Little Miss Home Now

September 30, 2010

As I write this, my husband has taken the girls with him to watch Awesome Stepkid R. play a high school tennis match. As he left, he said, “enjoy your time home.”

Yes, my hubs rocks; not just because he gives me a break on a weekend morning, but also because he knows what it means to me to be left alone in my own house. There’s nothing I love like home.

I think, in a former life, I must have been a gopher or a mole or some other burrow-dwelling creature. A creature that likes to tuck in close and startles at noise and hard light.   If I could, I’d never leave my house.  That’s perhaps an exaggeration, but only a slight one.  I’m a homebody, down to the last drop.

Apparently, I’ve always been wired this way. Mama tells stories of how, as a child, I’d needle her to death if she took me on an errand with her (which she had to do quite often, because my father travelled all the time). 10 minutes into an errand, I’d start pestering her. “Home now?” I’d ask, eyes hopeful.

“Home now? Home now, Mama?” I’d chant as she pushed a heavy cart through the grocery store, gritting her teeth. God forbid she had to run two errands, because after the first one, I became more aggressive with my campaign. “Home now, Mama,” I’d say, eyes dark and lower lip threatening to surface. “Home. Now.”

I was the kid who always wanted neighborhood kids to play at my house, who turned down offers for sleepovers and playdates, seeking the comfort of my own nest.

My sister was the complete opposite; the minute school was out or the weekend started, her butt was high-tailing it out our front door, faster than you could snap your fingers. Home was where the sharp eyes and the rules were, and she wanted neither.  I rather liked the rules; they made me feel safe–at least at home, I knew the score.

In high school, when most of my peers were hanging out at the Tenneco station on Saturday nights, looking for a party, I was home with a hot bath and a book. So rarely did I go out on the weekends that pretty soon my friends knew not to even ask.

In college, when one of the girls on our floor dropped by, asking if we wanted to crash a party, my roommate laughed and said, “Don’t bother asking Dana. She’s anti-social.”  A bit cutting, perhaps, but not far off the mark.

My husband and I met at a party. This is a miracle in itself. Funny thing is, the only reason I was at that party was because a friend had shamed me into going; I hadn’t been to a social event in months.  “You’re starting to stink in there,” she said to me.  “Get out, for chrissakes!” So I did. It was a happy accident, but the irony doesn’t escape me.

My husband is more social than I am, but he was painfully shy until he hit college, so he understands, at least a bit, where I’m coming from. Both of us were the kids home on the weekends, noses buried in books.

Which is why we are convinced that Miss D. is from Mars. Miss D. is social butterfly, more-the-merrier, hot-dang y’all, let’s go! In D’s opinion, loud and big and pulsing with activity is awesome! Miss D.’s first grade teacher told me, “D.’s greatest disappointment is that she can’t be friends with the entire world population.”

The first day of pre-Kindergarten, I stood, tearily waving, as Miss D. ran through that open door without a single glance back. There was stuff to do, people to see, places to go! Mom–step back, wouldja? I was broken-hearted and wildly proud at the same time.

Miss M. is another story. We tried pre-school last year, two days a week. She howled, she pouted, she gripped my leg, she refused to get dressed, she fought the entire way into the carseat, she gripped the door handle of the car as I tried to wrestle her out, she sat on the floor at the school entrance, refusing to walk to her classroom. She wept bitterly as I left, face crumpled at my betrayal.

Mama laughed when I told her. “Fate comes back to bite you,” she said. Because for years, my little voice would implore her, “Please Mama, please. Don’t make me go to school.”  And she always said it felt like the twist of a knife, that plea.

“She’ll get over it,” Miss M.’s teacher assured me. “She cries for a while, and a few times during the day, but she’ll adjust.”

After a full month of pre-school, Miss M. was still flying off the handle, performing the same exhausting routine every Tuesday and Thursday morning.  Mutiny and heartbreak. Desperation and tears.

I chose to pull her out of preschool. I didn’t have the heart for the bi-weekly battle.  After all, M. still had another full year before Kindergarten; I figured we’d try again in the fall.

This year, we chose a different school. A school that offered a 3-hour afternoon program, lots of choice and plenty of empathy for reluctant/fearful participants.  The best part? M. had a  neighbor in her class; a familiar face–a touchstone. This time, there were no tears or battles or drama. Just a long hug, a kiss and a promise to see her soon.

The first week went by without incident; hubs and I were elated and smug with our decision not to push our daughter. “She just wasn’t ready last year,” I said. “This is a complete change–it’s just a better fit all around,” he agreed.

The second week went well also, although she gave me the fat lip one morning when I mentioned that it was a school day. “I want to stay home with you,” she said. “It’s almost the weekend,”  I assured her, and that was the end of it.

This past week, week three, has been met with a bit more resistance, but still no tears or outright refusals. On Thursday, as we were in the car, en route to class, Miss M. piped up from the back seat, ” Hey, Mommy, guess what my favorite thing is about school?”

“What, baby?” I said absentmindedly, fiddling with the air conditioning.

“Waiting for you to come pick me up.”

Oh,  Miss M.  My Little Miss Home Now. My heart understands.  Don’t you know that it’s my favorite thing about it, too?

A Birthday Wish for Miss M.:

Miss M., on Monday you will be one year older, and your mama will probably be a wreck. I know Miss D. gets the lion’s share of press on this blog; she’s incomparable when it comes to entertainment value. But don’t ever, not for a second, think she has more space in my heart.  You are my baby, my cuddle bug, the girl with the easy nature and a smile at-the-ready.  Your sister is thunder; you are the soft rain on the roof…the kind that makes me smile and pull the covers tight, happy to be just where I am.

I hope, every day, you know how much light you bring to my life. Happy Birthday, Bella-fair. You are my joy, my sunny corner, my always littlest girl.

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