d found some white socks, and Cute W had claimed, earlier, that we had a pair of white soccer shorts for M. But he wasn’t around, still gone from his own morning soccer game. I had passed through wondering and into a low-level anxiety stage which involved texts and voicemails requesting the whereabouts of both shorts and husband. So while I was hunting for shorts, I was telling myself that even if Cute W didn’t drive into the driveway at any moment, which he was totally going to do, I couldn’t do anything until the police or EMS contacted me to tell me which hospital he was recovering in. And meanwhile, there was the dramatically urgent matter of a middle school girl in need of an item of clothing.
And it was at just about that time that I remembered the birthday party that J was supposed to be attending that day. Which had started at 11 am. At a location in the opposite direction from the soccer game. And for which we had neglected to purchase a gift.
Ohhhhhhhh. That is not a good feeling.
I broke the news to J and she took it pretty well. Which is to say that she said that it was alright, and then she picked up the little squishy stress ball I’d recently purchased for her and tortured him while attempting to blink shiny tears from her eyes. Then I assessed the situation. It was a lost cause: even if I could get her to the party, it would be more than half over, and we’d be arriving without a present. I left an apology on their voicemail with an offer to take the Birthday Girl out for ice cream soon. Then I apologized to J again. Then I tried to model good, not-super-anxious, don’t-beat-myself-up behavior for my child.
Because J has been anxious lately. Enough that I’ve bought a book and had meetings with people. Enough that it’s on my mind most of the time. And one of my strategies is to show that adults can cope with setbacks without Completely Freaking Out. So, really, this was an opportunity! A wonderful chance to show that even when one might legitimately say that I suck, I won’t say it! I’ll say something insipid like, “well, that’s the way it goes. We all make mistakes sometimes.”
Luckily M had sensed that Missed Birthday Party outranked Missing Uniform Shorts, so she had glided silently out of the room. She was quietly hovering, J was squashing her stress ball and sniffling, and I was exuding false cheer when a perfectly healthy and intact Cute W strode into the house with a pair of white shorts and enough energy to get us all moving to the soccer game.
Phew. Sure, it turned out that all the guest players were wearing brand-new white apparel and all the regular players had reverted to black apparel expecting that that’s what the guests would wear, and, okay, they lost. But M played goalie for a half and didn’t let any balls in, so she was happy. And there was a cute dog for J to cuddle with on the sidelines, so we all managed alright.
– – – –
In the morning yesterday, J woke up sleepy and weepy. It was the first day of the New York State math testing, and she was stressed. Now, in the past, I’d told her that I don’t care about this test. At all. That how she performs doesn’t really matter. That if she would prefer, I’d refuse the test entirely, but that doing it would take a bit of planning ahead. But she feels she must take the test and she feels that she must perform like a mathematics champion. Her teacher has been incredibly helpful in attempting to relieve J’s growing anxieties and trying to alleviate her concerns about the test. And, obviously, her Dad and I are awesome (birthday party blow-offs notwithstanding). But she’s still freaked out. I’ve said before that I was mostly not refusing the test because I thought that that would increase her stress levels. And she handled the English portion pretty well. But Wednesday morning was a different story.
I was tempted to just keep her home. Except that we had plans right after school: plans to take the Birthday Girl out for ice cream. The mom had already informed her daycare that Birthday Girl would be walking home with J. I said to J, “I really, really don’t care about this test. But I need you to go to school, because we need to take Birthday Girl for ice cream.” She understood. As she left, I was yelling, “Remember, the most important thing that you absolutely have to accomplish today, is that you must eat a delicious frozen dessert with your friend.”
That afternoon was one of the most awkward playdates ever. J and the Birthday Girl are play-with-a-mob-outside-in-the-neighborhood friends, and plunged into a one-on-one situation for a rainy day, there was a great deal of, “What do you want to do?” and “I don’t know, what do you want to do?” conversation. We got some frozen yogurt and I suggested crafts and games and activities and it was both completely fine and completely excruciating at the same time. Mostly because I know how her usual playdates go, with her BFF. No matter the occasion, they are thrilled to be together, chatting away, occasionally arguing but always actively engaged with each other–just about the opposite situation as yesterday.
To make things worse, I was stress-baking. My neighbor Mary isn’t doing well again. She’d come home from the hospital and I haven’t been able to visit her with the stream of health care workers and relatives who’ve been by, but I know that she thinks that my chocolate cake is the best ever, so I was making chocolate cupcakes and homemade frosting on the off chance that she can actually eat something.
Birthday Girl would drift into the kitchen to chat with me or ask me questions or ask if she could help with the baking. And I’d let her stir something and help here and there, but I was feeling super-paranoid about germs and J was not interested in the baking, so it just led to more awkwardness. Plus, she wanted cupcakes badly, but I wouldn’t let anyone eat them because it was 5 pm and they’d already had frozen yogurt. So when I sent Birthday Girl home with cupcakes along with her gift, I could just imagine her asking her Mom why she had to work instead of staying home and making her homemade cupcakes, thus continuing the never-ending Mama Guilt cycle. But then I imagined that poor mom thinking, I might not stay home making you cupcakes, but at least I show up to my appointments! But of course that is only my wild imagination. I’m sure that it wasn’t like that at all. Maybe.
I asked J how the test was, and she said, “Easy. Except sometimes I couldn’t understand the questions. And it feels so long to wait until it’s all done because you can’t read.” I laughed about the questions, because that’s how her homework’s been. “If you can’t understand a question, I think it’s more likely that it’s a problem with the test than with you,” I said. “Don’t worry about it.”
Except that this morning, she was up at 4-something am, fretting.
And I’m going to make this a To Be Continued post.