As soon as the backdoor clicks shut I hear a wail come up from the end of the hall. Rushing back I see the Quail sitting on the carpet with her shoe box dumped on its side around her. Big, wet tears are making tracks down her cheeks and she’s trying to force a pink and yellow flowered sandal over her jammy-clad foot. Kneeling down beside her I start to gather the shoes back to the box. I’d spent the better part of the morning sorting and folding the seasonal exchange of children’s clothes that had been landsliding through our home for the last two weeks. Eyeing the new mess in the hall, I was none-too-pleased.
“Quail, stop. Help me pick these up.” Rather than helping. She starts screaming what sounds like, “Cookie!” to me as she shoves my hands out of the way and continues to try to get her shoe on her foot.
“Quail. Stop. No. No cookies. Clean up.”
We continue misunderstanding each other as her frustration races my irritation to the culmination of her meltdown. Finally I get up and leave the hall. Sometimes I just need to step away. Time-outs, they are wasted on the young in my opinion. She follows me into the kitchen continuing to chant cookie and grabs the plastic pumpkin bucket off of the kitchen table. Shoving it up into my hands she tries again. “Cookie.” Peering into the pumpkin. I repeat the name for it, “Pumpkin?”
“Yeah. Pump-kin. Daddy. Sug. Zuzu. Me!” She bangs her small hand against her heaving chest gathering the pumpkin up with her shoes and runs to the backdoor.
Not cookie. Not angry. Not out-of-control. Not trying to make a mess. Just not able to articulate in her panic, her desire to be included.
When Lovey got ready to go to market this morning, I had gone up to the attic to find our trick-or-treating buckets because I was fairly certain that we only had two to go between the three girls this coming week. One pumpkin. One Elmo head. Zuzu had dressed Sugarplum in a striped and pumpkined sweater and in all her baby-cuteness I had grabbed her, Elmo and the camera to photograph her quickly in the morning light before strapping her into her carseat. Unbeknownst to me, the Quail had seen the buckets and my camera and had thought they were going trick-or-treating. Without her. The day before she had been sick and the girls and Charlie had gone to the school’s fall festival while she and I stayed home.
“Did you think we were going Trick-or-Treating?”
“Yeah. Boo!!!!” She waggles her fingers scarily at me and we both laugh. I explain that Lovey and the girls were just going to the store. They would be back and we would all go the pumpkin patch later.
“Me. Boo.” Satisfied that she was not being left out. She moves back to the living room to resume her Barney-marathon. That’s the thing these days. I still repeatedly underestimate how much of the commotion around her she is taking in and processing. Whatever her sisters are doing. She wants to be doing. Be it- going to school, to the park, to the market or pumpkin patch. If Zuzu is twirling through the yard in a rock-star costume. The Quail is only a beat behind. If Zuzu gathers her backpack to head out the door. The Quail is making sure hers is packed with her Bookflood Book and folder. If Zuzu grabs her swimsuit to fill up the little plastic pools, the Quail grabs the towels. All for one. One for all. Sometimes it just takes me a while to catch up to speed.
Putting the last shoe back in the box and returning the plastic pumpkin to the kitchen table I reach into the fridge for the tub of Tollhouse dough. Suddenly I’m exhausted and hungry for cookies.
I find myself misunderstanding Cora a lot too, and once I figure it out I feel like it was so obvious. And I see again and again how in tune with everything she is. It’s frustrating for everyone involved. Slowly….