Saturday, March 24, 2007

Flexible Penguins

Well, this Saturday is almost over...and I'm pretty tuckered out, so I'm glad of that. D. had to do some work for the church this morning (a very early meeting, followed by some neighborhood visits) and so we didn't have our usual "whole family all together" Saturday that we usually have. Given the kinds of work we do, especially D's ministry work, those Saturdays aren't always possible, but we try to have them whenever we can.

The sweet girl struggled mightily with her daddy not being home all morning. She's been having a rough time again lately with changes in routine...any changes. Needing to have things a certain way, and doing certain things at certain times -- this has always been a big part of her temperament. It has its gifts as well as its drawbacks; she's always responded well to traditions and liturgy and structure. The challenge comes when she can get obsessive about routine, and overwrought over even small changes. We've been working on it for a long time, and she's much more relaxed and flexible than she used to be, but she has certain seasons where this particular challenge rears its head again. We're in one now.

Which is why I'm exhausted, because for most of the day she was fretting over the fact that we weren't doing "what we usually do" and "when we usually do it." She asked for a reading lesson today, which we don't usually do on Saturdays -- I was surprised by that, but I think she was feeling thrown off by today not feeling like a typical Saturday. So of course I told her we could do the reading lesson, but that we would need to do it in the morning when we had time. She threw an absolute fit because we "USUALLY do it in the AFTERNOON!" and wept copiously over the fact that I said we'd have to do it another time today if she wanted to do it at all.

We had a long talk then...once I could get her to calm down enough to listen to me. We talked again about "flexibility." We've discussed this many times before, but I think she's still getting the hang of the concept. One reason I introduced her to the word a while ago (besides the fact that she needs to learn how to live it sometime) is because I know how fascinated she is with language. Sometimes you can get her to think through important things by first letting her play with the words. Today I got out one of her hard plastic bunnies and a soft rubber band, and we talked about how one was flexible and the other wasn't. We stretched the rubber band and talked about learning to be peaceful and OK with things in our schedule when we sometimes had to do them out of order, or in ways that weren't our favorite ways. Stretching the rubber band made her giggle a little bit through her tears. I asked her if she thought she could try to be flexible, and at first she tearfully told me she couldn't. We didn't seem to be getting anywhere, until she suddenly asked "are penguins flexible?"

She's been pretending to be a penguin off and on for months now; her fascination with these birds seems to know no end (as the continued pile of library books about penguins attests!). I thought about it and said yes, I thought penguins must be flexible because they must bend their legs when they waddle. So she started waddling around the room exclaiming "I'm a flexible penguin!" which made me laugh.

And a few minutes later she came into the kitchen where I was doing dishes and said, in a quiet little voice, "I'd like to do a reading lesson now." I looked at her. "You mean right now? In the morning?" "Yes." And I knew she was trying to be a flexible penguin, bless her little heart.


Erin said...

Hehe! Penguins to the rescue! I still get a little grumpy sometimes at certain changes to my routine, though I try to keep in mind the motto we adopted at the seminary camp I attended, where we were always having to rearrange our plans because of various conflicts: "Blessed are the flexible, for they shall not be bent out of shape." :)

Beth said...

Oh I like that one! It's a bit old for S. right now, but I have a feeling such a saying will come in handy someday!