Sticks and stones may break my bones…

Since Olive broke her leg, there is a new recurring question added to the other two I am constantly asked on the playground, which are:

1. Is the baby a boy or a girl?  I can only imagine this question is asked because I don’t constantly announce her gender loudly with dressing her in all pink and putting bows in her fro.  I mean, sometimes she wears quite feminine clothes and I put her hair in little puffs, but more often she has wild hair and primary colored clothes.  It continually shocks me that people I am going to interact with for 5 minutes are so unsettled with not knowing the sex of the child definitively that they ask me this.  I think a much more appropriate question is, What is your baby’s name?

2. Are you the baby’s mother?  This one really sticks in my craw.  Olive is obviously lovelier than me, but we do resemble each other, despite her skin having more melanin than mine.  I have never ever heard one of my parent friends who is the same race as their baby be asked this question.  I know it is an inevitable part of having a biracial child, but it still really upsets me.  I actually mind it less when they just go ahead and ask what ethnicity the baby is, because then I feel they are being straight about their curiosity, and it can lead to an interesting conversation rather than just shutting me down.  Even if I think the person caring for the child may be a nanny, I always assume it is their parent, and let them correct me if need be.  It is the more forgiving option.

3. How did she break her leg?  I don’t really mind this question, especially when it is out of obvious concern for my daughter or genuine desire to avoid catastrophe for their own kids.  But there have been a lot of Nosey Parkers, and they are the ones who have already asked questions 1 & 2, so I am less inclined to give them more information about me or my family.

The cast is like a second child.  I’m always wondering, “What is the cast doing?  Has she cracked it as she crawls around?  Is it getting wet/dirty/broken?  Is she going to be able to climb those stairs, or is she going to get the cast stuck on them?”  Oh, how I miss the tiny bit of independence Olive had gained pre-broken leg.  I look forward to having it back, hopefully this week, if all goes well at the Dr.’s office.

Olive loves to thrash around in her crib at night, but with the big ol’ cast, she can’t move around very well, so she wakes up a LOT at night.  Joel and I are totally exhausted, and this is causing us to be way more overwhelmed by every day things than usual.  The morning is filled with little meltdowns about lost shoes and broken umbrellas, and this is from the adults, not the child in the house!  The extra hour of Daylight Savings Time sleep you all enjoyed this morning?  Totally lost on a baby.  And because of the above-mentioned less-independent little gal,it feels like Parenting Overdrive, on less sleep.

I realize most of this post has been an update on how I’M doing with Olive’s broken leg, not about how she is coping.  She does not seem to be in any pain, but she is definitely frustrated by her lessened mobility.  The three days Olive goes to her nanny share, I text the nanny to see how she’s doing, as with 2 babies, she can’t really answer the phone, unless I get her in that rare moment in which they are both asleep at the same time.  If I text Brenda in English, she invariably says, “Olive is fine.”  However, if I text her in Spanish, I get long missives about what they are up to and how Olive is doing.  This Thursday I asked, “Como esta Olive?” and got a one-word answer, “Llorando.”  There goes my theory about long texts when I switch up the language.  Plus the other problem was, I don’t know that particular Spanish word, and none of my Spanish-speaking co-workers were around.  So I called a friend about an hour later, and asked, “Oh, by the way, what does ‘llorando’ mean?”  The answer was, “Crying.”  Oh, great.  So instantly I call over there to see what was going on, and the nanny told me she’s been crying when she can’t do certain things — she gets so frustrated that she puts her little head down and cries!  This damn-near broke my heart.

Olive's friends at church line up to sign her cast.

Any time I experience something difficult, and I am open about it, it leads to more community, more support.  Olive’s broken leg is no exception.  One friend from church told me the story about when her little brother broke his leg, and how all these years later, what he remembers was how much extra cuddles he got, and how sweet everyone was to him.  It caused me to consider that this broken leg is just a reason to pour out more love, to let Olive feel even more loved and taken care of than before.  People have been tremendously kind-hearted, coming over to sign her cast, offering to give us rides to the Dr., sending encouraging messages.

Probably my favorite thing that has happened is one of the moms from church whose baby is 2 months older than Olive offered to take us to the Academy of Sciences, since that is an easy thing to do with a baby in a stroller — they find the exhibits very entertaining so they don’t mind being rolled around to look at the fish and the penguins.  I have always wanted to check out the Academy, but it is very expensive to get in, and it is not very public-transit friendly.  This friend picked us up in our car and let us use her guest pass on her membership, so it all worked out wonderfully.  I was, as usual, coming off of an exhausting and overwhelming morning, but I sat there looking at the brightly colored coral reefs and the amazingly-lit jellyfish and said to myself, “I’m so glad I got up today.”

The best seats in the house.

So, though it has been annoying to be asked extra questions from strangers, and it has been exhausting to “parent the cast”, this experience really leads to more love, more opportunities to be known, more community.  I am ever so grateful for the kind people in my life.  I am sad this happened to my baby girl, but I was encouraged when a pre-med friend of mine told me this week that when children have stress on their bones this early in life, they grow back stronger than ever.  In fact, I felt hot tears in my eyes when she said it, as I realized I had been worrying that just the opposite was true, that this injury would set her back.  I took her for healing prayer today, and if all goes well, the girl will be running around by the end of the week, cast free!

Soon she'll be back to being a Jumping Jellyfish!

3 thoughts on “Sticks and stones may break my bones…

  1. Rhea,

    I love reading this now—I admit I am especially intrigued at reading some of the specific entries like this one that go into what it is like to be in a multiracial relationship with a multiracial child because that is what my future holds and I am excited about it all!!

    And the reason I am commenting today is that at one point in this post you start to apologize for not talking enough about Olive updates and though I LOOOOOOVE new pictures and comments on her, I am equally eager to hear about you and I hope being a mother never makes you doubt the validity of sharing about rhea. 🙂

  2. oh, honey. What a treat to be able to read this and feel included- especially when i am irritated at myself for not asking you shit about how you are ! thank you for sharing and damn is she cute. i wish i could give you and joel little breaks from the chaos. however messy it all is, it sounds like you are still doing a beautiful job. since, messy is at least a good story in the end. xo

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