Monday, February 23, 2009

President's Day Week and Rain Are a Bad Combination

For some odd, unknown reason, schools in our district close for a week to celebrate President's Day. George Washington and Abraham Lincoln get the entire week rather than a Monday. They are very important people in America's history, but do we really need a week off from school to think about them?

Queen Teen's district feels that we do, so she and I got to spend an entire week together stuck at home fending off boredom. To make it more fun, it rained almost the entire time.

Queen Teen hates the rain. She is a sun worshiper. You can see her entire body glow on sunny days as she soaks up every ray of blue sky. She smiles and laughs, is attentive and even seems to hear better. On cloudy, rainy days, she is withdrawn and sullen. The longer it rains, the more miserable she becomes. I am the exact opposite: I LOVE the rain. When it hasn't rained in several weeks I start to get itchy, feeling as thirsty as the gold tinged hills of California. When the sun is out I hide under a wide brimmed hat and long sleeves, avoiding as much contact with those sunbeams as possible.

I should live in Ireland.

So, there we were, Queen Teen scowling at the rain with nothing to do, and me scowling at her scowling at the rain, longing to go for a walk in it. On Saturday, the first day of vacation, we had Dennis to distract us. By Sunday afternoon, Queen Teen was miserable, lying on her bedroom floor, sighing dramatically and proclaiming, "There's nothing to do." Sunday turned into an even rainier Monday, and she glared at me like I was a terrible mother because I couldn't make it stop raining. Gee, sorry kid. I appreciate your faith in me, but even a Super Mom can't control the weather. No matter what I found for us to do, from coloring to playing with her Groovy Girls to watching Sponge Bob, she remained morose.

On Tuesday, we were saved by the arrival of the greatest child-care worker in the world, A! I got to run away to school (they didn't give me the week off!) and Queen Teen got to whine at someone new. Actually the distraction of a new person broke the boredom and on Wednesday when A returned everything improved because the rain finally stopped and Queen Teen got to go for a walk in the sun. A bleak sun, but sunshine non-the-less. When I returned from school that afternoon my daughter was smiling and seemed glad to see me.

We had one more day to get through, Thursday, which thankfully remained dry, although not so sunny. I spent most of the day pushing Queen Teen in her chair walking around town, just happy to be out of the house with a happy girl. We ate the cookies we bought at the bakery in the town square and talked about clouds and the other people in the park, wondering where they worked and what their names were.

Friday I drove her to visit her dad for the weekend, and when I drove home, all alone in my car with bad 80's music blaring on the radio, I felt my shoulders relax for the first time all week. Why do I get so worked up when Queen Teen is unhappy? I simply can't stand it when she's sad. Every alarm in my head goes off like air-raid warnings. "Mayday. Mayday. Queen Teen is bored! Emergency! Prepare Plan A for depression aversion. Repeat, Prepare Plan A for depression aversion!"

Depression is the real enemy, not boredom. Boredom is only the precursor to depression, so if I can head off boredom the moment it starts, we can avoid the depression that causes Queen Teen to cry and lash out angrily, hitting people and throwing toys. She gets frustrated that she can't do what she wants because of her hand tremors, like color inside the lines or play with her doll house without knocking something over. All of her friends from elementary school have moved on, leaving her behind as they chase boys and talk on cell phones. Queen Teen understands profoundly how different she is from everyone else, including the other children with disabilities. She doesn't fit in with the blind kids because she's also deaf, but doesn't fit in with the deaf kids because she's also blind. She is very, very alone, and when she doesn't have the distraction of school or walks or sunny days, that feeling is so overwhelming she lashes out at everyone around her.

That's why I frantically try to keep her busy, while at the same time trying to work and keep up with my homework from graduate school. It is exhausting keeping up this constant song and dance for my daughter's entertainment, but the depression is far worse.

I had Saturday all to myself to do nothing but rest and play on the Internet. I managed to get a little work done, but mostly I wasted a lot of time, doing unproductive things like wandering around MySpace. My hubby and I saw Slum dog Millionaire and The Pink Panther 2 (I'll see anything with Steve Martin). We had a romantic dinner and drank too much wine and got to reconnect as people, not only as parents.

By Sunday, the rain had returned and I drove to Santa Rosa to meet Queen Teen and her dad. When I found them in the restaurant, she was crying. Her dad didn't know what to do. I picked up a napkin, wiped her tears, fixed her hair, sat beside her and held her hand. The tears slowly vanished and she agreed to eat her lunch. Her dad looked at me perplexed.

"What was that about?" he asked.

I shrugged. "Who knows. She's thirteen."

Queen Teen finished her lunch and grinned at me.

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