16 January, 2008

be glad you have two feet

You know you're scraping the bottom of the barrel of maternal reassurance when your response to your daughter's ongoing exam anxiety is, "Just be glad we can afford to send you to school AT ALL." This is at dinner after a waterlogged day of interview anxiety (it went fine), transportation anxiety, topped off with the confession that the splinters in her feet from Christmas still hurt.

OK, here's where my mother claims her grandmother would say, "Just be glad you have two feet." Clearly I come by my conversational techniques honestly. But seriously. I know a lot more serious things could be going wrong right now, and I keep reminding Avery of them. Note to self: this method of parenting is not effective. Children don't care what BIGGER could be going wrong. The things that are going wrong right now are all that counts.

So I broke down and looked at her splinters. And it turns out they aren't, even, they're tiny shards of broken glass, I think. I have a vague memory of a broken glass in the kitchen over Christmas (was it here, or in Connecticut? I can't even remember that much) and telling her not to run around barefoot. Clearly I was too late. Well, the fact that the little shards, which I can see just under the surface of her skin, still are bothering her nearly a month on means a trip to the doctor. This on top of everything else that is happening just seems like... too much. But off we go today, after school. I decided to kill two whatevers with one whatever, so I too am under the microscope: might as well get all that pesky blood work done so as to start the New Year knowing that my cholesterol is still all right, etc. So no food for me until 4 o'clock this afternoon. WHAT? Now I'm whingeing.

But I must say, the long-awaited interview at St. Paul's was lovely, according to Avery. "She reminded me of Indiana Nona!" she said of her interviewer. "It was partly her sweater, which had cats on it, and partly that her eyes crinkled up when she smiled, and she was NICE to me," she reported, so that was all right. Instead of being asked to identify a vegetable or discuss Mideast politics, she was shown a paperweight with a dandelion inside it, and asked to describe what she saw. "I said it looked like the kind of dandelion you blow on to make a wish, only since it was embedded in glass it might be like wishing on a crystal ball." Sounds good to me. They discussed her favorite books, and the lady asked her to recommend her two favorite books FOR BOYS. Interesting. I think it was the official "Anything but Harry Potter" question, so happily Avery had two unusual books to suggest. I see one of them on my desk this morning, so I guess she's been thinking about her answer.

I sat in the massive panelled entry hall, surrounded by oil portraits of Paulinas past, or illustrious benefactresses, who knows. Countless girls rushed around, arms full of books, all dressed in, you guessed it, skinny jeans, ballet flats, hoodies and long fringey scarves. They all looked mysteriously alike! And LOTS of hair. The dulcet tones of their posh accents rang through the hall, and I looked intently for signs of eating disorders, anxiety disorders, socialization disorders. None visible. In fact, three of the girls came bounding up to Avery as we waited and caroled, "Good luck! You'll be fine! Welcome to St. Paul's!" Very impressive. So the lady came up to us and said warmly, "You must be Avery," and shook my hand, and that was that. Took her away. I tried to read my magazine, but I was too fascinated by all the activity around, and also by trying, unsuccessfully, to imagine Avery as an 18-year-old. What will she be like?

Anyway, the interview was fine. "I don't know what I was so worried about!" she chortled, and I struggled to find a message in this. Struggled and failed. I feel lately as if everything I say were written in a Chinese fortune cookie, or an astrology reading. Really futile and boring! And anyway she doesn't hear me. So all the exhortations like, "See, then that means there's no reason to worry about the NEXT interview," fall on deaf ears. Or rather ears that listen and then a mouth that says, "But that one will be completely different, Mommy!" You idiot, is the unspoken addendum. Sigh.

I'm beginning to see the point in a two-parent household. It's so one of you can walk away, shut the door, turn off the sound of your precious child's voice, and let the other adult get the brunt of the venting! I am steeling myself for the doctor's office today. Actually, a secret little part of me is looking forward to someone else being in charge: the doctor will have to do what doctors do. I know Avery is spending her school day imagining a giant fork digging into her little foot. I said, "Just enjoy your school day and you can start worrying about the doctor at 3:20."

Ah, well, it will all be over soon. Exam Friday, interview Monday, interview Thursday, exam Friday. Done and dusted. We'll have to think up some massive treat at the end of it all. In the meantime, be glad you have two... oh, never mind. Be as whingey as you like. I'll just cover my ears.


max said...


I grew up as a reluctant reader. Now I write action-adventures & mysteries especially for boys 8 and up. The books would provide a great opportunity for dads to read to their young sons. My web site is at http://www.maxbooks.9k.com and my Books for Boys blog is at http://booksandboys.blogspot.com

Thank you,

Max Elliot Anderson

Kristen In London said...

Thanks, Max! I am a reading-aloud addict and when I come across some masculine customers, now I will know where to turn. I'll be giving a talk at my daughter's school next week on the importance of reading aloud, so I will provide your information then. Have you any other advice for me? And how did you happen to find my blog? Thanks for reading.