Wednesday, May 5, 2010

The Quilting Scrap

This morning, my four year old son John woke up on the wrong side of the bed. He came to my bed two minutes before I had to get in the shower, and I snuggled with him. Told him that I needed to get ready, and did he want to stay in my bed or watch some TV?

"I want to snuggle in your bed, mom."

A minute after I got in the shower, I heard a soft whine. It slowly increased in pitch, and I swear I heard the words, "TV." So we were going to play this game - I've changed my mind, mom, and you need to respond pronto. I yelled at him to come in the bathroom and talk to me, but he continued the whine until my shower was done. I wrapped myself in a towel, and wandered in the bedroom. He wailed, "I wanted to watch TV while you were in the shower!"

I grabbed a blanket and wrapped him in my arms. "John, you still have time to watch a little TV while I am getting ready. No worries." I carried him through the living room into the kitchen, and he calmed down quickly.

"Someday soon, you are going to be as big as Uncle Matt (my six foot plus tall baby brother), and I won't be able to carry you. Can you imagine me carrying Uncle Matt?"

He giggled, and pointed to his head, "I would be all the way up to the ceiling!"

I settled him on the chair, got SpongeBob going, and went back to my room to get ready. Pretty soon, I heard more wailing - something about strawberry milk. This was just an "I need mom" mood - he has been over strawberry milk for months. When I fixed him some over the weekend, he didn't even drink it. I let him wail and finished getting dressed. Walked into the kitchen where he was now happily distracted by the TV. I warned him, turned it off, and told him it was time to get dressed. Full scale fit ensued. "But mom, I wanted to drink strawberry milk while I was watching TV!"

Most mornings are easy with John - he is almost five and the tantrums are now few and far between. He is normally sweet, happy, and helpful. I could tell today was different, so I prepared for a doozy. It was like watching an impending train wreck - all I could do was jump on for the ride and hope we wouldn't end up in the hospital.

He started to kick and scream and refused to get dressed. I tried soothing him with calm words, but we were beyond that. Frustratedly telling him I would just take him to school in his underwear did not help the matter any.

I gave up and wandered into my 7 year old Sicily's room and woke her up. "John is having a morning. Please get dressed quickly, and come to breakfast. Maybe if you come in he will change his mood."

She obliged, and walked over to the couch in her school uniform and bare feet, full of her sweetest voice. "John, it's OK! I'll help you." She moved to hug him, but he was still angry, and I worried she was going to get kicked.

"Sicily - thanks for trying to help, but I don't want you to get hurt. Why don't you go get your shoes and socks on and I'll take over."

I walked over to the couch and told John if he didn't stop by the count of three I was going to carry him to his room, so he could finish yelling in there. I knew that would escalate things, and hopefully speed the storm along. Sure enough he completely lost it and began angrily screaming at the top of his lungs. I quickly prepared the kid's breakfast and set it out, and decided to skip my own - would just hit the doctor's lounge when I got to work. He obviously needed my attention more.

I walked into his room - he was balled up on the floor in front of the closet in his underwear, screaming loudly with his eyes closed. I sat down in front of him, level with his eyes. He peeked at me for a second and set his face even angrier and screwed his eyes up tighter. He was lost, and I was at a loss for how to reach him. Calm words didn't help.

Sicily came in the room. "Mom, can I help?"

"Well, you can try Sicily, but I really don't know what you can do. This has been going on for a long time. Don't get frustrated if you can't, he may just need me now."

She said "I know exactly what to do, mom."

She disappeared into her room and came back a minute later with a small scrap of soft blue cloth. The night before, after we read books (they like to hear two Junie B. Jones chapters together now) - Sicily kept popping back into John's room while I was trying to sing and settle him. The third time she was trying to show him the cloth scrap she had just discovered, and I barked at her to wait until the morning. Nighttime routine can really drag out, and sometimes you just have to put a stop to it all.

She approached John slowly and cautiously, waving the scrap of cloth like a surrender flag. "John? Remember that soft blue cloth I wanted you to feel last night? The one from Ramona's quilting basket? I just discovered it last night, and it is so soft and pretty. I looked for another one for you, but there was only this one, but it's OK! We can ask Ramona for some more. For now, do you want to just feel it? Hold it?"

He was still balled up with his eyes shut, but he stopped crying. I was encouraged. I added, "I'll bet we can, John! Ramona puts pictures of her quilts on the computer all the time. She has this wonderful airplane one, it has these beautiful flying airplanes all over it! I'll bet we can find some more soft blue fabric."

I watched his face soften from anger to curiosity. Suddenly he reached out for the scrap of quilt blindly and desperately. Sicily placed it gently in his hands and he caressed it. He smiled, eyes still closed, and retreated back into the corner of his closet.

Sicily smiled at me and crawled in after him. "I wonder if he is trying to hide it, mom."

She was wrong. He came out with two kites I found during spring cleaning. He was smiling broadly through his tears. "Look Sicily! The bird is for me and the bat is for you. When we go to the ocean."

I breathed a sigh of relief. The storm had passed. John handed Sicily the quilt scrap and picked out a school uniform to match the colors she had on. He hastily got dressed and we had time to sit down for a few minutes and eat together before it was time to go to school. I pumped them up talking about the thank you cards they had made for their teachers for teacher appreciation week the night before, and they got excited thinking about gifting their work. They found school pictures of themselves - Sicily's idea, and added them creatively to their bizarre and wonderfully shaped construction paper cut-outs.

I teared up later in the day, remembering how hard it was for him to reach out for help from a place of anger, sadness, and feeling shut down. I could empathize with him, so much. And my heart went out to my daughter, who knows her brother so well - sometimes better than me. As much as those two fight like cats and dogs, they have an amazing bond. Occasionally I look at them and think, "Sicily and John against the world. They will make it, no matter what."


  1. Your gift just keeps on giving, Ramona. Maybe I had a premonition when I uncharacteristically burst into tears when you gave it to me.

  2. That was a beautiful post, I'm in tears too. Thanks for sharing.

  3. Thanks, Spice Island Queen! I am learning posts like this rarely generate many comments - these story posts. It used to stress me out wondering if people liked them or not, but now I realize you've gotta craft your post to generate comments, and my style is different.

    Fizzy is the MASTER of the comment-generating post. Others do it well, also.

  4. Nice piece of writing. I have four-year-old twins and this situation is extremely familiar to me. I'm often torn between ignoring--because they should be able to control themselves and I don't want to encourage the whining as a way to get what you want, and trying to sooth and appease--because they're still little and sometimes can't get a hold of themselves.

  5. What a sweetheart of a big sister!

  6. Gizabeth - I'm remembering so many similar situations (Eldest coming home from school, watching a cartoon while I made chocolate chip cookies at his request and then falling apart "Because I wanted to eat the cookies while I watched the cartoon!!!!")'s great that your children have each other - and you :)


  7. This is a beautifully written story, Gizabeth. Maybe you don't get so many comments because your readers are all so verklempt! I witness from time-to-time in my own children these flashes of sisterly/brotherly love. It is one of the most heartwarming and heartbreaking feelings all rolled into one.

  8. Thanks anon! It is such a torn feeling - you want them to grow up and be a kid all at the same time. I get frustrated, then remember that time is fleeting, and I won't get to play savior to my little boy for much longer.

    High Heeled Mom/friend - she is very sweet. And she can be not so sweet. But I remind myself that she is only 7, and consciousness of how her wants affect others doesn't come until 8 or 9.

    Artemis - thanks! I like to think that my kids' sweet behavior comes from modeling, from those around them that care for them so much (including me!).

    Thanks Dr. Whoo! I've had more than enough comments, on this one. Warm, fuzzy feelings. I had this story marinating all day yesterday, because I was so touched by the experience.

  9. What a beautiful post.

    My five hear old boy Z has been finding himself in a mood like John a little too often for my taste lately. It's so refreshing to read a story like this to know he's not the only one, and it's OK.

  10. Your post reminds me of the relationship between me and my little brother. Growing up we were the best of enemies/best of friends. This grew into becoming absolute friends as grown-ups. We have been able to support and encourage each other thru everything, even though we do not live near each other any longer. Someone who has your shared background and shared experiences and as a result, has your back in a way no one else can.

  11. Thanks MomTFH! No, your son's not the only one. They all have their moments, don't they?

    VIPeds - I hope they always have each other's back. I have two much younger brothers - 7 and 11 years - who have been there for me through thick and thin. But I was sad for Sicily when she didn't have a sister - my younger sis is almost an Irish twin (13 months) and has been such an incredible source of support for me as an adult, even though we, like you and your brother, were arch enemies at times. Good to know (and I know this instinctively - but worry from my own experience) that gender is not a barrier to "having your back."

  12. Kellie (general surgeon)May 12, 2010 at 11:27 AM

    Great story. Smiling through tears. Makes me wonder if we've made the wrong choice to only have one child. Being the age I am, it's hard enough with a 3 year old, but he talks about "his sister and his brothers" all the time. I'm never sure who he means as he has no sisters or brothers, but I had several miscarriages and wonder if he... nah.

  13. I lost my little brother and only sibling when we were teenagers and had had just a short time as being great friends after friends/enemies throughout childhood, and it's a loss that continues to deepen as an adult.

    It warms my heart to hear stories like this and thinking of your little ones getting to experience that sibling bond as they grow up. I know many circumstances make one child the right, or perhaps the only possible, situation for many families, but I hope to one day have/adopt three or four children in large part because I think fostering supportive sibling relationships that will last into adulthood is one of the best gifts a parent can give each of their children.

  14. Don't know how I missed these last three comments. Kellie - I'm with you on the imaginary stuff. My son has this long-standing fantasy world of being a girl in his former life (he idolizes his older sister) and having another mom and dad that are all ghosts, now. I wonder, where the heck does that come from? A former life?

    I am all for only siblings - if only because I respect the heck out of one of my partners (don't tell him this, his ego is big enough) who was an only child. He obviously got all the attention from his parents, and has enough confidence (and smarts) for a large brood of children.

    Having said that, I am the oldest of four. And I value and cherish each and every one of my siblings, and thank the hell out of my mom, who was an only child, for gifting me these wonderful relations (she was certainly put through the wringer!).


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