Thursday, January 1, 2015

toddler narrative

The Holidays have been a gong show. Are they over yet? I can't wait to go back to my stressful job for a rest.

I will not support the gong show assertion with very many facts*, save for this story.

On December 27, my daughter fell about 10 feet in a stair/window well while under my mother's watch. It's hard to explain how this could happen, except to say that her cottage isn't up to code.** I saw it all happen out of the corner of my eye, and just lost my mind. Before I knew it, I was running out of the cottage with my daughter in my arms. Let's just say that if she had had a spinal injury, I would have added great insult to injury.

Let me save you the worry. Gummy Girl is 100% fine.

We think she fell backwards inside this stair/window well, hit her bum on the ledge of the window and fell face first onto a carpeted landing. She cried (euphemism for screamed bloody murder) in my arms and then opted to lie face down on the floor, just like after she dry-heaved last week when she had the stomach flu. We were gathering all our things to go to the ER, but within 10 minutes, she rallied. She wanted to eat, was lively and chatty and giggly. And then after supper, she started dancing. So, I opted to monitor her at home, knowing all the signs for concussions and not having any evidence that she had other injuries.

I could not look at my mother that night. I just took care of my daughter, made a token appearance at dinner and went to bed (right next to the crib). Anger is an absolute taboo for my mother, and so in the midst of my deep worry, I had to keep reminding myself that my anger was appropriate and entirely ok. I felt very alone, as I often do these days, but I tried my best to be on my own team, to try to help myself process this as best I could so that I could help my kid (and thankfully, through text, I had access to my dearest friend who said all the right things and made me feel so much less alone).

My mother's own adaptive processes dictate that she sweep everything meaningful and negative under a huge carpet of denial/dismissal. So the next day, we were NOT talking about the incident.

Well, my darling 22-month-old toddler whose language is exploding right now had other plans. She needed to process it. BIG TIME. For the remaining 3 days of the trip (and even now that we are back home), GG has been going up and down the stairs saying: "Boom-boom. Gummy fall. OW!" And again and again. I engaged her in it, with words and pantomime, using a stuffed giraffe she got for Christmas to recreate the incident. She watched closely, repeating her narrative LOUDLY. My poor mother's rug was being pulled open.***

Today, GG continued to talk about the fall. "Boom-boom. Gummy fall. OW!", but added "ok." It's difficult to convey the sentiment without the right intonations, but if I were to describe each part of the narrative, it would go like this: "ominous-grim-screetching-assuaging." I just wish I could help her understand the causes of the fall a little better, but I'm not sure I know how.

It is astonishing to see her work through this. If you want to read more about how to help kids process difficult events in their lives, I would recommend this book. I like the idea that children need help to knit together pieces of information that don't fit with their understanding of life thus far. A toddler's narrative for a fall isn't very sophisticated, but Oh boy! it's so useful to her. I will continue to help her work through the big fright she had this week, but I feel like she is well on her way to integration of an incongruous event into her young psyche. (ok, that was a pretty shrinky think to say).

And I guess that's what we do when we write (including blogging). We try to knit all the threads together so that they make sense. And a lot of what we go through in this community does not make sense. Thankfully, we write. And we have each other to help recount, reflect and enhance each other's narratives. Powerful stuff.

* Because it would involve a SHITLOAD of complaining, and that does not make for a very interesting blog post. 
** And apparently, neither are her parenting skills. loud snort. 
*** I understand that she does this because she feels so much shame, which makes me feel empathy for her. At the same time, I suffered under her reign of denial, so it's also very freeing to see my daughter not stand for it. 


  1. Oy.

    Just glad to hear she's okay.

    And yes, sometimes breaks are more stressful than the work from which we take the breaks. Alas.

    Happy New Year to you and yours.

  2. What a scary, scary experience!

    But isn't narrative an amazing thing? I posted about how narrative helped us make the transition from Germany to England relatively smoothly a few months ago (, and I was hit by its importance again over the holidays as we traveled back to the US to visit family. Every day (sometimes multiple times a day) we had the recitation of where we were going, by what means of transportation, and whom we were going to see. Even if it was mindnumbingly tedious occasionally, it meant that every step of the way (train to London; hotel; flight to Boston; layover; flight to Minneapolis; pick up rental car and drive to friends; visit family/cousins that she knows; drive to Iowa; visit family; drive somewhere else in Iowa; visit family/cousins she didn't know; drive to Minneapolis; visit friends she didn't know; fly to Atlanta; fly to Manchester; train home. Ugh, when I put it all together like that, I'm amazed we survived those 10 days) she was happy and comfortable. I've found the whole relationship of narrative and identity-building fascinating, I'll have to check out the book you recommend!

    (And I wholly sympathize with the desire to go back to work. We got home Tuesday. Wednesday morning we headed out to nursery, where I was crushed to find it was closed for the holidays. I had been looking forward so much to a quiet day in the office grading those last essays that had been hanging over me... Instead, I got to spend the day at home entertaining a jet-lagged 3 year old, doing laundry, and unpacking.)

  3. I would come unhinged... You go, Gummy Girl! Work through your experience with Mommy.

    Sooo glad she's okay. Xoxoxo

  4. Well goodness! No wonder that story on The Current made you so antsy this morning! Interestingly, the father talked about how the boy (then 5) drew pictures of the incident over and over and over until he didn't anymore. So you see, GG is brilliant :)

  5. Thanks for the book reference! How scary, I am so sorry! How frustrating too.

    I have to tell you, V had a fall into a CREEK on a 40 degree day. It was terrifying to witness. And Pete had to jump in and save her. Thankfully it was a shallow, nonmoving creek. Any ways, the point being, V needed to process it big time for many days afterwards. She kept talking about it a lot. She still brings it up from time to time. So I totally get where you are coming from with this.. I thought it was amazingly resilient and cool. (After I stopped shaking and having nightmares myself, that is...)

    Thanks for sharing!

  6. So proud of Gummy and of you, my dear, for knowing yourselves and your needs so well, and processing your experiences in a healthy way. I'm really glad you wrote about this. Big, warm hugs to you. xoxo

  7. Oh Gummy, I'm so glad you have the mother that you have. I'd say my whole life revolves around the concept that language is a window onto the mind, both professionally and at home, so I sure to love this post.

  8. I am so incredibly thankful that GG is okay and thriving. Proud of her for working through this (with the help of her pretty awesome mother) rather than allow it to be swept under the "ahem" rug. So glad you shared this with us, because I can't even tell you how much I just learned about being a mom, just by reading this. (And I finally get to say that now, right?!) Much love.

  9. I like your blog! My congrats with your successful de ivf. Your daughter is super cute) I think every mom has such thoughts) I'm not an exception!) But we should control ourselves. To be honest, at first I was completely against de ivf. I thought it’s unnatural and I won’t be able to love a baby of another woman. How stupid I was! This procedure was my only chance to become a mother so I persuaded myself to do it. Now I have no regrets. I look at Sammy and I consider him as my son and no one else's. We had an opportunity to give our doctor list of features we want to see in our donor. We mentioned hair color, nose and face shape, eyes, lips, etc. I should say everyone tells me my son looks like me! We told everyone, even our family, that we had simple ivf. No one can ever tell we used egg donor. Of course I’m grateful to our doctor and that girl, who donated her eggs. I will never forget what they’ve done for us! But I really have no feelings like my son is not genetically related to me or I feel differently toward him. Absolutely no! I love him with my whole heart! As soon as I knew I’m pregnant all my doubts faded away. I carried him, I felt him inside my stomach, I had toxicosis, I sang for him and read fairytales for him, I gave birth to him! He’s my son and only my! We decided we’ll not tell Sammy about egg donor. I think he doesn’t need to know that. I’m his mom and I’ll do everything for him so there will be no need for him to look for donor. We had de ivf in Ukrainian BioTexCom. We had 2 attempts in general. I’ve got pregnant from the first one. The clinic also offers «packages» with 1 or 5 attempts. So we’ve just chosen «package», which suited us the most. Hun, I wish you and your little princes all the best!