It’s hard to sum up these days. Iris wore a lamb costume for Halloween, curly and soft and white, and Ingrid chose a chicken costume a month ago and talked about it to everyone she met, but she refused to wear the pants (even when Emmie offered to sing a song into them) or to put the hood up for more than a few seconds. She’d been all excited to wear it to music class and sing about being a chicken, but then would not put it on that morning, electing instead to carry two plastic eggs. We sang about her being a chicken, anyway. The day was a gauntlet of costume conflict and general unhappiness. She was so grumpy, trick-or-treating seemed out of the question. Then we lit five jack-o-lanterns from our bumper crop of pumpkins and we all stood quietly watching them flicker on the porch. Then we knocked on my brother-in-law’s door and Ingrid chirped trick or treat like a pro, even though he was wearing a scary witch’s hat, and the look on her face as she ate her first-ever Twix bar made me think, that’s my girl.
We are using time outs now (“breaks”) because we don’t throw things no longer has any effect. She wants to wear underpants, wants, all of a sudden, to put them on herself, but she can’t quite pull them over her butt and she can’t quite make it to the potty in time and it makes her furious. Then she pees in the potty twice in one day and her whole body is proud. She gets frustrated to the point of fist-shaking trying to practice doing buttons and snaps and runs into the other room in a rage. Then, four hours later, she can fasten a button perfectly on the first try.
Iris is busting out of 9-month size clothes. Her cheeks have gone all Campbells Kid: plump and pink. Everone uses the word “pretty” for her, and she is. She rolled from her tummy to her back yesterday. She grabs things—toys, my hair, Ingrid’s.
Over the weekend we drove for five hours to stay at a lodge for three nights and attend our good friends’ wedding. Iris developed a scary, croupy cough that landed us in a tiny northwoods ER, where she spontaneously recovered and lay on the gurney cooing and grinning at the nurse and doctor.
A was the best man and I read a poem in the ceremony. Iris nursed until the second I handed her to my friend to head to the front. Ingrid was undone by the idea of sitting in a chair in the audience for two minutes, so she came with me and clung to my skirt, peeking out at the congregation while I read. I did not gaze thoughtfully at the happy faces of my dear friends as they promised beautiful things to each other; I was too occupied with making sure that neither child screamed too loudly and that my breasts were covered up by the time I appeared in front of the congregation.
Iris dandled happily in the Baby Bjorn for a good part of the weekend, grinning at people and becoming ever more proficient at sucking her hands. Ingrid was two children: overwhelmed by all the people and noise at the reception, cowering in fear and worry each time a kind grown-up approached to say hello and how cute are you. Losing all her bones and muscles over and over, overloaded. And then, in the quiet foyer, peaceful, imagining long dialogues with a stuffed moose and saying shy but composed hellos to the handful of wedding guests who wandered through. Overjoyed at a gift from the bride: a small plastic slinky. Beaming: I can take this to my home?
There was square dancing, and we all danced, Ingrid in A’s arms and Iris in mine, silly and carefree and all smiling at each other. For a couple of songs. And then I think the motion and commotion got to Ingrid; she started clinging to A, getting all weepy, and asking to leave.
On the way home in the car, while both girls slept, A and I talked about the shyness, the separation anxiety. We wondered if we’re asking too much of Ingrid right now: new baby sister, new school. We wondered if this school is a bad match for her: too many kids, too loud, too chaotic.
On one hand, I don’t like to be in a room full of people, friends or strangers. I do attend large parties when I have to, usually without lying on the floor crying, but it’s still not my favorite thing. Why should I expect Ingrid to like it? On the other hand, she’s got to learn, sometime, to be among a group of kids, even if it never becomes her favorite place to be. On still another hand, does she have to learn it just now? And then again, what are our other choices for child care? Not many. But maybe this is ok. Maybe it’s just the transition and the potty and the buttons and the new life as a big sister and it will all shake itself out.
Then Ingrid woke up from her car nap all calm and started singing songs in Spanish, songs she must have learned from her four days at school, the last of them almost a week before.
She’s at school now. She cried the whole time I was there with her. I was irked with the teacher for not giving Ingrid a warm greeting, but just talking to me, saying This is normal. It’s ok. But then after I left the teacher went to her, wiped her nose, offered some ideas for play. I’m glad Tuesday is the Friday of her school week; we need a break and some time to think.