Saturday, January 23, 2010


Annie had her first ski lesson yesterday. By the end of the hour she was real-deal using the tow rope and following her instructor down the hill, turning back and forth and snowplowing as needed. She fell a few times, of course, but just like when she's ice-skating, cold weather and falling don't seem to lessen the appeal of a sport for Annie. She came home proud and hungry, eager to go back and do it again next week. I bet she'll be better than me by the end of the season.


Earlier this week, Annie and Jemma were playing together upstairs while I was making dinner. This happens more and more these days, an hour or so here and there where they play totally without direction or intervention or fighting. Though (unfortunately) it can't be called up on demand ("OK, now you guys go play nicely upstairs for one hour while I get this done without interruption!"), it is pretty glorious when it happens.

They had played wedding and built a fortress with blocks and put on a show for their animals. Then Annie decided they should move on to playing tag: "Jemma, let's play tag! I'll chase you! C'mon! It'll be fun! I'll let you catch me!"

Jemma's response (unheard by me) must have been less than enthusiastic, because a minute later, Annie was skulking by the kitchen door, looking like her puppy had died.

"Jemma said she didn't care." She made her most pathetic facial expressions, then dropped into a chair and put her head down on the table. I did minor encouraging ("She doesn't care about playing tag right now; could you find something else to do together? Want to stay down here and color? I'll play tag with you when I finish making this!") but her sadness persisted straight through dinner. The girls sat across from one another, Jemma eating obliviously, Annie moping and sighing, me thinking about photographing the scene and captioning it with Able To Dish It Out, But Not Able To Take It.

I tried to provide some closure. "Annie, why don't you tell Jemma how that made you feel, so that she can apologize?"

Annie summoned a whine: "Jemma, when you said you didn't care, that made me feel really, really, really sad inside."

Jemma, mouth full of food, sing-song-y: "Sooooorrryyyyy!"

But then, ten minutes later, as we were just finishing up, Jemma came over and put her hand on Annie's arm. "Annie, I'm so sorry," she said, apologizing in a sincere way that beats out any effort Annie has made in her five-plus years of life. Annie smiled and nodded, Jemma ran off to play some more, and I couldn't resist teaching a little lesson of my own.

"Do you think you might remember how sad you feel right now the next time you want to say something unkind to another person?" Annie looked at me uncomprehendingly, so I tried again.

"Remember times when you've said unkind things to me and Daddy and Jemma?" Annie still looked innocent/confused, so I plowed ahead with some examples: "You've said, 'I don't like you; you're poopy; you're butthead; you're throw-up.'" A flicker of recognition. "See how that feels? It makes people feel sad inside."

I saw a light dawn inside before she scampered off to play with Jemma. Later that night, as we were choosing her clothes for the next day, I lobbied for her green corduroys. "I wore green cords on Monday, remember?"

"I don't care," she said, then immediately looked stricken. "I mean! I mean, I don't care that you wore those green pants. I do care about you, Mom." I smiled. I reassured her that I knew what she meant. I tucked her in, hopeful that this little lesson in kind words and sincere apologies might stick around for a while, just like the ski lessons and the ballet moves and the words she has learned to spell.

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