This past weekend we celebrated Christmas with a family water park adventure and sprinkled in some late birthday parties as well. For one of her presents Ella received a doll. A pink ballerina doll with a lacy tulle skirt, long dangley dancer legs, and a perfect bun atop her head. She loved it. She loves dolls and babies in general and this seemed like a bit more of a "big girl" doll, not a baby. I loved watching her hold it and twirl around, beaming with delight at her new treasure. I loved seeing her cradle it gently, compare their matching buns. I loved seeing the joy radiate on her face.
For 5 minutes.
See, after the party we were heading out of town when we decided to stop at the grocery store to pick up a few things. While I ran in, husband was to stay in the parking lot with the kids and rearrange the car seat order because no matter how many combinations we try NO ONE is EVER happy with their assigned seating chart and it is inevitable that someone will take offense by the horror of having to sit by a certain person, in a certain row, or next to a certain window and SWAT team level negotiations have to be made in order to get from point A to point B before we switch it around again. I rushed back to the car with my snap peas and shredded cheese, sure of the ensuing drama that was about to unfold, only to find them all snuggled in, some already half asleep, their bellies recently filled with pizza after a full day of swimming. Crisis averted. I climbed into my seat, clicked my seatbelt, turned my head, and that's when I saw it. The doll. The beautiful pink ballerina doll with sparkles in her skirt and perfection in her eyes. She was laying next to my seat. Splattered head to toe with mud.. no, not even mud. Nasty black road grime from the grocery store parking lot.
"What happened??" I half asked, half screeched, trying to stay calm as the words gurgled from my mouth.
"Happened to what?" Husband replied as he casually glanced my way. "Oh the doll? I don't know," as his eyes lazily turned back to the road. I continued to stare at the doll, horrified. My eyes bulged, heart rate increased. My breathing grew shallow. The beautiful, perfect pink doll was no more. It was ruined. Scarred. Maimed beyond recognition.
"What HAPPENED to the doll??" I screeched again, louder this time, with more emphasis so he would know this was not merely a casual question. "Did you drop it?" I asked accusingly. "How did it get muddy? Why was it even outside in the first place? How could you be so CARELESS??"
Husband looked at me like I was crazy. Understandably so. It was, afterall, just a doll. At least that's what he told me. But I couldn't hear him. In that moment the "just a doll" meant so much more. I don't know why or how but in those 5 blissful non tainted, stain-free minutes of owning her, that doll came to mean something to me. She took on a life of her own and somehow encapsulated everything it meant to be a mother and have a daughter. Beautiful and pink and sparkly and without blemish. It was a normal doll for a normal girl who adored it.
I love my daughter. SO much. But sometimes I still feel like I got cheated out of a deal. An under the table deal I wasn't even informed I was making yet somehow slipped through my fingers while everyone else around me raked in their spoils without hesitation. I don't get to enjoy all the things I dreamed of doing with a daughter. I don't, and won't, get to enjoy all the moments I thought we would share. I might not ever know what it's like to get her ready for her first date. Or try on wedding dresses. Or have slumber parties with a gaggle of giggling girls. I likely won't watch her play basketball with her friends or stand up in front of the school for the spelling bee. I'm not sure if she'll play in the band or perform in any school plays. There's so much of her childhood that doesn't seem fair or right or normal.
And then I remembered. The doll. The brand new beautiful doll with blond pig tails and long dangley legs I got when I was a young girl. The doll I clutched tightly in the Bomgaars parking lot when my mom told me I should leave her in the pick up because it was raining. The doll I refused to let go of. The doll I promised I would keep clean. The doll I swore I wouldn't drop. The doll I promptly plopped in a mud puddle the second I jumped out of the old Dodge truck. The doll I weeped for so many years ago because she was ruined, scarred, maimed beyond recognition. (some dramatics don't change with age..)
And that's when I realized. I was mourning this doll for our loss of a "normal" childhood, while the entire time, dolls getting muddy in parking lots IS a part of a "normal" childhood. Childhood, even having daughters, is not about pristine toys tucked away on a shelf to look pretty. They're about making messes and making mistakes and getting back up, cleaning ourselves off, and trying again. And again and again. (maybe this applies to marriage too??)
So just like my own mother did 30 years ago, I brought the doll home and tenderly scrubbed her face until she was maimed beyond recognition no more. . She wasn't stained. Or scarred. She does still have a slight lingering spray and wash scent but I'm sure that too will fade with time.
Having Ella is not what I thought having a daughter would be like. But then again.. very little about having my typical boys was what I imagined it would be either. Having kids in general, being a mother, it doesn't play out daily like it did in my dreams. Being a wife, raising a family.. not always what I thought.
But that doesn't mean it's not still good.
There's a possibility I might be a little more on edge this week because tomorrow Ella goes in for her second surgery to repair her VPI. Tomorrow morning around 11:30-12 her doctor will be taking a flap of tissue from the back of the throat (pharyngeal wall) and attaching it to the soft palate (velum). This flap forms a “bridge” to close the gap between the back of the throat and the soft palate. Two openings (called lateral ports) are left on each side of the flap. The openings allow her to breathe normally through the nose. (www.cincinnatichildrens.org/vpi)
The recovery should be similar to the tonsillectomy and since this isn't our first go around I know better what to expect and lets just say.. sometimes ignorance is bliss. Some people like to know all the details, but for me, NOT knowing is so much better than knowing. Her recovery from the tonsillectomy took so much longer than I thought it would. I expected the worst and in some regards it wasn't as bad as I thought it would be, and in some aspects it was so. much. harder. I am dreading this surgery. And the ensuing recovery. I'm successfully avoiding thinking about it by not packing a single thing so far for a (at least) 2 night stay in Sioux Falls even though we have to leave in a few hours to beat the winter storm, as well as having a play date this morning and getting groceries.. If you have some prayers to spare we would appreciate them! For safe travels in the storm, for a safe surgery, a successful repair, a non-traumatic stay in the PICU, a short(er) recovery, and mostly strength and patience for mom and dad!! And also that these surgeries will help improve her quality of life and speech dramatically! I am ready to be past these next few weeks and onto a better future!