Monday, February 08, 2010

Worried Sick -- by Jamie

Lately, all of Jayda’s dolls have been throwing up. The other night, as Jayda was munching on a snack bag of animal crackers, she asked me if Big Baby (her favorite doll) could have one of her cookies. “Sure,” I said, and proudly praised her for sharing her snack. Just moments later, Jayda shrieked, “Big Baby is throwing up!” I then had to stop everything I was doing to help Jayda climb up on a step stool so she could hold Big Baby over the kitchen sink, just as I had held my daughter several weeks before, when Jayda had suffered from the stomach flu and couldn’t make it into the bathroom in time. While Jayda was ill, I also showed her how to throw up into the toilet, and now she sometimes takes her dolls to the bathroom and takes care of them while they “get sick” there. Other times, she lets a doll lie on the couch with her and tells me it’s ok if her baby throws up on her legs, as Jayda did on mine once, when she was in the throes of her sickness.

Jayda is a doting mom to her babies, and I like to think she tries to imitate me. The last, and only other time Jayda had a stomach bug, was when she was an infant, and fortunately, she has no memory of those horrible few days. So I guess her recent discomfort—and my subsequent care of her—has left quite an impression on my daughter. However, I’m getting a bit tired of this puking phase—especially when Jayda uses it as a means of manipulating me. Now, whenever she wants to get my attention, she tells me she’s going to throw up—or, simply, that her belly hurts. Of course I initially play along…rub her tummy, dote on my daughter, and then, I cleverly remind her that junk food is likely to give her a stomach ache, and that if she really has one, she’s going to have to abstain from any treats. Usually, that instantly cures her.

But all of this belly aching makes me wonder: Why does Jayda obsess over some things, and not others? Why have the symptoms of a 24-hour stomach bug carried over into her daily life, while other not-so-wonderful experiences are immediately forgotten? I’m simply amazed by what Jayda chooses to remember…and what she forgets. Before Jayda came down with the stomach flu, we had plans to meet a friend in the city to see “Pinkalicious: The Musical”—a silly, kid-friendly play based on Jayda’s absolute favorite picture book. Jayda was immensely excited about the prospect of seeing the play—and about seeing her friend, too. But once Jayda’s sickness subsided, and I began quietly obsessing over how to explain to Jayda that she was too weak to go to the city, and that we’d have to miss the show, she never even mentioned “Pinkalicious.” It’s been weeks, and Jayda has still never asked about the tickets. It’s like the show never existed.

Maybe it’s a child’s right to have selective memory—just as Jayda seems to have selective hearing when I admonish her for things she’s not supposed to be doing—but it sure makes this mom a bit batty. It seems I’m always worrying about how traumatized Jayda will be by some events that ultimately never seem to even bother her. Like my return to school, for instance. While in theory, it hasn’t changed Jayda’s life much yet (she gets dropped off at day care a bit earlier two days a week—and that’s all), I can’t help but worry what kind of a toll it will take on her in the future, even though the commute, the extra work, and the stress are all mine with which to deal right now. A few times last week when Jayda asked about my day and I told her “I went to school,” she actually got a bit combative and countered, “I go to school, too!” It made me wonder if she thinks she has to compete with me now. I assured her that while we both do go to school now, her school is just as—if not more—important than mine. But of course I wondered if my assurances were enough. Then, the other day, Jayda continued a similar conversation with, “Why you go to school, mommy?” I responded, “I need to make more money for us,” and she countered, combatively, again, “I make us money!” as she grabbed me and two of her dolls in a big embrace. So maybe, yet again, I’m worrying for no reason. In her sweet toddler way, Jayda’s just trying to be a doting mom—and that’s behavior I can definitely learn to stomach.

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