The year I ruined our Florida vacation

There is something  enigmatic about you that I have never been able to figure out. If you want ribs at Dengeos for dinner, but mom and I don’t want to go to Dengeos, being denied those ribs will bring a cloud of anger and disappointment over the rest of our evening. This can happen over a brownie. Mom not making you breakfast. A trip to the store. It happens weekly on Sundays as we begin our breakfast-out ritual. (It’s part of the ritual now, frankly.)

But if a vacation you’ve been looking forward to for months–one for which you’ve literally counted the days on the calendar–is suddenly cancelled, you’re fine. Yeah, you’re bummed, but you’re bummed like a 24 year-old would be, not an 11 year-old who is hyper-focused on securing her agenda. And it’s not just this episode; you’re super cool about how long it’s taking us to redo your room. You’ve been nice and understanding about how long it’s taking us to get on with that basement remodel that will net you an entire room all to yourself plus a great place to hide away from your parents when friends come over. So what’s up with that?

There’s a history to my confusion. When you were a baby, as I’m sure you’ve heard us mention, you were not easy. It wasn’t just the colic. After you got over that and began to make your way through the world, even before your “terrible 2’s,” you got angry at us a LOT and had some pretty epic fits.  We happened upon a few books and articles and learned about what are commonly called  “spirited” children.

You fit the profile. The gist was that these kids needed to not be surprised that much. They needed things explained to them in advance so that their expectations were not thwarted. So we tried it. And it worked. We still do it! All the time! You just think we’re probably anal parents who over-communicate our plans. But that’s why we’ll say “OK, so we’re going to go to the store and then after we’re going to come back but it’ll be too late to watch anything and you still have to do your homework before bed so–”

“I know, I know,” you’ll say.

This is because of our experience with you as a toddler. But something has shifted over these years that I failed to notice. At some point, you stopped sweating the big stuff.

This year my appendix let us down. After five months of not knowing why I was so sick, mom had to pick you up from school and tell you something like “We need to hurry. We have to take Dad to the hospital.” And knowing you, you had some plan for how you’d like to spend your evening that almost definitely involved all of us watching Dr. Pol or something, and in that moment your plans were ruined. You went to the hospital in good spirits and then went home with Uncle Brent and then had no dad at home for 5 days, which must have really messed up all kinds of stuff.

That night in the ER the surgeon told us our Florida trip would need to be cancelled no matter what. You were there when he told us.  It meant no daily pool visits,  no daily grand-spoiling, no gaters and water birds and lizards outside the veranda, no trip to Animal Kingdom, no air boat adventure through an animal-packed bayou…

You were beyond stoic about it. You were a trooper. I would say you were even cool.

But God forbid we should say “no” to an extra cookie.  Someday I’ll figure this out. But I’d take a daughter who sweats the small stuff but can handle the big stuff any day over the reverse.

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