Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Adventure Day 28 Add on: #21 Accomplish another task I’ve been avoiding

I’ll keep this short and sweet. As I mentioned earlier I had this item listed also as #9 on my list as well, apparently I’ve been avoiding a lot to have it show up twice.

The second task I’ve been running from was to make my sis in law’s (Pumpkin) birthday present, which was a pair of Christmas pajama pants. I’ve had the material for a while now and have just not wanted to dive into the job – no profound reason, I just haven’t.

I can’t lie, I don’t really feel like I did this task in the spirit of ‘the list’ but I did do it none the less. You see it was Pumpkin’s birthday the following day and they had to be ready – oops! Procrastination had kicked in.

I would have to say leaving it to the weekend when I had Mini over wasn’t the greatest idea, since kids generally don’t want to share you with something else, as they shouldn’t really have to when you invite them over just to have fun. So, I had to wait until my little one had gone to sleep to delve into my project. Luckily that was around 8:30pm and I got right into things as soon as she was snoozin’. By 10pm the gift was ready for wrapping without incident (that’s shocking, considering a sewing machine was involved and I’m truly an amateur).

That’s it. Pretty boring eh? Some things are.

Adventure Day 27 & 28 - #7 Have Mini Marshmallow over for a sleepover

I was very excited about what my next adventure days would hold. For the first time ever I was going to have my 5 ½ year old niece Mini-marshmallow for an overnight visit!

To many people it may be strange to hear that an aunt would not have already had her niece for a simple overnight stay, but for me it isn’t really strange at all.

You see Marshmallow and Mini-marshmallow’s mom weren’t actually ‘together’ when Mini was born. (Well obviously there was some form of togetherness involved but they weren’t a ‘couple’). Marshmallow and Mini’s mom had dated on and off for several years and even lived together briefly, but they just couldn’t seem to get things on the right track long enough to figure out their relationship.

I’ll never forget the day, over six years ago now, that Marshmallow and Mini’s mom came walking up our driveway. I was thinking ‘What are they doing here? Why are they together?! I haven’t seen her in over a year.’ We soon learned that they had come to announce Mini’s arrival - a bit of a shock when you weren’t even aware they were ‘together’ or whatever, but that seems to be how people roll these days.

Needless to say the past 5 years have been filled with the ups and downs of when Mini would go where and with who, dad visits and confusion of who was dating who, mom’s boyfriends and dad’s girlfriends – a big pile of ‘not fair’ in my personal opinion. A friend of mine who’s parents separated when she was only two months old, told me once that she was glad that she never had to experience seeing them as a couple because then she would’ve had to readjust and deal with them separating. I guess there’s always a silver lining somewhere.

I think it’s because of this confusion and juggling that I have never made the extra effort to juggle a time for Mini to come to our house – I don’t want to take her away from her dad time, or potential grandparent time either. (My brother had also been with someone else for the first four years of Mini’s life who I could barely stand – and that’s an understatement. I knew I couldn’t deal with her and whatever opinions she had on the issue). Now seemed like the best time to have my niece over for some one on one time, so I made a date.

Saturday morning Wally and I met Mama and Pop halfway between our place and theirs to pick Mini up (she had stayed at their house the night before). We went into a coffee shop for a short visit. It was then I noticed her unique eating style – to stuff three donut holes in that little mouth of hers and suck back her chocolate milk in a straw, skip the hole taking bites or chewing part, who needed that? We planned to stay for a little while to catch up (as we don’t see them that often) but Mini wasn’t too interested, she wanted to go to Aunt Eva and Uncle Wally’s house to swim in their pool. After hearing her plea at least 6-8 times over the course of a half hour we decided not to wait any longer – we were off to our weekend adventure together.

I had racked my brain to figure out fun things for us all to do together. I thought a couple of trips to the pool outside our building, a trip to MacDonald’s (what kid doesn’t like that?) and then the next day a visit to the local Children’s Museum. It took no time at all for us to get to the pool, within the first hour we were splashing in the water.

Wally had decided to sit out the first pool visit because in the past Mini has bonded much more with him than I. She has a thing for him – all men actually. No doubt due to the fact that she’s never lived with her dad or known what it was like to have a family unit. She often used to ask if she could go to Uncle Wally and Sweet’s house (our one dog) and totally forget about Aunt Eva and Sour. Honestly it didn’t really bother me, I would tease Wally about it and stuff but it wasn’t a huge issue, none the less he insisted on letting Mini and I ‘bond’ together in the pool over play. I soon regretted his decision.

I quickly noticed Mini attracted to this one little family. A mom, dad and three girls between the ages of 7 – 11, she was mostly noticing the dad. She would try to swim up beside him and poke him or get him to notice how she swam, she would also swim close to the little girls too - they had their daddy’s attention. We swam like this for about an hour and half and we did have a good time, but I couldn’t stop thinking about how desperately Mini wanted a dad’s attention. She also kept asking when Uncle Wally was coming down and how he was ‘missing all of the fun’.

As the day went on and we continued our agenda it became clear to me she was a product of two single parents that hadn’t completely grown up themselves yet. She asked for everything she wanted repeatedly and just thought she should get it. However, not once did she whine, complain or throw a fit if she didn’t’ get it, instead she’d just ask again. I soon realized she was definitely the spunky, mischievous tom boy I had grown to love (even though she loved princesses and dresses). Mini was not affectionate (like her aunt this way), did not want to just sit and do an activity (unless it had lights and noise), and most certainly had a narrow spectrum of foods she would eat (peanut butter and bread). Most of all, Mini just wanted the attention of a man.

As I write this I hesitate because I don’t want everyone to judge Marshmallow (remember I said I have a special spot for him – illogically so sometimes), he really does love his little girl, I know that. I just don’t think he knows how to be a disciplinary AND a fun dad. He mostly just disciplines. I can’t blame him entirely, I mean most men don’t have to figure out the dad thing with a little girl on their own, usually mom’s not too far away. However, that being said I’d like to slap him up the back of the head for not doing more to learn. In hurts to think about what could happen in Mini’s life if she doesn’t get the proper attention from her dad – I think we all know where that can go. I wish I could step in and just fix it all, or at least preach from the hill tops about birth control, adoption and family values, you know cause that would make it all better (sarcasm strongly intended).

At one point Mini marshmallow asked where she would sleep and I told her the spare room. She said ‘In Uncle Wally’s room?’
I said ‘No, Uncle Wally sleeps in my room. We’re married. That room (the spare) is yours to sleep in.’
Confused she asked ‘You’re married?’
‘Yes’ I replied.
‘When are you going to break up then?’ Mini wondered.
‘Um, we’re not planning on breaking up.’
She thought for a moment ‘Oh, that’s weird!’

This 30 second conversation was one of the most eye opening one’s we had all weekend. It was absolutely incomprehensible to her that two people would plan to be together always. She’s five!!! When I was five I would’ve lost my whole world if I found out my parents were breaking up and this kid knows nothing but discord. Wow.

As the weekend went on I learned how better to adapt to Mini and her personality (the most I’d seen of it ever at one time). She was different than any of the kids I’d worked with – did I mention I was a youth worker for 7 years? I had met tons of kids with screwed up lives, immature parents and no sense of permanency, but none as young as her. It hurts to think about it. All the other kids I’d met and mentored, I generally bonded with quite easily. It wasn’t difficult for them to open up and recognize that I cared and wanted to give them a chance to talk to me and really be listened to. I want to do the same thing with my little niece but the truth is she is young and not yet at that stage (it’s weird; she seems to bond quickly to people, but not really lastingly to them). I pray that she gets to that stage, and that when she does I am there for her.

I can honestly say that this weekend did not turn out the way I thought it would, with gleamingly fond memories and warm fuzzy moments. It actually was quite painful and heart wrenching most of the time. Don’t get me wrong, I loved having my niece come visit and I am so glad I did it, but sometimes reality sucks – big time! I wish I could wipe away the past and start it all over for her, but I can’t. All I can do is love her, give her my time and pray for her life. I have seen God work miracles in the life of my friend I mentioned earlier. She was 12 when her own mom introduced her to smoking, drugs and alcohol. Currently she is finishing school with a low amount of debt, working in her field of choice, has recently taken in her wayward mother to help her get back on her feet, and lives a faith filled life and has a beautiful heart – I love her. (By the way she’s only 20 years old and has lived on her own since she was 16). She inspires me to love more, and reminds me that (as cliché as this sounds) nothing is impossible with God.

Really nothing.