Sunday, May 26, 2013

The Somnambulist

I realize, that one day, I may be in big trouble for telling this story. 

Sometimes, when I am tapping away at my computer, sitting on the plump chair-and-a-half in the living room, Sophia will wander down the stairs.  She says nothing.  Sometimes she looks around, or heads into the kitchen.  Wordlessly, I gently steer her back up the stairs.  Sometimes she even goes to the bathroom before heading back to her room, still asleep.

The next day, she has no recollection of what happened.  In fact, she wants to know what her sleeping self was up to:

“You were sleepwalking again last night.”

“Really?  What did I do, Mom?”

“Not much.  You just came down the stairs and stood there for a minute.   I said, ‘Sophie? What’s the matter?’ but you didn’t answer me.”

“Were my eyes open?”

“Yes.  That’s what was so weird about it.  You looked like you were awake, but really out of it.”

“Did I say anything?”

“Nope.  It was really creepy.  You were like a zombie.” 

She liked that.   “Cool!”

My mother says that I slept walked as a child, and that she was always afraid I was going to fall down the stairs.  But, apparently, in this slow wave stage of sleep, one is capable of performing activities that are usually performed when fully conscious.

Well, sort of:

I have just retired to my bedroom and am pulling out my pajamas, when Sophie appears in the doorway.  This is not uncommon.  I figure she’s about to ask me for another glass of water. 

She looks a bit dazed as she walks into my room.   She does not acknowledge me, which strikes me as unusual.

Then, before I know what is happening—before I can speak—she grips the sides of her pajama bottoms and slides them down.  Then she pulls down her underwear.

“Sophie!  No! This isn’t the bathroom!” I cry out, as she squats a little and lets go with the yellow flow.

The whole thing happens feels like it’s happening in slow motion.  But now that she is midstream, there is really nothing I can do to stop her.  She pees and pees, and the puddle on my wood floor grows larger and larger.  If I were to pick her up now, surely she would leave a trail of urine from my bedroom to the bathroom, soaking the carpet along the way.  No, I decide, it’s better to simply let her finish and then intervene. 

Seconds feel like minutes.  I move my black suede boots out of harm’s way. 

Sophie generally drinks a couple glasses of water before she goes to bed.  This has never been a problem, since she has always woken up to go to the bathroom.  Even when she was first toilet trained. 

But now, it’s a liability.

When she finally has stopped, I slip off her wet things, lift her from under her arms, and spirit her away to the tub.  She is crying now, and is difficult to tell whether I have woken her, or if she is still asleep.

Though it feels terribly cruel, I turn on the hand-held shower, wait until the water is warm, and hose her down. 

“No!  Stop laughing at me!  Stop laughing!” she cries, trying to block the water with her hands as I do my best to soap her up and rinse her off.

Trust me, I am not laughing. 

“Shhhhh.  It’s okay, Soph.  No one’s laughing at you,” I try to reassure her.  I pull her out of the tub and rub her legs dry. 

“Let’s get you in some fresh underwear,” I say.  She puts them on by herself.

The next morning, she crawls into bed next to me.  “Mom?  What happened to my pajama bottoms?  I had them on when I went to sleep, but I woke up in my underwear.” 

She’s not putting me on; at least I don’t think she is.  I tell her the whole story, and she’s delighted, laughing.  “I don’t remember any of that,” she tells me.  “Did it really happen?”

“Look,” I say pointing to a bottle of disinfectant still under my nightstand, “there’s the proof.” 

“Where are my clothes?”

“In the washing machine.”

“Can you tell me the story again?” 

I am happy to oblige.  It is tale that incorporates her most favorite things:  humor, toilet talk, and a slice of her life.  And, though, one day it may prove to be embarrassing, it is one of those stories that will become family lore.

Like the time, so many years ago, her grandfather slept-walked into his brother’s bedroom opened up his dresser drawer, and peed inside. 

(Ooops. I did it again.)

Monday, May 20, 2013

Tell Me Lies

She does it without flinching, without looking away, with such great sincerity that it is almost impossible to discern whether I am being duped.

It is a Monday morning.  I am urging Sophia to please decide whether she is taking Snakey-Pie or Moosey to school and to put him in her nap bag.  Sophie holds up a pastel pink plastic egg from an Easter egg hunt.

“Mom, can I please take this egg to school?”

I am immediately suspicious.  “Why?”

“I just want to show my friends.”

“What’s in the egg, Sophie?”


“Then let me see it.”

“Two jelly beans.”

“No, Sophia.  You may not take jellybeans to school.  It would not be nice or fair to eat jelly beans in front of your friends.”

“But Mom!  I won’t!”  Oh no I’ve said too much.  I’ve forgot the cardinal rule of dealing with a 5-year-old:  No bargaining. 

“I said no, Sophie.  Leave it here.” 

Fast forward to pick up time.

I am gathering Sophie’s six-hundred and three drawings, which I will stealthily recycle when we get home.  I pick up the nap bag.  A pastel pink plastic egg rolls out.

I have been deceived. 

“Sophia?” I say, holding up the egg, “what’s this?”

“My egg?”

“Is there anything inside the egg?”


Was there anything inside the egg?”


“I’ll ask you one more time.  Was there anything inside the egg?

“Yes.  Two jellybeans.”

“What happened to the jellybeans?”

“I ate them during nap.”

“Sophia!  I told you not to bring it to school.”

“I know.  But it got in there by accident.”

I try to raise one eyebrow, but both go up.

“I swear, Mommy!  I’m telling the truth!”

And then there was last week, after the kindness party.  We were headed home from school.

“So what’d you do at the party?”

“Miss P’s husband came and made animal balloons.  I want to give mine to Madeline.”

“That’s nice.  How come?”

“Because Madeline likes puppies.”

“Okay.  What else?”

“Well…we had strawberries and grapes and M and M’s, but I only ate the strawberries and grapes.”

I find this shocking.  “Really?  Why?”

“Well…actually I had strawberries and grapes and Pirate Booty,” she added, testing the waters.

“Soph, it was a party.  You were allowed to have what they served.” 

“Well…actually I didn’t have strawberries and grapes, just M and M’s and donuts and Pirate Booty,” she admits, coming clean. 

Sigh.  “Sophie, I’m glad you told me the truth, but I don’t like the fact that you lied to me.” 

“I’m sorry.  I won’t do it again.”

Another lie.

And the problem is:  she will.  This lying thing is working out for her.  Sophie has discovered that (because I place a premium on honesty) if she does the thing she knows she should not do, and initially lies about it, but then fesses up, I will be so glad that she told me the truth (or want to encourage future truth telling), that I will let the disobedience slide. 

Genius, really.  Wish I had thought of it as a kid.  But I just told the truth, because of my George Washington Complex, which I still suffer from today. 

Sophie has no such problem. 

What I’m doing?  Doesn’t feel like it’s working.    Kevin thinks that because she has already mastered the fine art of false genuineness, we’re out of time to drive home the importance of simple honesty.  “How can a parent teach honesty when we don’t know the truth?” 

So, despite having contributed to an article on what to do if your child is lying (my advice:  reward the truth, which, we’ve established, has backfired), I decided to seek some professional advice.   

One very non-nonsense psychologist/mom told me this: 

“Do not ask for the truth, whether she did it, or what happened.  If you do, you’re just putting them in a position to lie more, or argue with you, or guilt them into telling you.  None of that is necessary.  Speak as though you know it happened, address it and move on.  Don’t make a big deal out of it.”

Another shared this.  “Oh, lying.  It’s a stage.  She’ll grow out of it.”

This is what I wanted to hear.  Yes.  Tell me it will magically disappear.  That my child is not honing her powers of manipulation for bigger and juicer lies.  Practicing her technique until she can stare me down and lie with a smile, no hint of fear or remorse flickering across her face. 

Tell me that she is merely being careless with the truth.  Experimenting with what she can get away with.  Giving into her id, and asking forgiveness later. 

Tell me that one day, she’ll be honest and forthright.  A model citizen. That unlike most people, who cop to lying at least twice a day, she will be a paragon of truth. 

In other words,

Lie to me. 


Sunday, May 5, 2013


Sophia and I are in Marshalls, looking for spring dresses.  Sophie has given me a list of criteria to separate the wheat from the chaff:
  • Must be pink
  • Must be sparkly
  • Must be beautiful
  • Must be “long enough”
  • Must not be itchy
  • Must not be tight

It’s a tall order, and I’ve only found one or two things that will fit the bill. I know that if I deviate from her list, there will be consequences.  I am a slave to Sophie’s fashion sense.  But I would rather her find something she really loves and wears till it falls off her body, than have a closetful of dresses she never wears. 

I’ve got my back to a woman who approaches Sophie.   I can hear her as I slide reject after reject across the rack:  too short, too blue, too stripey, too expensive…

“Oh, just look at your eyes!  What color are they?  Not blue, exactly.  More grey…they’re the color of blue jeans!” the woman exclaims.  Without looking I know that she is between 60-70 and alone.  Sophie, unmoved by this show of attention, elicits a barely-audible thank you. 

I turn to share an audible one, when the woman exclaims, “Why look at you!  You have the same eyes!”

“We’re twins,” Sophie informs her, solemnly.

“Well you’re certainly your mother’s daughter.” 

“Yep, “ I say, “No doubt about it.  She’s mine.” 

We move away and Sophie goes on, charmed by the idea of the two of us being twins.  “We’re the same, Mommy.  We both have brown hair.  We both have gray eyes.  We’re both girls.” 

We’re both from this planet.  We both need water to survive, I think.  “Yep.  Two peas in a pod,” I tell her. 

“What does that mean?”

“Peas in a pod grow together and look the same.” 

This delights her.  “Yes, we’re two peas in a pod.” 

Sometimes, I look at Sophie and am startled by the similarity between us.  It is as if I have bent time and am looking at my younger self.  There are pictures of me that could easily be mistaken for her.  At four, my hair has not yet been curled by the hormones of puberty.  It is pin-straight, falling in a pixie-cut about my face, framing my large gray eyes.  My dimples are fainter, but when unsmiling, this difference does not matter. 

How easily I could make the mistake that she is another chance at me.  I could pin all my hopes and unfulfilled dreams on her.  Treat her as what’s known in the psychology biz as a narcissistic extension of self.  Saddling her with the weight of my perceived failures until she buckles under the pressure of them. 

Or, I could imagine myself an enlightened visitor to the past, filled with the wisdom of all my years, who’s come to prevent her from making the same mistakes I made.  I could sagely offer advice of how to live one’s life to minimize the pain that I have suffered myself. 

But Sophie would vehemently resist either of these mothers.  She is some interesting rearrangement of my DNA, and, perhaps bears a strong likeness, but she is not me.  At five, closer to her beginning, she lives in the world differently.  She has her own lessons to teach

I am trying to live in the moment; she inhabits it.
I am trying to maintain a sense of peace and joy; she manufactures it. 
I am trying to love; she embodies it.

It has become exhilaratingly obvious that she is not a version of my self to be saved or taught, but a reminder of who I once was, and, perhaps, who I can aspire to be once again.