Monday, June 26, 2017

My (Temporarily) Only Child

A few years into writing Chasing Roots, the lines between "life in Texas" and "life with kids" began to blur. I had a difficult time determining where certain posts should go - on my Texas blog or my family blog - so I decided to stop worrying about which blog, and focus on one blog. Once my family fit in here in Texas, it felt like my family's lives should fit into my Texas blog.

That being said, every few weeks I write a post about one of my kids or my family that has only a weak connection - if any connection at all - to Texas. When that happens, I feel like I need to add a disclaimer at the beginning of the post. So here it is: today's post is about Hallie. 

Will spent last week at the Lone Star Leadership Academy summer camp in Dallas/Fort Worth. He left at 10:30am on Sunday morning and arrived home on Friday evening, which meant that for six full days, Hallie lived the life of an only child.

I have of course spent time with Hallie on her own. Though we didn't have the same two-and-a-half years I had with Will, Hallie and I had two years of an hour in the morning, an hour in the afternoon, and all day on Fridays. After both kids headed to elementary school that time disappeared, but we found - and continue to find - smaller windows during which to connect as mother and daughter. I had never, however, experienced Hallie-as-a-only-child for such an extended period.

We have described Hallie as "spicy" since the moment she made her entrance into the world. Upon exiting the womb, she cried angry tears for what felt like FOREVER (even though there was absolutely nothing wrong with her) and the nurse in the recovery room told Tom and me that she'd never seen a baby madder to have been born. In hindsight, this birth meltdown supports our theory that Hallie came by her intense and heightened emotions honestly and naturally and her personality was in place before she ever met her brother.

Her brother, however, brings out those intense and heightened emotions like no one else on earth. And without him around, I had the opportunity to experience a new side of Hallie.

For most of the week, the two of us were on our own. We went for walks just to get our exercise (as opposed to walking to a destination) and Hallie commented multiple times about how, even though it was too hot out for walking (a statement with which I agreed every single time she said it), she loved getting to talk to me about "her life and my life". We sat quietly and read books, watched episodes of Full House, and put together a kitten puzzle that her brother never would have agreed to assemble. We created masterpieces at the paint-your-own pottery studio, indulged in ice cream for lunch (at the ice cream shop Will can't visit because of his peanut allergy), and painted our toenails. I taught her how to make chili and grill beer brats (my Wisconsin is showing), and we baked a Georgia peach bundt cake for Tom. She helped me pack for our trip, and she tidied up after herself, helped me unload the dishwasher, and went to bed without complaining.
Painting her ice cream cone box. I finished my vase a full hour
before she finished putting all of the detailing her piece required. 
"These are the cutest kittens I've ever seen, Mama! Do
you think they got into those bowls on their own?"  
Georgia Peach Bundt Cake
We read independently but together for more than an hour - a first for us!
Hallie was pleasant, thoughtful, cooperative, and calm (by Hallie standards). She still flashed her spicy badge from time to time, but it became clear that she saves the majority of her spice for her big brother.

Will and Hallie have what I would consider a "normal" sibling relationship. He pushes her buttons and she pushes his. They argue and make-up, fight and apologize, play together and play separately, pick on each other and stand up for one another. Sometimes it's hard though, in the middle of all of that chaos and noise, to figure out who each child is on their own. Without Will around to light my little firecracker's fuse, she and I got to know each other better and I am tremendously grateful for that opportunity.

I am also tremendously grateful that within 17 minutes of Will arriving home, Will and Hallie's relationship - and the chaos and noise levels in my house - had returned to normal.

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