Friday, May 6, 2011

You Scared Us, You Mischief Maker!

You are a troublemaker! A big bundle of trouble, that's what you are!

Josefina pulled a little stunt, that I have decided to write about in tonight's blog.

She has been having very loose stools for the past couple of days. That's not unusual. JoJo's digestion is still very sensitive. She gets irritated by various things and these kind of problems usually resolve themselves. Hopefully, as she grows her digestive tract will catch up with the rest of her development and she'll be fine.

But a couple of hours ago, Eileen suddenly yelled to me from the bathroom, in a panicked voice, "John, her hair is falling out. I went into the bathroom and there was a miserable JoJo on the potty and Mommy with a clump of hair.

Why would JoJo be losing her hair?

Josefina is basically a normal four year old. There are little things that remain that remind us of the trauma of the first year of her life. She is small for her age (which makes her cute more than anything else). She has the scar on her abdomen, and the little scars on various parts of her body where the tubes once were (it's still hard for me to look at them). She has mild asthma. Sometimes she doesn't hold down her food, for reasons that are not always clear. Other times she has loose stools. Perhaps she is easily prone to infections. Perhaps the intestines are still working through the consequences of  the two major surgeries that pieced them together during the first five months of her life. The pediatrician is not concerned, and is satisfied that she is progressing well.

But several days of this yuckiness, and then HAIR LOSS?

All the old instincts suddenly kicked in. Gotta get her to the ER, now. "Maybe she is suffering from some mineral deficiency," Eileen thought. She is the calm one. I am the one with imagination. "Is there blood in the stool?" I wonder. They're going to admit her, of course. The hospital. The tubes. Waiting for the phone to ring. I felt myself locking into 2007 mode.

There must be a "subconscious"--or something like it. You think you have forgotten about all these experiences and then even a minor circumstance can suddenly reawaken a whole state of mind, a whole set of emotional attitudes, memories, and postures that you haven't thought about for a long time. I steeled myself. I was ready to go into crisis mode.

And then Agnese went into a corner between the chair and the book case (this is one of JoJo's little "play" corners, where she squirrels away all sorts of things that she finds around the house that might be useful--if something is missing, check JoJo's play corners). She said, "there's a bunch of hair over here!" And scissors? "Yes."

Josefina is allowed to do cut-outs with kid scissors. Someone is supposed to watch her when she does it. But she knows where the scissors are. There were at least a couple of kids in the house besides me, so we figured we had her covered. And she usually plays quietly and harmlessly at her activity area, or with her farm animals, or even--lately--looking at a book. I don't even remember taking my eye off her, but I guess I did and so did everyone else.

Josefina had given herself a significant haircut.

"Did you cut your hair?" Mommy asked. "Yes," said Josefina, a little whiney because she was still afraid of the imminent trip to the doctor. "Why did you do that?" Eileen asked, now noticing the significant cutting that she had done underneath the outer layers of her hair.

"Because I want it like Helena," whined JoJo. Helena is a classmate at the 3-6 Montessori school, with a short, bobby hairstyle.

Oh boy!

I'm expecting this kind of thing from, maybe, Agnese (although she has not yet shown many signs of being style-conscious). I wasn't expecting my four year old to want to look like someone else in class.

But at least we could let go of crisis mode.

I wonder about that upsurge of emotion in the face of a problem. Part of it, I suppose, is my own personal mental roller coaster that we are still working to flatten out. But part of it arises from my shallowness; from the smallness of my trust in God. There is this--again "subconscious"--ghostly image of a mysterious, capricious God who inflicts gratuitous suffering for the purposes of his own "mysterious will," and who doesn't really care about his creatures. I don't know where I developed this image, this fear-filled emotional "picture" of God (which is most emphatically not what I believe about Him). Why does this image still rise up and cause me anxiety? This is a matter that I must work through, on different levels, with spiritual direction and with therapy.

God loves us. God wants what's good for us.

It takes work and prayer to knead this conviction of faith into the dough of our humanity so that it penetrates everywhere, not only the will, but the whole person, all the affections and expectations and their hidden roots in that twilight world of the subconscious, or whatever that mysterious point of contact is in the human psyche where the sense appetites reach out and seek formation and participation in the spiritualizing energies of reason and love. It takes work and prayer...and I have a long way to go.

Josefina will get her haircut, short and bobby like Helena. We can't leave it the way it is.

But we are going to hide the scissors.