Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Screw you

Several months ago my monthly chiropractic appointment was scheduled for the evening and I all but missed E's bedtime. M had completed her whole evening routine with her when I got home. She was already in pajamas sitting in her room in the dark waiting for me to rock with her. She was very unhappy that I had been absent and asked a lot of questions about it, trying to settle on an explanation that she could accept as satisfactory. I told her that I had been at the back doctor. I didn't want her to think I was sick, though, so I said, I screwed up my back before a little bit and the back doctor makes it better and I just go back sometimes so he can keep it fixed so it doesn't get broken again.

She thought about this. "You screwed up your back a little?" Mm-hmm, I answered. "And the doctor fixes it?" Mm-hmm, I said again.

"With a screwdriver?"

This was several months ago, so while I distinctly remember her asking the question, I don't remember what answer I gave. A few weeks ago, though, after she asked to be picked up for about the gazbillionth instance that day (and in a situation where she was absolutely capable of walking herself), I said to her, My back is tired. Why don't you walk?

Small children have a special look on their faces when they believe they've figured something out, and E's whole face lit up brightly. "Mommy, I screw you with a screwdriver!"

She pulled me to the armchair to sit and climbed up and squeezed herself behind me. She pulled my shirt up a little in the back and gave me the lightest, most lovely touches with her fingertips, like a massage from a millipede. She did this for two or three minutes and declared, "Mommy, you're better!"

It's become a game now, where out of the blue she'll suggest that somebody needs screwing with a screwdriver. I would comply just for the hope that encouraging it once would prompt her to say that sentence over and over again, because it's so funny to hear. But really I comply because for all the games she plays with me where I think I'm the poor aluminum folding chair prop in a WWF event, this game feels really, simply, Nice.

So I've been getting screwed by my two-year-old several times a week. (Play with that, search engines!) And then this weekend Something Happened. I wanted to hang some hooks in L's room and I pulled out An Actual Screwdriver. I almost didn't want E to see me take on this project for fear that proper comprehension would render the extinction of my millipedes and their massages. But, of course, E was following me around the house, and the window of opportunity was so narrow. L wasn't sleeping, M wasn't busy and could watch L, L didn't need to be fed by me, E didn't need me to put her down for a nap, and I wasn't already engaged in some other activity. Plus, I had a few other things to hang, too, and I needed to drill some holes, and I do think it's good for E (and eventually L) to see Mama with the power tools.

I had measured and checked my measurements. I had drilled the first hole and sunk the first anchor and aligned the first hook and inserted the first screw. With my screwdriver in hand, I began to turn the screw head. And my screwdriver slipped. The screw fell, the hook fell, and the screwdriver lightly scraped the paint on the wall. It wasn't actually a big deal because the hook would obscure the paint scrape once installed, but my immediate reaction was to sort of growl. Urrggh!

E makes a sport out of reacting to every little thing that I do. "What's wrong, Mama?" I told her that I had scraped the wall a little, and it was sloppy, and I was a little sad at myself for it. She reassured me: "It's okay, Mommy! You screw it with a screwdriver and it will be better!"

I could feel my face lighting up as hers does. Well, yes, I thought. I will be using the screwdriver to screw in the hook to hide the paint scrape. That's not what she means, but it's true enough. You're right, honey. I'll make it better.

She understood that I could fix the problem and that I wasn't upset, and she was relieved. And I was relieved. Her imperfect comprehension remains intact. Bring on the millipedes. Pin It