WWJD, redux

Today was Mallory's first day at Art Camp, a day camp sponsored by our town's parks and rec department. She's been looking forward to Art Camp all summer. When Chris picked her up, she said she had fun; they learned about the color wheel, she made a friend named Teresa; the teacher was nice. But tonight at bedtime, Mallory said she didn't want to go back tomorrow. It was vacation bible school all over again: the other kids were mean, they scribbled on her papers, she didn't have any fun, she wouldn't go back.

I don't know what to do. You may be thinking: Just make her go! But I can't make Mallory do anything; she has a will of iron, a stubborn streak a mile wide. I can no more convince her of something she doesn't want to be convinced of (that she should go back, that she will learn a lot and have fun) than I can make the sun stand still. (It is my honest belief that she was so afraid that airplanes would make her ears hurt that she brought a double ear infection on herself this Christmas. Mind over matter in a cursed kind of way.)

It feels wrong to make her quit. It also feels wrong to make her go. I remember how nervous I was at the camps I went to when I was younger, how terrified I was that no one would like me, how hard it was for me to fit in. If that's the source of her reluctance, then I have no desire to force the issue. She's only six; I forget how young six is, sometimes. There seems no reason to make her miserable for a week just to prove a point about stick-to-it-iveness.

And yet...well, I'm just worried about her. She seems full of anxiety, this summer. She cries every day when I go to work. We have to go through this elaborate goodbye ritual every day -- I have to kiss her hand, and then hug a certain stuffed animal, and then write my phone number and "I love you Mallory xoxoxo Mommy" on a post-it note, and then tell her how many hours it will be until I come home -- every day. One morning last week I had to take Phoebe to the dentist, and Mallory and I had this conversation at least ten times before I left: Mommy, can I come with you? No, you can't. Why not? Because of reason A and reason B. But are you bringing Phoebe back here when she's done? Yes. And will I see you then? Yes. And will you give me a hug and a kiss goodbye? Yes. Over and over again, the same questions and the same answers and the same need for reassurances. And then she stood on the garage steps and sobbed as I drove away.

Is this normal? I've never had a six-year-old, I don't know. I guess maybe it's just her normal -- but it seems that it's very hard to be Mallory, lately, and it's certainly hard to be her mother. I don't know how to help her. I don't know how much I need to help her, or how much she's going to have to figure out on her own. Here's my ridiculously cliched conclusion: Parenting is hard.


aimee said...

Yes. I have a 5 and a half year old that is the same way. He cried last night because I wanted to go for a walk. He didn't want me to leave. Just for a 30 minute walk.

I don't know Krista. Just do what your gut tells you to do. Then believe it was the right decision.

And just know that they will pass this stage. At least that is what I am hoping.

MomofK9s said...

I think that all kids go through this at some point in their young lives. I mean I am no expert, I have no kids but I remember being in 3rd grade (we had just moved here) and waking up early just so I could see my dad before he went to work, because I knew I would miss him when I went to school. I also remember my mom drawing little pictures on my lunch bag and when I was done I would save them. It was sort of like her note to me. I think it is normal, but again I am no expert!