Will You Be My Friend?

She comes home from playgrounds, the swimming pool, face bright and excited. “I made three friends today.” It is her measure of a successful day.

We are at one of the adventure pools, about 45 minutes outside of town. It is late, after work, over the dinner hour, and there aren’t many children around. I am sitting in a lounge chair, watching her climb up, up, up the spiral staircase to the big loopy slide. I watch her shadow through the blue plastic until she swoops out into the shallow water at the end. She loves it.

I need a friend, she says to me. We walk to the baby pool full of tots, mostly younger than her. She walks up to a couple of girls, “Are you my friend” she says, although I know this more from experience than hearing, as I hang back to let her make her own way. She comes back into the main pool area. “No one is my friend.” Oh well, I say. Let’s go back to the slide.

She waits at the end until a couple of older children tumble out the mouth of the slide. She has to tilt her head way, way, up to look at them. “Do you want to be my friend?” The oldest one, maybe 14, gives me a confused look out of the corner of her eye and then waves her hand as she good-naturedly says the German equivalent of “come on.” The teenager looks pleased, the way an older cousin feels generous to include a little one in her play. I give them a smile and then pretend to read my book. The big ones leave after only a few minutes.

She stands by my lounger as a mom and two girls walk towards some near-by chairs. I tell her to wait just a minute, let them get settled. But they pack up their things up and walk towards the showers.

Now she has found someone more her age, maybe a year or two older. They jump into the big pool and I hurry to bring her a noodle, as we are letting her go without water wings. The two play for a while, but then her new friend moves over to other older girls, kids obviously known. She tags along, trying to show off her skills in riding the noodle, laughs too loud, saying look at me. I offer to swim with her, but she says no, wants to only play with the children. I see her follow the group over to the the indoor/outdoor pool, and my throat starts to tighten, tears come to my eyes. This girl is going to get her heart broken a thousand times, a thousand ways. I dread it but know it can’t be avoided.

The older girls swim under the plastic curtain to play in the outdoor pool with a ball, but it is cold out today, the water not heated enough because of the warm weather the day before. She hangs back, staying indoors.

I walk over, seeing her floating in the water, staring after the other girls. By the time I start to walk down the steps into the pool she turns around and comes to me, devastated. Her tears overflow and her face crumples. “No one wants to be my friend” she sobs. I know love. It’s just that they are older. It happens. I go to get Dad and they play together for a while. They walk back towards me and she still has red eyes, is sucking on a finger. And my girl who always looks so grown up to me these days seems tiny, fragile, hardly more than a toddler.

We go to the pool-side restaurant and let her order ice cream and french fries. I don’t know what to say or what the lesson is here. I was never like this, this fearless child whose adventures aren’t complete unless they are spent laughing with friends. I say, “some days you will meet lots of friends, some days none. That is just the way it is. Next time maybe we can bring a friend.” She nods, already feeling better from the treats.

We go back to the big slide. She pushes off first and then I follow her, chasing her and trying to catch up. We are laughing, our voices echoing in the covered tube. She waits for me at the bottom and we both have trouble catching our breath. One more time, I say, but that turns into three more trips until we are both shivering.

We shower and dry hair and head out to the car. She is awake most of the trip home, staring out the window as we wind through the mountains, falling asleep just at the end. Dad carries her in, tucks her into our bed, brings her water. Not much later I too am tired and lie down beside her. I stroke her hair, listen to her steady deep-sleep breathing, whisper in her ear how much I love her.

I never knew that being a parent meant going through the pain and heartache of childhood all over again. I thought I would be more of an observer, more of a shoulder to lean on, someone stronger who would always be there with words of wisdom. I was wrong.

…and a crappy day

Glad I did the post yesterday, as I sure wouldn’t have felt like it after this day. Grrrr. The stars and moons were just not aligned in my favour.

Annie has been in a bratty “no” stage the last few weeks. Nothing serious, but every time I try to brush hair or teeth or try to get her dressed she says no or runs away. It doesn’t last long…about as long as it takes me to threaten a consequence…but the daily irritation of it sometimes wears at me. Like this morning. I threw the hairbrush on the ground and told her she was not being helpful, which of course made her cry. We got through it and then she was back to her cheery self in a few minutes. I then looked at the clock and saw this ordeal had made us almost late, (Annie’s Kindergarten goes to gymnastics on Monday morning and they leave for the bus punctually) which made me yell at her again, as there isn’t much in this world that makes me more crazy than being late. Now Annie was really upset, as she was not misbehaving at that moment and she has a highly developed sense of injustice. I stormed out of the house not even asking Markus if he wanted a ride to work.

By the time I buckled Annie into the car I was feeling mighty guilty and apologized. Though her sobs she said, “You don’t have to yell. It hurts my ears. You only have to say ‘I’m getting sick of this’ in a normal voice.” Oh boy did I feel like Mother of the year.

Mondays are supposed to be a bigger work day for me, but I was less than productive. (Luckily I can make up the hours later in the week, but life is just better if I have a good chunk done Monday and Tuesday.) I then had to drop something off downtown and so paid for parking. I thought I might as well use the time on the meter to go to the post office, even though it wasn’t that close. Half way there I realized my new shoes were maybe not quite as comfortable as I thought they were in the store. As I winced my way into the post office door, I looked in my purse and realized I’d left the letter in the car. (And it was a hand-made card, which you would think would buy me a bit of good karma.)

Hobbled back to the car to pick up Annie and took her to the first class of her swim lesson, only to discover the company offering them had made a mistake and registered me without my friend Margriet’s child, Chloe. This is a problem as the class is twice a week and I had planned on Margriet and I trading off taking the girls so we could both get our work done. Tomorrow we have to go to the office and try to figure it out, taking more time out of my work week.

As I say, grrrrrrr. Of course, I know these are all minor irritants. As Annie often reminds me, “It’s not the end of the world.” But I can sure manage to whip myself into a right frenzy at times.

Happily by the afternoon Annie had forgiven me, we played some games, and then had a nice book read and snuggle. Hopefully writing this post will clear some of my bad juju and I can move on tomorrow. I’ll let you know.

A Lovely Week

The last week and a bit has been really, well, nice. Not thrilling or exciting or eventful. (Actually, I’m kind of done with eventful for a while), but just lovely.

My birthday on the 20th was so sweet. Annie and Markus brought me coffee and presents in bed, singing me a rousing chorus of the Happy Birthday. I had a relaxing day at home, mostly crafting birthday and Mother’s Day cards. After Kindergarten I brought home a friend for Annie to play with. I actually made the play date last week, totally forgetting it was my birthday…clearly this is not a big event in my life anymore. But these days it is usually easier with 2 than 1, so it all worked out.

We then dropped Annie off for an overnight with Chloe (Margriet’s present to me) and Markus and I went out for one of the best dinner’s I’ve had in Innsbruck.

Heading out for a birthday dinner.
Markus was taking pictures of me so Annie, of course, had to do some posing on her own.

The restaurant is called Chez Nico, and the owner is a French chef living in Innsbruck with his Austrian wife. There are only 12 seats in the whole restaurant. About a year ago he changed his menu to be vegetarian. I’m usually up for a good vegetarian meal anyway, but this was seriously fantastic. I even got a bit drunk on the wine course pairings, which doesn’t happen often these days. A great meal, time with Markus and Annie, and many phone calls, cards, emails and Facebook posts from friends and family made it a special day.

On Saturday I took Annie up to a family meet-up with the Innsbruck expat group. I’m starting to really enjoy their company. Such interesting stories about how people ended up here! The Easter bunny showed up and there was a big egg hunt. They actually hide colored boiled eggs here, but Annie just finds them and then passes them along to someone else; she sticks to the chocolate and gummy bears as keepers. It was beautiful weather and a great way to start the Easter weekend.

Sunday was our Easter egg hunt, of course.

After the chocolate-eating fest we went for a long bike ride. Markus kept me to flat ground, which my knees and lungs appreciated. We sat on a restaurant patio and had a light lunch while Annie played in the playground.

Markus had to pop into the cafe on Monday for something, so brought home the chocolate egg a friend brought from Italy. Apparently, so Markus claims, this is standard fare for Italian kids.

Ridiculous! Thank goodness it wasn’t filled with anything. At least the chocolate is decent so we are all pitching in to finish it off before…I don’t know…next Easter?

Besides that we have been enjoying our yard and the sunny warm weather this last week.

Markus is crazy busy in May with a bunch of catering (thank goodness) and hopefully a hopping cafe (at least on sunny days), so this was very nice that we got to spend some longer periods of time together…eating lots and lots of chocolate.