Friday, May 11, 2012

Why I Love My Kids

I have the luxury of truthfully admitting that I fell in love with both of my children within eighteen seconds of meeting them. I will never forget the moment Erilyn opened her eyes (what a beautiful moment) or the words Olivia first spoke to me ("When did you get a life?"). In vastly different ways these girls won my heart--one with a look and one with a quip.

But it has evolved infinitesimally since those two moments. I look forward to two events each day on my way home from work. They do not happen every day, but when they do, I cherish them.

The first is Erilyn's eyes lighting up when she recognizes me, and then the feel of her little vice-grip arms latching around my legs. The smile on her face and her up-stretched arms as she frustratedly grunts "UH!" and waits for me to lift her into my arms where I am occasionally rewarded with the "best hug yet". This is a wonderful experience.

The other event is more intricate, for it involves Olivia. I consider myself lucky if I get a conversation with Olivia that turns toward the serious. Some days she just doesn't want to talk. Other days? She doesn't close her mouth. I would like to share two events from this past week that made me proud to be her Daddy.

Both Tuesday and Wednesday, after supper, Michelle had to go to work and I was left with the two girls at dinner, chit-chatting. As I'm cleaning up, Olivia exclaims something along the lines of "Oh! You put the syrup on the pancake, the butter on the syrup, the knife to the butter, the hand to the knife, the mouth to the hand, and the pancake to the mouth. It's a circle!"

"What?" I ask.

"Never mind, Dad. It's a Robert Munsch book. You wouldn't get it."

And you know what? I didn't. I recognized Robert Munsch's name, but for all my English-teacherness I sure thought he was the author of "If You Give a Mouse a Cookie". He isn't. That would be Laura Numeroff. I'm not familiar with Munsch's books. Olivia says his name as if it ends with an exclamation point: MUNCH!

The next night at dinner, she hops up and leaves the table. She doesn't eat much, really. So dinner is, for her, boring. She's not eating, she's just sitting there. So she hops up and comes back in the room (after my repeated cries of OLIVIA!) holding an abridged, illustrated children's copy of Little Women.

"What are you doing?" I ask.

"Reading this book, Little Women by Lousy May Alcott. It's really good."

She plopped down at the table, and began to flip through the pages. She took careful, deliberate care to read aloud each picture caption.

"Jo and the Laurence Boy meet!" she says.

Then, after a moment, she says,

"Daddy, why is a girl in a book about women called Jo?"

I'm pretty sure I wrote an essay in college about this same topic.

Those are my girls! Heaven help me when Erilyn learns to talk.

Saturday, May 5, 2012

How to Be a Good Parent (and Aunt) (and Grandmother) 004

I need to take a moment to process today, and I process best through writing. First, it has been a week of words with Olivia. She was sent home from school one day this week, lots of e-mails, disobedience and trouble. My sister, Kayla, volunteered to take her to the Children's museum this morning to give Olivia some one-on-one attention and to give us a little break.

The morning went quite well. Michelle and Erilyn and I worked hard out in the yard, sweating and gardening and mowing. Michelle and Erilyn came in to take a shower around 1:30, and I stayed out to work in the garden. I had just finished weeding the huge thing, and I had settled in on removing two ant hills that had formed on and near my cucumber mounds. Since I'm peculiar, I don't use pesticides or poison in the garden. So I removed these ant hills by shoveling the entire mound up and carrying it to the woods, thenceby disposing of it. I was on the last shovel full of the second mound when I slung the shovel over my shoulder and dropped a glob of ant hill down my shirt. Frantically trying to remove the ants and their hill from the back of my shirt, I hear Michelle tapping on the window. This is the second or third time she's tapped, and I know she's ready for me to come in and get dressed to go to town.

Wait a minute! I'm about to say. I have ants all over my back!

But I can tell by her voice something is wrong. This is the voice mail my father left us:

"Olivia and Kayla were in a bad accident. Call me quick."

Have you ever had a panicked-ridden fifteen seconds of waiting for someone to pick up your call? That was today.

They were both OK, but it was a long car ride to Easley. A woman pulled out directly in front of Kayla, and Kayla T-boned the woman at 45 mph. They were both wearing their seat belts, all six air bags deployed, but neither Kayla nor Olivia lost consciousness. In fact, Kayla said that she was dazed from the impact of the airbag to her face, and before she shook out of it Olivia was in her lap from the backseat screaming,

"Aunt Kayla, smoke! Wake up, get out of the car!"

I don't care how bad my kid was this week. I've got one heck of a daughter.

The dust from the airbags scared Olivia more than the crash. Kayla had to kick her way out of the car (which was totaled), and she got Olivia across Hwy 123 to the parking lot of a Firehouse Subs. Kayla told me Olivia was freaking out until she saw Kayla was bleeding. Then Olivia calmed down and said, "Aunt Kayla, don't panic. You are bleeding. I think you will be OK, but I don't want you to freak out."

Way to be there for the adult, kid. Like I said, she's one heck of a kid.

Further impressing is that Olivia knew both her birth date and address. "Well, I don't know my address, but my street number and highway is ***"

"Sweetheart," the police officer said, "that's you address!"

The woman from the other car was taken to the hospital as well (in fact, we saw her and her husband there. They were very concerned about Olivia.) It was not Kayla's fault, and no bones were broken, but we took them to the hospital for check-outs.

And while we were there, there was a woman in the waiting room. She was trying to talk to Erilyn. (My mom and dad were watching her while Michelle and I were back with Olivia.) My mom had a weird feeling and took Erilyn over in the corner, away from the woman. At that moment, the police officer who worked Kayla's wreck comes in. My dad waves at him, "Hey!" Then, he notices his gun is out.

The woman sitting by where my mom had been takes off running. Seven other police, their guns out, storm into the emergency room waiting room. My mom hides Erilyn under a chair and blocks her with her view.

The police arrested the woman and took her away. Olivia and Kayla's X-rays came back, and there were no broken bones. It had been one long, crazy ride, but we are all home now, and safe.

And thank God above for good parents, daughter, aunts, grandparents, police officers, doctors, and friends. Some teacher at Olivia's school was in the parking lot of Firehouse Subs (don't know who yet) and she gave Olivia a stuffed bunny. Olivia has held onto that bunny for dear life.

We may have nightmares. We may have one strong daughter. We may have trouble getting her to be at ease in a car, but we have a daughter who is alive and happy.

And that makes me more thankful than I've ever been before.