Friday, November 20, 2009

Nemesis, grudge

I hold grudges.

I remember the little insults. The negative remarks. You may say a dozen sweet things to make up for it, but I will forget them all. Only the occasional stray thoughtless remark burns in my memory, taking on increasing weight with the years.

My older daughter is a girl after my heart. She holds grudges, too. She is only five years old, but her memory is long.

There is a boy at school whom she hates. She despises this boy. He took a glue stick from her during the first week of class. She will never forgive. They were sitting side by side, engaged in an art project. He asked her if he could borrow the glue stick; she gave it to him; after a few minutes, she asked for it back. He refused. She cried and cried. The teacher came over to see what the problem was and the Bean-girl, hysterical, could not explain. The teacher gave her a hole punch in her daily “Great Day card,” signifying a “Tough Day.” Bean-girl was appalled, and kindergarten pretty much went downhill from there.

(Note: kindergarten is actually going much better now. Thanks for all the supportive remarks! I will never hold anything against you, fair readers.)

I still do not know the boy’s name, but Bean-girl refers to him as the “mean boy.” He always does “mean things” to her. In truth, as far as my husband and I can determine, there has only been one other incident of “meaness.” Bean-girl’s class was spending a week on the concept of patterns—looking for patterns in the world, making and designing their own patterns. They were cutting and gluing shapes on a strip of paper to make their own patterns. The mean boy told Bean-girl that her pattern was not actually a pattern. This was obviously a very mean thing to say, because it was a pattern! But Bean-girl showed us her strip of paper, and well, that little boy was right. My Husband and I could not discern a pattern in the string of cut-out shapes she presented us. If it was a pattern, it was on a scale that we could not see.

So on the weight of two tiny incidents, Bean-girl has declared a nemesis for life.

“Why does that mean boy say that he likes me, but does mean things to me?” Bean-girl asked one morning while putting on her shoes.

“He says that he likes you?” I repeated.

She nodded. “He says that he likes me but he does mean things!”

“He told you that he likes you?” I say again, just to be clear.

She nodded, exasperated with my dimwittedness.

“Well…” I said slowly. “Sometimes boys like you but don’t know how to show it in the right way. So it comes off as kind of mean.”

“When they get older, will they learn to show it better?”

“Usually, Bean-girl.”

I haven’t heard much about “the mean boy” lately, and I wonder how he’s doing and if Bean-girl and he have interacted lately.

They do get better about showing how they like you, Bean-girl. But yeah, when they mess up and it comes out wrong—I get plenty mad, too.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Bean-girl's 5th birthday, mother-in-law visit

This morning I still found helium balloons in strange places. One balloon hung limply from a window shade. Another was tied to the vacuum cleaner in the corner of our kitchen, the balloon's long blue ribbon wound around and around the vacuum's handle. Balloon in various states of deflation bobbed and sank in the living room. Yesterday afternoon I peeked at Legume during her nap. "Awwww," I said to my husband when I came downstairs. "Legume fell asleep cuddled with balloons!"

"What!" said Husband. "I took them away from her!"

Bean-girl smiled. "I put them on Legume!" she said.

"Why on earth did you do that?" we asked.

"I put them on her to make her look cute!"

"You sneaked into the room and put balloons on top of Legume to make her look cute?"

Bean-girl nodded.

That's the kind of thing that happens around here....

********************

The balloons are left over from Bean-girl's fifth birthday party. Her actual birthday was a week ago, but her children's party was this past weekend. Seven children (five kindergartener/preschoolers and two toddlers) took over the craft studio of our favorite independent artsy flaming-liberal (for this corner of the Midwest)toystore. They decorated a birthday banner, made hats, paraded about the store, then made pizza and frosted cupcakes in the adjoining cafe. Bean-girl's best friend had a little meltdown at the sight of kids that she didn't know, but eventually cheered up (pink frosting has that effect). Bean-girl beamed nearly the entire time.

"Amah"--the children's paternal grandmother--was there for the party. She was here for ten days, and it was, ahem, rather trying at times. Let us just say there are gulfs of generational and cultural opinion. And although my own mother shares some of "Amah's" ethnicity, the two are really polar opposites in almost all ways... except for in those really really annoying ways in which they AREN'T.

"So, Bean-girl," Husband said after he'd dropped his mother off at the airport. "Did you like having Amah around?"

Bean-girl gave us a dazzling smile. "Raise your hand if you don't like Amah!" she said, and raised her own hand high.

Husband and I burst out laughing. He is well aware of how difficult his mother can be--he has, after all, known her his entire life. She made Bean-girl cry while she was here (scolding and trying to shame her) and she said that Legume had the face of a Chinese peasant (not a compliment).

Husband immediately got on the phone to his sister to relate Bean-girl's remark. His sister's children are themselves petrified of their grandmother. Instead of laughing at Bean-girl's comment, Husband's sister responded with a worried "Oh, I knew she'd been there a while. I was wondering how you were getting on."

"Oh, it's fine," Husband laughed. "She [Amah] gets everyone else all riled up, but I'm fine."

Yeah, my husband is, seriously, a very model of equanimity. I suppose he had his training early, and although the results are admirable that perfect even-keeledness can also be freaking annoying.

***************

Bean-girl still has rough moments at school. She's clearly well-liked by her classmates--she has so many friends. She comes home chattering about a new game or song learned at school, and shows off her awesome art projects. But she still cries many days at drop-off. She almost NEVER cried at drop-off at her old daycare. She says kindergarten is not as much fun as daycare because you have to "sit and listen" instead of having free play. She says that she feels she "has to be perfect" in kindergarten. She doesn't seem to have trouble with the school's Kindercare (the daycare program run in the mornings before p.m. kindergarten). She loves the school's daycare. It's KINDERGARTEN that stresses the Bean-girl out. And I am still at a loss on how to help her through this.