I’ve had a big post to do about each of the kids for months now. They both promise to be long ones, so I keep putting them off and adding notes to them. Maybe I’ll finally get them both finished in my “the kids are in camp at the same time for exactly one week this summer and I hope to be working in the fall and if I don’t catch up on posts now I’m never going to” burst of writing. Just two more to go!
I’ve posted already about the tough time Hallie had last spring. The repercussions of the pain and insecurity over Lina’s bullying lasted into the summer and fall. The combination of a good class and teacher and getting some distance from that whole situation finally helped bring our happy Hallie back to us. I hate that she went through all that, but she definitely grew from it. And it seems Lina did, too. It took a long time for Hallie to let go of her hurt and anger and to trust Lina again. But now they are quite good friends, playing together this summer, and I haven’t seen any more signs of bullying or other nonsense. Phew!
Despite the occasional exhaustion-related meltdown or trouble dealing with something she’s stressed about, Hallie’s in a really good place right now. She surprises me sometimes by how mature she seems (though there’s still plenty of mischievous imp to her still–I hope she never leaves that behind!). I offered her a suggestion about something by phone one day and she responded with a very grown up, “That sounds interesting. I’ll think about that.” And it was clear she would.
She’s been growing in ways like that for quite a while. The day of Gerry’s accident I snapped hard at her for something that normally wouldn’t have bothered me. She was surprised at my reaction, and I apologized and told her I’d had a very bad day. “I’m sorry, Mommy. Why was your day bad?” When I explained why, she said, “Emma must be very sad. I know I would really hate for that to happen to Daddy.”
Hallie’s relationships are very important to her, and they have a big impact on her mood and attitude about everything else. Especially last summer I could see her yearning for something she wasn’t finding in any of her friendships. After I watched her show some less than admirable behavior on a play date last summer (and by now I’ve got absolutely no recollection of what that was. . .) she explained to me, “I know I wasn’t behaving very well. But it wasn’t about that. It’s about how ever since I knew Jacob [[a friend in second grade]] was moving schools and the end of my Native American camp I’ve felt this big empty hole and I just don’t know how to fix it.”
This opened the door to some good talks, including the point that it helps me tremendously to know what’s going on for her but that that doesn’t excuse poor behavior. I’d also noticed that when she was feeling so low, she’d basically given up the writing and drawing that she loves. We talked a lot about the importance of having something that makes her happy independent of other people, something she can always turn to and that she has control over. I didn’t see her get back into doing those things much until after she’d come out the other side, but I’m hoping they will be there for her the next time she needs them.
So much of what Hallie said over those months made it feel like she was going through puberty and she ought to be in middle school. I’m guessing her experiences maybe aren’t that different from some other kids, but she may be better able to process and express what’s going on for her. I think sometimes Hallie’s maturity keeps her connecting with some of her peers. As empty as I’m sure it sounded to her at the time, I kept encouraging her to be true to herself and her interests and that eventually she will be in a place where she finds good matches for all her needs.
I’ve heard much less of that sense of yearning lately, and I’m not entirely sure why. I talked with her a lot last summer about how sometimes it takes lots of different friends to meet your needs and what you’re looking for might not all come in one person. She’s broadened her circle of friends quite a bit through her sports and activities, and I really like some of the girls she’s met. Maybe that’s made the difference for her.
When Hallie’s upset about something there’s been a pattern of sullenness and moping and her generally being unpleasant to be around. Something will bring things to a head, and maybe over several days we’ll have conversations that finally get to the heart of the matter. If the issue relates to something outside our family, I often can’t change it but our conversations often help to at least give her a new perspective or know someone’s in her corner. Over the last several months, Hallie’s mellowed a bit in her reactions to things. And while interacting with her in the midst of a meltdown or crisis is rarely fun, it almost always leads to a breakthrough of some sort and leaves us closer once we’re out the other side. I really, really value these talks and I know Hallie does, too. The irony of her having been in a better place for quite a while now is that it’s been a long time since we’ve had one of those “rebonding” sessions. Hallie and I often shower together after we’ve been at the pool. For now, we enjoy those as our bonding times. It’s good to have that bit of time just the two of us, even if we aren’t focused on anything important.
Apparently the closeness she and I often find can be a mixed blessing for her relative to her other relationships. After we got through a tough episode last summer, she told me “I couldn’t do any of this without you.” But she also said, “That’s part of why it seems like there’s something missing. I don’t have this kind of understanding with anyone else but you. I don’t think any of the people I know have this kind of understanding with anyone, which is part of the problem.” Those are words that make a mommy sad and proud at the same time. I hope someday she finds all she’s looking for. And I hope we never lose that ability to be so open and close with each other!