Monday, March 14, 2011

Being and wellness

We visited the library, Molly and I, last week. I was able to see marked changes in her social development. Whereas she used to tell everyone that she was "unavailable" to play with themeven issuing directives through me in advance of social activitiesshe now plays easily, comfortably, with others.

She does insist that she doesn't often like other children very much but concedes that playing with some of them can be fun. She refuses to designate someone a friend unless she, among other things, clearly knows and likes the person, but she will not necessarily turn someone away from play now in the absence of her strict criteria. She may not make eye contact but we know that she can and will do so. She is also quite, er, given to leadership and has the strength of her convictions, too.

In conversation, for example, with a clerk in the children's section, this was amply demonstrated as he was just about to get rid of an empty tissue box.

"What are you going to do with that?" she asked, as she walked over to him.

"This? I was just going to recycle it."

"You shouldn't do that. You don't need to do that. You should reuse it first."

"Uh, really?" He cast a glance at me. "What should I do with it?"

"Well, you could put it on your desk right here on the corner or there," she pointed, "and put things in it."

"Yes," he conceded. "That's a good idea."

"You could also hang it on the wall for decoration."

"That's true. Wow, you have a good imagination."

"That's not imagination," she asserted, her brows furrowing to create an expression that, I swear, I first observed in the hospital nursery almost four years ago.

"I mean that you have a good imagination to come up with those ideas."

"That's not imagination," she persisted. "Those are facts."

He raised his eyebrows, looked at me, and I shrugged my shoulders. What could I say?

But as happy as I am that Molly is developing sociallyat least, she isn't holding up her hand as she has for the past two years and stating, "I'm not available" as oftenthere is a discerning guardedness about her, a fearlessness as well as an enviable certitude that remains, and which makes her the little girl that I know.

While being able to watch her interact with others is always enjoyable and interesting to me and the library seems to be one of the best ways in which to do this, there is always a worry that I have when I'm there and as I'm leaving: germs. For no matter how many times I wipe hands and toys, my children usually end up with a cold within a week.

Predictably, then, Molly became ill last week with what I think is the 'flunot gastroenteritis, but actual, flat-on-your-back influenza. I've suffered from a true, diagnosed case maybe once in my adult life and the aches, lethargy, difficulty breathing, etc. are not easily described (my new grasp of medical terminology notwithstanding). I watched Molly as she lay listlessly, eyes sunken, with a high fever and a cough that caused scream-like cries of distress each time it occurred.

Gone was the "say this! say that!" kind of, er, leadership. Gone, too, were the thirst for knowledge and firm resolutions; no furrowed brows, no "reporting".  This absence of "Mollyness" disturbed me as much as the physical symptoms and signs of the 'flu.

So, last night, after almost a week of worry and sleeplessness, I had an inkling that things were finally changing for the better: her fever was disappearing; there had been only one wakeful period during which she irrationally insisted that I fetch her a juice box (and not that of the ordinary, plastic-container-bound variety), set it on the bedside table, and then she steadfastly refused to drink it. Were her leadership tendencies returning? I wondered.

Today, however, I absolutely knew that she was on the mend when (1) she insisted on "the perfect outfit" of her choosing; (2) she decided on asked me for her favourite snack of boiled eggs and apple; (3) she requested 15 books be read to her before 10:00 a.m., and (4) I walked into the living room and found her curled up beside the library bin like this:

She's coughing, doesn't look like her old self yet, but, at least, she's starting to behave as she usually does. I have to wonder, as the world of medicine becomes less mysterious to me, to what degree is the absence of what we recognize in our children, and in our loved ones in general, part of the actual fear and ordeal of illness? But, as I close this very paragraph, a book lands on my keyboard and Molly says, "Read that!" and I realize that I'll have to muse about this later.


  1. I very much enjoy your writing Suzanne, and for allowing us to experience your children.

  2. doh was to read "...thank you for allowing us..."

  3. Thanks so much, Barb! I really enjoy writing and I'm glad that you enjoy reading it.